Since I’ve been here I’ve been thinking more about what it means to be American and how I identify with that. I suppose it’s really too soon to come to any conclusions, but one thing I can’t help but notice is how far across the world the American culture reaches. Every movie playing at the Armagh Omniplex (and in the theaters we saw in Belfast) is American. The music I hear in the stores is American pop music. Even many of the books I see in the thrift stores are American authors. (I don’t know where the fashion craze over colored and patterned skinny jeans started, but it’s definitely prominent here too). It seems that if one industry has really figured out how to package and export American goods, it’s the entertainment industry.
I realize that we get a fair number of British musicians (thank you, London, for Florence + the Machine), and Irish writers (among others), but I once looked at a British top 40’s chart for pop music a couple years ago to try and find some new artists and was sort of dismayed to find that American singers took most of the top spots. I don’t know how true that is in the rest of Europe or the world, but it does interest me to think about how that might have become the case. Amerians like to be entertained, so we do have a huge industry for it. Is this an especially American phenomenon? From what I’ve learned here so far, the governments of Ireland and Britain really spend a lot of money funding their writers and artists (more than in America, where most of the arts funding anymore seems to be private).
I suppose in a way this far-reaching influence is comforting; I can go so many places in the world and not feel so far away from home. On the other hand, it seems almost like we’re a sort of invasive species, choking out what entertainment art or music they might be making if not for the prominent presence of our products.
That sounds a little melodramatic, but I guess the point is, this trip is definitely allowing me to view America in a more global context.