Sunday, November 27, 2011

Snap, Crackle, & Pop Culture: The American Dream in American Chopper

"It is such a romantic idea; going from dirt poor broke to rich and famous by working hard at doing what you love... This plot is often referred to the Horatio Alger myth and many theorists argue that this is a form of propaganda implemented to make individuals look past social issues at hand"

This article at first talks about Teutul's rise to success (star of American Choppers) and his rags to riches tale. The author was inspired by another article that offered 'different critiques of the show' and got 'the vibe that this show reinforces the American Dream'. And so the writer links this to the Horatio Alger myth, and quotes Michael Moore:

"The message was that anyone can make it in America, and make it big. We are addicted to this happy rags-to-riches myth in this country. People in other industrialised democracies are content to make a good enough living to pay their bills and raise their families. Few have a cutthroat desire to strike it rich. . .So, here’s my question: after fleecing the American public and destroying the American dream for most working people, how is it that, instead of being drawn and quartered and hung at dawn at the city gates, the rich got a big wet kiss from Congress in the form of a record tax break, and no one says a word? How can that be? I think it’s because we’re still addicted to the Horatio Alger fantasy drug."

I thought that was interesting. I'd never seen this idea as some sort of cover-up from the government. The author then goes onto write about how "you get graded in school based on “how hard you work,” so in general students with higher grades generally have more opportunities in life because people buy in to this good work ethic idea". However, you're not actually graded on this... Alone. The author then quotes that despite the Horatio Myth says that it doesn't matter what you're born with/as you can still make it - actually in school it does matter what you're born with. You're race, class background, gender, national origin, sexual orientation do matter in real life. It's then linked to TV - American TV is full of these tell 'stories of everyday men and women who succeed against all odds due to their hard work and perseverance.' It provides an escape and hope, but in reality is not so easy for the average joe.

In contrast to Ragged Dick, I think that we all now see the rags-to-riches tale as poor-to-billionaires. For someone to simply say they got out of school without any qualifications and now run a nice little business or how someone finally has a four bedroom house instead of a tiny bungalow, we wouldn't see it as the Horatio Alger myth coming true. Perhaps the only way the myth can be denied is that our standards have changed since then.

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