click here for the horror!).
I wrote about how weird it felt for me to write about wholesome, Christian, Midwestern soap opera characters in my As the World Turns and Guiding Light tie-in novels when I'd never been Christian. Or Midwestern. Or wholesome. (Click here for an unconventional tale of faking it.)
But now, in honor of Thanksgiving, I've written about how television presents the immigrant experience. The good, the bad, and the are you kidding me?
There’s no pretty way to say this: TV made me an American.
When I first moved to the United States at the age of seven, I
believed that everything I saw on screen was a documentary demonstrating
how “real” Americans actually lived. (The fact that we didn’t have a
gargantuan staircase like on The Brady Bunch proved that my family weren’t yet real Americans.)
However, while I was perfectly willing to accept at face value
everything that the miraculous, marvelous machine (and it was in color,
too!) that sat in my living room told me about my new neighbors, I was a
bit puzzled by the manner in which they represented my fellow
Take, for instance, the TGIF hit, Perfect Strangers, and the less well-known, syndicated series, What a Country.
Bronson Pinchot’s character, Balki, was from some vaguely Eastern
European/Mediterranean country that couldn’t have been too far from
where I was born in Odessa, (then-)USSR. And stand-up comedian Yakov
Smirnoff, who played Nikolai, was actually from the same city as my
family. So, in theory, I should have known dozens of people just like
Why then, did both these shows appear to be under the impression that
because you spoke English like a child – simple syntax, limited
vocabulary, taking idioms literally – that meant your thought processes
and reactions were that of a child, too? On both shows, the new
immigrant was basically a toddler in an adult’s body. Nothing like the
engineers, doctors, and professors all around me who, yes, may have been
watching Sesame Street to pick up the language, but managed to remain adults, nonetheless.
Read more, here.