"Hey, can you hear the sound of hysteria?
The Cultural Cringe is an internalized inferiority complex which causes people in a country to dismiss their own culture as inferior to the cultures of other countries. A person with a cultural cringe will tend to discount a lot of their own culture, and embrace another country's 'better' culture instead. In fact, it's common for people suffering from Cultural Cringe to disavow that there is a national culture at all
. Cross-reference How to recognize that you're an American
and the various spin-off lists for other countries.
The Trope Namer
and Trope Codifier
is Australian literary critic and social commentator A. A. Phillips, who coined the term in his 1950 essay "A.A. Phillips on The Cultural Cringe"
, where he observed this behavior - specifically Australian feelings of inferiority towards Britain - in rampant abundance among his contemporary fellow Australians. (This is also why it's a part of Australia's Useful Notes
, along with Tall Poppy Syndrome
.) This trope is at least Older Than Radio
, though, enough so that among the people Gilbert and Sullivan
felt "would not be missed
This isn't necessarily the opposite of Patriotic Fervor
, nor is it necessarily the same thing as Boomerang Bigot
. Someone with the Cringe may love his/her country and national heritage despite
its supposed inferiority. As one may put it, their own culture may suck, but it's still their
The flip side of (and often combined with) a Foreign Culture Fetish
. Compare Internalized Categorism
, where the character starts hating themselves for being a part of a culture perceived by others as "bad", rather then merely seeing their culture as inferior to other cultures. See also Boomerang Bigot
, where the character might feel anything from their ethnicity to their species is inferior, rather than feeling their country and its culture specifically
is inferior, in comparison to another country and its culture. See also Cultural Rebel
, who may or may not suffer from this trope. Also compare Cargo Cult
. Compare Stop Being Stereotypical
, as something unique to a specific culture can end up being viewed as a stereotype by members of that culture. Contrast Cultural Posturing
Cultural Cringe by country
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The Cringe in Australia
Australia has a grand history of poetry (like Banjo Paterson
), painting (Sidney Nolan), classical music (Percy Grainger/Dame Joan Sutherland), television (Homicide
), film (Picnic at Hanging Rock
) and architecture (Sydney Opera House, even though it was designed by a Dane...), but most Australians would not know much about it, and, even if they do, well, "Europeans and Americans do it just so much better". Only the really popular stuff gets excluded: Muriel's Wedding
, The Castle
, Strictly Ballroom
, and Mad Max
are great Aussie films, Breaker Morant
and the still-rather-popular Moulin Rouge
aren't. Unfortunately, this results in Catch-22s with Australian media: no one watches or reads it because they think it's not going to be good, and no one wants to produce it because no one will watch it. The hardest hit by this would be Australian films, which are almost completely overlooked unless they become hits overseas.
Some say that the Cringe seems to be disappearing in Australia. Younger generations (X and Y) don't appear to suffer as much from the cringe, or at least not consciously. Many among them find the lack or and/or perceived lower quality of local artistic product to be mystifying, and are very supportive of it when it is genuinely appealing. Not bad when many of their grandparents still refer to England as "Home".
Funnily enough, this didn't happen with Australian popular music. Bands like AC/DC
grew in the 'pub rock' scene of the 70s and early 80s, with many notable Australian artists such as Midnight Oil
, Hunters and Collectors, and Cold Chisel
being phenomenally popular within Australia but virtually unheard of elsewhere. This can also work to partly explain the Australian national fixation with sport, sporting events being an area in which Australians also typically excel on the international level.
The Cringe in Brazil
In Brazil, the term for cultural cringe is "mongrel complex" (literally, "complexo de vira-lata
"), which characterized the Brazilian attitude when they lost the 1950's World Cup
, but soon it started to characterize the attitude of Brazilians concerning their own country, to the point of many of them don't believe that Brazil has no reason to have self-esteem (likely one of the reasons why the The Capital Of Brazil Is Buenos Aires
There were attempts to avert this during the Military Dictatorship, between 1964-1985, such as with the famous motto "Brazil: love it or leave it". Ironically, many of the songs written critically by Brazilian artists during that time are seen with a lot of nostalgia nowadays by the previous generation, in contrast with the way younger people tend to despise Brazilian culture as dumb, cheap and unsophisticated, compared to foreign(specially American) mainstream culture. Even music, of which Brazilians are traditionally very proud of, has been drowned in the radios by American pop and rock music, and the most popular national music genre with the newer generation, called Sertanejo Universitário, is very commercial and in many aspects(notably, the often oversexualized lyrics) similar to American pop music.
