Europe is supposed to put North America to shame in just about every category imaginable, except possibly obesity and serial killings. Though the actual colonial ties have long been severed, or rendered obsolete, North Americans still look to Europeans as their cultural superiors. After all, they’ve got all that pretty art, actually appreciate opera and have those kickass accents we all want. Europeans still have us beat when it comes to high culture, but if we’re to believe post-modernism–and considering none of us actually understand a thing about it, we might as well for fear of looking stupid–there is no distinction between high and low culture anymore. If this is the case, then Europe better give up their bejeweled crowns because when it comes to things traditionally considered low culture–things people wearing monocles and smoking jackets don’t like, if that makes it any easier–Europe totally sucks.
I came to this startling conclusion this summer while riding trains from one European country to another for three months. It was about halfway through this odyssey when I realized I had only heard five songs during my stay in the Old World. Yup, Europe only has five songs and none of them are even performed by Europeans. This wouldn’t be so bad if these songs were, well, decent. Instead they are, to the exclusion of all others: “Crazy” by Gnarls Barkley, “Hips Don’t Lie” by Shakira and Wyclef Jean, “My Humps” by the Black Eyed Peas, “Mas Que Nada” by Sergio Mendes and the Black Eyed Peas–and the last song on Europe’s tiny mixtape is a revolving Bob Marley tune. Though they are all fun in their own right, they hardly amount to the pinnacle of popular music that our cultural overlords seem to think.
Things don’t stop here either. No, Europe’s pop culture malady has more symptoms than questionable music taste. Europeans also display an unexplainable tendency to make themselves look like a particularly ugly rat’s ass. Get this, mullets have actually transcended irony in the former centre of the world and are now worn ubiquitously. It’s a tragically common occurrence to run into someone decked out in all of fashion’s latest accoutrements–pseudo-bowling shoes, delicately torn pants, a mish-mash of fabric slapped together at random to create a shirt and sunglasses inspired by what people in the ’80s thought the year 2476 would look like–with a half meter long mullet topping it all off.
In addition to their love of bad hairdos, Europeans have somehow managed to remain infatuated by Che Guevera. While the face of this Cuban revolutionary turned symbol for suburban teen angst hasn’t quite left North American stores yet, shirts bearing his resemblance are increasingly confined to the closets of only the dumbest of high schoolers. Not so in Europe. Over there not only does everyone still wear Che merchandise, apparently, they have enough to wear it every day. You can even take home Che’s dreamy gaze from the same place you get all those shitty souvenir trinkets. Go to a tourist shop in any European city and chances are you’ll find a Che t-shirt with the city’s name written underneath it next to the standard landmark fare. His name and face even show up on wine labels, because nothing says revolution like getting drunk on cheap wine in Italy.
Granted, North America still relies on Europe as an easy victim to steal ideas for TV shows from, but at least we realize Big Brother is as boring as playing Scrabble in a retirement home. Over there Big Brother is on the air 28 hours a day and people fall over themselves trying to keep track of who was the latest to sit on a couch and do nothing for three weeks.
All of this evidence led me to realize Europe just isn’t the shit when it comes to culture anymore. Sure they’ve still got all those gorgeous buildings, interesting history and a population who actually care about stuff, but when it comes to pop culture–or trivial things, if you’d prefer–they’ve got nothing on us.
So Europe, shape up or risk losing your spot as cultural dictators. As for you North America, give yourself a pat on the back, you’re crappy stuff is no longer the crappiest in the world.