It’s a known fact that the majority of the world looks down on America. Maybe some regions more than others, but we’re pretty much on everyone’s shit list. I was never fully able to understand why until I left America and moved to London.
Now I know what you’re thinking, and no this isn’t going to turn into some pro-America piece where we’re all chanting “USA! USA!” by the end and shoving oversized food into our mouths. America is the #1 producer of media in the world, and as such people have a lot of exposure to us. But what a lot of people don’t realize is that there is a lot of quality programming. We have a channel very similar to the BBC called PBS that’s funded by the government and shows historical, educational, and nature shows. And yet somehow the majority of the quality programming seems to get filtered out when it crosses the sea. Somewhere over the Atlantic the signals for the award-winning documentaries about African refugees drift off and instead you’re left with the lowest intellectually possible productions out there, i.e. Keeping Up With the Kardashians, Pawn Stars, etc.
Some people might say that there are a number of factors that could contribute to this, but not me. I place sole responsibility on one person and one person alone: Rupert Murdoch, the Australian devil and owner of Fox News. From a business perspective, I congratulate Mr. Murdoch on finding a niche in broadcast news. But from a cultural perspective, I want to punch him in the throat and laugh.
I recently befriended an Eastern European man who loves to show me horrible American news clips. People looking for leprechauns, car chases, entire segments about puppies, etc. This is what he knows about American culture, the crazy crackheads that Fox News decided to put a camera in front of and ask for their opinion.
As soon as Fox News paved the way for this mediocre bullshit, many other more reputable news sources followed suit and now YouTube is filled to the brim with all these wonderful clips of below average intelligence Americans, whose families have probably been breeding amongst themselves for the past 100 years, trying to give commentary on US foreign policy. Most of these people look like they’ve never left their home town let alone their home state, and are supposed to be contributing meaningful statements about the crisis in Ukraine.
Normally I wouldn’t be too fussed. I don’t even live in the country anymore, so it’s not my problem anymore, right? Wrong. It has followed me on my 5,000-mile journey. People actually expect this behavior from me, and are disappointed when I don’t deliver, stating that I’m “not very American”.
Granted, these clips and shows are what they have to go on as far culture, but you’d think they’d actually be pleased that I don’t have my head shoved so far up my ass that I don’t know the difference between Sunni and Shia Muslims. Wrong again. I feel like the first couple of weeks of meeting anyone new here they’re watching my every move and word, waiting for me to trip up and do something stupid so they can point and laugh like I’m some monkey performing tricks for coins.
I’ve unwillingly become an ambassador for America. The very thought sends shivers down my spine. I’m sure you’ve encountered plenty of Americans in your day-to-day lives and didn’t even realize it, because most of us are normal people who keep to ourselves.
But there’s always the few halfwits that ruin the fun. On a recent trip to the National Gallery, I was in the security line behind this horrible older American couple. Everyone else in front of them managed to open their bag, and move along, but these two just didn’t seem to get the memo. Instead they proceeded to harass the security officer with very specific questions about where to find certain art pieces and make as much noise as possible. The security officer didn’t know of course, and they departed in a huff, leaving me to face the man who would probably not greet me with the same kind smile as before. Without even thinking about it, the phrase “You all right?” spurted from my mouth in a thick British accent. Gauging from his expression, I had gotten away with it, so with no other choice, I finished the transaction with “Cheers.”
I usually follow the saying “When in Rome…”, but goddammit is it hard being an American in Europe. My friends at uni have gotten used to it and hardly bring it up anymore, but every time I encounter a stranger, it’s a stark reminder of the world we live in. Perhaps one day I’ll get over myself, but until that day, all I have to say is: fuck you Rupert Murdoch.