The Cringe in Britain
The British have a Cultural Cringe that's been running for centuries, particularly in regard with continental Europe. Many among the British have felt that Europe had a more sophisticated level of high culture. That's the reason 18th century English aristocrats went off on the Grand Tour (Lord Chesterfield's Letters to His Son
describe this pretty well) to France and Italy, with Laurence Sterne
ironically commenting at the beginning of his A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy
that "they order these things" better there. Ironically, many of the preferred British spellings of English words (such as the superfluous U in words like "flavour" and "colour") that differ from the preferred American spellings
do so because at the time Samuel Johnson first standardized British English spelling, it was very much in vogue to mimic the French language, even in words that do not derive from Old French or even Latin. Even Britain's language
reflects their Cultural Cringe
In more modern times, a belief has arisen in some quarters that the United States "does" pop culture like television and movies better, with extravagant praise for series like The Wire
(which was, of course, highly praised in the States too). The perception is that American movies and TV will always
have a bigger budget and glossier production values and British Brevity
is a result of having too little money to make 'proper' TV shows (see this
bit from Screenwipe
where Charlie Brooker
shows an American focus group some British TV and can barely contain his embarassment). note
And the long-held belief that Brits have a more sophisticated sense of humour
than Americans has been eroded by the importing of shows like The Simpsons
and Curb Your Enthusiasm
. British actors, directors, musicians and comedians are only really thought to have "made it" if they are known in the USA too. This is one reason why people like John Lennon
, Stephen Hawking
, Christopher Nolan
, Kate Winslet
, Eddie Izzard
, John Cleese
etc. are so beloved in the UK; Americans like them too! Diamanda Hagan note
once described the majority of British television as "costume dramas, documentaries about how the United States did nothing to help win World War I, and stories about how great it was to rule most of the planet".
The modern issues with British self-image can be summed up as "We used to be better at this."
The United Kingdom used to be a global superpower and sparked the Industrial Revolution
during that time. As such, many modern British believe that the United Kingdom once produced the world's greatest art, music, and engineering projects, but no longer is the world leader in any of those fields. It was a British philosopher, Roger Scruton, who in 2004 first repurposed the term oikophobia
(literally "fear of one's own household") as a synonym for Cultural Cringe
That the United Kingdom is still a leading European power in most of the big political clubs, producing notable advances in several academic spheres, acting as a global financial hub and having the world's 6th largest manufacturing industry comes off a let-down when compared to past glories. However, those past glories are themselves a source of Cultural Cringe as the British Empire was formed on conquest, colonialism, violence, and racism. As British comedian John Oliver (of The Daily Show
fame) mentioned, it's unpleasant to feel guilty every time you walk into a museum.
Despite all this, the cringe is rarely so potent that a Brit will allow others to join in. Brits will still display their Patriotic Fervor
should someone insult the United Kingdom.
(There's also the Scottish cringe
, which is directed towards England. Even Britons can start to feel that Britain Is Only London
The Cringe in Canada
Canada's Cultural Cringe is more typically known among Canadian commentators as simply an inferiority complex. Regardless, Canada's cultural position between the United States and the British Empire has long given it a cringe issue, leading to jokes like:
Q: How many Canadians does it take to change a light bulb?
A: All of them, because no one wants to go first.
The Canadian Cultural Cringe was observed by Canadian playwright Merrill Denison, in his 1949 address to the Empire Club of Canada, That Inferiority Complex
. He noted that Canadians gave little attention to domestic media, instead putting American or other foreign works on display, and observed that Canadians believed they had no culture or national identity worth expressing. This also extended to inventions or contributions to industry: "In the United States, such contributions to material progress would have been proudly recognized as national achievements and made part of the lore of every school child—in Canada they remained unknown or ignored."
During the 1970s, Canadian legislation tried to force a break in the Cultural Cringe, requiring radio and television broadcasters to air a percentage of domestically produced content, or content that is culturally Canadian. For radio stations, this is known as the MAPL system. While it was intended to promote Canadian cultural awareness and self-image, a number of radio stations sectioned off the required airtime with disparaging labels like the "beaver hour" or "beaver bin." As Canadian music grew in commercial popularity, this practice faded.
