Saturday, February 16, 2008

We Don't All Live on Wisteria Lane

M is in the US on business and serious baby shopping duty, so I've had an eventful Saturday of reading, watching TV and emotional eating. My current Emmy worthy viewing selection is a US show, something along the lines of "Extreme Car Chases Gone Bad", or something to that effect.

That got me thinking: I wonder what in the world your average Malaysian, or anyone else outside the US for that matter, thinks of the US when they watch a show like this? I kind of wonder about what impression that leaves, although it has to be better than the impression they get from watching an Akon video. Anything is. Seriously though, I've become much more aware of people's impressions of America, both positive and (more typically) negative, since living abroad. So, many times, I'll view American TV shows and movies through a non-American's eyes, just to better understand how impressions, generalizations and opinions are formed, because for a lot of people here, that's really the only exposure they have with the "American way of life" - the entertainment industry. (You know, because that's so representative.) Oh yeah, and Kentucky Fried Chicken. Seriously. They love their chicken here. They need a 12 step program for it. But I digress.

The creme de la creme is when they show "COPS". I cringe when they show "COPS". Fifteen year old episodes of "COPS", complete with a shirtless, shoeless BillyBobRayDon sitting on the curb with a cigarette dangling out of his toothless mouth, trying to explain to JoeBobJunior of the Fort Worth, Texas police department that he didn't KNOW she was a prostitute, he was just giving her a ride home and no, sir, I have no idea where that crack pipe came from. (I'll admit it. The Fort Worth episodes are my favorite, if only to see a glimpse of home and occasionally tell M "Hey, I've been to that bar!".) Or when a suspect tries to resist arrest and the cop, relying on slight, ahem, use of force, body slams them to the ground, I tend to think that this is not painting the US in a favorable light.

So, yeah, it's a little disconcerting that the primary examples of American life that people are exposed to here are COPS, American Idol and Desperate Housewives, served with a greasy bucket of fried chicken. I'm just thankful they haven't added Jerry Springer to the line up. Then we're all screwed.


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