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Confronting stereotypes of culture: American Stereotypes

By Mathilde Dodson
On November 22, 2005

In considering the stereotypes of American culture, one must understand that behind every stereotype, there exists a kernel of truth.

Many of these cultural stereotypes have much to do with living in a society whose values are in direct conflict with one another.

We believe in freedom of expression, as long as it's not sexual in any way. We believe in freedom of speech, unless you're criticizing the government.

Live long enough in that kind of system and you're bound to spurn a few misconceptions about yourself to your neighbors of the north, south, east and west.

What follows is a short list of the stereotypes that exist about Americans and the kernel of truth behind them.

Americans are completely obsessed with money.

Not true. Ok, not entirely true. We certainly value and respect the value of a dollar (even though that value keeps slipping lower on the world market).

But we are also the culture aspiring to be the next Horatio Alger: work hard, have good ethics, and provide for your family.

The problem is that providing for your family costs considerably more each year and for many it is getting difficult to keep pace.

The basic necessities that make life worth living (a video iPod with color screen, a cell phone equipped with custom ring tones, a camera, instant messaging, that also interfaces with my laptop computer) are just harder and harder to obtain. I don't know how some folks even survive anymore.

Americans are fanatical about their personal appearance.

Advertising in this country is a multi-billion dollar global industry dedicated to letting us know in no uncertain terms that our butts look fat in those jeans, that we have bad breath, our boobs are too small, we're sexually inadequate, socially inept, and that if we do not buy their products then we are going to die alone in a puddle of our own filth.

Oh, and by the way, have a Coke and a smile.

Live through this on a constant basis and then try not to think about your appearance.

Americans are loud, rude, and completely ignorant of the cultures of other countries.

I have heard this one time and time again. Our neighbors on all sides have called us everything from evolution-hating, to jingoistic, war-loving freak shows, to just plain stupid

Here in America, we call them Texans. And we profoundly apologize for them.

Americans are always in a hurry.

Who, us? The folks who invented the Big Mac extra value meal served in under a minute that we can eat in the car on the way to the gym for a quick workout followed by a brisk 30- second massage.This, by the way, is what we do on our lunch hour while cell phone teleconferencing on the way back to work. In a hurry?

No, we're just practicing a healthy synergistic lifestyle choice. How else would we to be able to afford the car, gym membership, cell phone and the food?

We are obsessed about celebrities.

Well, ok. That one is true. We have been so concerned with such gripping headlineworthy topics as the details of Ashton and Demi's wedding, to Brad and Jen's breakup, to whoever is screwing Paris Hilton, that we seemed to have missed some things along the way, from the concept of intelligent design that seems to lack any intelligence whatsoever, (yet we keep debating it), to the point that we have gotten ourselves into a pickle in some middle eastern country whose name escapes me at the moment.


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