The Cringe in China
Many local and regional Chinese governments are renowned for a healthy undercurrent of corruption and nepotism which comes at the expense of the taxpayer (if not their physical safety, if not their very lives as in some of the food-safety scandals). The central government isn't too cuddly either with a constant low level of repression to go around which hasn't spilled over into anything big or public since Beijing's Tiananmen Square stuff in '89, but never truly goes away. Embarrassment toward the government in China has gotten so strong that when US Ambassador Gary Locke
arrived in China, he became an instant celebrity simply because he carried his own things rather than having an entourage of assistants do it for him. The Chinese are used to seeing their government officials, even minor ones, being rich and able to get away with whatever they want. This also goes for their children
. It's gotten so bad that when Zhang Xuping murdered a corrupt Communist Party official, he was widely hailed as a hero
The Chinese government has the power to censor
any media considered inappropriate, which stifles creativity. Foreign films and shows often outperform their domestic competition and have created a thriving video-pirating industry. As the government will not allow itself to be portrayed negatively in any way, creators find more freedom in setting their stories in historical periods. However these stories, especially those set during the Second Sino-Japanese War
, are becoming viewed as cliched and propagandistic because the party's requirements are a bit inflexible (The Paragon
/ Inspirational Martyr
and dedicated Communist Party Member fights the Japanese) and so few true stories meet themnote
The Cultural Revolution
was an extreme manifestation of China's Cultural Cringe. The Revolution saw the country's teenagers being swept up into a grassroots anti-feudal and anti-imperialist movement that targeted the people closest to them - their managers, their teachers, their parents - for their supposedly archaic and anti-societal values. We don't have figures for the numbers of people interrogated, tortured, and beaten to death in the so-called '(Revolutionary) Struggle Sessions' by mobs of angry kids but we do know it was at least a few tens of thousands. Less important but also targeted were symbols of feudal and imperialist society - books, plays, music, art, religious and archaeological sites and artifacts. At one point, out of a potential/'feudal' repertoire of several thousand, precisely eight
plays could be legally performed. In the time since, the Revolution has become a new source of the Cringe in China.
China is also heavily polluted and overcrowded. Many of its people work in intolerable sweatshop conditions. Chinese parents are also starting to turn against China's Education Mama
culture. The book A Good Mom is Better Than a Good Teacher
spent quite some time on the bestseller list.
Despite (or perhaps because of) 19th/20th Century Neo-Confucianism's emphasis on harmony and politeness, many Chinese view their countrymen as rude and selfish. Check out this
article in which Chinese citizens marvel at how Japanese Politeness
kept things orderly during the 2011 earthquake and wonder how much worse things would be if a similar earthquake had happened in China.
Much of China's Cringe is exemplified in this
satirical essay that went viral on Sina Weibo, China's equivalent of Twitter.
There are also divisions by region and language. A viral video
of a subway argument illustrates the disputes between the people of Hong Kong and mainland Chinese. Some Hong Kongers see mainlanders as rude, unrefined "locusts" who come to the city in droves to take advantage of its resources, not leaving enough for the locals. It is becoming increasingly common for people from Hong Kong to identify themselves as Hong Kongers rather than Chinese.
Some mainlanders believe that Hong Kongers are snooty, unpatriotic, "unfilial children" because they often speak poor Mandarin and are "running dogs" who follow British cultural norms leftover from their days as a colony.
There is also resentment between the wealthier, urbanized coastal regions and the poorer, rural interior regions. Some coastal Chinese view rural areas as the place where the embarrassing parts of old China, such as superstition and sexism, persist. In return, rural Chinese resent the coastal Chinese for their prosperity and perceived preferential treatment by the government.
Taiwan is much the same in attitudes toward the mainland - even more so, thanks to Patriotic Fervor
, as nationalism gets tossed into the usual stereotypes. It's not uncommon to see internet flame wars between netizens of the two - though Taiwan also struggles with an identity of its own, as the younger generation slowly takes on Japanese and other Asian trends. This is a holdover from World War II
, as Taiwan was much, much more accepting of Japanese rule, taking on dialects from Japan.
the Cringe in France
Yes, the cringe does exist in France. No, it's not because of Cheese-Eating Surrender Monkeys
(in fact, that last one may be a surprisingly serious Berserk Button
, because it's often Artistic License – History
), though some French people resent the fact that the French-speaking world could have been much larger than it is today, if not for many unfortunate historical events. Think that France is located between Britain and Spain, two countries with a much larger cultural/linguistic influence. Also, while they tend to find their own country as beautiful, with varied environments, they don't feel the same way about the rest of the French-speaking world. They see Belgium as a flat, boring land with dismal weather (but with funny people), Switzerland as a landlocked mountainous region with not much else to see, Quebec as a not-so-attractive place (except for work) with long, harsh winters, and French-speaking Africa as extremely underdeveloped, with all the dangers of the tropics.
