Being an American ex-pat living in Sweden I tend to like that we get a lot of American TV shows. It is nice to hear my native language once in awhile. I have also found that I watch these shows with a new perspective. We do get entire US channels like Animal Planet and Discovery, but I want to concentrate on the network shows in this article, and how they effect Swedish perceptions about the US.
Gilmore Girls has long been a favorite program of mine so I was delighted when it started running over here in Sweden. This show centers around a mother and daughter who have a very similar relationship to my own daughter and I. Witty repartee is predominant, which is one of the things I value about my own daughter. She can keep up with the best of them… she had a good teacher. heh. Gilmore Girls is a good one to be showing to Sweden as it shows quite well that all Americans are not dim bulbs. The bad is the multiple foibles of their various relationships, making Americans look a bit unstable.
Bones is another good one for many of the same reasons as the Gilmore girls. Bones shows intelligent Americans in the form of Bones herself, who is of course a prominent expert for the Smithsonian who aids the FBI in crime solving through forensic examination of the body. The show is both smart and fun, with the tension between Bones and her partner lending quite a few grin moments. Relationships are a little more stable with the lab assistants, and for the most part show happy people, although very workaholic people.
Desperate Housewives is one of my personal favorites as well, but is the worst possible one to be showing other countries. I mean I laugh til my sides hurt at the goings on at the households of Wisteria Lane, but this show is responsible for the Swedish perception that Americans are disloyal fruitcakes when it comes to relationships and marriage. While there is some truth to that, it is not the best face to be putting out there. The populace of Sweden has quickly become addicted to this show, but for different reasons than Americans. To Americans, we are laughing because we know people like these. To the Swedish, they are just plain laughing at Americans.
Ugly Betty is a decent show and I catch it if I’m channel flipping and come across it, but I do not make a point to watch it. Yes, Betty is smart gal who looks nothing like a model working in the industry of the Beautiful People, but the impression that tends to give is that Americans are far too wrapped up in looks. Well, that is a true impression, and not one to be proud of and flaunting to the world at large. Sweden isn’t impressed with the wealthy or bone-thin. They are impressed by deeds and actions. Ugly Betty serves to reinforce the view of Americans as shallow.
House is quite popular in Sweden. It is quite popular with me, too. If I were to return to the US, I would seek out a doctor just like Gregory House, MD, the warped, direct, and dedicated pain pill addict. I really hate MDs that beat around the bush, or diagnose without looking at every angle. It has been my experience that the goal of the medical community is financial gain rather than curing the clients. House doesn’t buy into that. Not at all. He would be in better company over here. This one shows the Swedish that not all American doctors are idiots… the system is screwed, but there are still one or two good guys left.
Grey’s Anatomy is just warped beyond all redemption, which is why I am so drawn to it. Personally, I like the drama that is the love lives of these people working in the hospital. These are sharp folks with issues. I can relate to them. However, what it shows Sweden and the rest of the world is more of the same thing they always thought: Americans are screwed up emotionally, the medical system is screwed up, and no marriage is sacred. All valid observations, but again, isn’t it time to try to turn all that around?
The Simpsons and South Park are both shown here. The younger generation is more fond of both than the older generations over here, with the Simpsons being at the top of the two. The good part is that they show Americans have a good sense of humor and can take a joke even when it is on them. they both also show stable (if issue-filled) marriages. Where things get screwy is that these come over here pre-bleeped. That is annoying as hell, and reinforces the perception that Americans get their panties in a wad over really stupid stuff… like letter groupings.
There are more American shows that are on the air over here, but I think to list any more would get redundant. Hopefully one person at least will start viewing programs in just a little bit different light, and understand why it is that the rest of the world has the perception that they do of Americans. they aren’t just pulling these feelings out of thin air. You are giving them what you apparently want them to think.