Gringo in Guadalajara

Hollywood Fantasies

Most Americans realize that their culture is sent all over the world.  They understand that there is a Disneyland in Paris and a McDonalds in Beijing. But it is hard to get a sense of the giant, over-sized behemoth that is the exported American culture until you see it from the perspective of another country.

Going to the movies in Guadalajara is an enlightening experience.  The first thing you notice is how much the American movie experience has been replicated here.  This is one area of daily life where the two counties are almost identical.  In Guadalajara theaters, they have the same enormous-sized Cokes, the same candy boxes under glass, the same ticket-taking teenagers and the same previews and stadium seating.  And there's another thing that is the same --- the movies.  The large majority of movies seen in Mexico are films made in the United States.

This means, of course, that most Mexicans read their movies (although there are dubbed options).  It also means that while most Mexicans don't spend too much time contemplating the state of American life, they actually know quite a bit about it.

But Hollywood's America doesn't really seem to be a real place to the average Mexican.  Of course, it isn't. Hollywood's version of America has always been a rather glossy interpretation.  But it is even more so from the perspective of a Mexican sitting in Guadalajara theater.  America seems like some kind of fantasy-land with perfect grass, enormous houses and incredibly over-sexed people.  It is not really a place to be taken very seriously.

And yet one has to imagine that American culture does pervade into Mexican life.  You can see it in the way Mexicans are drawn to the new American-styled malls popping up here, in the way the fast food giants are gaining ground here and in the cutesy/sexy shirts Mexican girls now wear with English tags..."boy magnet" and the like.  While it may seem like a place beyond belief, Hollywood's America is an awfully appealing place...and one that is rather hard to resist.