There’s a phrase which keeps cropping up recently:
‘Will the Americans understand it?’
Everything I write has to be understood by Americans who, according to most of the people I’m working with, are stupid, xenophobic and will instantly dislike any film which contains even a single word they don’t understand.
Is this really true?
I know it’s a view popularised by the press over here, but are Americans really that incapable of understanding UK words and colloquialisms?
I read this today in a Monty Python Biography:
TERRY GILLIAM – John would say we’ve got to say canned peaches for America. I would say, ‘No, you’ve got to say tinned peaches. It’s an English word and Americans will have to learn what tinned means. And they will learn and will get excited by the idea of learning.’
And it got me thinking: does any other country go out of its way to kow-tow so much to a foreign market?
Americans don’t, they either: assume everyone knows what they’re talking about; don’t care; or guess most people are clever enough to understand an unknown word when it’s used in context.
Spain, Italy, France, do they re-word things for foreigners? I have no idea. There are certainly phrases in the subtitles I don’t fully understand; but then the majority of them may already have been altered to make more sense to me.
I know America is huge in terms of film markets, and UK films may need to perform well over there to make any money; but still, isn’t part of the joy of seeing a foreign film do to with the country’s culture?
Should we not be celebrating our culture and showing it to the world; instead of hiding it and pretending it’s exactly the same as America’s?
I honestly don’t know.
I do know I feel hamstrung when I’ve written something funny only to be told Americans won’t get it. Especially when I go over there and can’t get them to shut up about how much they love Monty Python.
So what’s the score? Are we under-estimating their intelligence or can they really not understand any reference which doesn’t involve a hamburger? If they have to have every film de-British-ised; why did ‘Shaun of the Dead’ do so well?
I guess what I’m really asking is, do I really have to do another re-write based on what Americans may or may not understand?