Depending on who you ask, French people will also find their own country too statist/xenophobic/socially conservative/not well governed compared to their neighbours, with incompetent/irresponsible/corrupt politicians (or even sportsmen, or entire media) and inconsistent/bureaucratic institutions.
In particular, the country tends to be sharply divided politically, and any kind of political reform seems always surprisingly hard to implement. Though many, if not most, French people accept demonstrations and strikes as a part of national culture, even they
find that sometimes, too much is too much.
These are some of the reasons French people seriously fear the long-term decline of French culture ; ironically, much of this fear is also a reaction against government efforts initially intended to promote
French culture, as many French find these efforts to be ill-advised in some way or another ; for example, French people often find they have much unoriginal music, and fictions of deplorable quality (especially less than stellar TV series), with an overabundance of pseudo-auteur films
aimed at an urban upper class audience and bad comedies aimed at uncultured people
Other sources of the cringe may include a bad/unoriginal sense for everyday fashion, general conformism, or the fact that their country is populated by too many French Jerk
s – yes, they're conscious of that stereotype, and they deplore it.
Once again, the USA an France share several causes of cringe : politically, a left-wing that thinks France is being too corporate and sees Nordic Countries/Socialist Latin American Countries as better examples of socialism, versus what they see to be a xenophobic/reactionary
right and far-right ; culturally, among geeks, seeing British and Japanese (and, in the case of France, American) pop-culture as superior to their own.
The Cringe in Germany
The Cringe in Israel
The Cringe in Israel originates in the fact that it is a very small, young country. There's been a long movement in favour of domestic arts (and has produced some great work), but an Israeli thinking of Israeli culture is still likely to think first and foremost of arsim and frekhot
. Even national media has tended to overwhelmingly embrace American culture rather indiscriminately: Community
is extremely popular, but so were the Black Eyed Peas
in their prime.
- There's also a massive Cringe among some Russian Israelis who claim that Israel is an uncultured barbarous land; however, this is a subversion, as those Russians don’t associate themselves with Israel but with Russia.
- As with far-left Americans, there is a culture of refusniks - far-left draft-dodgers, usually radicals or peace activists - who view Israel as war-mongering.
Aside from this there are also ethnic groups in Israel with this sense of cringe regarding other groups, notably with Mizrakhi Jews who associate their own heritage with barbarous Lower-Class Lout
behaviour and ‘Azhkenazihood’ with civility.
the Cringe in Italy
Italians nowadays think themselves as the Butt Monkey
of Western world, because of the extreme level of corruption among politicians and top-managers, that with The Mafia
make a compact block of Always Chaotic Evil
embodied by Silvio Berlusconi (who, weirdly, abroad is more famous for the sexual promiscuity than for his white-collar trials). Sadly, is not uncommon for Italians who are abroad being recognized as Italian and addressed with "Berlusconi", "Mafia", etc.
People who complains about this are generally left-winged politically, who are accused by right-wing of "anti-Italianism". On the other hand, they complain about others' national proud as empty and fake (if any: patriotism is here an unknown concept, and we argued a lot if we needed to celebrate 150 Years of Unification). Many Italians think they have what deserve, and Italy actually does love mafia, corruption etc., to the point of selling themed merchandising (you can find a The Godfather
t-shirt virtually in every tourist shop in Sicily).
Other major cause of cringe are the dumbness of Italian shows (and dubbing), always getting to the Lowest Common Denominator
and the general inability of "sell" Italy abroad. Italians think Italy care so little about its cultural heritage they don't deserve it.
You may notice that USA and Italy share several causes of Cringe (mainly, the "It's all Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll
now damn it!" vs "It's all racist bigot redneck scum damn it!"). Actually, another typical feeling in Italy is that it's culturally and politically (not to say linguistically) an USA colony and can't think originally anymore.
The Cringe in Japan
As noted belownote
, Japan has a relatively low sense of national pride. Much of this comes from Japan's desire to modernize in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, which resulted in them importing technology and culture from the West. Symbols of their old culture were seen as embarrassing. For example, in 1863, a group of Japanese students visited a theater in Holland, wearing hats to cover their topknots. As hats weren't allowed in the theater, the students were forced to take them off. Their hairstyles caused the audience to burst out laughing and the play had to be stopped early
. As Japan sought to modernize, many Japanese began wearing Western clothing and hairstyles in the hopes of toning down the feudalism of their old culture. The Emperor cut his own topknot in 1873 and banned topknots for all Japanese except sumo wrestlers in 1876
. And speaking of sumo wrestlers, some younger wrestlers have lobbied to exchange the traditional mawashi for outfits that more closely resemble shorts.
