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Cultures
Posts, Soapbox

Can we laugh at ourselves? I mean really laugh at ourselves?

Can we laugh at ourselves, meaning Australians , British, American, South Africans, Chinese whatever race you are?  Can we take it when another race has a go at us?  (Hopefully it’s a go at us in jest rather than in spite I hasten to add).

I ask this question because yesterday I was entertained by one of the Bloggers I follow posting an article on her Facebook page, “20 weird things that Americans don’t realise make them weird.”

I thought it was funny, she clearly thought it was funny or she wouldn’t have shared it.  But the responses she got shocked me.  I’m sure she wasn’t expecting that otherwise she may not have posted it.

Before we turn this into a “see that’s why I don’t like Facebook” bitchfest let’s move on from that for the sake of the story.  I happen to love Facebook.  For me it does more good than bad.

You see, lots of people hopped on and got really defensive.  They put their hands on their heart and stood up for themselves.  I’m wondering if it was just me who laughed it off or whether others could laugh it off as well.

By blogging about this I sincerely hope I don’t offend my American friends because that’s definitely not my aim.  I didn’t even share it on Facebook after seeing the barrage of comments and discussion it incited on her page.

Comments like “weird to whom?” “Everyone’s definition of weird is different.”  Of COURSE it is.  That’s the whole point.  Weird is something that goes both ways.  America’s love for canned cheese is weird to us Aussies (& Brits) and most likely our LACK of canned cheese is weird to them.  Newsflash: weird isn’t actually all that bad, it could be a good thing.

Then a person really went on the defense saying “Ah, do the damn math(s) in your head,” (in response to #3 why doesn’t the price on items here include  tax–why isn’t it the final price).  “If you’re living in that state you should know what your sales tax is,” she went on to say.  Isn’t that the point?  Why SHOULD we do the math in our head?  We’re not going to pay that price, they’re going to collect the TOTAL so why not list the full price?  It IS weird.  To us.  Because we’re not used to it (and neither should we get used to it).  We’ve seen it done our way and seen it done their way and we’re happy to give our brains a rest!  And do it our way.

America is a smart country; a) they get lots of tourists who don’t necessarily know you add tax or the tax rate for that state (or which state they’re in from one day to the next) and b) you can see other countries put the price including tax wouldn’t someone wake up and go, “World’s Best Practice, that’s so much easier, let’s change the way we do things.”  Change the bloody way you price things!

I digress again because that’s not the reason I decided to Blog about it either.

No, the reason I decided to Blog about it is because I read this story (which I’d been avoiding clicking into for days) about a CNN report taking the piss out of the New Zealand welcome for William, Kate & George (to me, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to you) on their recent royal tour.

I think we as Australians can laugh at ourselves–we’re a small country who does pretty well at sport, we’ve got some really talented actors and creative guys in Hollywood, not too bad at business and we have a LOT of bogans.  Our most successful comedy shows are those where we take the piss out of typical Australians (bogans or not).

But watching that CNN story made me cringe.  I’m not even from New Zealand and by the way Australians (as a rule) aren’t even supposed to like New Zealanders and this still made me cringe.

So what’s the difference between the San Francisco Globe article and the CNN story?  I think it’s that the CNN story seemed so condescending and ill-informed.

The journalist issued a half-assed apology which said we all got it wrong because she “does humour and satire and maybe we just didn’t get it”.  But I’m not sure it was the right approach.  Save it for Letterman sweetie, or the Comedy Factory.

OK, step back a minute, it’s not many people that greet the future King & Queen of England showing his (mighty taut) bum.  Lucky him.  Lucky Kate.  But, let’s face it that wasn’t why he was showing her his ass.

I wrote a piece last week about racism in America.  My daughter chuckles at school about how everyone seems quick to say, “racist much”.  They’re so aware of saying the right thing.  So why poke fun of the New Zealand culture and heritage.  Racist much.

I wonder if the shoe was on the other foot if a New Zealand journo poked fun at an “Native American” custom what reaction that would get.  CNN might get the experts in for that one (and hopefully give a rest to the “breaking news” coverage of the missing Malaysian Airlines flight.  Meow).

I don’t agree with everything in the Mamamia story either, I think in their own country Americans ARE culturally sensitive (as I wrote about last week maybe too much).  BUT did we have a right to get defensive about the CNN story but not the San Francisco Globe story?

I’d like to quote the last two paras of the article because it sums it up nicely:

“Just because an event is different from what you are used to or outside your prism of experience, doesn’t mean it is something to be laughed at. And when you’re a national broadcaster, you have a duty to help inform and educate your viewers; to help them understand the context of the news they are watching.

“CNN’s coverage was an insult to those who gave up their time to so generously welcome the royal couple to New Zealand. And it was also insulting to the intelligence of their American viewers; who deserved more from that news report than an appeal to base ignorance.”

Ah controversy.  Gotta love it!  Let me know your thoughts, I’m very interested!

xx It Started in LA xx

photo source: news.nationalpost.com

Tabloids
Posts, Soapbox

Public property: why do we think celebrities’ business is our business?

Update with cause of death: May 5, 2014

We’ve all been shocked by the news of yet another celebrity deaths.  Today’s news is sad because at 25 Peaches Geldof was not only young but she leaves behind two very, very young boys.

