Across The Country

Sometimes a word or a phrase just doesn’t fit quite right with me. It takes a while for me to get my head around what it is, but I usually do get there in the end. Recently, it’s been “Across the country”, and it’s taken quite some time to work out why it was bothering me. The problem was that I was not in the country that was being talked about at the time. It really took me too long to notice that.

Insularity used to be such a normal thing: we were all separated from everyone else all of the time, and that was the way things were. Now it seems so odd – at least to me – not to consider yourself as part of a global organism, to only consider your literal country when discussing the kinds of things which are going on in the world around you. It seems most prevalent to me in news about media.

You see, the best quality online waffle about what’s going on in media and nerdery comes from the United States of America; they really do seem to care about it, and they go in for the kind of depth that I am looking for in my morning YouTube watching. I seem to need hard hitting analysis of box office numbers and casting announcements while I get started with the day and I eat my cereal.

I had always assumed that the box office figures and trends I was hearing about were referring to the whole world, because why would they not be? Then “Across the country” started to tickle the back of my mind, and I realised that these were not international figures – they were “domestic” figures. That is, they were box office figures for people watching films in the US of A, and only there.

When talking about something as utterly global as the release of a mega-budget cinematic block buster, with adverts in every bus shelter in every country in the world, why does it make any sense to anyone to restrict the financial analysis to just one country? Yes, the USA is an absolutely fucking gigantic country, and the journalists I enjoy listening to are based right there, but it seems odd.

Once I had spotted it I noticed it all the more. I watch a lot of European videos too, and had a look at whether they took a similar perspective, and I struggled to find any that did. I was watching a video of an Englishman in the Czech Republic (Czechia, if you’d rather) reading a script put together by an American, and it was the least insular thing I had ever watched. And it was about US fishing history.

What is it which actually bothers me here? Is it the fact that I am not included in the figures to which I had been paying attention? That is rather venal and vain, is it not? Is it the fact that I had made a false assumption, and now felt foolish? That’s certainly a possibility, and all too human. Or is it the notion that I had expected more from the journalists that I was watching, and that I have locked myself in to the idea that any non-global perspective is a provincial one? That sounds like me.

I should not project my own assumptions on the work of others, and I should not assume that my own values are universal. Yet I do. I take the odd view, for someone who has lived exclusively on a tiny little island, that any description which is not universal is simplistic. I question how this can be the case, and I have no answers. All I know is that it is an assumption I have made, and which is in me and my world view at a very deep level. It is written in to the very fabric of my understanding.

The result is that I don’t think I can quite respect anyone who doesn’t take the whole world as the starting point of their research. “Across the country” is just today’s evidence of this failing of mine.

Regardless, this form of phrasing could all boil down to one of three things:

  1. This is an American thing: it’s a big country, and they have no need of my European pretentions of a global community of nations. Why consider other countries?
  2. This is an industry thing: the film industry is primarily based in Los Angeles, which is in the country in question. Their existing metrics are based entirely on this kind of market analysis.
  3. This is all in my head: so what that some media commentators choose to focus their attention on their local market, it’s their journalism, not mine.

I’m worried that it may actually be a mixture of all three of these things. That’s alright too, as long as I can learn to let it go.

Every industry, especially one as entrenched in public accountancy as Hollywood, has its own set of go-to metrics for success. It is not my place to determine which of these are right and which of these are wrong. That said, I have decided to devote more than a thousand words to the notion that the usage of such a form of words bothers me. Hoisted by my own petard, and not for the first time.

There are other words and phrases which make me feel just as alienated, but none of them spring to mind. Not all of them have anything to do with country or nationality; they could just as easily refer to class or status. How very British is that? So often in my life I have felt outside of any given club; I am an introvert, and that will always be the case. It is when I had found a place of acceptance only to realise that it was built on wet sand that I have an overly emotional reaction to it. That’s not just me.

Either way, a really stupidly over thought way of thinking about something light and fluffy. Is that not the whole point of I seem to have spent a long time attempting to do just that.

I have no real beef with the fine journalist / reviewer / producer in question. I actually admire him a great deal. I have written other blogs recommending his work. It’s the sense of the thing which I seem to take issue with. I object to the regional mentality I perceive to exist in a global industry, and I cannot for the life of me work out why it bothers me as much as it does. I suppose I’d better get on with accepting it or get on with changing my viewing habits. It’s a big old internet out there, after all.