Another source of the cringe is the 6+ million people who died in faminesnote
resulting from the Japanese Army's destruction or theft of their food-crops, the c.5-10 million Chinese refugees who died of disease and exposure after fleeing the Japanese occupied zones, the million or so civilians killed during anti-partisan actions throughout East and SE Asia, the hundreds of thousands of POW worked to death or murdered out of hand, the tens of thousands enslaved by the Army Recreation Centers to serve as outlets for sexual frustration among their troops ('Comfort Women'), and the several thousand used for biological weapons research and live human experimentationnote
. Some Japanese school textbooks pretend the numbers of dead were lower or that some bad things that Japan did didn't happen at all - though only a handful of schools have actually bought and used these books. Most of these books, though, do try to make the whole 'killing millions of people through selfishness and xenophobic hatred' thing look a whole lot cleaner and more excusable than it really was. One sticking point is the fact that no Japanese government has apologised for the country's wartime conduct, even though many high-ranking politicians (including numerous Prime Ministers) have done so on the de facto
(but not official
) behalf of The Japanese People. Doing so hasn't been a career-ending move for any of them, so people outside Japan are a little skeptical that it's just 'not wanting to look bad' that's keeping Japanese governments from going the whole way and just wrapping it up already. Interestingly, it's not hard to find Japanese actors willing to act as villains in Chinese or Korean movies about Imperial Japan
during the Second Sino-Japanese War
and World War II
More interesting still, this has caused outrage among xenophobic ultranationalists who are slowly gaining notoriety for the way they keep coming out with new 'revisionist' textbooks and making callous, inaccurate, and callously inaccurate statements note that they genuinely believe
. In 2013, one hard-right mayor
went so far as to say that even if their country really did kill 10-20 million people in all sorts of horrible ways
, it was all for a good cause
A further aggravating factor is the weak economic growth associated with the Lost Decade that followed the early 1990s bubble burst, as well as Japan's motor vehicle and electronics giants losing market share to its Asian neighbours in recent years.
The Cringe in Mexico
Although probably every Third World Country suffers from the Cringe, in Mexico
's case having more than a thousand miles of a shared border with the
world's biggest economic, military, and culturally hegemonic superpower certainly doesn't help. The sting is not lessened by that border's history and by the fact that the differences in favor of the USA were noticeable almost from the get-go more than 150 years ago. In fact the Cringe is so exacerbated that it gets its very own word: Malinchismo
, which doesn't exist anywhere else in the Spanish speaking world.note
The Cringe in New Zealand
This has particularly been the case in New Zealand outside of the sports arena, where anti-intellectualism
has been a long tradition. Many actors, musicians, writers, and other talented New Zealanders have often been ignored in their home country - that is, until the Americans, British, and Australians start developing a fan base
. The 'Maori renaissance' since the 1980s has also left mainstream New Zealand culture unsure of its place in modern New Zealand, to the point where accusations of Political Correctness Gone Mad
- The Flight of the Conchords are a case in point - rejected by national broadcasters, they went to America and made it big. Only then did NZ broadcasters take notice.
- Public broadcasting as a whole has been accused of this since the late 1980s, and not without justifcation.
- Split Enz, the first New Zealand rock band to make it big globally, relocated to Australia, and later Britain, in the 1970s and 1980s to achieve global exposure, only to later return to New Zealand for good as successful solo artists.
- Comedian John Clarke avoided the same with his popular alter ego "Fred Dagg" on TV in the 1970s, but later it hit when his show was cancelled and he booked a one-way ticket to Australia at the end of the decade.
Cultural cringe in New Zealand is also prevalent in the economic debate, especially since the loss of guaranteed agricultural exports to Britain in 1973, and the subsequent upheaval of economic deregulation in the 1980s and early 1990s. Many New Zealanders of a free-market persuasion point to their country's position near the top of the OECD in the 1950s
, and what they see as the subsequent decline. They commonly cite the 'brain drain' of highly-skilled New Zealanders for 'greener pastures' overseas and the fear of NZ joining the ranks of the Third World, as justification for further deregulation, as well as pointing the finger at Tall Poppy Syndrome
. Those on the other side of the debate typically accuse the economic rationalists of cargo-cultism
and expecting Uncle Sam to come to New Zealand's military and financial rescue
, with a case in point being NZ's anti-nuclear stance with the US. They also point to many of the aforementioned high-skilled New Zealanders returning home after a stint overseas, while still acknowledging the brain-drain.
