For the record, Gwyneth Paltrow, aka Miss Snotty Hollywood, did not say, "British women with their excessive drinking disgust me. Next to the weather and the lousy service, I find their attitude to alcohol the most off-putting thing about living in this country." That is how many have chosen to interpret comments she made in a recent interview, but what she actually said was: "I really don't like drunk women" - period. No mention of any particular side of the pond. Not a whiff of "That Charlotte Church! I hide Apple's face when she's on the TV."
Anyway, never let lack of clarification stand in the way of a bit of national outrage. Ever since Gwyneth pronounced on the degrading effects of booze, Mrs Coldplay has been public enemy number one and the target of several How Dare She articles. This is genuinely unfair (she only said she practises moderation and respects those who do likewise, and better that than a gushy monologue on the honour of working alongside Sir Anthony Hopkins).
On the other hand, Paltrow really should have known better. Has she not lived in this country long enough to understand that there are three things the British will not tolerate at any price: success; sanctimoniousness (ie, smug non-boozers); and even the vaguest assault on our sacred right to be slovenly, fat, wheezy from fags, drunk and uncommunicative? And if the criticism comes from foreigners, so much the worse. It's pretty simple: we can take knocking the National Health Service, our education system, school food, bent politicians and dodgy wars, but don't try to tell us to clean up our act. Especially not if you are French or American.
Gwyneth would have been better off taking a leaf out of Madonna's public-relations book and telling the world that her favourite way to relax involves downing pints of Timothy-Whatever-It-Is at the Windsor Castle. Buying a country house and taking up blood sports might have been steps in the right direction. Going on Friday Night With Jonathan Ross and roaring with laughter at all the sexual innuendoes would have helped. Practising a bit of self-deprecation, sticking up for Kate Moss, staying out late with George Clooney (and shutting up about the macrobiotic regime) could all work in her favour.
Plus a bit of "I just love London" stuff never goes amiss. "You Brits are so ironic/much fun/eccentric/great in a crisis/ understated/crazy/fabulously stylish/clever (your actors blow ours away) . . .": that's what we really want to hear. And if we don't hear it from our foreign A-list residents, and they don't drink, don't smoke and don't get out much - well, that's when the trouble starts.