America Blows

By MIKE MILIARD  |  June 29, 2007

And we wonder why our citizens are stupider than fifth graders? Not only are these shows mindless pap, they’re recycled mindless pap. Even when we find small successes in these ersatz imports of little import — as when the lovable Kelly Clarkson won American Idol — we manage to screw it up and find ourselves humiliated on the global stage. (And we’re not even talking about the execrable From Justin to Kelly.) When Clarkson tried to follow up her American Idol win in 2004, defending America’s honor on the international competition World Idol, she lost — to a Norwegian plumber.

Raiders of the lost art
For a while there, they were calling it Aussiewood. The actors and actresses and directors came from antipodean shores, and they came en masse. Russell Crowe. Naomi Watts. Guy Pearce. Cate Blanchett. Heath Ledger. Hugh Jackman. Peter Jackson. Jane Campion. Rachel Griffiths. Eric Bana. Toni Collette. (Some of the aforementioned are from New Zealand, of course. Close enough.)

They came, they saw, and they took all our awards. Our Oscars, our Emmies, all snatched from California’s golden sun and taken away to the land down under, with all the koalas and Vegemite sandwiches.

It was something of a blow to our collective ego, but still we smiled and cheered. They deserved it. Heck, a lot of those thespians, even coming from halfway around the world, can do better American accents than folks from Yonkers or Little Rock.

And, at this point, what does an Oscar even mean, anyway? The Golden Globes have gained considerably on its older, fustier cousin since the Globes’ inception in 1943. The Academy even moved the Oscar ceremony from March to February so as to steal back some of the upstart’s thunder. And, not for nothing, it often appears that the attendees are having a helluva lot more fun at the Globes. Who votes on them, you ask? Why, none other than the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.

What does it mean when Batman, that brooding Gothamite, trapped between lives as a cloaked crime fighter and an All-American millionaire, is portrayed in the recent Batman Begins by an Englishman, Christian Bale? Perhaps nothing. Artistic license, maybe. Or the exigencies of casting. But when the rest of the cast is rounded out by Michael Caine, Liam Neeson, Gary Oldman, Cillian Murphy, Tom Wilkinson, Rutger Hauer, and assorted other foreign actors? Again, it’s just one movie. But might it point to a deeper malaise that the film is so far superior to Batman Forever and Batman & Robin?

And what about Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, the movie starring a British comic about a faux Kazakhi (whose home village was actually shot in Romania) discovering America? The film was embraced by critics and moviegoers, and won a Golden Globe award for Best Comedy. Perhaps sensing a turning tide, the Academy of Arts and Sciences nominated Borat for an Oscar. In the tectonic shifting occurring in global culture, that might be the fart joke heard ’round the world.

Elayne Rapping gets paid to watch TV. (Her favorite show is House — starring Hugh Laurie, a Brit pretending to be an American.) She loves movies, too. But Rapping, a professor of Culture and Media in the American Studies department at the University of Buffalo, hasn’t been to one in a long time. Why? Because most movies these days suck.

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