diamond geezer

 Thursday, November 23, 2006

Thanksgiving (and other mysteries)

A very happy Thanksgiving to all of my readers in the United States. As every Briton knows, Thanksgiving is that special day of the year when Americans eat turkey and pretend they're all descended from pilgrims. Or is it the day when you eat pumpkin pie and dress up in traditional native American headgear? Or is it the day when you fly long distances to eat pecan pie with their families? Or is it the day when you eat cranberries and start their Christmas shopping. See, nobody in Britain really knows, or cares. We've all got to go to work today, and your traditional family celebrations pass us by unnoticed. It's not bitterness, you understand. We don't care that in 1620 a few joyless Britons sailed across the Atlantic to found a nation who would later subjugate us in global influence (honestly, we don't). Your quaint day of Thanksgiving is just another Americanism which plays no part whatsoever in our lives.

Except on television. We watch a lot of your television, partly because you make so much of it. And your television series often feature aspects of American culture which are relatively alien to the rest of the world. Like, for example, those annual Thanksgiving episodes of Friends packed with unintelligible turkey-based nuances. Here are some other bewildering slices of American life which, to us Brits at least, exist only on screen:

"The Prom": Every American teenage TV series must, by law, contain one "Prom" episode. On their last day at school, all the characters dress up in posh suits and elegant ballgowns and then spend the evening dancing and trying not to kiss each other. Surely it would be more fun to dress down and get pissed on lager instead, and a lot cheaper?
"Little League": To the best of my knowledge, all tousle-haired American ten-year-old boys spend their weekends being whipped into line playing a version of institutionalised rounders. If I'm wrong, sorry, but that's how it always looks on children's TV.
"Vietnam": I know our film industry made far too many films about 'plucky valiant Brits' battling through World War Two, but Hollywood's still churning out far too many films about the agonies of Vietnam. We lost interest after the first fifty, OK?
"Football": But, but, but, that game on the screen's not football! That's lots of burger-fed teenagers dressing up in padded clothing and helmets and standing around in the middle of a big field occasionally running three yards before being jumped on. But there again, we invented cricket, so we're not much better.
"The First Amendment": There are lots of amendments, apparently, on such diverse topics as having to be nice to slaves, giving women the vote and being allowed to gun people down in cold blood. But the First is the most important one... whatever in God's name it is (and I believe I have the freedom to say that).
"Junior High": Sorry American scriptwriters, but when you set a TV series in a 'Junior High', I have no idea how old the children are supposed to be. 7? 12? 15? It's not easy to tell from the actors' faces anyway, because they all look 23.
"The Pledge of Allegiance": Usually seen as a mawkish conclusion to a particularly moral-filled half hour, with rows of gap-toothed kids chanting in reverence beneath a big stripy flag. It might tug at the heartstrings in the States, but it lacks all emotional punch outside the homeland.
"Yearbooks": In every college, so TV tells us, a bunch of do-gooding senior students go round taking photographs of everybody else and pasting them into expensive scrapbooks which they then distribute at the end of the year. I'm so pleased nobody tried that at my secondary school - my 1982 haircut is not something I want to relive.

Friday update: You've also suggested... "the World Series", "Spring Break", having a "den" at home, "Varsity", "Fraternities", "Sororities", "Semesters", "the Super Bowl", "Homecoming Queen", "The DA's Office", "NASCAR", "Cheerleaders", "Restrooms", "Peanut Butter & Jelly sandwiches", "Ballparks", "Summer camp", "Condos", "the backyard", "going to the Drive-in" and "taking out the trash".
Any more?


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