A lot has been written about how the pop culture of certain places and times reflect the psychological and philosophical make up of those places or times. I never thought too deeply about it, to be honest, since my consumption of pop culture is odd or random enough that I don’t feel too deeply tied into the zeitgeist. But one thing has been banging up against my sensibilities for a few months, and I can’t help but bring it up.
(Honestly if I were a better person I’d spend the time talking about how you can’t search anything online without finding racist photoshops of Obama. I searched various disparate things today, including turtles, Doctor Who, Totoro, etc. They almost all had racist Obama stuff in the first few dozen hits. Seriously, people? This is what you are doing with your time? Please, please for the love of God just be a small group of racist jerks flooding the web with these images. The thought that many thousands of people are doing this is physically painful. But I digress.)
It’s the U.K./Japan pop culture that fascinates me. Ostensibly very different places, the U.K. and Japan share some similarities. They are both island nations. But border larger, historically significant cultures. Both were devastated during WWII. But one odd, interesting thing they share that interests me: They both produce pop culture that other countries are really nuts about.
I wonder what it is, exactly. The pop culture itself could hardly be more different. I defy anyone to find a more significant connection between Gamera and Dr. Who than the photo above. (And please, if you find it, make a shirt of it. And send it to me. L, black, short sleeve. Thanks.)
Even the response to the similarities is different. In the wake of the destruction of war, Japan reflected on death with Daikaiju and horror. Great Britain made silly comedies and a very logical positivist science fiction show. A show that originally was intended to serve as educational material for kids. Both being small island countries, Japan made fiction in which it dictated terms to the U.N., while the President of the United States shows up to take over when things get serious in Doctor Who.
Why do these two cultures’ film and television fascinate us so much? It doesn’t happen with China. Or France. Or Australia. (We briefly considered Australia. Thankfully Paul Hogan threw himself on his sword and saved us all decades of frustration. Good on ya, mate. Good on ya.)
It almost makes me want to spend some time in the U.K. I’ve lived in Japan for years. Maybe I should go to the other island nation that makes most of the television and films that I watch. It’d give me a chance to find out what the deal is with these island nations making cool shows. And pitch my idea for a crossover series, where space marine Rowan Atkinson hunts down escapees from Monster Island with the help of his time machine. I’d call it Dr. Black Adder, Monster Killer.
Man I still can’t write titles.