We played Heads Up two days in a row, which is a game like charades except you can offer clues by talking without using the words/phrases in question. Categories include movies, superheroes, singers/artists, countries, animals, songs, etc. We played the Spanish version but I quickly realized it was an American game. I assumed I would have an advantage because I lived in Northeastern United States all of my life (or at least from the ages of 2 to 18), and had a ton of exposure to American pop culture in Canada. But I was wrong. These people knew a whole lot more about American hollywood actors, movies, television series, and video games than myself.
I'll give you a few examples. Even those in the room who couldn't speak a full sentence of English knew John Lennon, Shakespeare, Winston Churchill, Sigmund Freud, Elvis Presley, and MLK. Sure, maybe these are more evident for historical reasons and would fit into the category of "common knowledge." But they also knew Billy Joel, Drake, Pharrel Williams, Metallica, Mackelmore, Imagine Dragons, Lorde, U2, Avicii, Daft Punk, and so on. While I know that all of these artists are artists, I wouldn't be able to name a song by all of them, or sing a tune, or know what they look like. But in a group of 4 or 5 these Ecuadorian 20-something year olds could. For Miley Cyrus, somebody shouted out "Hannah Montana," which makes sense if you grew up with Disney Channel, like I did. But this means that these people who lived thousands of miles away from Hollywood also grew up with Disney Channel.
Let's put this in perspective, if just for a moment. My first language is English, theirs is Spanish. To be fair, I'm not particularly good with superheroes. I don't know who Venom is, or Dr. Strange, or Deadpool, or the names of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, even though a kid in my third grade class talked about them all the time. I can't tell you anything about Flash other than he probably runs fast. While they guessed the more common ones that I knew too, like Hulk, Iron Man, Thor, Wolverine, and Superman, they surprised me when they guessed these vague ones. I'd never heard of Cyborg or Beast Boy. This might just be because I played outside more as a kid than watched movies. Still today I don't have much interest in these things. [I mean YIKES the only thing I can say about the Avengers is that some have blue arrows on their heads.] But either way, it's not like I was with a group of pop culture professionals or movie-o-holics. These were people my age who knew a ton more about the media produced by the country I had lived in than I did. Something more is going on.
The extent of American infiltration in media across the globe is astounding, and playing Heads-Up is just one of the quick examples I have which brought this to light for me. The whole world knows about Obama and Hillary Clinton and Trump, but before coming to Ecuador I wouldn't have been able to tell you much about specific political representatives in South America other than their names. Let's go back to the idea of "common knowledge." It should be common knowledge that Simon Bolivar is an extremely important historical figure in Latin America, yet this is not taught in American schools. I didn't even learn the geography of Latin America in school, but rather know where Uruguay vs. Colombia are because I'm a geography nerd!
Ecuador has a long history of American influence in terms of politics and economics. Of course, Ecuador maintains roots and customs of its own. However, at least in the city of Quito, U.S. Hollywood hegemony is real. Above, I said I quickly realized this version of Heads Up was an American game, but perhaps I need to re-think this stance and just think of it as a popular culture version in a globalizing world which reflects American dominance.
[Post-Note: Even though I was of no use to my team in the aforementioned categories, I rocked the categories related to world leaders and global politics. You win some, you lose some, I suppose. It's interesting how you can be knowledgable in one category and completely useless in another.]
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