Yet there have been notable aversions. Comedian Billy T James pushed many envelopes in his day, and much of it attributable to his self-deprecating
Maori humour. Sadly it didn't last, after his heart stopped beating
in 1991. More recently, Peter Jackson has made it big with the Lord of the Rings
trilogy, after a period of indie film-making to build up his reputation. Additionally, Lorde
has made it big on the global music stage.
The Cringe in Norway
Because of four centuries living under other countries (first Denmark, then Sweden), Norwegians have a huge
inferiority complex. The result is usually a tendency to establish every other nation as better than themselves, and can
result in some major political screw-ups, because any
idea figured out by USA/Sweden/France/Germany (take a pick) is better than anything the Norwegians can come up with themselves
. Cue a lot of confusion when the Americans/Swedes/french/germans actually abandon
that particular train of thought because it didn`t work. Norway will happily try it for another decade, no matter how lame it is. American ideas have been particularly popular.
- When Norway was trying to (emphasis on trying) to celebrate their centennial as a free nation in 2005, a debate occured, whether the jubilee should be labeled a "celebration" or just a "markation" of some kind. It seemed the government actually tried to avoid not offending Sweden, because Norway had broken up with them in 1905. The government also tried to avoid celebrating the break-up of a union, as the EU question was rather difficult, and the same government wanted to join. The whole discussion earned a lot of snarking, and a public feeling Norway actually had nothing to celebrate at all. Hilarity ensued when a Swedish newspaper pointed out that the Norwegian break-up actually encouraged the Swedish democracy to develop. The Norwegian officials went dead silent.
The Cringe in the Philippines
The Cringe in the Philippines comes from centuries of rule by foreign powers. Filipinos have often tried to imitate the culture and appearance of whatever empire was ruling over them at the time. An old urban legend states that Filipinos used to pinch their noses with clothes hangers to look more like the Spanish. Even today, Spanish names are common in the Philippines and 90% of Filipinos are Christian. Indigenous religions have almost completely faded away.
Japanese (and increasingly Korean) and Western (particularly American) culture have also become marks of status. Early Filipino films centered on American lifestyles and Western subject matters, such as the European medieval era. Many Filipinos pride themselves on their ability to speak English or Japanese (the less accent the better), embracing Japanese or Western culture, visiting these countries, or having foreign-looking features such as lighter skin. Check out the celebrities section of the Philippines
page and see for yourself how many of the country's most famous celebrities are light-skinned or foreign-looking. Products like skin-whitening soap are popular. A Filipina-American discusses this belief here
. See also But Not Too Black
An unfortunate reaction to this Filipino cultural cringe is when Filipinos promote their own cultural things or inventions, the Filipino netizens will defend and troll foreigners who may legitimately criticize it for quality reasons - a trend that unfortunately pops up with other Asian nationalist beliefs.
the Cringe in Romania
- When Romanian scientists are compared to foreign scientists, it was usually the foreign scientists who are treated better than the Romanian ones. Same applies to Romanian artists, musicians, and the like.
The Cringe in Russia
Russia has also long struggled with a Cultural Cringe. Up to this day, the country's intelligentsia proudly upholds a 200-year old tradition of scorning their country's "backward" culture and "atrocious history" and their people's "brutish" mores while literally gushing about the "civilized", "democratic" and "tolerant" West. To cite an infamous example: in The Nineties
, Vladimir Pozner, a then-popular talk show host, suggested that the country's history and culture would have gone the "right way" if the country had adopted Protestantism as a state religion... back in 988note
. What's interesting, while Pozner isn't really Russian
(he's half-French and have spent much of his life in France), this position is very
widespread in the educated circles. On the other hand, they're also Slavophiles, who're just as bad.
The aforementioned tradition may be older than 200 years. Fast Westernization that started under Peter the Great, cultural distance between landowners and serfs, and willing inclusion of foreign families into the Russian ruling class led to the situation where members of Russian noble families did not speak Russian
. Books and conversations were in French, which explains the first pages of War and Peace
. During Napoleonic wars, this suddenly became unpatriotic, and many young men and women started to take lessons from their family serfs.
