LONDON — American pop-culture is invasive on this side of the globe — sounds of American hip-hop artists are blaring in stores and Internet cafés; movie posters promoting the latest American films are displayed on street corners and in mall corridors; shows like “The O.C.” and “Sex in the City” are commercialized boldly in the newspaper TV guide.
The international masses associate these images and sounds with our country. For those who’ve never experienced American culture for themselves, these are the shadows of reality permanently imprinted as being the core of the American people.
Where lies the problem? The America projected by the media is unique to America and nothing to be ashamed of. What other country can boast of the wild accomplishments of Hollywood, “Saturday Night Live,” and Mariah Carey? Clearly, the U.S. is deserving of recognition for these unique productions.
However, some worry that American pop culture has become a medium whose presentation is dominated by uniform colloquialisms, a superficial ideology, and a people that continually fail to acknowledge the deeper issues underlying a prosperous exterior. Now, in the midst of one of the most historical presidential campaigns of the century, the America projected through the media and other pop-culture television has undermined the United States’ credibility as an economically and politically capable force.
The British enjoy poking fun at Americans, who they identify as the blonde-and-tan Californians, bubbly southerners and southwestern cowboys. My flat-mates greet me often with a joking “Howdy there, Bekah!” So you can imagine the hay-day the British media has had with Sarah Palin’s recent verbal slip-ups (or were they slip-ups?). The politicians of this year’s campaign have been intensively scrutinized by the foreign media.
England’s Times has deemed vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin “every comedian’s dream,” while BBC News’ recent article “Tennessee bar-goers back McCain” paints an embarrassing scene of drunken Americans in support of a clueless party.
Are Palin and McCain to blame?
Both, especially McCain, have vast political experience, some of which outshines even that of the Democratic candidates. However, the American media — including shows such as “Saturday Night Live” and films such as Michael’s Moore’s “Fahrenheit 9/11” — have multiplied small shortcomings a million fold; and these are the images that are carried overseas and into homes world-wide. These are the impressions transmitted to the general foreign audience.
It is vital that we, as Americans, do not disregard the opinion that international citizens have of the United States. With the world becoming increasingly dependent on foreign trade and international networking, the U.S. must not be reluctant to establish healthy and lasting foreign relations.
We can contribute to redeeming the world’s flawed perception of the United States by being well-informed in politics and the activities carried out by our political leaders; we must to be able to both defend and support our political leaders, and more importantly, to know why we are doing so.
People are watching closely from afar, believing in the supposed idiocy of the American people as exposed by the media, and expecting that we’re bound to stumble as badly as the careless characters of our television shows.
Bekah Sandoval is a Payson student in a foreign exchange study program at The University of East Anglia. She is writing occasional columns.