I grew up primarily in the United States, but I have been fortunate enough to live in other places a couple of times. One of those times was during college when I spent half a year living in Glasgow, Scotland. Overall it was an incredibly positive experience, and created a life-long love for that country. But there was another part of that experience, one that led me to strongly relate with this film.
This story is about two American cousins who are living in Spain at the end of the Cold War. It’s the Reagan administration and attitudes from the Spanish are overwhelmingly negative towards Americans. The cousins find themselves constantly defending themselves and the country they come from, sometimes from very fair criticism, but at other points from absolutely ridiculous claims.
I lived in Scotland in 2002 and 2003. It was the Bush Jr. administration and I was there for the lead-up to the Iraq war. Attitudes towards Americans were very negative, and openly expressed by many people who heard my accent. Those of you who have been following along with me for a while will likely not be shocked to learn that I mostly agreed with the overall perspective about the America of that time. What shocked me was how the attitudes I encountered were so toxically wrong, so unfair, that it led me to defending a country I strongly disagreed with.
It was the ridiculousness of the claims that did it, and the hypocrisy too. These Europeans I was talking to liked to imagine that the USA was the ultimate evil, and simultaneously wanted to completely ignore anything in their own countries history or current actions. I was in the United Kingdom, hardly a country with a clean record of involvement in the rest of the world, and certainly the cause of much of the modern misfortune in the Middle East!
The claims were so one-sided and outlandish that I found myself defending the USA purely on the basis of... well, ok, I mean I agree generally, but the thing you just said is absolutely not true. A bit like the claims about the sinking of the Maine in this film. I’m completely here for criticism of the USA, I just need to be based in some kind of actual reality.
It put me in the weirdest place, and I’ve noticed it at other times when I’ve been abroad. Suddenly I’m cast as the defender of a place it seems I do almost nothing but criticize when I’m actually living there. It’s a strange and uncomfortable feeling.