By Claire Walla
Sandy beaches and ocean waves create the back-drop for clusters of bikini-clad blondes and bare-chested boys enjoying sun and surf. Or so the story goes on popular television drama "The O.C.," referred to in some European cities as "California Teens."
Though this scene does not realistically span the coast, it is often the theme used to represent the The Golden State.
Last year, while living in France, Californian Maria Di Miceli was asked if she surfed to school.
Di Miceli traveled to a small town in France to teach high school English after graduating from UC Davis two years ago. She was surprised by the impact high school-themed shows have outside the U.S. Right off the bat, Di Miceli’s students were eager to get her first-had account of high school in America.
Not only does television fail to portray accurate descriptions of Americans, it ignores important cultural information, according to Di Miceli.
Television portrays a very positive image of high school, Di Miceli said. Her students were especially excited to hear about football, cheerleading and prom, none of which are typical at high schools in Europe.
Di Miceli felt that her students were aware that mainstream media is sensationalized, but said that there are also many clear and present realities in America that her students did not know about.
"People have no idea that a large portion of [the population in] California is Spanish speaking," she said.
Of all fiction television broadcast in Western Europe – from sitcoms and soaps to miniseries’ and made-for-TV movies – over 50 percent is American. This means that for a region composed of people who speak over 200 languages, more than half of its television is in English, and only a miniscule portion of it is British English.
Sofia Teives, a graduate student from Lisbon, Portugal, said that her country broadcasts a lot of American entertainment mostly because Portugal is a small country that lacks the production power of America. "Portuguese movies?!? There are no Portuguese movies," she half-joked from her kitchen table in Lund, Sweden, where she is currently studying.
Television shows and films, she said, portray America in a certain way. "Everyone has a lot of space, a big house, dogs, they play baseball… there’s a lot of nationalism."
Teives insists that her perception of Americans is not associated with television. But when asked about Los Angeles, Teives broke into a speedy impression: "Oh, I’m from LA, oh! Beverly Hills – I like to go to the mall and use my parents’ credit cards!" she recited, her hand bent at her side and her voice lilting along with her dipping shoulders and popping hips.
From across the kitchen table, Jordi Sellar?