I’m in the process of watching the Super Bowl, a quintessentially American institution and a demonstration of American competitiveness. There’s a lot of stake of course, but do the coaches and the players have to look so angry all the time? It started with the coin toss when the team captains frowningly looked away from each other. As the game progresses, lots of scowling players. The tv commentators commented that the respective coaches encourage their players to be “on edge”. In fact, lots of pushing and near fights. But for me the most interesting scowling was the “game face” on Beyonce throughout her half time set. Does even music have to have an “in your face” attitude? This is an image of America that’s being projected to the rest of the world, in an event broadcast to a large number of countries.
Here’s another TV program which may not embody the best of a culture: the German variety show, “Wetten, dass…” (I’ll bet that…). An article in today’s NY Times, “Stupid German Tricks, Wearing Thin“, discusses the drop in popularity of the show which has run since 1981 and has been one of the highest profile shows on German TV. I have to agree with the article that it’s astounding that such a dreadful show would have such a long run, given the grand cultural traditions in German literature and music. Of course one could say the same for the popular German singers of recent decades such as Peter Alexander or Heino. Could it be that the silly antics of “Wetten, dass..” (contestants bet with the host and others that they can win ridiculous challenges) are a release valve for the seriousness of German life? German society, like that of the US, is largely individualistic and values and rewards individual achievement. But for Germans, entertainment is making a mockery of that competitiveness.