I watch a lot of American TV and Movies. In fact I watch them enough to recognise their influence on my language – I was brought up on the Queen’s (Elizabeth II) english, but now I am just as likely to say “kerb”as I am to say “pavement”. I know the hollywood movies that “feel right” and while I recognise that a lot of great films come out from many countries in the world, hollywood “gets” me. Bollywood, not so much. Nollywood, yeah (and yes) – especially where Patience Ozokwor is up to her evil self. I love movies out of Bongo (Dar es Salaam, for the uninitiated), less because of their cinematography and more for the language and occasional plot.
Canadian, Australian or even many African upmarket movies – much of what comes out of the Cannes Film Festival and BAFTA and so on don’t captivate me, much as I appreciate that they often are telling a story I seriously relate to. Often they have too much of a serious agenda for me and TV only serves me to get me out of my (very serious) reality and enable me to crawl into my nothing box for hours without a feminine voice asking me what I am thinking. Is it any wonder that some of my must- watch actors include Jean Claude Van-Damme and Stephen Seagal? I happen to have watched most TV series depicting the fascinating life of the President and his white house team. At the top of that rung I have to say is the West Wing.
In a majority of these TV series and movies, one will often hear mention of the notion of “the American dream” – and many times it is explained such that one simply wants to emigrate to America.
Edits (this post launched before I was done with what I was saying)
The American Dream as I understand it, constitutes an ideal that everyone has an equal chance to prosper so long as they work at it – that the country will make it so I that everyone has equal platform upon which they start. This is such a well marketed view that even in many parts of the US, one might be forgiven to imagine that this dream has been achieved.
Walk alongside the Potomac in Georgetown, Washington DC and you get the sense that you are in a bit of a bubble. After a week, during which you have not seen a single poor person, and during which you have been walking on pristine streets, you might forget about the people who sleep in tents near the K street tunnel just a walking distance away. Or the homeless you will encounter at the subway entrance at the corner of 14th street and G st. (See google maps – I took screen shots below)
The fact that there are many homeless people astounds many Africans, who like me love hollywood movies. The movies make even the projects in New York look romantic. It has to be a testament to something that there are many teens in Nairobi’s Kibera or in Malindi’s Maweni who could tell you intimate details about Harlem in the US.
Even in the face of the unwarranted police shootings of black men in the US, this American dream is sold as the ultimate pursuit that Americans are making progress to. Its funny to watch bigots and racists use the phrase to exclude other races.
But all this is besides the point. My point is this: Just how unique is the American dream from the Syrian Dream? Does Pakistan have a dream? Or Congo Brazzaville? Is it the Same dream?