On Friday we packed our luggage at Regents and headed to “Auld Reekie”, other wise known as Scotland. Yet again, 22 of us scurried on to the train and talked about the possibilities of what was to come. As the time on the train began to dwindle down, we saw endless miles of green grass and more sheep than human. Shortly after we arrived, we took a cab to our home for the next week, the University of Edinburgh. We were all in shock with how beautiful the campus was. Just to give you an idea, it resembled the campus from the famous Nickelodean show, Zoey 101. Huge mountains filled our windows and we were energized with the adrenaline of being in a new country, ready to see what the city of Edinburgh had to offer.
I have heard the rumor that Scottish people are not big fans of Americans, but I was eager to find out for myself. Within the first few minutes of walking around, it was obvious that we stuck out. The way we dressed did not come close to the clothes the Scottish people were wearing and we were a bit rowdy, dancing and singing, laughing and talking. After a few rude remarks inferring we were cheap because we were excited about lower prices, it was clear to see the rumors were true.
It has been said that other cultures consider Americans to be:
- Under dressed
- Career oriented
- Nice and bubbly to the point of being fake
As we all know, America has a very strong media presence that plays a huge role in establishing these stereotypes. Media is our way of staying connected not only nationally but globally and gives us the chance to look inside different cultures without personally having to participate in them.
Since the beginning of our travels throughout the United Kingdom, I have noticed that American music, movies and television play a predominant role in the lives of Europeans. Judging on Scottish gossip columns like the BBC Gossip, the people of Scotland are familiar with shows like Keeping up with the Kardashians; A reality series about USA’s most talked about family, that is grossing over $250 million a season. This show ultimately became famous because Kim Kardashian had leaked a sex tape of her and then boyfriend, Reggie Bush. The series portrays American society as fame driven, label obsessed and narcissistic. Kim is worshipped around the world, and especially in America by her 36 million instagram followers because of her daily “selfies” and pictures of luxurious outings.
While walking around Edinburgh I saw an ad for the new season of Teen Mom premiering. This is a show about American teenagers who get pregnant and face the challenge of raising a child as a teen mom. If you have ever seen the show, it shows low-class families that often times have been irresponsible.
The show that bothers me the most is Here Comes Honey Boo Boo. Thankfully, it is not played in other countries, but it is on non stop re-run on America’s beloved TLC. The show is about an obese red neck family whose daughter (Honey Boo Boo) participates in children’s pageants. The show reinforces obesity by handing it fame and fortune while they are ultimately being laughed at by all of america. Websites have called the show the “Death of America”.
It is hard not to question if it is shows like these that are responsible for Americans negative image . The media in the UK, especially Edinburgh feeds into the pessimistic stereotypes by buying American shows like the Kardashians, MTV’s Teen Mom and TLC’s Here Comes Honey Boo Boo series.
Another thing I noticed while in Scotland was our top 20 pop music being played. Twice I heard Ariana Grande’s song “Love Me Harder” while being in a cab. Just to give you some background information, Ariana Grande is 21 years old and her lyrics include lines like:
“I know your motives and you know mine
The ones that love me, I tend to leave behind
If you know about me and choose to stay
Then take this pleasure and take away the pain”
As a fellow twenty year old, I am embarrassed by the distasteful connotations young artists have portrayed and ask myself what this says about our culture.
It does not convey a good message not only to Americans but other countries who get the impression that these are the morals we share as a society, because it is what is publicly communicated.
It is not only a problem in the television industry. In recent years we have released movies that push boundaries of extremely controversial topics. In 2014 The Interview was released, a movie about a journalist instructed to assassinate Kim Jong-Un. The North Korea government threatened attacks if Columbia Pictures released it. Another controversial movie that was released last year was the Imitation Game, which was criticized for allegedly downplaying Alan Turings homosexuality.
I am excited to one day work in media, because of the opportunity to push the field towards a more positive direction. Media outlets hold a great amount of power, they should be used to put the image of USA citizens in a good light while being honest. Ultimately, I do believe it is our fault that we are negatively stereotyped by the Europeans (especially the Scottish). I say that because a large chunk of our country has turned into what the media has portrayed and continues to do so. It is fair to say that trashy television shows, music and movies could be one to blame.
Scotland upholds a classy reputation, when walking down the street people were dressed nicely and looked healthy. It is hard not to question the differences between media and what America can do to better our citizens instead of make us fall behind. Visiting Scotland this past week was a big eye opener. As American student it is important to recognize the role we play in representing not only ourselves, but our school and our country. We need to take control of the image we are portraying.