Europeans tend to imagine that Hollywood fantasy represents US reality. In fact, the fantasy acts as a kind of substitution. In the movies people have lives, they have adventures, they are slender and attractive. In reality they have no lives, they are fat and sick, their adventure is eating some new type of junk food. In Japan people pay a lot of money to hit golf balls into nets, because real golf requires the kind of wide-open spaces that don't exist in crowded Japan. In the UK people endlessly go to DIY stores and garden centers, perpetually re-imagining their tiny cramped damp little dwellings. The trick to understanding the deep psyche of a place is to look at how it creates surrogates for what it lacks. In the movies and TV shows, no one is afraid of losing everything because they fall ill. No black character is gunned down at random by a brainless thug in police uniform. On TV people string words together to form coherent sentences. In other words: what is on the screen is the opposite of real life.

Anyone who enjoys my articles here on Medium may be interested in my books Why Democracy Failed and The Praying Ape, both available from Amazon.

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