Ugly “American”? part 4: What are the stereotypes?

[I broke off this piece, as the final chunk in this series threatened to make the whole post too long to edit conveniently. So now this is mostly conceptual, but it may help to explain why I started down this line of inquiry in the first place.]

[Previously, on “me + richard armitage”: Unintentionally jumping into a bigger question than I had planned to discuss, I described a specific usage problem in Sarah Caulfield’s speech in Spooks 8 as a signal that Genevieve O’Reilly is not American, and referenced the resulting frustration of some audiences of the show with what they believed to be a failed characterization. Next, while agreeing that I shared the audience’s disappointment with Ms. O’Reilly’s performance, I concluded that her problems with U.S. accent and idiom were not the ultimate source of the failure of this characterization, but rather a focal point for larger difficulties in the Spooks 8 script, and postulated that the failure of the characterization was thus overdetermined and not limited to problems with O’Reilly’s acting. In particular I indicated an interest in the question of whether the causes of this failed characterization had also influenced audience perceptions of the credibility of the Sarah / Lucas relationship and of the chemistry between O’Reilly and Mr. Armitage, though I did not offer data. In a third step, then, with particular attention to how and why our picture of Sarah was dependent on what we learned about her from Lucas, I discussed the extent to which the characterization of Sarah became reliant on one aspect of the character: her “Americanness,” arguing that it was the decisive issue in her characterization because it was almost the only contextual clue we had to her identity until the last episode of the show. (Thus the flubbed accent was more problematic than it might otherwise have been.) Most recently, I pursued the issue by defining anti-Americanism and giving a lengthy example of the ways in which the Spooks 8 script relies on it to advance plot.]

Arlington (Toby Stephens) denies the request of Hugh Collinson (Andrew Lincoln) for repatriation of Porter and Gerry Baxter in Strike Back 1.5. My cap. I read here (scan of pay-only article from Times of London: Lesley White, “Home and Dry,” July 18, 2010) that Stephens picked up his North American accent as a child living with his mother, Maggie Smith, in Canada while she played at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival and elsewhere. Maybe that’s why it’s so convincing in this piece. But as this moment reveals, “acting American,” especially for an audience of non-Americans, involves more than “just” getting the accent right. See below.

My general argument in the next and presumably final expository piece in this series (although I may write more about specific examples) will be that in a situation where the role of Sarah Caulfield fails to do more than function as a placeholder for a number of different plot strands, the show’s heavy reliance on anti-American stereotypes interferes with the developing chemistry of Lucas and Sarah in specific ways, and thus potentially with the interactions of Armitage and O’Reilly in portraying these characters. In order to make that case, I will now raise the question of stereotypes operative about Americans, especially those about American women, that we might have in our minds when we evaluate Sarah’s behavior and O’Reilly’s performance.

[Two caveats: First, while I’ve been there repeatedly as a tourist, researcher, and conference participant, I’ve never settled in the U.K. with the plan of living there for a significant period, and so I don’t mean to imply that German stereotypes of Americans are the same as British ones: obviously, Germany was occupied by the United States military for forty years, while the U.S. has a distant past as an English colony and a recent past as a Cold War superpower, and those circumstances do make a difference. Still, I note meaningful similarities in the things I’ve heard about Americans while living in Germany to stuff that I see at work in Spooks 8. And I am supporting this analysis a bit with what I’ve taken away from conversations with colleagues in my department who hail from the U.K. and from time to time express frustration with us natives, people like my friend and colleague the former Cambridge professor. Second: I am hoping not to create the impression that I’m talking about any essential quality of Americans or Britons here. Stereotypes are stereotypes; though after living abroad for many years I continue to experience what I believe are actual cultural differences, stereotypes don’t describe those differences, but rather the popular perception of those differences. All of speech is essentially a poor approximation, but unfortunately it’s also our only tool for making our shared perceptions more precise. Talking about stereotypes can be painful, but I believe that — within reason and among people of good will — being open about them is better than uncomfortable silence.]

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Cover image from a song written in 1941 to urge British – American cooperation. Source: United States Library of Congress

I admitted at some point that one reason that “Lucas and Sarah” interested me was because of my own role as an American woman in relationships with non-American men. I’m thinking in this direction because of a specific conversation that I had in late November 1997 with a German friend, a conversation with general themes that have been repeated in conversations at least three times since then. This conversation might be labeled: “my relationship with my American girlfriend failed because she was too American.” The first time I had it, I thought, “don’t confuse one difficult women with all American females,” but after I had it a few more times I started to wonder. Now, obviously, many German-American romantic relationships work out just fine. But in broken ones where I’ve known the partners well, this theme has emerged regularly.

So how this conversation goes:

Friend: “I broke up with [name of American woman]. She was just too American. I don’t think I should go out with American women. They’re just too different.”

Me: “Oh, I’m sorry to hear that. What was the problem with [name]?”

And then the pattern of the relationship comes out, and the perceived problems. Here are some typical statements:

  • “At the beginning, it was exciting how open and sincere she seemed, but ultimately I discovered she was shallow and superficial.”
  • “You know, American women talk about sex all the time, but when it comes down to it, they’re really prudish.”
  • “She was always drawing attention to herself in conversation, and it just got tiring.”
  • “At the beginning, it was flattering how much attention she wanted from me, but in the end I found her high maintenance.”
  • “She was extremely affectionate, which was cool at the beginning, but at the end I felt smothered.”
  • “Her reliance on me just turned out to be immaturity. She needed a parent, not a lover.”
  • “I didn’t realize until a few weeks into the relationship how wasteful she was [of space, money, food, time], and it really started to disturb me.”
  • “She was so loud, and even though I told her how much it bothered me, she kept on being loud.”

Me: “well, why do you think that’s specifically American?”

Friend: “Well, because I know other Americans who are just like she is.”

Me: “Oh, I see.”

Friend: “Yeah, at the beginning it was exciting that she was so different, but after awhile it got tiring and annoying.”

Me: “But I am an American woman. Do you think I am like that?”

Friend: “Well, sometimes. But you’re not my girlfriend.”

If you’re asking why I would accept these stereotypes as explanations for breakups, it’s because many of them seem to operate with certain variations outside of the context of intimate relationships as well. The question of how Americans take up space, for example, seems key. I frequently have the experience of standing in line somewhere in Germany and having a German tell me that I am standing incorrectly in the line. It’s part of why I included the still above from Strike Back; I think that part of the characterization in that scene operates on assumptions about the British modest use of space and not calling attention to oneself in public (interestingly, one of relatively few things Mr. Armitage has said about his parents) vs perceptions about the allegedly arrogant American walk and the aggressive taking up of space. It’s part of the contrast someone (script? director? actors?) want us to see between Collinson and Arlington — not just between the two men as individuals but also between them as representatives of two different cultures and political systems. Arlington’s presumptuous gait is a synecdoche for his presumptuous attitude, just as he functions as a cipher for the United States government in a way that Collinson does not stand in for the British government.

Referring to other things on the list above, in Göttingen, where I did my doctoral research and a huge study abroad program from a U.S. university was operative, complaints among German students about American girls who would come on strong but then not put out were legion. The “superficiality” charge is a common topic of conversation among Germans who visit the United States. The last time my German significant other was in the U.S. before the end we were driving down a highway and he told me that he felt Americans were wasteful of their landscape just the way they were wasteful of everything else. And so on. In other words, I’m not accepting these stereotypes as legitimate reasons for breaking up, but I do accept them as stereotypical perceptions of difference that are frequently expressed and that are apparently frustrating enough to cause friction in cross-cultural relationships.

