Britsh vs. American culture via children’s tv

co-written with S.

Last year living in France was a daily adventure in cultural differences (which I’m continuing this year in England), whether the differences are between French speakers & English speakers or between British & American (and sometimes, English paired with Dutch or Spanish or German, but that’s another day). It seemed a nightly pass time that S and C and I would find some difference between how we said things or thought of things and discuss what was correct or proper, or made more sense. One day, towards the end of our stay the conversation between S and I turned to children’s television and TV theme songs. I had one stuck in my head. While trying to explain it to S, I turned to YouTube and brought it up. In turn she had me look up themes for shows she had watched. This went back and forth for a while before we abandoned watching intros and turned back to our cleaning.

S: Yours are all 80s power ballads ‘na nana na naaaaa we’re gonna save the day!’ where is, ours are all ‘plip, plop, plip, plop, here are the characters. Let’s have a nice day’

Me: So yours are about everyday life…. ours, ours are about being a good person…. … …and fighting crime

see videos at the end of the post for examples of theme songs

If you look at the popular American and British children’s shows from the late 1980s through early 1990s (the era of our childhood) there is a distinct pattern that each country adheres to. Though there is division in the American shows, but many of the shows that mirror the British ones (ex. Under the Umbrella Tree) are usually imports either from the UK or Canada. American shows portrayed young characters and/or fantastical characters (ie. anthropomorphized animals, mythical or invented creatures) either of whom would fight crime or injustice. The style is usually 2D hand drawn animation. The music, 80s power ballad style. British shows depict youngsters and adults, living and exploring society, living their lives in a productive manner. The style is generally claymation or puppetry with live action. There are a few exceptions (Paddington Bear comes to mind).

This is a drastic dichotomy between what is viewed as proper for young developing minds. American shows encourage adventure and doing what is right, over what is lawful or safe. They encourage being oneself and being a good person. British shows encourage living productively and politely in society.

Everyone argues nature versus nurture, but for a moment let’s just look at the nurture. While being both English-speaking and powerful countries the UK and US have developed two cultures which, at their core, have different habitus, or vantage point. Each culture has its own sets of cultural, economic, academic and social capital. However similar the results underneath exist different structures.

The British have for the most part a very mild temperament that isn’t as prone to rebel. While American culture is based on rebellion. American’s are seen as loud, obnoxious and prone to narcissism while their British counterparts are viewed as calm, cultured and levelheaded. While these stereotypes might be proven both right and wrong on both sides if either side bothers to learn much about the other, they do hold some level of truth.

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Examples: First we have the theme from Gummi Bears, an American children’s show. The fantastical main characters fight crime and teach the human children to be good people and accept others. The second is Postman Pat which depicts the life of a rural postman as he helps his neighbours throughout the day.

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Author: Monica

punk rock ballerina. writer. adventurer.

2 thoughts on “Britsh vs. American culture via children’s tv”

  1. Interesting post.

    You’re getting the best and most valuable education possible by living in different countries and starting to realize — ideally without judgment — how differently we think in other cultures, why and how this plays out now. I grew up in Canada and have lived in Mexico, France, England and in NY since 1989. Every day I live in the U.S., even after all these years, reminds me how very differently the U.S. sees the rest of the world, and the underlying values that rule how they behave.

    Last night’s “60 Minutes”, an interview with Julian Assange of Wkileaks, was a perfect example as the interviewer kept scolding him for being someone who enjoys stirring things up….This is typical, in my experience of America — their “brand” is freedom, but they are often terribly docile and very resentful of those who visibly defy authority.

    Keep an open mind as you encounter all these differences. They’re making you wiser.

    http://caitlinkelly.com/

    1. That couldn’t be more true “the land of the free” doesn’t like disruption from amongst the ranks. I love having the opportunity to learn about other cultures and what things other people take for granted.

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