Tag Archives: the american myth

Ten years ago today, America.

There was that crazy hour with one tower up one tower down.  After that first collapse, one remained without its twin and you had the absurd thought that it would not fall.  You hung on to the hope that it would not fall, that somehow if one stayed up it would be all right.  That this was not the end of something.

But the lone building is on fire, inside it an exploded jet.  Unfathomable heat from the fuel.  There is so much paper swaying through the air like white leaves falling from a ghost tree.  There are the trapped ones that decide to jump.  A man and a woman holding hands for a dive ending in a thump you will never be able to unhear.  The lone building is on fire and it groans to its foundations and History laughs, laughs, laughs and says, welcome America to this twenty first century.

Do you remember how neatly the tower telescoped?  There was no wrenching halfway up the metal skeleton, no toppling of a broken giant.  Instead it dissolved into that uncanny white ash.  Imagine the beautiful engineering that allowed for such a perfect collapse.  The smooth destruction written into the construction all those years ago.

America, America, you can only dream that you might collapse so gracefully.

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:

Dallas
your pitiless universe
Dallas
glorifies the law of the strong
Dallas
and beneath your implacable sun
Dallas
you fear only death
Dallas
mother country of the dollar, of petrol
Dallas
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.