Numerous books have been written that explore these stereotypes from both sides and recommend awareness of the applicability of the stereotype of the respective other and accommodation as a means to getting along, and the funny thing is that these books can be useful, at least on the level of etiquette, and it’s often etiquette transgressions that most annoy people. I could give you a list of tips that are applicable at least in the bourgeois sphere and above. For instance: if you’re visiting a German family for a meal, do not be late, and try to avoid leaving any food on the plate. Use both fork and knife to eat, and leave any hand you are not using to eat with flat on the table. Take an invitation to a German friend’s birthday party extremely seriously. Don’t call anyone you’re just meeting by their first name unless you were invited to do so first. And so on. What’s been interesting to me is that while one can make a list of these etiquette tips and they are helpful, some aspects of underlying cultural styles are clearly operative that outsiders assimilate only very gradually (or never), and these are not completely obvious. Of course it’s not one way: there must certainly be a list of these tips for getting along with Americans, but I couldn’t tell you what they are, and thus one assumes that there must be underlying structural practices [comparable to the amount of space one takes up in public] that I am also completely unconscious of but that would irritate me if they were transgressed upon. Turning back to the U.K. for a second, a student in the research seminar of my friend and colleague the former Cambridge professor came in to his office hours last semester to tell him how much she had appreciated the class; she started the conversation by saying that she had been frightened at the beginning — “because you know you have that whole British thing.” He came to my office to ask me what she could have meant.

In the summer when I started writing about Sarah Caulfield / Genevieve O’Reilly, I was thinking about this issue with American and German friends and compiled the following list of  common stereotypes that American women sense that some Germans hold about them and which Germans expressed about American women. What I thought was interesting about the list was that many of these are binaries. According to my interlocutors women from the U.S. are or are experienced as:

Naïve / Manipulative
Friendly / Superficial
Throwing money around
Preoccupied with manners / Unmannered
Enthusiastic / Having no follow through
Sexy / easy — prudish / uninteresting
Girlish / Childish / high maintenance / demanding
Having no style / Being overstated, flashy
Bony / fat
Open / Simple
Uneducated / unaware of history / politically immature
Seeing things only in black and white
Idealist / corrupt
Very feminine / Too much the ball breaker
Talking too loud / being unaware of their surroundings / taking up space aggressively / too forward
Expecting to take center stage
Sloppy / wasteful – ungenerous / stingy
Pushy
Taking up all the emotional space in a conversation or relationship – self centered

It might be helpful to me, and interesting, if we can do it with care for each other, and without feelings getting hurt, to talk about the applicability and relevance  of these stereotypes in the comments. What stereotypes do we have of each other across the Atlantic Ocean? Have I missed some big ones? Are these perceptions from the German / American relationship also relevant to the British / American one?

Sarah Caulfield (Genevieve O’Reilly) as whiny, apparently capricious American villain with a gun in Spooks 8.6. A moment that in my opinion exploits the worst possible culture and gender stereotypes for effect. My cap.

[Scenes from next week: What’s key about this for me is that when I watched Spooks 8 and perceived Sarah Caulfield negatively, it was striking to me how often my negative perception of her could be encapsulated within one of these stereotypes. Yeah, maybe she was scripted as a b**** who never loved Lucas, even at the end, and she was always seeking the success of her ends as a member of Nightingale; or maybe Ms. O’Reilly failed to sell us on the possibility that Sarah had really developed some meaningful affection for Lucas, her failure to kill him in 8.6 notwithstanding. But maybe Sarah was also scripted, acted, or directed as a “typical American woman” in certain respects for the purposes of the Spooks core audience. We talked in previous posts about what that means in terms of the actuation of stereotypes in the script and plot. But I think it goes further than that. I think in Spooks 8 the regular interruption of this problem actually interferes with the actors’ performances.]

~ by Servetus on September 6, 2010.

102 Responses to “Ugly “American”? part 4: What are the stereotypes?”

  1. Wow, there’s a lot here. I think that the thing that bothered me most about Sarah was her claim that “Franklin” was her favorite president and I kept waiting for it to come up again, for someone to either question her (and have her reply that she meant either Franklin Pierce or Franklin Delano Roosevelt) or for Tariq to mention when he was going through the list that there was no President Franklin. If the tables were turned and an American tv show made such a glaring error about British history it would be held up as an example of American stupidity. I tried to fanwank it but couldn’t and it affected my ability to suspend my disbelief. The other one that got to me was the characterization of Sarah’s predecessor (whose name I misplaced somewhere behind my to do list) as “waiting for the Rapture to happen.” In my experience people who are members of congregations that actually do that have a deep distrust of government and specifically a One World government and the last organization they’d work for is the CIA. It seemed like an odd swipe that in no way advanced the plot.

    On American stereotypes in general I think that the essential tension is one of “individual vs. community.” Americans are taught that the rights of the indivual are supreme insofar as they don’t interfere with anyone else’s rights. I had a few European and Japanese friends when I was in college and that was one thing they always brought up as being different about Americans and they had a hard time dealing with it. There’s a really awesome book called “Tearing the Silence: On Being German in America” by Ursula Hegi that addresses her personal experience with some of these issues. I highly recommend it.

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    • on “waiting for the Rapture,” I was reading that initially in the context of her ethos as new broom for the Obama administration — reflection of by no means constant but nonetheless frequent liberal disdain for conservative religion in the U.S. But I agree, if Libby McCall really was “waiting for the Rapture,” it’s hard to see him being a CIA figure. One of the things that’s going on throughout S8 is the apparent ongoing statement in the script that it doesn’t matter which party governs the U.S. — the Obama administration is going to be just as powerhungry as the Bush administration was, and the U.S. is still a superpower and is going to behave that way.

      I read Hegi when it came out and loved it — I remember thinking it was the best thing I had ever read on the topic. I’ll have to go back there.

      I like your comment about individual and community a lot because it’s also a central problem in Spooks 8 — all these individuals who are being asked or required (Nico in 8.1, Ashok in 8.7) to put aside their needs for the community. We should think about Sarah/Lucas as a contrasting example of that problem.

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  2. Very interesting post. As a hyphenated American myself I navigate between two cultures and I often tell friends as a shorthand explanation that I don’t feel I’m 100% part of either culture. I feel I understand from my own experience how someone can be misunderstood or stereotyped. But back to the main issue under discussion here. Having watched UK television for many decades I would say there are American character traits/stereotypes that are always present whenever an American character is brought in to any program: arrogance, competitiveness, and entitlement. We certainly see this in SB with Arlington and his interactions with Collinson and the others at MI6. I think the character of Sarah, and the actor playing her, was saddled with these stereotypes and so could never “soften” towards Lucas in their romantic moments. The audience then never accepted this was a woman in love, while we did perceive Lucas as a man in love (due in large part to RA’s acting ability I would say). I’m a bit more forgiving about the Franklin error. After all, do we here in the US know the name of every British Prime Minister? I venture to say many Americans don’t know the name of all the Presidents – though yes, most would probably know Franklin was not among them. So, I forgive the scriptwriter for not knowing. I agree with jazzbaby and I don’t forgive as easily that they didn’t correct it later. I certainly would think Lucas, being a polymath by his own description, would know? I assume they didn’t correct it because they thought audiences in the UK wouldn’t care that much, but they sell the program internationally. I agree that the Franklin remark and the horrible American accent contributed to the general dislike of Sarah.I also think most of us, if not all of us, feel protective towards RA as Lucas and knew this romance with an American would end badly for him.