A somewhat more mainstream view is that something is not quite right with the modern
Russian society and/or culture, but people tend to have huge disagreements as to when exactly it "all went wrong". The most widely discussed positions are "If only the Soviet Union never broke up
" and "If only the October Revolution never happened
", but it is possible to find Russians arguing for pretty much every turning point in Russian history, from the invitation of the Viking prince Rurik
to the lands of the East Slavs in 862, to the invasions of the Mongol Horde, to the disappointing performance of Russian football and winter Olympic teams
in 2009 and 2010, respectively.
The Cringe in Spain
Spain was always a country full of Cultural Cringe, but it was turned Up to Eleven
after the "Generation of '98", the cultural movement that came right after Spain lost all of its American colonies in the Spanish-American War in 1898.
Spain's national pride hit rock bottom, despite the elites who were sure that the country would recover its former glory soon enough. However, the low and middle classes never truly believed it, seeing the country as decadent, corrupt and self-indulging. Francisco Franco tried to restore the national pride during his dictatorship, but he only managed to make things worse
. The fact that his sort of nationalism was completely obsolete in the post-World War II world didn't help either.
After the transition to democracy in the late 1970s, Spain regained some confidence, but its self-esteem never truly recovered. Even during the mid-2000s, when Spain became the 8th biggest economy in the world, many leftist and centrist Spaniards still saw Spain as a Third World country, more suited for Africa than for Europe (making reference to an old French insult for Spain that said that "Africa starts at the Pyrenees"). And now that Spain is in the middle of a huge, long economic crisis, many people believe that the cultural sentiment of the Generation of '98 is back again, probably even stronger. Case in point, a current popular derogatory nickname for Spain used by Spaniards is "Españistán", a portmanteau of "España" and "Afghanistan" created by a popular YouTube video
that explains the reasons of said economic crisis.
The sources for Spain's Cultural Cringe are countless. For starters, the absurd high levels of corruption, not only in politics, but in pretty much everything that resembles an important hierarchy structure. Whereas people in the United States get rich so that they can afford to run for office, people in Spain run for office so that they can get rich (often by illegal means). The Spanish word for "business owner" ("empresario") has negative connotations for similar reasons. And the worst part? When these cases of corruption are discovered and even made public, perpetrators walk away most of the time.
Also, like in Germany, waving the national flag outside of sport events is a big no-no. If you do so, you risk accusations of being a fascist and/or a Franco supporter (Yes, even if he's still dead
). This is especially problematic in regions with independent leanings, like the Basque Country or Catalonia.
Spanish people also have a very low self-esteem when it comes to their own products outside of food: if it's "Made in Spain", it cannot be good. Ever. note
The same for cultural products, like movies, TV shows or music, which are mostly seen as inherently inferior than productions from other countries (this is part of the reason why Pedro Almodovar
has a better reputation overseas than in Spain, for example). In the most extreme cases, even Spain's cultural legacy, which is considered one of the richest in the world, has a poor reputation.
Related to the former is the sense that Spain is totally lacking in innovative and entrepreneurial spirit. Miguel de Unamuno, one of the most prominent writers of the aforementioned Generation of '98, once summed up this sore point with the epithet "¡Que inventen ellos!" ("May others invent!"), which reached Memetic Mutation
status. If you are a Spaniard who dreams of becoming a famous scientist, you know that eventually you will be forced to get the hell out of Spain, since you will never get the funding or the resources you need otherwise.
The Cringe in the United States
Over the past few centuries, the United States has struggled with a Cultural Cringe of its own. In its early years, this Cringe manifested in a "colonial mentality" towards Britain. Benjamin Franklin went as far as to apologize to the Scottish philosopher David Hume for using what were then Americanisms in a pamphlet (including "colonize" and "unshakable").
As time went on, Americans moved away from regarding British culture as setting the standard, although foreign plaudits have grown quite strong in many aspects of modern American culture—one common claim being that the United States has no
unique history or culture, and that all of it was stolen from elsewhere (although this one's faded a little now that we have developed uniquely American art forms, Jazz and Comic books being the two most described.) Foreign media and pop culture (particularly Japanese and British) are regarded as superior to American varieties; it is difficult
pulling off geek-cred without being a fan of something either British (Doctor Who
) or Japanese (Anime, Tokusatsu). American television, be it news or entertainment, is commonly damned by many Americans as unoriginal, cheap, vapid, and sensationalistic. Watching foreign films as opposed to Hollywood movies is seen as a mark of having better education. "Ethnic" cuisine is considered better than Anglo-American cuisine. Any time an American company decided to remake a foreign concept for American audiences, the initial response will be lukewarm at best and scathing at worst, with people wondering why we can't do anything original anymore. Even the American TV system
isn't looked upon very highly, with the constant desperate fight for the highest possible ratings leaving people feeling like intelligent, well-written shows (and news media, to a lesser extent) don't stand a chance unless filled with gratuitous sex, violence, and bathroom humor pandering to the Lowest Common Denominator (the fact that this has been proven true
on occasion, such as "Borg Babe" Seven of Nine saving Star Trek: Voyager
from an early cancellation, doesn't help matters.) American automobiles are also regarded as inferior to foreign ones—Japanese cars are considered better in terms of efficiency and European cars better in terms of luxury, the only real realm American cars can win in is power, with "good ol' American muscle cars" still being seen as king.
