It's Just Different

         I have been fortunate to travel the world. I have been to Italy and France and London. In fact, I have been to London twice. Throughout my journeys I have found one thing to be true; our cultures are different. In fact, one might find it surprising how different the British culture is than ours. Since film is a mirror of certain societal values and social norms, examining the differences and similarities between American and British films highlight the social and cultural differences.

         When thinking of the differences between the two cultures, do not think black and white, instead white and beige. Interestingly enough most English movies are acceptable over here and do quite well, and obviously American movies do quite well over in England.

         Furthermore it is important to state that American culture is diverse. American movies cover a wide spectrum as well, but for analytical purposes we are talking mainstream.

         Some well-known movies in England are noticeable to Americans as well, such as Sharon Maguire’s 2001 Bridget Jones Diary and Roger Michell’s 1999 Notting Hill. Lesser-known movies, such as Stephen Frears’s 2006 The Queen and Nicholas Hytner’s 2006 The History Boys, that are very mainstream in Great Britain, make their appearances in America but not to a mainstream audience. That is so because of the subject matter.

         The love stories of Bridget Jones Diary and Notting Hill transcend cultures. Plus the very British humor found in both movies is refreshing to the American audiences. Films like The Queen and The History Boys that deal with matters that are either culturally important and reliant or that deal with matters such as child homosexuality and student/teacher sexual relationships are almost unheard of to a mainstream audience. That is not saying that there is not an audience for such subjects. The History Boys was released in some cities across the U.S. (such as New York so NYU students have something to do on a Friday night) but in smaller towns the movies are unheard of. If it had not been for The Queen’s rightful academy nomination and subsequent award, chances are the film would not have been released in a place like Wal-Mart. More often than not you see these films picked up by companies such as Fox Searchlight or Focus Features. Production companies designated for more artsy films.

         In fact while I was over in London I had different conversations with British students and, one said that many of their films are very patriotic in nature (such as The Queen) that deal with British history and issues. In fact, there have been several films on the lives of queens dating back from Queen Elizabeth I to present. These movies are culturally important and culturally defined, dealing with issues the American audience cannot fully appreciate without a dedication, admiration, or interest in British Royalty. However, in England these movies do very well.

         Movies such as The History Boys are dealing with topics that are taboo in nature to American mainstream audiences. It seems from an American point of view the British are more free with their sexuality and do not shy away from it. Hence the stir Daniel Radcliffe's starring role in Peter Shaffer’s recent West End Equus was to Americans because he is seventeen and is nude. But The History Boys the book (from which the movie is based on) was also made into an award winning play shown on the West End.  One hopes that in the future both countries will be able to influence each other and for the better.

A. J. Casey

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