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    • Yes, excellent — this is what I want to talk about next time — the fact that every time they get a tender moment, a nasty American stereotype emerges from O’Reilly’s performance of Sarah. That she could also embody on a personal level some of the positive stereotypes is never really explored. So it’s not only that we don’t see how she could be in love, it’s also that we don’t see why he should love her, and I think this problem persists independent of the fact that he doesn’t realize all the evil things she’s doing outside of his knowledge (that we know about).

      If Tariq *had* discovered and mentioned to Lucas that Franklin was not a U.S. president (which would have been hard, as Tariq using an actual list of U.S. presidents would have meant that he couldn’t actually have discovered the name Franklin on it), that would have been for me a signal that Sarah wasn’t what she seemed, i.e., she wasn’t really American. The character is written with such appalling inconsistency that I initially considered the possibility that her weird accent was supposed to signal to us that she wasn’t American at all. I actually do think this is the kind of thing Lucas would know. I can’t judge about the question of whether we know all the British prime ministers — I doubt it, but then again there have been many more British prime ministers; I do think that at least some Americans know something about the sequence of the British monarchs (that there’s been no Henry IX, for example), but I as a professional I am not in a good position to judge this.

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    • Hmm, so I wonder if Americans could identify which major figure of modern British political history was *not* a prime minister on this list:

      Chamberlain
      Churchill
      Profumo
      Attlee
      Thatcher

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      • Easy!

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        • I *think* that the dilemma for Americans would be between the two mostly unfamiliar names on this list, i.e., I think most Americans who’d be watching a show like Spooks would associate something fairly specific with three of these names. But let’s see.

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          • Guess no one’s gonna bite? They were all prime ministers except Profumo, who was a member of the government associated with a scandal in the 60s.

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            • Yeay! I was right. I remember reading about the Profumo scandal and also saw the movie based on it. I honestly forgot about replying to this, but remember my head was trying to explode this past week LOL

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      • Profumo and it took me 2 seconds on google to have a complete list with timelines…I would think that MI-5 and the CIA would also have such sophisticated tools…as would the writers of Spooks. Perhaps not…or perhaps the idea was to make Sarah appear just plain stupid. If not then they should have checked their facts as writers…although it is fiction somethings just aren’t.

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        • Well, there are also things that seem so self-evident that you never bother to look them up but they are nonetheless wrong. I only learned this when I started writing encyclopedia articles — that you have to verify everything you write, because even reliable sources often include mistakes.

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    • Please, let us not be naive, folks. I’d bet a great deal that scriptwriter knew precisely what he/she was doing when including the line about the favorite president. It was a not so subtle dig at Americans. I love the show, but dramatizing the stereotypes of Americans is a pretty regular feature of the series.

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      • Thanks for the comment, Hester, and welcome. It hadn’t occurred to me that that misstep could actually be a characterization device.

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  3. I think that there’s some truth to the characterization of someone in Sarah’s position being competitive and entitled because rising in the ranks that she did is cutthroat. However, I think this characterization was more a happy accident than actual research. Take my beloved XFiles for a moment. The second season episode “Fresh Bones” was about a voodoo cult from Haiti; there was a containment center full of Haitian refugees and not one of them spoke French or with a French accent. Haiti was a French colony and French is still its official language but in the XFiles universe they all spoke with thick Jamacian accents. That kind of laziness is unforgivable. Mass spectrometers are a major source of angst in my household. My husband is a chemist and works with one on a daily basis. You don’t run DNA through it, or fingerprints, or shoes, or any of the other nonsense the CSI’s do and what you actually do with it won’t spit out a result in fifteen minutes. It drives my husband to distraction. How hard is it to do the research and find out what language a country speaks or what a piece of equipment does or whether a particular individual was president? The fact that Tariq actually looked at a list of presidents and never mentioned it made it worse, IMO. It’s made worse because if the writers are willing to make these kinds of lazy mistakes with things that they can check out then what kind of laziness are they relying on for characteizaiton? You mentioned cultural shorthand and I think that part of it is fuelled by our mutual misperceptions that then seep out into public concsiousness unchecked by the media.

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    • These are both great examples, and I have similar issues when I see my areas of specialty (usually religious themes) covered on TV. I suppose it is legitimate to wonder whether TV is really the medium for challenging stereotype. Thought it is certainly the medium for creating it.

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      • I think it’s not just dramtic television, though, but a problem with language at large. Take “natural products,” for example. In the US it’s commonly understood (and claimed) that a natural cosmetic contains no chemicals, which is false unless someone is spreading a powdered element on the skin. Anything that is a compound of elements is a chemical and the question is whether it’s naturally occuring, like water in a stream, or synthetic. Even if it is naturally occuring 9 times out of 10 it’s been rendered by a chemical process like distillation. In the case of cosmetics, though, the phrase “no chemicals” is a selling point and wins over accuracy.

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        • yes. My students are always asking me why I spend so much time at the beginning of lectures defining terms, and it’s because of this problem — there’s so much linguistic slippage that we need to make sure we are all talking about the same thing. Of course no speaker avoids this issue all the time.

          I like how you brought this back to the nature of language, a problem that occupies me for much of my time.

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  4. I admit that I never had the problem with Sarah. I always felt that a lot of the anger direct towards her was a little overblown. However I conceed I’m not an American and am deaf so while the accent seemed ok to me I understand it may have been a problem for others.. I can never understand when people say Lucas should know that she is as hard nails and that she killed her boss. We the viewer know this because we have been shown things that Lucas hasn’t.

    From the word go they both used each other a lot of what we see Lucas doing or saying with Sarah is what Ros or Harry has told him to do.

    I actual think Ros and Sarah’s characters were similiar both hard driven woman who appear to be poor at reletionship and have to excist in a man’s world where they do things which are morally wrong. I love it when Lucas asks why Ros hasn’t been recruited by Nightingale.

    I think that the portrayal of a character has to include more than an accent which is why I really disliked Toby Stevens in Strikeback he was crass arroagant and rude. If that is how people in government in America are then I’m Micky Mouse.

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    • Toby got the accent right, and the usage mostly right. The walk was a little overplayed, I think. 🙂 Especially because people in the secret services of whatever country try NOT to draw attention to themselves by their stances, etc. They are supposed to be people who can fade into a crowd and not be noticed. OK, in that scene Arlington is inside an office, but even so — stance and gait are more habitual aspects of being, if you’re not an actor, you don’t just adopt and drop them at will. In terms of the scripting of the action, it’s hard for me to say how accurate that is. I’d like to think it’s not. Then again whenever there are big revelations about the CIA I am always a bit horrified about their arrogance / ridiculousness. That an upper level CIA operative would order a murder without thinking about it I found realistic. Perhaps that is my cynicism about the CIA speaking.

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      • Oh, and it seemed at times like Hugh was acquiescing to the destruction of Porter by the CIA / US military. I guess we were supposed to accept that because it’s in Hugh’s interest that Porter disappear. But it makes the British top level officials look equally suspect.

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      • I thought Toby’s accent was excellent, too. I do find myself amused at the fact spooks really should “blend in with the crowd” to do their work most effectively. Yet when I saw Lucas and Ros striding together through a crowd, a lean, leggy blonde in black leather and a tall, leggy, ridiculously handsome fellow at her side, well–they do sort of stand out, don’t they? Of course, this is fiction, and fiction stretches the limits of RL.

