December 11, 2010

A discussion of pop culture

This past Thursday, we had two hours of English class, and it was basically free time. Some people plugged into their MP3 players and studied, but some people talked.

During this time, I had a great conversation in Franglais with some of  my friends, Alba, Ava, and Odille (Odille declined the photo...).

We got on the subject of TV-- and it really started to overwhelm me. Throughout my life, I hardly ever watch TV-- compared to a lot of my friends I'm very disconnected from the world of television. I wouldn't say I'm against watching TV-- apart from the commercials which bother me, I don't have huge problems with it. But generally, television has never been a huge interest of mine. At any rate, I am familiar with the names of the more popular television shows, and for some I can even describe what they're about. But in general, I'm quite disconnected.

Having this conversation in English class, however, was crazy. Seriously-- people here, in a foreign country, know TONS more American TV shows than I've even heard of.

After a while of saying, "non, je connais pas," or in English, "never heard of it," I decided to start writing them down. I pulled out my notebook, and had them list every American TV show they knew.

Check this out--these are what they came up with-- and there were maybe six people who all contributed-- by the way, I got a picture of Tom and Steve, too, who joined in the conversation partway through.

 It doesn't mean that my friends love every single one of the shows below, just that they have seen them before:

  • Fringe
  • Dexter
  • How I met your mother
  • Friends
  • Six feet under
  • Niptuck
  • Gossip Girl
  • Glee
  • Beverly Hills 90210
  • Twin Peaks
  • Blue Mountain State
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer
  • Smallville
  • CSI (called Les Experts here)
  • Gray's Anatomy
  • Breaking Bad
  • Chuck
  • Misfits
  • Heroes
  • One Tree Hill 
  • Prison Break
  • Steins 
  • Flash Forward
  • The Mentalist
  • Dr. House 
  • True Blood
  • Cougar Town
  • Californication
  • The Big Bang Theory
  • Everybody Hates Chris
  • Hard Times of Archie Berger
  • Dr. Who
  • Newport Beach
  • That 70's Show
  • Supernatural
  • Gilmore Girls
  • Dawson
  • Weeds
  • Pretty Little Liar
  • Degrassi 
  • Hannah Montana
  • Drake & Josh
  • Ned Bigby
  • Queer as Folk USA
  • Desperate Housewives
  • 24 (Called 24-H Chrono here)
  • The Simpsons (Les Simpson) 
  • American Dad
  • Futurama 
  • Family Guy
  • South Park
  • Greek
  • The Shield
  • Madmen
  • Soprano
  • Rome
  • Sex and the City
  • Seven Heaven
  • Chips
  • Starsky and Hutch
  • Dream on 
Seriously, for me it was strange-- I'm an American, but I've never even heard of some of these shows, let alone watched them. 

In fact, it's always strange for me to have pop culture discussions with people here. Honestly, Belgians know much more about American pop culture in general than I do. They ask a lot about movies I've seen, whether I've watched such-and-such movie or know such-and-such actor. There are some movies that I've seen, and some actors who I'm familar with, but a lot that I don't know at all. True, a lot of it is just me-- I don't watch  a broad spectum of movies or keep up on which actor plays in which movie, but at the same time it's pretty strange-- someone who has never even been in the United States knows more actors and movies than I do. 

Also, bands. Probably 65-70 percent of the music you hear on pop radio stations is American, and another 10 percent on top of that is British. Personally, I listen to a lot of different music, but much of it is very random, very eclectic-- the type of music that will probably never make it overseas. So when I talk about music with people here, they're really surprised when they mention an American band I haven't heard of. 
"But..." they'll say, looking confused, "it's American, isn't it?" 
"Yeah," I'll say, "but there're lots of bands that are American."

And it's true. Think about it-- is there a way to be familiar with every band/singer in the United States? There are tons of American bands, and generally each person listens to a relatively small fraction of them. But here, people expect that since I'm an American, I automatically know all American music.

The thing is, there are very few popular Belgian bands or singers. It's a pretty small country compared to the United States--less than 11 million people in the entire country, and they speak two different languages at that. So when I ask about Belgian bands, people say-- "well, we Belgians really don't have a whole lot of bands..." As I've been writing this, I asked my host brothers to name some Belgian music off the top of their heads, and they said that all the popular Belgian artists "are all dead." 

However, Toots Thielemans-- a harmonica player-- is Belgian, and pretty awesome. If you're interested, look 
him up. And there's a couple other songs I've heard that I haven't yet caught the names/artists yet. But when I do, I'll share them. 


  1. Hey Austin
    First of all - we loved the castle...we want one of those here...Eric says ship it back here :)
    Second of all - it's okay - Cody doesn't know a lot of American bands, either. Dustin says - we don't know a lot of those shows. So don't feel bad.
    Thanks again for the posts!
    Mme. Copeland and cohorts

  2. OK, I accept some of the blame for this. Your parents are nerds, and you were raised in a home which was hopelessly devoid of TV and movies. You can try catching up in your adult life, but it never worked for me! Love, Your Geeky Mom.