Like all my news these days I found out courtesy of a friend on Facebook.  With that I jumped onto Twitter and tried to find out what on earth happened to a woman with so much going for her.  You’re right.  I don’t know her from a bar of soap.  Neither does she live here in LA so I don’t anyone who knows her or knows of her.  But as a mother of two very young boys (11 months & 2) she has at least two things going for her in her life.

It was only a matter of weeks ago designer L’Wren Scott took her life while long-time partner Mick Jagger was about to start a Rolling Stones concert tour in Perth.  And of course Philip Seymour Hoffman not long before that dying of a drug overdose (ironically a heroin overdose like Paula Yates–Peaches’ mum when she was only 11).  And, back home in Australia Charlotte Dawson succeeded in taking her own life after a failed attempt a year or so earlier.

I can’t help but think what’s going on?  It’s 2014.  We have amazing organisations like Lifeline, Beyond Blue and R U OK Day, we’ve seen many high-profile people suffer so you’d hope that it all wouldn’t be in vain–that we can learn from their mistakes and work through a way to live through life rather than end it.

Don’t get me wrong, I can empathise.  But I can’t begin to understand how horrible it would be to live with depression or to be bipolar.  I don’t think logic comes into play when you ask questions about state of mind which makes mental illness all the more sad.  What you hope for, though, is that people who need help have a close and supportive network of family, friends or professionals who they know are there for them.  How do you recognise the signs that on any given day, hour or minute they might need you to sit with them and do whatever you need to do for them to recognise that life isn’t as bad as they think, that life is worth living.

We don’t know what happened to Peaches.  The police have referred to her death as “unexplained and sudden.”  Whatever that means.  And not that we really need to know what that means.  Not that we have any right to understand or know what that means.

Public property

Since arriving here in LA I’ve stopped talking, asking and judging celebrities’ lives.  What makes us think we have any right to know all about what celebrities ate for breakfast, who they slept with, whether they take drugs or where they shop and what they bought at said supermarket?

Before I moved to LA I had a (rather strong) opinion about Michael Jackson.  I would give my two cents’ worth to anyone who’ll listen.  And of course I was right.  Then I found out my kids were going to be at school with his kids and at the same time Paris made a failed suicide attempt and I stopped sprouting my opinion.  All of a sudden it was too close to home–I was sprouting an opinion about someone within a couple of degrees separation of me, he was a person like all of us and it’s not my place to judge (nor do I have any foundation for an opinion).

And so it seems the public thought it had a right to know what Peaches got up to as she was growing up.  This Fox LA piece sums it up very well stating, “Peaches Geldof struggled with a turbulent social life, highlighted at every turn by a British press eager for celebrity news.”

How can anyone expect to be normal when everything you do–no matter how normal–is documented in the press?  Thank god my teenage years and early 20s (ok life until now!) hasn’t been documented in gossip magazines around the world.

One day my son came home and told me a group of his friends were bored in class and were Googling their friend (who has a famous father) with his friend there.  There were dozens and dozens of pictures of him doing normal things–shopping, walking the dog, in the car, even getting frozen yoghurt one afternoon.  His friend was recalling some of the occasions and how he felt about them.

Newsflash: he had feelings about what was happening to him.

He’s just a normal kid whose dad happens to be a successful and rather famous actor.   (And this is a dad who typically stays out of the spotlight.)  Poor kid.

So can we learn anything from this?  WILL we learn anything from this?  Probably not.  I hope though that I can offer you a different side of looking at things–a view from a normal person who until five seconds ago thought the same as you.  In some perverted hole-in-the-sand mentality we think celebrities and their worlds are open slather.  Of course we do, there are magazines, newspapers, bloggers, tweeters, instafans everything to fuel our thirst for news.  Even yours truly has been on Twitter all day trying to find out more breaking news about poor Peaches Geldof.

They might look all confident and gorgeous and successful and rich but they are still vulnerable and have feelings.  They may have wanted to be famous (or at least carve a successful career for themselves) but they didn’t ask for the rest of it.  Neither did their kids.  Especially their kids.

(And if you’re talking back to me now giving me examples of people that might love the spotlight and attention you’re missing the point).

Yes, as I said in a post not so long ago, celebrities fart too.  Just let them fart in peace.

If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say it at all.  And if you can’t say what you’re saying about someone to their face (and I don’t mean hiding behind a Twitter account) then don’t say it either.

xx It Started in LA xx

PS  Tragically the PS is the final results of the toxicology reports confirming Peaches almost certainly died from a heroin overdose.  How sad.  There are lots of people who’ve gone into overdrive stating the obvious: what about her kids now, what hope do they have.  The sad thing is that many of these people (I imagine) are those that followed her antics as she was growing up or those who buy into tabloid gossip stories.  I’m not perfect but as I’ve said since I’ve come here I’ve learnt that just because they’re celebrities it doesn’t mean they put themselves up to be judged.  We’re such tall poppies we’re pretty quick to judge.

We have no idea how it feels to live in their (real) worlds so back off.  It’s time we stopped making judgements based on the lives we lead.  It’s bad enough being scrutinised by friends and family imagine being scrutinised by the media and the whole world who think they’d do better in their shoes.  There’s enough crazy stuff going on without us focussing on running our own races, staying positive and quit judging or bitching about others.

BBC Story updating Peaches’ cause of death.

 

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