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        • yeah, esp in 7.8, where they are together, panting their way through a tube station, and Lucas is dripping blood. May be a testament to the extent to which Londoners tune out their surroundings. 🙂

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    • Khandy, you jut brought up a very interesting point, several actually. And I thank you for it because it has just shifted my opinion on several points. First, and please forgive me if I am wrong, you are deaf so you didn’t “hear” the accent you probably read the words (e.g. closed-captioned?). If so, then it wasn’t the writing, it was the delivery that is the issue. Second, I am glad you reminded me of what Lucas said about Roz and Nightingale…because it would seem to me that the Sarah/Ros/Jo type is hard when needed (they can and will kill if they have to) so this is the type of woman that Lucas spends a great deal of his life around. His attraction to Sarah becomes a little more understandable..it is what he is used to, and in fact, may be his comfort zone.

      I also think that Lucas is/was relationship impaired due to his imprisonment. I think he tried to jumpstart a relationship via sex, which doesn’t always work out when you really get to know the person and find that “they are who you thought they were”. Thanks for the thoughts Khandy, I really enjoyed your comments.

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      • Yes, I think it wasn’t what Sarah said at times that bothered me so much as, of course, the horrendous accent, but also the way she delivered the lines. When she said “Hon” or “honey,” it wasn’t affectionate, it was–snarky.

        While Ros and Jo could be tough and no-nonsense whenever it was required, we still saw a softness and humanity in them–especially in Ros as the series progressed. And I just never really felt that with SC.
        Perhaps Lucas is attracted to hard-as-nails females, I don’t know. Elizabeta didn’t really seem to be like that to me, although I hated how cold she was to him when he so obviously still felt so much for him. OK. she had remarried, moved on with her life, but after all he had been through, surely–a little kindness would have been in order?

        One thing I have speculated is that Lucas’s self-image had been so damaged by those years in prison he no longer feels quite worthy of a “good” woman. The thought of which makes me incredibly sad. Will be interested to see the dynamics of his relationship with the old flame, Maya in S9 . . .

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        • My impression from things I’ve read on the web is that viewers of S7 were confused about the sequence of the Lucas-Elizaveta divorce. My impression was that it had been final before Lucas’s imprisonment, while other viewers clearly seemed to think it had happened as a consequence of or in the course of his imprisonment. I’ve read fanfics that have taken either of these views.

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      • Nice job of bringing out this distinction between writing and delivery.

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  5. Thought provoking post, Servitus. A stereotype of Americans taking space certainly fits me. I’m used to lots of space and need it to survive. I grew up on my Grandparent’s 40 acre artist colony. My Grandmother and I fed the art students three meals a day as we lived so far away from any town that the pupils could not eat unless we cooked. One of Grandad’s very interesting pupils was a woman who had spent a lot of time in Tibet. That was in the ’50s, so she was one of the first Western women allowen into that closed country. She taught me to play chess when she wasn’t painting. So, our summers were filled with interesting artists. Winters were long and lonely. A neighbor car might pass once a week and that was a riviting experience.

    My husband is a commercial fisherman/cattlebaron sort. So, again lots of open space. We sold tuna off the boat and would move our boat if and when there were competing boats. There is nothing I have experienced more spacious than the Pacific Ocean and we rely on ourselves and maybe a partner boat to keep alive in that unforgiving expanse of water. Now, we live in an area populated with bear, cougar, elk, deer, eagles, ravens, trees, trees, trees. We own a large tree plantation and wide pastures filled with Scottish Highland cattle by tidal waters and love the space. We couldn’t live cramped. Our own space is surrounded by huge timber company land. Nearest human neighbor is two miles away — too close. So, Europeans stereotype of American’s needing space is correct for me.

    As for my stereotyping foreigners, well. Europe destroyed itself in WWI and WWII. America rebuilt it. What thanks do we get? America continues to protect Europe with American blood and treasure. What thanks do we get? My stereotye of Europeans is that they are a pack of has been effete snobs living under American protection and kicking America every chance they get. We had a Swiss couple here at the farm last summer who were sailing around the world. While they were plesant folks and I like them, their attitute concerning America and Americans (we are a bunch of cowboys, unlettered, brash, overconfident, unworldly) made me bristle. The same with a Dutch guy sailing single-hand around the world. He told us proudly that Holland could defend herself against whomever. Ha, ha. I really let him have it. Without the good old USA, Europe would be toast. Look at what Europe spends to defend itself. Europe can barely feed it’s native population let alone all the third world migrants they allow to feed off them.

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    • There’s a lot to unpack in that last paragraph — and I can’t do it all, but again I want to ask everyone to try to talk about this issue in ways that are not dismissive of the respective other. I know this is hard because it is an issue in current politics, particularly the extent to which Europe should pay more for its own defense. If we can’t manage a non-explosive conversation, though, I’m going to delete both your comment and mine below as a response, and put comments on this post to moderation only. I don’t want to get into a fight. I want to talk about perceptions as perceptions, not perceptions as if they actually reflect reality.

      I do have a couple of thoughts, though. I think as Americans we are inclined to forget that our foreign policy creates real costs for Europeans, as well. Yes, the US / NATO paid for those Pershing IIs in Europe in the early 1980s. At the same time, Germany had to suffer the social, political, and cultural consequences of being the nation that was absolutely directly on the border with the Warsaw Pact. If I had had that experience, of having an internal border mined, of not being able to move freeely, of having the feeling in the back of my head that tanks could come rolling over the hill at any second, I might think differently about superpower politics than I do. That situation was not created by Europeans per se, but by the failure of the Allies, esp. the U.S. and U.S.S.R. to come to peace terms after WWII. Just because someone isn’t paying the financial cost of something doesn’t mean there’s no cost to them.

      Second, Germany does give a lot back. Or it has to me, anyway. The BRD has contributed more to my post-undergrad education than all entities in the U.S put together. I always joke that my post-high school education was paid for by robber-barons, which is true, but really, the German government funded over half of my graduate degree and gave me over four years of financial support put together in various ways after that. It’s all labeled as “Marshall Fund Thank You.”

      And European countries have put troops into the field in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

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    • It also strikes me that one aspect of your list of stereotypes about Europeans is the question of being “effete.” I usually find that my gaydar is completely ineffective in Europe. I think this is because of cultural differences in how European men use / hold their bodies that work at an almost unconscious level. I.e., I couldn’t say why I am much more inclined to think that any random German man is gay than I am of his random U.S. counterpart, but I do — and am almost always wrong.

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      • Interestingly, to me, anyway, is that the same actor who plays Lucas North and John Porter (I don’t think effete could be used in a sentence describing either character) describes himself as “nourish and nurture” inclined, which some folks could, by stretching, translate as effete. Perception and interpretation…..

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        • What (for instance) about the way Lucas uses his hands in 7.2 in the scene where he’s trying to remember the details from Malcolm’s screen?

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          • @servetus: I went back and looked at that scene and I don’t take your meaning. My husband has very graceful hands but could in no way EVER be considered effete or remotely effeminate. I think Lucas’ thinness and his lean, long bone structure contribute to the graceful movement of his hands. Grace does not signify femininity a any high caliber athlete might attest.

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            • I think it’s a difference I perceive in how hands are used. In that scene, Lucas is preparing himself for something, and he has an almost ritual attention to placing the different tools (watch, notebook, pen) in particular places. But the use of the hands is so graceful that it is (I think for the American viewer, though perhaps I am exaggerating) diverging from the direct, rough positioning of the hands typical of American males. Armitage’s hands are also long and slim — if he had blunter, more muscular hands our perception might also be different.

