a palimpsest, an American myth

I was taken on a time travel journey when my niece posted the following video on her facebook page:

This is the opening to a 1971 TV show called The Persuaders! When I heard the distinctive music, I immediately remembered this airing while I was growing up in France under the title Amicalement vôtre… (The two titles have nothing to do with each other besides both being punctuated.)  When I asked my husband about this show, he did not at all recollect it.  It turns out it was immensely more popular in continental Europe than it ever had been the American/British market.  Why?  Because when it was translated into German, they entirely jettisoned the original script, instead dubbing in much funnier lines that had little to do with the original.  Subsequent versions for other European markets were then translated from the wacky German version, resulting in millions of viewers loving a completely different show than what had been initially intended.  I find this intensely interesting.

After watching this and being transported back to French television in the eighties, I went on an epic nostalgia trip through YouTube.  Much of what I watched as a child were shitty American TV shows dubbed over.  If you want to be thoroughly amused, watch the following:

Whoever translated the shows almost always felt compelled to add violently dorky theme songs that had not been in the originals.  The lyrics to the Starsky & Hutch intro above are so brain-bleachingly stupid that they are almost endearing.  But, Starksy & Hutch was not the best–THIS was the best:

Yes!  It’s Dallas!  And the lyrics here are so fantastic that they bear being translated:

your pitiless universe
glorifies the law of the strong
and beneath your implacable sun
you fear only death
mother country of the dollar, of petrol
you do not know pity


Totally.  Freaking.  Awesome.  Speaking of American myth, I also used to watch this cartoon:

I don’t think this aired in the US.  I don’t know where it was made.  It was a very, very loose adaptation of Tom Sawyer.  The theme song features what may possibly be my favorite lyric in the history of lyrics:

He is afraid of nothing; he is an American.

How can you read that and not be tickled silly?

But–let me now make a radical turn and address you seriously.  The song starts with:

Tom Sawyer is America, symbol of liberty.

and later:

Tom Sawyer is America, for all those who love truth.

Do you see those words?  Remember the world in which those words were written.  Look at what America used to mean.  Do you see?

They do not think this of us anymore, and they are right.


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