It’s a tired old stereotype everyone has heard: The rest of the world hates the United States of America. From foreign governments instituting protectionist trade policies limiting or excluding American goods, all the way down to the commonly imagined scenario of tourists from the US being treated badly by locals when visiting, it’s a hostile environment out there for the States. But is this common understanding actually correct?
Let’s begin by differentiating between the government and the people. All governments, when they aren’t openly hostile to one another, at least treat each other with wariness. This is because it’s their job to maneuver for their own national interests, even if it must come at the expense of others’ interests. When negotiating trade, you don’t really try to strike a deal that benefits both sides equally (that’s just what you say you’re doing); you have to assume the other side is trying to gain the advantage, and in so assuming, it falls on you to do the same. It’s not personal when they act like this, it’s just business.
But people are different. The average person on the street isn’t trying to take advantage of foreigners, and he doesn’t have to go through life believing that foreigners are trying to do that to him. He is free to allow other influences to determine his feelings towards the nationals of other countries. There is no greater such influence than the art of a foreign culture – and there is arguably no greater art than the soap opera.
For years, the American soap has been watched and beloved by a vast number of foreign markets. Some countries receive these shows as much as 20 years behind their original American air dates, meaning that they are just now experiencing a lot of classic soap stories for the very first time. And they like what they see. There are nations where the languages spoken make it difficult for American people even to communicate with the locals, yet those same locals will still smile and nod in understanding when the names JR Ewing (or his show “Dallas”) and Alexis Colby (who is from “Dynasty”) are mentioned. And this love of soap operas goes all the way to the top: When Luke and Laura were married on General Hospital, a bottle of champagne was sent to the US in celebration – by Princess Diana, who was a huge fan of the show.
So don’t be taken in by all this talk of hatred against Americans. There’s no greater love of a foreign culture than the love of its art, and people the world over love the American soap opera.