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    • On the “effete” issue, a colleague of mine who spent the summer in London told me a story about a cocktail party to which he was invited, at which his British host told him that Brits think all Americans are rednecks, after which my colleague told his host that Americans think all Brits are gay. Not exactly the most charming encounter, but a kernel of truth there in terms of stereotype?

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      • Speaking of gaydar as it relates to RA specifically and British men in general, have you seen this?

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      • How did the rest of that dinner party go?

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        • Interestingly, what my colleague reported to me went to / relied directly on another stereotype that American academics anyway have about British academics, which is that they are frighteningly wild drinkers — he said that they already had several drinks under their belt when these revelations were made and they went on to have several more.

          This is a perception that I share, incidentally — that British academics drink very differently in public settings than Americans do — even though I know the perception throughout Europe is that Americans don’t know how to drink appropriately / can’t hold their drink.

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  6. An article a few months back in the Wall Street Journal discussed a study of women’s reactions to male faces. The study found American women much prefered a real male face (thin lips, straight heavy eyebrows, stern expression) and European (especially Scandinavian women as I remember) preferred a more feminine male face (pouty lips, rounded eyebrows, round chin). The article concluded that the male looking males seemed less like husband material as the impression was that the RA types would stray. Well, as far as I’m concerned, I’d rather have a real male who might or might not stray than a metrosexual type.

    Sorry, I went over the top on my last post. Won’t happen again.

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    • I’m not saying that it’s unacceptable to think that, just that it explodes the boundaries of this particular discussion. I have no doubt that a lot of readers might agree with you. 🙂

      This is an interesting study, I am going to see if I can find another reference to it.

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  7. The article is titled “Why women don’t want macho men.” It was in the March 27, 2010 Journal.

    As far as Europe being under US protection, I really don’t mind protecting the motherland, but hate being kicked for it. Rome felt the same about Greece, I have read in many places.

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  8. I thought of something one of my male co-workers said recently. “How come when I hear a woman speak with a British accent, I really like it and find it sexy, but when I hear a guy with a British accent–I think he’s pompous and pretentious?” LOL

    Love the Gaydar vid, a friend shared that with me a while back. *grin*

    Ever notice how baddies in films are often Brit males? BBCA is running movies this Labor Day Weekend with the theme “Accents of Evil”

    As for me, I try very hard not to pre-judge anyone based on where they are from or what language they speak, etc. As a white southern American, I have been subjected to people’s preconceptions and misconceptions all too often. In my case, they seem pleasantly surprised, I am happy to say; still, I try not to do to others what others have done to me. *wink*

    In regards to Sarah Caulfield, I am definitely not a fan, but I didn’t set out to be that way by any means. I actually was excited pre-season to hear Lucas was going to get a love interest–good for him, because the good Lord knows he needed love and affection after those years in that hellish prison and the rejection of Elizabeta.

    I saw publicity stills with her photo, thought, nice-looking lady, they’ve gone with the stereotypical blue-eyed blonde American, OK (I happen to fit that stereotype).

    Then I heard her speak. Oh, dear. Not impressed at all. Where was she supposed to hail from? And yes, there were times when not only how she said it but what she said didn’t sound authentically American. I do think the scriptwriters have to bear some of the blame here.

    Frankly, there didn’t seem to be any real chemistry between the characters of SC and LN.
    OK, initially, this is supposed to be a power play between the CIA and MI-5 and these two are using each other through pillow talk. But we are supposed to believe it became a full-fledged love affair doomed to have a tragic ending.

    As written, as performed (by GOR; Richard really did try) that passion never materialized for me. It made me scratch my head in bewilderment.
    Why would the Lucas North I had gotten to know in S7 fall in such a big way for this cold, emotionless creature that he ended up looking a bit of a numpty? That really bothered me. It didn’t seem to do the character justice.

    Even if she ultimately turned out to be a baddie, if I had found something, anything, to warm me to that character I could have still found some pleasure in their relationship together, even knowing it would likely end badly. I would have been truly sad to see her turn out to be the baddie . . . as if was, I kept hoping every ep she would die. Quickly.

    And so, as you know, Servetus, I turned Sarah into an evil alien working her intergalactic mojo on Lucas in “TAC.” Hey, it seemed as plausible as any other explanation. *grin*

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    • That’s another thing I love about TAC — the inventiveness with which it not only treated Sarah, but incorporated the Grid into figuring out who she was.

      I guess my response is that one of the reasons she seems so cold when she’s in scenes with Lucas is that she constantly inhabits stereotypes about American women. I probably can’t get to the evidence until the weekend, though.

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      • I did sort of pull out all the stops on that TAC–spy-sci-fi-fantasy-erotica . . . it was great fun to write.
        Also “Sloth Fiction” is now posted at LJ with a nod to this blog . . .

        Perhaps that is what irritated me so; Sarah seemed like a poor imitation of the American women I actually know and happen to be myself. She seems to irritate American (and a number of British viewers I personally know) more than the European fans.

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    • I don’t think that LN was supposed to have fallen for SC as we perceived her. Someone mention the ice-cold Hitchcock blondes, my guess is that she was meant to be such a character, very attractive to men because of her coldness and the hint of fire under the ice. A cold woman can be a challenge and chemistry does not require that the parties involved are friendly or flirty with each other. Some of the most famous couples in literature start off as antagonist yet their relationship is electrifying from the first moment on.

      If I imagine their chemistry as it probably should have been, I have no problem to understand their reactions that now leave us puzzled. We got woefully little from the Elisabeta relationship but a few scenes, a few words, meaningful glances and touches were enough to establish firmly that LN still felt a lot f tenderness and longing for her.

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      • I mentioned the Hitchcock blonde scenario and the more I think about it, I do think that is the target they were aiming for with the character; it just didn’t quite gel for me. And you are right, @Jane, couples often do start out as antagonists but sparks fly and the passion eventually spills out.

        In my own John/Layla story, we know the two were more or less adversaries with Layla’s stroppy attitude feeling superior to John and John likely thinking she was a posh b***h . . . but I could sense a potential for something between them in the scenes they shared together in the show.

        Sadly, the passion never erupted with Lucas and Sarah, well, not for me, anyway. Yes, in spite of what little we got from the Lucas/Elisabeta relationship, it was abundantly clear from Richard’s gestures, the tone of his voice, the soft look in his eyes, that he still cared deeply for her, and I felt there was something there for Elizabeta, even if she didn’t want to recognize it.

        Amazing how much time and effort we can put into analyzing these fictional characters, isn’t it? But then, Richard’s layered performances are such that the characters do seem real for me.

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        • Previous to Spooks 8 RA had been famous for the great chemistry he had with his female co-stars but as soon as SC appeared on screen there was a universal outcry all over the net that they had zero chemistry. IMO it was not how the character and how their storyline had been written, something else went wrong. The storyline, as written, and as it had been sketched by RA in his interviews had great potential.

          People said it came totally out of the blue that they kissed and hopped into bed but what RA promised was a power struggle taken to a different level and had the certain something been there it could have been VERY hot. It is almost a classical device.

          The conflict that developed later, that both really should kill the other but couldn’t bring themselves to do it, could have been beautiful and tragic. Lucas shouldn’t have looked weak, we should have felt for him and those scenes in Sarah’s flat in episode 6 should have been some of the most moving moments in his acting career.

          I don’t know what went wrong, I’m still baffled by the strong negative reaction SC has provoked. I never thought she was great but never had that strong reaction against her. Perhaps it is something I cannot understand because I’m neither a native speaker nor very familiar with the American stereotype that does come across as a caricature. Part of the problem was that people were biased against her before she appeared on screen because they thought she would be a copy of Christine from the early series.

