Saturday, April 5, 2014

Unreality TV

Most American TV is not an accurate portrayal of US society. I know, I know… sorry to ruin your day. The violence, the crime scene investigators, the people preparing for the end of the world, all that might be closer to the truth. Where American TV goes wrong is in its depictions of life in sitcoms. In my experience there are few, if any, places where everyone knows your name. 

It was only after I moved to Croatia in 2011, that I started to see the unreality of American sitcoms. While these shows are far from reality in the US, the way of life on all of these shows began to look suspiciously familiar. I realized US sitcoms are actually about life in Croatia! Don’t believe it?  Here is some evidence. 

Another reality TV

On Sex and the City, Carrie and her gal friends sit in restaurants, cafes, or bars,  sharing heartfelt tales of heartbreak sprinkled with sexual innuendo. Sitcoms also involve going to the same cafe/bar over and over again. On How I Met Your Mother the gang spends most of their time drinking with each other in the neighborhood bar. On Seinfeld Jerry and friends are always at a place that’s simply called “Restaurant.” Look familiar? Yes, this is just like having coffee in Croatia. When is the last time you went some place new?

Then there is the very “involved” neighbor, like Urkel, Gibbler, or Kramer, who comes over all the time, often unannounced. And perhaps most notably on many shows like Everybody Loves Raymond, Fraser, and The King of Queens there is an older, aging, dominating, family member that constantly “complicates” things, especially for the male protagonist.  

We don’t really do that.

From the vantage point of a sitcom it looks like Americans spend all their free time socializing over one kind of drink or another, live with their relatives, and go to the same place again and again. If you replace socialize with watch TV, place with living room, and drink with pizza, then sure, we do that. Having coffee is rarely like it is imagined on Friends, sitting around, and you know, drinking coffee. Life in the US is hectic, often rushed and very rarely does anyone seem to have time for sitting around drinking coffee. If anything, you get it “to go” and talk to your friends on your mobile, while driving to your next appointment. Neighbors? I hardly even knew their names. Living with family members? No. Out of three siblings only one of us lives in the same state as my parents.

We Aspire to be Croatians?

Think about what is says when the ideas of levity, humor, laughter and comedy on American TV really resemble life in Croatia. Maybe this explains why I love living in Croatia so much. Countless hours of American TV have taught me that this is actually what life should be like. Based on our sitcoms you could argue that in the US we want to have a life like life in Croatia. Frustrating? At times. Complicated? A little. But ultimately, it’s a good time. In middle English, the word comedy was used less to depict a humorous event, but instead referred to a play or poem that had a happy ending. In that sense, I believe life in Croatia, a life with friends, having coffee, friendly neighbors, and even punica, can be truly comedic.   

(This piece was originally published on my blog for the Voice of Croatia)

7 comments:

  1. exactly! very accurate and nicely noted.
    I myself feel much more relaxed living the North American way of life, have never felt this good when I lived at home :)

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  2. I really can't imagine that living in US is like you wrote. Ok, I heard before similar stories from some people who worked and lived in US, but I took them with reserve because they were still strangers there. I would even say you're lying, but ok, you're an expert as you're a US citizen... and it seems you're pretty trustworthy person. :)

    In some of your previous posts, you uploaded the picture from some US cafe where everyone are sitting alone... I have to admit that pic somehow confused me. I just can't conceive that kind of life.

    Nah, what to hell, I'm going with not to trust you about that... everybody have friends and go to movies, cafes, restaurants, museums, sport events, concerts, picnics at city parks... I watched Seinfeld and that kind of life is believable and I also think meeting and getting acquainted with unknown person is much more easier in US than in Croatia because ppl there are more open and more liberal. You're just exaggerating a bit. It's ok, I understand. ;)

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    1. Ha-ha. Well, the grass is always greener. Or I guess the sea is always bluer? The coffee is always browner?

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    2. I don't know about grass and coffee... I just can't conceive that kind of life... And, at least, I seriously doubt the sea is bluer in US...tho, I've never been in Hawaii. :)

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  3. Cody,I love your blog!
    I was wondering if you could write how our views compare to those of Americans? Are we much more conservative? Much more religious? I would really like to know that.

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    1. Hi Morana, thanks for the love. I did write this for HRT a few weeks ago and touches on some of the differences. http://radio.hrt.hr/glas-hrvatske/blog/are-croats-success-proof/108/

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    2. Wow... Fresh layout. Yep, I think it's much better than before. Brighter at least. :)

      Btw, I remember you wrote something about differences in culture of eating (Croatian lunch time), but maybe you could write something about differences in taste for food. Do you like Croatian cuisine or you never get quite accustomed? Any dishes you like to eat which you never ate in US? Any food you miss from US?... You know, something like that... It could be interesting. :)

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