I wrote this from an aboriginal community called Kintore. It’s in the desert, about a five-hour drive on mostly dirt roads from Alice Springs, a small town in central Australia that’s roughly 1,500 miles away from any metropolitan area. And then there’s the fact that Australia itself is approximately 14 hours from the US by plane.
In other words, I’m about as close to the middle of nowhere as you can get in 2012. And yet, when I walked into Kintore’s dialysis unit, there was a television set up, and it was playing Bad Boys 2: The Baddening. (I may have made up the part after the colon. It’s impossible to know for sure.)
The sheer reach of American entertainment continues to amaze me. It would seem to defy logic that one could travel to a desert halfway around the world and find two aboriginal Australians who don’t speak great English watching Martin Lawrence and Will Smith do…umm…you know, I’ve seen Bad Boys 2 one and a half times, but I’ve never actually paid enough attention to know what the plot is. But the point is, they were definitely watching them do something.
And this isn’t limited to Kintore, either. One of my roommates in Alice Springs recently referred to two of his friends as Lily and Marshall, the forever-in-love-except-briefly-in-season-two couple on How I Met Your Mother. When I was in Dublin, my Irish friends loved talking about the Family Guy gag where an airplane careens through a mountain of empty beer bottles as it lands in their country. And when I was in Toronto, stores actually accepted American money, which, while not really related to entertainment, was something I found hilarious and quintessentially Canadian, so I wanted to mention it. (Can you imagine if anyone tried to pay for something using a coin with a beaver on it in the States? I don’t think it would go over too well.)
Even the country that we’ve
stolen adapted plenty of
entertainment from—the UK—was filled with advertisements for American media
when I visited a few years ago, an observation that helped contribute to what
may be my proudest ever moment as an American abroad. After using the word
“movie theater” in a conversation with some Brits, I was laughed at and
derisively informed that the proper term was “cinema.” I told them that, when
they started using these cinemas to show movies that were actually from their
own country, they could call them whatever they wanted to, but until then, I
was sticking with “movie theater.” Then George Washington and I high-fived.
Look, I think the conversations America’s smart people are currently having about our nation’s decline are both productive and necessary. I’m no expert in international politics, but I do know that it’s not 1947 anymore, making the notion of any one nation being the world’s “sole superpower” pretty outdated. But as far as I can tell, we still absolutely dominate in terms of giving the rest of the planet something to do after work.
In short, you’re welcome, other countries. Because without America, you might have to talk to your kids.
(Hey, how’s that for a national motto? It’s at least better than "In God We Trust.")