Ties That Bind: Nickelodeon and the Fantastic Fast Food Four

3 Aug

First off, I realize that the notion behind this blog is quite cliché; it is no secret that US entrepeneurs have been spreading the fatty, greasy elements of our nation’s contemporary culture around the globe for years. Even the poorest, most microscopic tribe of nomads wandering the Sahara Desert is familiar with the concept of a McDonald’s Drive-Thru (although I imagine height adjustments must be made to the standard windows to accomodate load-bearing camels)… No, I wasn’t surprised at all to find McDonald’s and its sumo-wrestler rival Burger King here in Santiago (obviously, Micky D and BK’s efforts to fatten the global population are all driven by plans for a worldwide sumo match in the near future). But KFC and Pizza Hut? Who knew…

But anyway, the real impetus for this blog was a conversation I had last night with two Chileans about our favorite Nickelodeon shows from childhood. I was visiting a couple of friends in the suburbs of Santiago last night for “merienda” (an evening meal that consists of a beverage and sandwich supplies… literally, a “snack” that replaces dinner in this country),  and once the parents and siblings went to bed, we had the longest conversation I’ve had yet here–in English, so they could practice (I suppose I should refrain from mentioning how impressed these friends and their family members were with my level of  Spanish, the language of our merienda conversation…)–a conversation dealing primarily with Nickelodeon, the beloved television network of all American children growing up in the 90s, before Disney Channel began corrupting the minds of youth… My amigos had seen and loved all of my favorites: Doug, Hey Arnold, Rugrats, Angry Beavers, Cat-Dog, Clarissa Explains It All, Rocko’s Modern Life… it was an incredible bond with a people of a different hemisphere. Halfway through the conversation, Pame’s mom, who hardly speaks a word of English, came down to clean up the kitchen and immediately realized what we were talking about– Chook-E, Caht-Dowg, Hhhail-gah–and began reminiscing with us en español. It was a very surreal experience, and it made me feel at the same time comforted that elements from home exist so far away and embarrassed that my fellow countrymen are stripping remote areas of their rich regional cultures in order to make money spreading what were once uniquely American ideas and experiences…

Needless to say, I had a lot to ponder during the half-hour night-bus ride to the Metro station, the 45-minute Metro-ride to the station nearest my hostel, and the 15-minute walk (I made a wrong turn at one point) back to the greasy, smelly hostel where I’m staying for the week.

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