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          • The accent was an immediate turn-off for me, but I was honestly willing to give GOR the benefit of the doubt . . . I thought maybe things will improve, the accent, the performance . . . I did have genuine hopes for this to be the sort of relationship Richard described in interviews prior to the series.

            I think maybe you are right; it may take being a native speaker and/or someone very familiar with such stereotypes to experience the strong reaction to GOR as SC . . . I think I really expected as sophisticated a production as Spooks to give us more than a cliched character like SC turned out to be. And I expected a better level of performance from the actress, including a believable American accent.

            It could have been a passionate, gorgeous, riveting and ultimately tragic affair played out before us. But is just wasn’t. Lucas came off as weak and foolish and Sarah just seemed like a cold-hearted, difficult-to-like snob.

            Interestingly enough, MillyMe’s husband has been watching Spooks 7 and 8. She hadn’t mentioned to him her dislike of Sarah, not wanting to influence him. Turns out he took an almost instant dislike to SC as well. And this is a Norwegian male . . . not a female who is already a besotted RA fan.

            As I said before, I didn’t go into Spooks 8 at all planning to dislike Sarah. But it certainly happened . . .

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          • @Jane,

            I think the last sentence of your post above is a very general, sweeping statement. I don’t know who Christine was and Lucas hadn’t had a “relationship” int he series yet, so I don’t know about expectations of similarity. There are many fans of RA who didn’t watch much of Spooks before he was in it, me included because it isn’t easily accessible in the US so we had no expectation of anything.

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            • I think Jane was referring to the core Spooks audience, i.e., people who’d been watching before.

              I’m kind of beating myself over the head a little for not having watched S6 before S7 — I realized this week in rewatching 7 and 8 that there’s a bunch of stuff in the “scenes from last time” of 7.1 that I have no way of interpreting / putting into context that might also explain a lot about Ros’s relationship with Lucas (and potentially why there is so much Ros dislike on the internet).

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              • Yes, I did. I’m not even the core audience but did happily watch all old series after we got the news that RA would join the show. When we learned that Lucas love interest would be a blonde CIA contact I immediately thought of Tom’s girlfriend and thought it is lazy writing to introduce similar character. But that wasn’t RA’s or GOR’s fault. Some people labelled her Christine 2.2 or New!Christine and were willing to give her a chance. I realize that isn’t the only reason for the dislike.

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                • Sorry, wanted to say they were NOT willing to give her a chance. I’m curious to see how the new love interest will do.

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                • In the Spooks forum, the ‘core audience’ did give her a chance, it was after 2 or 4 eps that they started to call her Christine 2.0, so they gave her a chance IMO.
                  My impression is that among that audience there are those who SC as character did not convince them and others who were OK with her.

                  OML 🙂

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          • This is a nice point about the classical quality of the power struggle, Jane. Agree that it could have been very hot.

            I’ve finally caught up at least partially on the Christine Dale thing as I’ve now seen the first four episodes of Spooks S2. I’d argue that Sarah is not at all scripted the way Christine is. Christine seems to follow all of the rules for “typical American male.” Obviously I have several more episodes to watch. One must also concede that the actress playing Christine Dale, at least so far, gets the accent right at about 95%.

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  9. National stereotypes are a lazy way of categorising people into our sort and those who’re not. Recently Finland was declared the best country to live in according to an international report, and a journalist in our weightiest Norwegian newspaper spent half the article ridiculing how a depressive, unimaginative,javelin-throwing nation could have achieved this accolade. Sweden is the throes of a general election, and one of the most popular rallying points is how to restrict rich, boorish, tasteless Norwegians in buying up the best coastal areas neighbouring Sweden and turning them into hideous Norwegian ghettos. Whereas Norwegians regard themselves as peace-loving, easy-going and everybody’s friend!

    However, after a recent rewatch of Spooks 7 and the first few episodes of series 8, I’m not sure that I agree with your premise that Sarah represents anit-American sentiments. The whole of Spooks 7 is dedicated to the idea of Russia as the main antagonist to the UK, with the final episode culminating in an attempted nuclear strike against London. Yet Lucas nurtures tender feelings for his ex-wife who now works for FSB and has several poignant scenes where this is shown. Arkady Kachimov, while a dyed-in-the-wool, devious enemy of the old school, is still shown as a charming man capable of understanding British idiom when engaging in conversation with Harry, a worthy adversary, concerned about Elizaveta’s welfare when he urges her to stockpile supplies before the attack. The greatest traitors come from within the ranks of MI-5, longstanding friends and colleagues, Bernard Qualtrough and Connie James! The most unsympathetic character in the series is that of Richard Dolby, an MI-5 stalwart and no traitor!

    In Spooks 8, Richard Walker, Sarah’s boss, is treated quite sympathetically from the start. I contend that Sarah’s problem was in the sloppy script,and the way in which she was depicted by the actor who played her. The writers never allow the relationship to develop in a way that feels natural, but jump from a casual working relationship to a full-blown affair in a matter of seconds – ordering a hotel room at Claridges after a phone call from Lucas for their third meeting! As for that Franklin reference, it’s so puzzling! If she’d called herself Deborah Lincoln, no-one would have reacted!

    Having finally got hubby to watch Spooks jubilation in the MillyMe heart!, I was curious as to what he made of the people in the series so far. I notice that he carefully avoided any specific mention of Lucas, not even his tattoos, from a man who loathes them (!), but said that he thought the actors were all very good. “But, I don’t really like her (Sarah). Her eyes are cold, and there’s something not quite right about her.”

    I think GOR struggled with the accent, but not being an expert on American accents, this didn’t bother me as much as the lack of warmth from a woman supposedly in love with Lucas! How hard can it be to simulate passion for lovely Lucas!

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    • I’ve heard a lot of EU jokes with anti-Norwegian punchlines. I find this funny because in the US Norwegian-Americans are not considered loner separatists at all — they’re considered friendly, gossipy, chatty folks.

      Just to clarify: I don’t think SC represents anti-American sentiments as much as think that the execution of the character is confused by someone’s choice (script? director? actress?) to characterize her constantly by making her portray stereotypes about Americans (in situations where I think they are unbelievable.)

      I admire your analysis of S7, though — esp like the point about how the traitors come from within, and the possibility that S7 is setting us up to believe in S8 that the need to be loved is Lucas’s tragic flaw.

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  10. The perception of space has fascinated me for awhile. I think i brought it up on another post where we’ve discussed similar issues. If it might be perceived negative of Americans needing a lot of space. There is also the sensitivity of allowing others space. And that as Europeans has been blunted because there isn’t as much space left in the comparable environment. If there are negative sterotypes there are very likely also positive stereotypes.

    I still don’t feel as negative about Sarah Caulfield, the actress or her attempt of American accent. For me S hit it on the head that it’s never clear why Lucas falls to such a degree in love with her. My initial thought was as a spy a natural instinct would be suspicion and inability for emotional vulnerability.

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    • I had a similar reaction while living in Germany — you have to be very considerate of other’s space because everyone is so close together most of the time, in housing, in public, etc. When my last SO first visited the US, he came to my home state, and after a few days he said to me, “there are supposed to be millions of people living in this state but for the life of me I can’t figure out where they are.” In the US we’re accustomed to having more available space and that plays out in all kinds of ways.

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      • I have gotten to know several people from England and Europe who have visited or now live our area, and one of the first things they seem to take notice of is space–sprawling houses, huge yards. It takes my husband the better part of a day to cut our yard and the old farmhouse’s yard and that’s with a riding mower. We are very accustomed in the US to having plenty of elbow room, without a doubt.

