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Wanna be Americano’?
Trying to act like the Yanks leaves us with egg on our faces. Words: Jason Hall
hen exactly did the phrase ‘only in America' start to lose all
credibility? This used to be the stock cliche at every new sign of
lowering standards or ridiculous self-delusion to appear from across the Atlantic. All that has changed as the US has become us.
It started with Blind Data. I remember hearing about the American version way back when Cilia was still likely to be greeted by the public with the query: ‘What's your name and where do you come from'." With its superﬁcial take on relationships. promotion of fakery over emotional intelligence and voyeuristic tendency to make us laugh at the people that we're glad we're not. Blind Data was. surely. an ‘only in America' show if ever there was one.
Then came Gladiators. Oh. how I laughed at the spandex-clad yanks as they took it so seriously like it was When we some bona fide sport. ll was llkC
watching the birth of American
football right in front of my eyes — all Amerlcan, we of a sudden I understood how an do so
over-elaborate game of fancy-dress catch came to be a nation's favourite sport. thanks to the might of mass marketing. The worrying thing is not just how Gladiators gained popularity over here. but how this approach to sports — the stats. facts and gimmicks over the grace and the style — has become the
driving force in our own TV coverage. Even Wimbledon — that bastion of
traditional values — was plagued by a screen full of stats telling us how we could tell whether the current game was any good by the ratio of unforced errors to points won.
But the final sign — and by far the most worrying — of our increasing submission to the worst aspects of American culture came just this month. You see. I was involved in a drive-by shooting — and only the upturned lid of a Piccante pizza box saved me from disaster. Well . . . that and the fact that no guns were involved.
It was eggs. you see. Some goons in an [Escon drove by at speed. leaned out the window and egged me. The pizza lid saved me. taking the shot — some poor guy 100 yards up the road wasn't so lucky. He can still breathe OK. but not through his nose — or at least not until he gets rid of that smell.
It's bad enough that we seek to emulate Americans at all — and it is testament to that nation of salesmen that they have made their own bankrupt society seem so attractive to us. But when we pretend to be American. we do it so badly. Don't get me wrong — I‘m glad the closest we can get to a drive-by is a random egging rather than shooting. But let's face facts: we can't rap. we can't make a decent action movie and the closest we ever get to positive thinking is occasionally saying that ‘at least it‘s not raining'. I admire Americans for their ability to polish a turd — I really do. But it‘s not a trait we should seek to emulate.
10 THE LIST 17—31 Jul 2003
Film Eric Bana stretches his talents and trousers in Ang Lee's astonishing adaptation of the mad Marvel hero. See Feature and Film. page 12. General release.
Live + Loud
Music Get your tonsils in gear to yell appreciation at the likes of Liberty X. Gareth Gates, Busted and the Sugababes. See Music. page 57. Hampden Park, Glasgow.
Comics The Jimmy Corrigan creator employs his genial touch with Ouimby the Mouse. a beautifully designed book. See Buy it this Fortnight. page 105. Fantagraphics.
Film Joaquin Phoenix stars in the finest anti- war movie for many a long year. See Film. page 44. Selected release.
Archibald Campbell and Harley WS Photography Prize Art Martin Boyce. Claudine Hartzel. Lucy Levene and James Thornhill are among those whose snappy work is featured here. See Art. page 90. Stills, Edinburgh.
Books The ionner WWF champ tries his hand at novels with staggering success in the John lrving-esque ﬁetam Brown. See Books. page 106. Jonathan Cape.
TV Chris Morris' award-winning short My Wrongs gets its telly premiere as part of a new season of intriguing and/or bonkers films. See TV, page 110. Channel 4.
Art A long overdue exhibition from a contemporary of Lucienne Day. with inﬂuential designs for textiles. ceramic murals and tapestries. See Art, page 90. Glasgow School of Art.
Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival
Music Another top notch line-up with Wynton Marsalis, Humph Lyttelton and Dionne Warwick all doing their jazzy. bluesy things. See Music. page 60. Various venues.
F1 -Career Challenge
Games Persevere with this P82 F1 experience and you will be heartily rewarded. it’s got va va voom. Probably. See Games, page 109. Electronic Arts.