10.13.2004

BBC and the Near Impossibility of the Representation of Nations

It's curious how much more literary the programming is on BBC. NPR has an occasional literary guest star who might have made the best-seller list, but almost never a story reading--let alone a dramatization. After all, 5% of the American public reads, so maybe a little programming could be devoted to it. There's a ton of jazz programming, which is cool, but a little disproportionate to its listenership--perhaps. Maybe, given that another station plays almost all classical music, they're trying to off-set the rock quotient on the other channels.

But if it's because jazz is an American institution of art that it's well-covered, why not the short story? Surely, the short story fills a similar role--if not SF as well. Although it began outside the U.S. and exists in other countries, it has flowered here--a curious phenomenon due to its underlying international thematic intent.

Also of note when thinking of the BBC is their portrayal of Americans. We're a mix-n-match. One show that takes place in the Northeast will play Bluegrass music. Character accents range the American geography: mixing Jersey accents with a Southern drawl.

I guess my accent is a little mix-n-match, too, having lived throughout the U.S. and ineluctably taking up the local flavors--as a joke at first, then as a part of my permanent speech. Even so it's still a matter of intensity. I will always sound Yankee to the deep Southerners--no matter that I was born in the South and have lived for extended periods in several of their sometime rebel-yearning states.

Possibly, it's impossible for an outsider to characterize a nation's biases without living inside it. For instance, locally, the town of Council Bluffs is known affectionately as Council-tucky. If you aren't aware of national prejudices towards Kentucky (Bluegrass land), then you probably aren't aware of how the locals feel about the town across the river.

For whatever reason, immigrant Sudanese have settled here, smack in the middle of the U.S. One came on the radio waves talking about the different dialects of Sudan and the misperception of their country all speaking the same. And, of course, the U.S. is probably just as laughably guilty of mixing up Australian, British, Scottish, Irish accents--let alone all the variants so charmingly elucidated in George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion.

discuss this post at our messageboard