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    • The CIA manual shows England as having nearly 1000 people per square mile. Oregon, by contrast, has 35 and that includes Portland and Eugene. In parts of Oregon’s eastern desert there may be as many as one person per 35 miles. Here where I live there are three people per square mile.

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  11. I think the thing is Sarah is supposed to be cold we the viewer are supposed to think that. I agree that the reletionship was rushed but that is Spooks isn’t its not a romance. I just filled in the blanks about their reletionship.

    I really wish that spooks was either 2 hours long and shown on two nights or 90minutes so that we could expand some ideas.

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    • Yes, she was cold but not enough to shoot him when she had the chance.
      @Khandy: lucky us we got you to expand and fill in backstories at least 🙂

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    • This is a nice point — that there’s an incongruity between how the viewer is supposed to see Sarah vs how Lucas is supposed to see her, that Ms. O’Reilly doesn’t really surmount fully but that is exacerbated by a rushed script.

      For me it’s particularly frustrating that we get vital details about her identity only minutes before she’s shot. Lucas apparently knows these things but the audience doesn’t?

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      • That was one of my chief complaints–trying to pack too much into eight episodes. I know there are budget constraints, but it just doesn’t seem to allow enough time to develop some of these characters and their relationships. I assumed some time had passed between the initial night at Claridge’s and Lucas and Sarah being as thick as thieves in their intimate relationship, but it certainly wasn’t spelled out. And yes, it would have been nice to know more about her before she bit the dust. Perhaps that would have made it all easier for the viewer to understand re Lucas and Sarah and the whole confusing Nightingale plot.

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        • and there’s that cryptic line about the shellfish that seems to me to signal a scene that’s been cut.

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          • *scratches head* Yeah, the mystery of the shellfish . . . I felt like an inside joke was being told and I was on the outside.

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            • On the season only being eight episodes long…I think that added to my impression of sloppy writing. There seemed to be threads put out there that were then dropped and when you don’t have the luxury of a 20+ episode season everything you do needs to be tight and advance the plot. They did it with season 7, I’m not sure if there was a change on the writing staff, lack of focus, etc.

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              • I know the series has varied anywhere from six to ten eps in length . . . even just two extra eps would have allowed more space to flesh characters and plotlines out . . . but agreed, they did right in S7, what happened in S8? Different writers, not enough allotted time to write . . . it’s hard to say.

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                • I think it has something to do with budget issues. If they have higher actor salaries and more special effects they can do fewer episodes.

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            • I always thought it had to do with the plans she had for dinner that night with Lucas, since he says something about having to cancel their “rendezvous” that night, and she makes that “shellfish” joke (not funny by the way). I thought it was a failed attempt by the writers to show the closeness between Lucas and Sarah, but between his adoring look, and her failed attempts at humor, it just doesn’t work at all.

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          • I thought the shellfish line referenced a dinner involving oysters, perceived to be an “aphrodisiac” which to me would explain the “wink, wink, say no more ” treatment the line received.

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  12. Although I am finding this discussion about stereotypes fascinating, I really think it boils down to chemistry had they had chemistry we wouldn’t even been having this conversation. Even if she was the anthesis of “the ugly” American, and they were lighting up the screen with passion, it wouldn’t of mattered.

    There are lots of bitchy women we love to love and hate for some reason I am thinking of the 80’s show Dynasty and Joan Collins(hmmm she was the catty Englishwoman). Not sure why this example is coming to mind.

    The writing could have been better, her accent could have been better, but the chemistry just wasn’t there. That’s my take on it.

    On another note, I remember reading that the way our brain sorts info and catagorizes information forces us into stereotyping people.

    I didn’t get the shelfish line either.

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    • Got to agree with you there, @Rob. I think I could have overlooked the atrocious accent and the obvious roots, et al if I had really felt a spark between the characters, felt this connection between them that would have made it understandable why Lucas fell for her, yes, even if she turned out to be a total rotter.

      As it is, it all seemed one-sided; Lucas was besotted, Sarah seemed like she’d just as soon have been, oh, scrubbing the toilet as in bed with him. And THAT boggled my mind, frankly. Lucas is one sexy beast, and I would imagine one could summon up plenty of lust for the occasion, if not love.

      One thing I’ve wondered about: Was GOR instructed/directed to perform her role like a Hitchcock blonde–very cool, calm and collected on the surface, an ice queen–ah, but Hitchcock blondes were seething with real passion under their cool partrician surfaces. And there seemed to be nothing but ice water in this woman’s veins.
      RA has said chemistry can be manufactured, but I think it takes both parties doing the manufacturing for it to be a success.

      I still do NOT understand why she was cast.

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      • Interesting. So you think that Ms. O’Reilly felt no chemistry with him even in scenes where she was actually trying to act loving / attracted?

        There are men who are just really attracted to demanding women, at least at the beginning.

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        • I really, truly do not think she felt much, if any chemistry with him, or at the very least, she felt inhibited somehow in showing it. Maybe she has a really jealous husband?

          I’m very biased, of course, but I cannot quite comprehend how a red-blooded actress couldn’t have summoned up more enthusiasm, more–something to be bedding Lucas North as played by RA. There were a few moments when she seemed to actually crack that facade–when Lucas goes berserk in the flat, for one.

          The rest of the time it was just “meh” for me. There was something cold and dead about her eyes for me.

          True, there are men who enjoy being doormats in a sort of masochistic way. I just didn’t figure Lucas for one of them. Did prison and torture somehow warp his sensibilities?

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          • I was reading through the comments and the scene in ep4 when they’re at his apartment, I could see some passion in her character, those mins are great, both of them are great.
            Why is it that this scene is liked in general and makes me more curious why exactly for us who don’t like SC is also quite enjoyable?

            OML 🙂

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  13. Actually, doesn’t Lucas know that Sarah has murdered her boss fairly early on? He and Harry work out where the boss was when he called and it’s a give-way, as I remember it. The details escape me. I certainly got the feeling that in the scene when Lucas and Sarah are at his flat and she’s in her nightgown, supposedly mournful about her boss’s death, Lucas has his back to her and what he said in response to her is said with real irony; he knows horrible things about her. They then go to bed and we next see Sarah’s legs on the bed through a doorway as Lucas talks on the phone. She’s asleep, and he’s conferring with Harry about what they’ve learned about her, I think. And none of it is good.

    And when your girlfriend turns up to bug your flat, thinking you’re out of town, most men would be more than a little put off,especially if you happened to know information that might be valuable to hostile forces like Nightingale. The fight they have seemed realistic to me (and actually, it was the only scene in which I thought GOR was acting well). But what kind of a highly-trained MI-5 agent would then tell her not to leave and reach out for her? At that time, I don’t think Harry or Ros has told him to keep tabs on her.

    This just made Lucas seem incoherent and kind of a desperate case, I thought.

    Those are the things that made Lucas’s apparent affection for her just not add up; he knows she’s killed her boss, is trying to bug him for information about MI-5, and lies like a rug. Hooray for Lucas, he EVENTUALLY tells her she’s despicable, but that too comes out of nowhere. Fine, she didn’t shoot you, she must have feelings for you, turn around 180 degrees and tell her NOW that suddenly you hate her. When did this change happen?

    Dr. S, I can’t recall; did we cover the opinions that “Americans are vulgar, too loud, ignorant, and flash too much money around”? I hasten to mention that I’m an American.

