06 May 2010

As The World Mourns Jin & Sun

I'm not a huge TV fan.  But for the past six years, I have faithfully been glued for an hour a week to the greatest show that has ever been aired: LOST.

One of the hardest things to accept before moving to France was the reality that watching this show at the time it aired at home would be impossible.  Thankfully there are a handful of us here at Les Cedres who share this addiction.  So (just about) every Wednesday since the final season began in January, we huddle around my friend's computer to watch the download from iTunes (quite possibly one of the top 10 greatest inventions of the decade).

For those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about, you need to understand . . . this hasn't just been six years of a TV show.  LOST is an experience.  It's been six years of reading, discussing and listening to theories of plot structure, hidden "easter eggs" and cultural references to the Bible, history, literature, art, music, major world religions and philosophy.


So it got me to thinking today about the way we American's use so many cultural references in our everyday discussions.  Every culture has good attributes and bad ones . . . some that are preferable, others that one could do without.  Living in a new culture, I am constantly being forced to examine the deep-rooted why of my thoughts, opinions, habits, preferences, actions, political view points, stereotypes and attitudes.  I am constantly re-evaluating, is my way of [doing, thinking, feeling] better or just different and Is this new way of [doing, thinking, feeling] something I want take on?  I am continually being made aware of the reality of the nuances of my own culture.  For example:
I went on a trip with a friend from Germany, another from The Netherlands, and third from England.  They very quickly pointed out to me the fact that American are continually quoting movie lines and song lyrics in our regular speech.  I began to take not of this, and tried to be careful how often I participated in this practice. 
At first, I was thinking that 1) I wanted to try to be more "global" in my approach and conversation . . . almost trying to sand-down some of the rough American edges that, if absent, weren't any sort of real denial of my culture, but rather helping me become a smoother personality to those I encounter.  And 2) if I was hanging out with Europeans that weren't understanding my cultural references, what was then point in using them . . . it would just result in further explanation or confusion.  Because, after all, the point of the references was for more efficient communication.

But today, as I was reading an eleven page review of Tuesday night's episode of LOST, a deep love and appreciation for the American usage of cultural references came bounding back into my heart.  We Americans are gifted when it comes to the giving of nick-names.  I love nick-names!  (like the ones for my favorite LOST character: Fake Locke or simply just FLocke, who is also known as Smokey, MIB-Man In Black, and now, Puffy).  We also have a talent for turning nouns into verbs.  The French, on the other hand, have nominalisations for their verbs.  In today's world, we Facebook our friends, and skype our parents, and (to quote this fab article) Jin & Sun and Sayïd got DasBooted (I say that, and all you Americans out there know exactly what that means . . . they died in a submarine explosion . . . because not only did we verb-alize our noun, we all know enough about Das Boot to know: submarine explosion).

There's something very comforting about the familiar understanding of common cultural references.  I find a warm satisfaction in the efficient communication that is found in the contexts of allusions.

Maybe it's because I cannot communicate at this level in French that I find myself returning to a form of expression that is so inclusive.  It's like receiving a crossword puzzle from the NYTimes in the mail (hint hint) versus staring blankly at the simple one I have for homework tonight in my French cahier.  I love crossword puzzles . . . I've even completed 3 from the NYT (two Monday's and Tuesday!!) . . . but en français . . . NOT A CHANCE!  There are too many cultural references . . . too many historical and political figures . . . to many books . . . to many words I just don't know.

I think I'm starting to mourn the reality that I will probably never be able to communicate in French the way I can in English . . . and if I do (à la grâce d'un miracle de Dieu) it will only be the result of many years of study and practice and hard work.  If I was nothing but a student of French for the next 5 years, maybe, just maybe.  But alas, no.  That's just not my life.  So for now, I will stick with Régardez, Spot court.  

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