Having lived in China for six years I have found that I’ve started missing some of the things from my American life. For the most part I am not a big fan of mainstream American culture. Things like top 40 music and NY Times Bestsellers were usually avoided at all cost. They were a kind of pop culture pariah that I looked down on as being trailer trash garbage. Another thing that I really tried to avoid in the US was TV. I had a TV but it was only really used for watching movies. Other than that it just sat there collecting dust for years.

Sure it’s not the BBC, but I enjoyed many of the stories and found that it was something that I looked forward to in the afternoon. It’s a collection of stories and news that tends to be a little too North American-centric, but very listenable. We were all using good old 56k phone hookup. Needless to say it was less than desirable.

stephenchow.jpgThis was ok too, but I noticed that I started watching movies that I would never have imagined watching in the US. Say what you want, but I was a bit of a snob when it came to movies. I would never watch teen movies or stupid slap-stick comedies that were at the theater for two weeks before being shipped out to the DVD makers to try to make money that way. The longer I stayed the lower my standards got. Reason number one being: the movies were cheap; and number two; I didn’t mind the mind-numbing stupidity of many of the plots anymore.

In 2005 I moved to Beijing. My original intent when coming to Beijing was to be “more active”. Beijing has tons of things to see, I reasoned, and by God I was going to see them. After living in the armpit of Liaoning I was going to get out and start soaking up that 2,900, I mean 5,000, year culture. Needless to say it didn’t happen. What I did see myself doing more and more of was watching TV.

For those of you that live in Beijing, you know, the movie selection in Beijing is just ok. Some cities have movies from classics and 70s and 80s hits to the most recent blockbusters. It’s amazing some of the eclectic movies you can find in some cities. Here in Beijing the most common place to see movies for sale is on the street and they mainly offer two kinds of DVDs, recent blockbusters and TV shows.

I remind you I hated TV just a few short years ago, but now I’ve started to love it. I cannot get enough of it. Even better, now there is a great variety of TV shows on the Internet just waiting for you to download. Colbert Report, The Daily Show, Family Guy, Lost, not to mention every reality show you ever wanted to watch. I started out small, but it just got bigger and bigger.

I didn’t notice it at first; I really had no idea what was happening to me. It was horrible. I was becoming the American I hated and usually made fun of. I started to wonder what made it ok? I couldn’t come up with anything.

Well I returned to the US this winter after not having been back for 6 years. That’s right I have not been in an English-speaking country, except for HK, for 6 years. (Oops, did I say that?) I was really curious how I would react to the whole thing.

It was great at first. I could turn on the TV 24 hours a day, and it was all English, and there was no party crap, and they were all beautiful, and and and…it was boring again. Sure I didn’t have to download it and it was really convenient to watch The Office as it should be, but I missed watching it via download. Furthermore I started not watching them, but rather downloading the shows to be watched when I returned to China.

You may think I am crazy, but I started to realize that it is nice to be able to enjoy some American things without seeing the other people or being smothered by the culture. Instead I can watch The Office or Lost or whatever TV show I want to watch with my friends here and do not have to worry about all that annoying commercial culture that goes with it.

I don’t have to worry about who Anna Nicole Smith’s son’s father is. China is a kind of great big garbage filter for all the Western crap I don’t want to see anymore.

Maybe because I still like hamburgers and the Colbert Report I will never be as cool or “Chinese” as Dashan, but I think it is nice to temporarily escape sometimes to the America that is in my memory, not in reality.

Besides, my America is a much cooler place. Who needs Bushes and TSAs and churches and on and on and on.

PS: Maybe a Taco Bell in Beijing would be cool though.

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About Sean

Lover, Rebel, Pirate. Hailing originally from the wrong side of the wall, Sean has finally left the barren Manchurian landscape for better pastures; namely Beijing. Who could possibly resist bad traffic, pollution, and our great home to the 2008 Olympic Games? Be sure to ask him about the cute and adorable little mascots - he'd love to share his opinion.

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  1. Here here on the Taco Bell. I’m in the same boat with TV shows. I don’t download them, as the wife needs the Chinese subtitles (and I’ve yet to figure out the Chinese torrent system), but I’m obsessive with buying series after series.

    Currently finishing up six seasons of Oz.

  2. Dude, Dashan’s not cool.

    If he was cool he’d be a doing his part for the laowai minority in China, educating the masses on laowai (or at least Canadian) culture.

    But instead he’s whoring dictionaries and wearing those fairy Chinese jackets.

  3. Dashan sucks, but he is one of the only whities that have been half-way accepted by people here.

    The more I think about the fact I said that, the more I am cringing.

    You know the thing that gets me was that on that beautiful June day in the eighties when Wait Little Bottle was using his Tank-mowers on public squares and all the foreigners were going home, Dashan agreed to stay and be a posterboy for the greatness of the party.Two words: Running Dog.

  4. H B and O. Three letters that are so great together. HBO shows rock!

    The Wire
    even Entourage

    Great entertainment that is so much better than the big three.

  5. @Sean
    You’re saying HBO is good? Have I mis/understood you? Until I went to PRC I hadn’t even heard of HBO but at the first college where I worked it was the only English TV channel, except CCTV9, available. Novel to begin with but after a few months and complaints from the foreigners later it was removed – all violence and sex.

  6. @Skanger: Have I mis/understood you? Violence and sex on TV is bad?

    I’m with you Sean. HBO rocks. I wish they’d make a second season of Rome. Aside from news, Fox is good too – The Simpsons, The Shield, etc.

  7. I for one have no negative opinion about showing violence or sex on pay tv. You don’t like it, you don’t buy it.

    6 feet under was good for two years, but got a little over the top for me.

    Haven’t seen much Ali G

  8. Dashan sucks, but you have to admit he played it smart and he does get a lot of respect from the ordinary Chinese people for his “impeccable” chinese.

    As to DVD’s in BJ, its a continuous quest to find new outlets, but lets not be deterred by some adversion, for every dvd shop lost another excuse awaits to go and find a new one and hence explore some more. The same goes for DVD-shops as with restaurants, stick to 1 or 2 where you get to know the people, then you can ask them to put aside your favorite shows/movies as soon as they come in and if you buy a lot from them, you can get decent discounts as well.

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