    I remember a British friend telling me a joke he thought was great; the punch line involved an Irishman being stupid. I didn’t think it was funny at all. He said (and this was a while ago) “But we have lots of jokes like this!” We talked further and I realized that while Americans once told “Polish jokes” about how stupid Poles were supposed to be, the British then told “Irish jokes.” And really, it’s not very funny to consider all the people who live in or came from a particular country stupid.

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    • He finds out for certain in episode 5, so about half way through. But the show spends a lot of time showing us that he basically doesn’t believe it could have been her until that point. Every time I watch that scene where she lies to him and he knows it, I’m astounded by Lucas. That he can hear those lies, and then nonetheless initiate intercourse with her; that’s coldblooded.

      I don’t think I put vulgar on my list, but that’s a good one and it applies to Sarah (in the sense of “uneducated.”).

      I heard a lot of jokes about Polish people as well, growing up. There was a town down the road that was mostly Polish Catholic. In retrospect they seem like the remnant of some immigrant past in which German Lutherans were insecure and the only people they could think of to ridicule were Polish Catholics. I still hear them from time to time when I’m home.

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      • Norwegians have jokes about how stupid the Swedes and people in a particular part of Danmark are. There are also a whole set of jokes involving The Norwegian, The Swede and the Dane. The Swedes have similar jokes about us. I tthink such jokes must have started due to a sense of rivalry, but there has to be familiarity and a certain affection, too. There don’t seem to be any standard jokes about our other neighbouring nations, Russia or even Finland!

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      • Until she points a gun at his head in the end of episode 6 it was a possibility that she had a good reason to do what she did, as she said that Walker actually was the bad guy and that she was in deep cover and had to do it. Such things happen all the time in the Spooks world. They all lie and deceive and occasionally kill and some of them for the best motives. Judging them only by their actions does not work. Surely Lucas was more willing to give her the benefit of doubt but he did consider that she’s the baddie and the others were by no means certain.

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        • Another nice point. I appreciate how you continue to remind us that Spooks has a larger story arc than just S7 and 8. Although I wonder how often professionals believe that “I’m in deep cover” story.

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  14. Well, he does yank her hands above her head. Maybe he’s feeling just a bit vindictive and sadistic. I couldn’t blame him.

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  15. I thought that even thou he knew for certain she’d killed her boss, what’s push at 200 feet among friends anyhow…that he had to keep up the affair as to not expose that he in fact knew the truth. That’s what I inferred anyway. Like he was almost doing his job by continuing to sleep with her.

    As for how the rest of the world sees us Yanks. I think we are like McDonnald’s even thou you know the foods crap you still can’t help eating there and you can’t resist the fries.

    Watching SB, it is interesting to see us protrayed as the bad guys. I remember Ross in Spooks making a comment about the US, her line was like they voted in a new president and are all driving hybird cars.

    As for me, I am an Anglophile and I can’t help it. For me they are like the smarter, well traveled more sophisticated cousin, that I’d always hoped to be one day.

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  16. Well, I’m an American who has lived in Britain and I’m an anglophile too, but I don’t think Americans are “crap,” and . . . yeah, some of them are smarter, better traveled and more sophisticated than Americans. And then there are those who aren’t. They come in all shades, just as Americans do. I mean . . . Dr. S is pretty well traveled, clearly very well educated and probably more sophisticated than, say, the mother of Shannon whatever her name is who hid her daughter because she wanted to cash in on donations. We’re all a pretty varied crew.

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    • When I first lived in Germany, I idolized Germans despite the many ways in which they and Germany irritated me, some more serious than others. There’s that “falling in love with the other” phase that a lot of academics have. More than a decade of experiences have since balanced my view somewhat. I do think there is something to the version of itself that the U.S. sells abroad being oddly charming to large groups of people. I’ve never understood why, but I think it has something to do with a sort of intermittent rewards schedule. You know the food is crap, but on the days when those fries are really good, they’re fantastic, just as on the days that they are bad they are horrid.

      That’s a little diffuse, but I have to run. I’ll be back later and on the weekend.

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  17. @AAA what I meant to say is that is how some people view the US, not all. I have found that, in my experience those who have more of a love/hate with the US. They love the opportunity and the spoils.

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  18. There hss been a tradition of “Newfie” jokes here. The “Newfies” have long turned the tables by producing some of our best comedians (perhaps not everyone here who has seen him will appreciate Rick Mercer), among other outstanding professionals. Strong (very) background of Irish ancestry in the province.

    Apart from poking fun at Americans and the British, there is also much inter-provincial rivalry, stereotyping perceived provincial characteristics.

    In this context, it’s easy to relate to the Norwegians, vs. Swedes and Danes. If only it could all be boxed in a mutual sense of humour. However, within the political sphere, where political interests are an issue, it becomes a different animal. Or historical – historical memory is extraordinally present, even when the historical events are long past.

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  19. […] couple of days ago I perused Servetus last(?) post in the Ugly American series. Lots to digest there. The list of “binaries” is […]

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  20. Americans tend to go straight to the fridge when they are at home of someone else. In Holland that is very rude. Then again, we won´t invite you for dinner if you pop by around that hour.

    BTW do you know this song? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GuDZgA3FESg

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  21. “Americans tend to go straight to the fridge when they are at home of someone else.”

    WHAT? I am an American and I have never done that! Where did this stereotype come from? I think most Americans would consider someone who did that in someone else’s home to be incredibly rude.

    Getting back to the “space” thing – we call it “personal space” here in America, and it is considered rude to get too close to another person in line or even when having a casual conversation. When I see European tourists in American (at places like Disney and so forth) they sometimes stand thisclose to you in line, and it’s different than what we are accustomed to in America, and can be somewhat disconcerting.

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    • Yes, this was something I had to accommodate to in Germany — often being or finding myself much closer to my friends than I would be under normal circumstances.

      Also never heard that Americans are unusually fridge friendly in strange houses. Would consider that rude myself. I don’t even go straight to the fridge in my parents’ house … 🙂

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  22. Personal space is in interesting concept. And it lends itself to a general, though not specific stereotying.

    As an Anglo/slash Canadian with half-Irish ancestry, I’m more stereo Anglo and slightly more quiet and intro than stereo-Irish. But I use my hands in conversion far more than my French Canadian husband did. So much for stereos! But also very conscious of anyone else’s personel space, including my own.

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    • In the Midwest, gesturing a lot with the hands is often perceived as “Jewish,” although it seems to be a larger German tendency.

      Interestingly, IRL Armitage seems to speak frequently, if not almost constantly, with his hands, but suppresses this tendency near completely in his charactes.

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  23. […] whether if it’s part of a more typically U.K. gestural set. My speculation on this touches on my questions about the ways in which particular patterns of hand motions signal masculinity (and create […]

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  24. That is also interesting. Do you suppose, that having to become accustommed to his uncommon height, so early, he made accomodation by using means other than intimidation, via other body language? As some of us might supplement a quiet, more intro- than extra- nature by emphasising hand gestures?

    I haven’t traveled sufficiently in Germany yet, but
    stereotyping, Europeans, in general, seem to me to be more expressive in body language, than do those of N.A and more Anglo cultures. Just a very surface perception.

    But, yes, I think that LAMDA/RADA/Stanislavsky-trained actors do receive “patterns” of gesture. What they do with that after is up to their individual talent and character empathy is up to them. Which might be why a really good actor can use iconic gestures, with total freshness in any character. D’ya think? Maybe?

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  25. […] question I had was specifically about the show’s casual anti-Americanism. (Again, please don’t draw any conclusions about my politics based on this reflection. I […]

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