|not lost in translation
|Secretary of State
In a crazy and unscientific BBC poll from 2003, people from all over the world were asked a simple question. Who
was the greatest American? You might think Abraham Lincoln, George Washington or Jonas Salk came home with
the prize. You would also be wrong. No, the votes favored another American, albeit a fictional one.
Homer Simpson. Yes, it was the star of the Simpsons who brought home the honor and it was his award that
inspired a recent article by Giuseppe De Bellis from the Italian newspaper, il Giornale, who wrote that the Simpsons
had become “the mirror of America.”
Whether Americans recognize it and whether or not they care, television has a profound influence on global
perceptions. The cartoon characters entertain but also give an insight into American culture through its worldwide
broadcasts and unlike Walt Disney cartoons, the Simpsons’ fantasy world has a hint of reality in it. Although its
characters are profoundly warped, real America is never too far behind.
Take away the colors, misshapen characters and endless exaggerations and the Simpsons’ world is a reflection of an
America down to the “houses, middle class neighborhood, nosey neighbors and couches that take the shape of the
backsides that sit in them.” Through the characters, global viewers can see the America that they wish.
For anti-Americans, who would like to believe that the classic American is a balding, middle aged man with a
mediocre brain, Homer was their hero and made the Simpsons one of their favorite shows.
For those of who believe that America is a dream, they delight in the self deprecation that they believe sets
Americans apart. At least Americans don’t take themselves too seriously.
The poll also demonstrated Hollywood’s influence in creating an American perception that is not entirely accurate
and often quite harmful. The Simple Life and its main protagonists were far more egregious than Homer Simpson.
The Yankee culture already had words like greed, overindulgence and morally base attached to it. While that
generalization is debatable, the American image isn’t necessarily buyoed by an air headed heiress with questionable
morals or her sidekick who can’t dialogue without the aid of a censor’s bleep.
Maybe the next American fictional character who wins the title will be a positive representative. Someone like……..
Wait a minute. Let me think……….Hold on……….I've got one…….. Well, there’s always hope.