HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY YA’LL!
I came across these flowers in my garden and visions of the USA automatically sprung to mind (red, white and blue….well kind of) Seeing as it’s also the 4th of July, I thought it would be the perfect time to write a post on my love for all things American.
Although I am not American (sadly), the USA has really shaped and influenced my life from a young age. From TV, films, books, music and pop culture, America has been an icon throughout my life, and I’m sure for many others it has too. It is the land of the free, the world of Hollywood, home of the American Dream and lets face it, a place that does things bigger and better than anywhere else in the world (I mean have you seen how they celebrate Christmas over there?!) America still continues to remain a place I romanticize a great deal (thanks to the movies!), and despite it’s flaws, I hope and strive to one day have the opportunity to live and work in the wonderful and strange place that is the United States of America.
So to celebrate America today, here is some of the literature, movies, actors and icons that represent America to me, all which have developed my love and admiration for the country as a whole (and trust me, it was hard to narrow it down!)
I know I know, I went with the typical choice. But as it’s regarded as one of the best American Classics, it’s easy to see why this is my choice for this category. I also consider it my favorite book of all time, you know that rare magical book you can just read again and again, still with the same love and intrigue as the first time you read it. It’s a book that devastates me yet also comforts me in a way, and when I re-read it, it’s just like coming home.
Why it represents America for me- Well for the obvious facts- It was written and set in 1920’s America, it includes recognizable American themes such as celebrity/upper class culture, excessive wealth and most importantly, the idea of the American Dream. The brilliant but flawed Gatsby’s personal American Dream and his “extraordinary gift for hope” is something I can relate to (as I’m sure many other people can), and the opulent feel and tone of the book stands out for me as uniquely American and is really a book like no other.
FAVORITE AMERICAN FILM- GREASE- DIRECTED BY RANDAL KLEISER
(Yes I still have my VHS copy!)
Picking my favorite American film when so many of my favorite films are American was hard. The other contenders included Goodfellas, Casino and Pulp Fiction, but when I really thought about it, Grease was probably my biggest American influence as a child.
Why it represents America for me- Yes it’s cheesy and the overall message of the film isn’t the best when you look at it (if you change everything about yourself, start smoking and wear tight Lycra, you will bag yourself a man…oh Sandra Dee!) but it’s the fabulous 50’s style that makes this movie a great American influence for me. From the glamorous cars to the 50’s dresses and John Travolta’s sexy slicked back hair, Grease embodies the great 50’s style that I love to emulate.
FAVORITE AMERICAN DIRECTORS- QUENTIN TARANTINO AND MARTIN SCORSESE
OK, OK, I know it’s only supposed to be one. I just can’t stick to the rules. But these two directors and their films truly define my representation of America and I just couldn’t pick between them.
Why they represent America for me- Sadly I have not yet had the pleasure of visiting America, so these two directors and their movies have been a huge part of my insight to American life. New York, which features a lot in Martin Scorsese’s work, seems like a character itself in his films, meaning that now I sometimes even forget I’ve never actually been there myself.
On my way to Costa Rica last year, I stopped over in Newark airport. It didn’t really sink in that I was actually IN America (even if it was only in the airport) until I looked outside and saw a yellow taxi cab. I wont lie, I actually got teary eyed when I saw it driving past, it felt like I was on a Scorsese movie set, it felt dream-like, and I guess I owe my awe over a simple taxi cab partly to him.
As for Quentin Tarantino’s work, it’s more about his original and bold style that represents America for me. When I think of Tarantino films, I think of bright loud colours (or should I say colors), blood reds and bright yellows (Kill Bill vibes) and great movie soundtracks that seem essentially American. I don’t think there is any English director or otherwise that could make a film with the same vibe as he does, with iconic movie scenes (Yes I’m thinking of the Pulp Fiction dance scene, but isn’t it the best?!) and sharp, clever dialogue, I’ve come to associate all his films with this unique American grindhouse feel, truly like no other.
MY ‘FAVORITE’ AMERICAN ACTORS (It was very hard to narrow it down to just four, these actors aren’t necessarily my favorite actors of all time, but these are the actors that represent America for me the most…)- ANGELINA JOLIE, BRAD PITT, TOM CRUISE and ROBERT DE NIRO
Why they represent America for me– Mostly due to the films they star in of course (I’ve spoken a lot about New York in this post, but I love Brad Pitt’s southern accent and ‘redneck’ characters he sometimes portrays), but partly to do with just themselves as a whole. Take Tom Cruise, he’s stared in some of the most classically American action films in history, but it’s not just about that. It’s the way he is. His verging on obnoxious charm when you watch him in interviews, his almost sickening charisma that seeps out of his every pour, his bright white smile…he just seems, American…but x100. Us Brits just don’t have that kind of energy. And I love that about him. He pushes the extremes of character, in typical American fashion, and creates a character of himself that seems so unique to America and Hollywood.
MY FAVORITE AMERICAN ICONS- BARACK OBAMA, CARRIE BRADSHAW (Sarah Jessica Parker) and ELVIS.
(I know, strange mix of people!)
Why they represent America for me– Firstly, let’s talk about Carrie Bradshaw, a character from Sex and The City, played by the lovely Sarah Jessica Parker. Sex and The City is probably my all time favorite show, and where is this show set? You guessed it, New York City. Throughout the whole series, we see many love affairs between Carrie, handsome New York men (and one Russian!) yet what always remains is her love affair with New York, in all it’s good and bad parts. I blame this show for my complete and utter devotion to a city I have never been to, but you know, I sometimes think it’s better that way. They say never meet your idols, maybe I should stay away from New York City…(Who am I kidding, you couldn’t keep me away.)
Elvis, oh what to say about Elvis. His voice could make a girl do anything. It’s pretty obvious he’s a treasured American Icon, and rightly so. He’s unbelievably handsome, talented and a true icon for American music, style and Rock n’ Roll who I only wish I could have been alive to meet (and marry, sorry Priscilla). Elvis, for me is like the face and the soundtrack to America, and when I eventually make it over the pond, I think he’s all I’m going to listen to for a while.
Finally, Mr Barack Obama. A more serious icon, but still a great one. I am so grateful and in a way, in awe at the fact that I got to be alive to witness an African American being voted in as President of the United States, not once, but twice. For me, Obama is unique and exclusively American because has something that UK politicians don’t have, and that’s an ability to inspire. Not just because he’s black, but because he is passionate. It pours out of him when he speaks. Not only is he passionate, he is in touch with the people of America, he seems like a good man with good morals, he has an amazing presence about him and well quite frankly, he’s pretty damn cool. An American icon to go down in history, and I am so thankful I was alive to see it happen.
So, have a great 4th of July wherever you are, American or not! And please, American immigration, if you’re reading this, how about you help a girl out with her green card?!
All pictures taken by myself (excluding the picture of Obama and The Statue of Liberty.) Pictures taken of photographs are from the book ‘Movie Box’, ‘Best Movies of the 80’s’ and ‘100 Great Movies of all Time.’