Friday, March 18, 2011

Life lessons learned from Britney Spears

Sometimes I wonder what kind of impression of the United States Saudis are getting based on the entertainment they see on TV here. I had a very interesting conversation with some students the other day who described a typical US high school experience as being riddled by bullies pushing people into bathroom stalls, teachers looking the other way as couples made out, and principals who do nothing about the token geek being stuffed into a locker.

They were shocked when I told them that I'd never in my life seen or heard of anyone actually being stuffed into a locker against their will (we had a few guys in high school who tried it just to see if it was possible, but that was just funny), public displays of affection are generally against the rules and only done if the couples really try, and while there are bullies they tend to be more sneaky with their violence and teachers/principals are always on the lookout.

At first I was baffled that they would even think things like that actually happen...and then I started paying closer attention to the American television they're exposed to. Gossip Girl, Jersey Shore, Glee, Vampire Diaries...we look like a bunch of drunk, shallow, pregnant, death-obsessed loons! (Let's not even get into the fact that some of my students didn't think Glee was a comedy so much as high school with songs. "No, Miss. It's not funny. That's what high school's really like." oy.)

Last night I watched Crossroads, the 2002 cinematic feat starring America's sweetheart: Britney Spears.

You're judging me. I can feel it.

First of all: Whaat?! Why is this movie even showing here!? And why couldn't I look away!? It was like a car accident on the interstate. I knew it was going to be bad, but I just couldn't avert my eyes. In an attempt to save face, I decided to try to see this movie with non-American eyes and turn it into a culture-bridging blog post.

Perception of the West based on Crossroads no. 1: Americans eventually come to hate their childhood best friends. If you think about it, this isn't just a theme in Crossroads. Tons of movies show the childhood friends making a blood pact to never ever leave each other and then the next scene is a flash forward of them ignoring each other in their high school hallways.

THIS ISN'T AS COMMON AS THEY WANT YOU TO THINK!! Of course people drift apart from some of their childhood friends, but rarely do people hoard such resentment towards people whose toenails they used to paint. Facebook is filled with thousands of people who have known each other since diapers and who still love each other very much. And if friends do have a falling out, they generally don't mend their ties by going on a cross-country road trip with a strangely attractive ex-con in a classic car.

Man, look at those gas prices. Those were the days.

Perception of the West based on Crossroads no. 2: Valedictorians are total nerds who regret their academic accomplishments. Yes, I'm going to skim over the fact that Britney Spears's character was valedictorian...A valedictorian who expressed her dissatisfaction with her high school experience in poorly-delivered, unemotional lines to her father (played by Dan Akroyd. To quote the Mister, "What happened to that guy!?"). Most valedictorians are not regarded as total losers who are to be avoided like the social plague. In fact they're usually very well-rounded, well-liked individuals who have lots of friends. They might even have a romantic relationship. GASP! You mean they can actually be desirable?!?!

While I'm sure some valedictorians might look back and think, "Man, I missed out on the homecoming game. I should have gone to more pep rallies." I'm pretty sure that regret doesn't settle in until their mid-40s. Mine and the Mister's valedictorian went on to YALE. For biomedical engineering. I'm pretty sure she's not regretting missing Senior Skip Day. High school's great and all, but tangible personal accomplishments are better.

Perception of the West based on Crossroads no. 3: Virginity past 18 is like social suicide. I realize that this rant is going to sound very odd considering my last post, but NOT ALL AMERICAN TEENAGERS ARE SEX-CRAZED HOOLIGANS WHO HUMP THE FIRST THING THAT WILL TAKE ITS CLOTHES OFF! No one starts a conversation by asking whether or not you and your boyfriend have done "it" yet. It's absolutely no one's business and in my high school, keeping your virginity was the norm. If you did choose to give it up, no one cared and no one knew unless you told them.

Even once you get to college, virgins are not impossible to find and if anyone made fun of you for being one, that person was unceremoniously written-off as the token jerk. As the Mister says, "This isn't an American Pie movie. People are allowed to make their decisions" and the co-eds in American colleges respect those decisions.

Perception of the West based on Crossroads no. 4: A trio of teenage girls can tart themselves up and earn several hundred dollars singing karaoke in a New Orleans bar.

Cause nothing makes you wanna make it rain like a pregnant teenager.

Um. no. If they're going to earn money in a New Orleans bar, it ain't gonna be by keeping their clothes on. And they're certainly not going to just waltz in off the street and immediately start earning money for their mediocre karaoke. Just. not. realistic.

Perception of the West based on Crossroads no. 5: Everyone has a mom/parent who doesn't want them. Britney's foray into Hollywood isn't the only example of American cinema that has a character that has been abandoned by one or both parents. Yes, hardship and strained relationships with your parents can be a theme in just about everyone's life at one time or another. But a whole heck of a lot of us have two parents who love us very much and have never just walked out on their family without looking back. Those parents may not be married to each other anymore, and the children of divorced parents might feel abandoned, but the maturity that comes with age often reverses those feelings, not confirms them.

Yeesh, if all these conclusions could be drawn just by watching Britney's pathetic attempt at a feature film, I don't want to know what people think after watching an episode of Grey's Anatomy.

Vicariously yours,

1 comment:

  1. Maybe your best post yet, my friend. Confession: I bought a pair of baby pink adidas gazelles after seeing brit brit don them in this film. Of this, I am not proud. And yes...Dan Ackroyd has definitely spiraled downward!