Friday, April 8, 2011
Major difference in cultural points
So, since coming to Australia, I watch a lot more tv. This is due to several factors -- my old housemates watched tv in the evenings, Jason loves having the tv on, I've lost the will to fight about it as much as I did when I was 22, and there are actually sometimes shows on that I want to watch.
One of these, a recent Australian production, is called "Winners and Losers", and is a night-time dramedy about 4 deliberately quirky friends who were outsiders in high school ("losers") and then meet up again at their 10th reunion to kick ass and show the bitchy Queen Bee (described by one of my coworkers as being "almost American") who they are...namely, they are WINNERS! The plot twists are deeply improbable; for example, they become actual winners when they buy a lottery ticket, and are each the recipient of $2 million -- at the end of the first episode. How am I supposed to identify with that? I was definitely not the coolest of kids in high school, although I never saw any stratification of the type common to Lindsay Lohan movies, so I was doing all right with my "amen, sister!" until they won a ton of money and then I immediately could not sympathize with their problems anymore ("Oh, you can't set a date for your wedding? Boo fucking hoo, YOU HAVE A YACHT!!")
One part of this show that made me almost drop-jawed in amazement was a scene near the middle of the first episode (and the episodes go for indeterminate amounts of time...the first one was about 2 hours long, while the second was one and a half hours long, and the third was about 45 minutes. Maybe they're using up all the story early?). The four girls all have definable traits, and one of them is the Hot Brunette. She's also the Only Brunette, since Australians are OBSESSED with blondes in the same way Americans are obsessed with redheads. But Hot Brunette is a personal trainer, which is how she lost all the weight that made her a loser in high school, and to deal with her nerves at the reunion, where she teeters in on improbably high heels and a sexy tight-as-skin dress, she pops into the nearest bathroom stall (see if you can tell what's going to happen), takes a COMPACT MIRROR out of her bag, TIPS SOME COCAINE out onto it, and SNIFFS it with an audible snort!!
Australians: take a minute to imagine the amazement of my American compatriots, who, even now as they read, are probably staring at each other saying, "You can SHOW that on AUSTRALIAN PUBLIC TELEVISION?" Americans: this wasn't even cable. This was a channel that everybody gets. And the show airs at 8:30, which is actually within the kids-are-awake window of prime-time programming.
I tell you what, I was floored. And then, in the next episode, she answers the door to a couple of police officers WITH A PLATE OF COCAINE IN HER HAND. And they arrest her. And then SHE'S ALLOWED OUT ON BAIL. With a fine. A fine! They have not revealed on the show how much her fine will be, but I looked up drug laws online, to help curtail my amazement (thinking, "Well, it's got to be like $50,000"), and discovered that anything up to 2 grams is okay, with a fine of up to $2000 if they catch you and are in a bad mood.
Stop to imagine the cultural divide, here. More like a cultural yawning gulf, with dudes in helicopters with uzis patrolling the borders of it. Not only would you never see drug use on American non-cable channels unless it was in the form of a cautionary tale ("Tiffany started out as a perfectly normal, happy eight year old...until she took ONE PUFF of a marijuana cigarette. Now she's a streetwalking whore doing gang bangs for crack."), but it would never be a trait of a sympathetic main character. And if you got arrested for holding a plate of cocaine in front of police officers, you could make damn sure you would not be let out with a fine and a slap on the hand from a magistrate, who I always picture as portly red-faced men in wigs and waistcoats. You would go directly to jail, do not pass go, and you might get out in a couple of years after you had become the bitch of several men with THUG LIFE tattooed on their foreheads.
This is how badly our ridiculous War on Drugs has screwed up our nation. Drugs are not necessarily bad in and of themselves; just what people do when they're on them and addicted to them, and in my opinion, alcohol is the worst of all of them. Have you ever been aggressed on the street by someone who'd just finished smoking pot? Now how about some dudes outside a bar at 2am? Which one is more likely to punch you and which one is more likely to take your corn chips and give you a hug? And alcohol is the legal one.
Sometimes I don't remember I'm a foreigner until something like that happens, and my mind gets completely blown.
PS In other news, one of the guys I work with told me about a hilarious practice he and his friends engage in called "stealth bumming", where you wait for someone to be doing something that involves them bending over, then you sneak in and pretend to be pounding them in the ass ("bumming" them, in British) while someone takes a picture. Then you post it on Facebook. Perhaps thisisphotobomb.com should change their name to thisisphotoBUMMING.com. If only.