American self-image has also struggled since the Iraq War
, which in their country has stirred up a political storm akin to the one they had in Vietnam
. In social situations with foreigners it's not uncommon for Americans to refer to their country as if it were America The Boorish
(in other words, the "brainless obese barbarians
" flavor) and express loathing for their more militaristic and jingoistic countrymen
. It is not at all uncommon, especially on the Internet, for Americans with left-leaning views (socialists, anarchists, communists) to lament that their country is seemingly run by crazy religious fundamentalists
in alliance with an oligarchy of Corrupt Corporate Executivesnote
, supported by a willfully ignorant, moronic, exploitive, and greedy middle class that gorges itself on soulless, commercialized pop culture, all of which needs to be burned down.
These left-wing Americans will then hold up either the Nordic countries in Europe with very strong government control or Socialist "Bolivarian" Latin American Countries (Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador) as examples of countries that are better than America in every way, often ignoring the inconvenient facts that their societal models aren't universally applicable and the latter places have problems of their own . Many will outright reject any "Americana" with subversive counterculture and actions (flag burning, "fuck America", punk rock
, "culture jamming", et cetera).
Right-wing Americans who buy into the cultural cringe, on the other hand, tend to take the tack that America is in a moral or spiritual decay brought on by the spread of godless hedonism through public education, declining religious affiliation, and Hollywood / rock and roll / video games / the Internet
, or even the way that women and homosexuals and people of non-European ethnicity have been made full citizens with the same rights under the law as the country's male ethnic-European population - and damn that Obummer for letting in darkies to steal our jobs!note
During the worst parts of the economic crisis, this became so prevalent that people on both sides of the political spectrum started to claim that the country was in irreversible decline
and doomed to go The Way Of Rome (ignoring the thousand-year continuation of the Roman Empire in what we call 'The Byzantine Empire' and various other nations inheriting a bit of Rome's power, and so on). This has even gotten to the point that many, many Americans fear that their government would gradually erase their freedoms and create a totalitarian nightmare (fascist, socialist, or any other strawman here
) that would make Oceania
look like the Boy Scouts.
This humbler sense of self-worth is also appearing in American media: National Stereotyping Tropes
like America Saves the Day
are not simply being averted, but subverted more often. In many cases America is a Failure Hero
(for example, the plots of Modern Warfare
and the Red Alert
series of Command & Conquer
, where the U.S. causes problems or makes them worse, leaving heroes of other countries to clean up the mess), as making America an out-and-out hero would anger a great many people both at home and abroad - if only because of the hundreds of thousands of people the country's military's has killed in living memory e.g. The Vietnam War
. Increasingly American media tends towards a more mature mix of both Eagleland
flavors (usually of the "America isn't perfect, but we try" variety) - one that is unsurprisingly rather palatable to the 95% of people who are not Americans (and many Americans too), who like to think that the people of the United States are like any other i.e. fundamentally good
, if sheltered and ill-led.
Changes in the Cringe
conducted by the Reputation Institute
shows how Cultural Cringe
among nations has changed in recent years; it appears now that Canadians and Australians lead the pack for those who have the most Patriotic Fervor
for their country, while Americans (who are traditionally mocked for having "a flag on every building") are actually in the middle of the pack, near Russia in terms of national pride. Japan, it seems, is the country that now suffers most from the Cringe. Further details on the study can be found here
It's important to note that none of the counties in that study put themselves below 50, suggesting that even with the cringe, on average most people everywhere have a respect for their country.
Works involving Cultural Cringe
Anime and Manga
Live Action TV
- "American Idiot", a song by American band Green Day. The title says all you need to know.
- "America (Fuck Yeah)", the theme song to Team America: World Police, lists several "American" things including porno, fake tits, McDonald's, and slavery.
- Dominican Boy of WWC is so named because he hate admitting to being Puerto Rican.
- During his stand-up special, comedian John Oliver quips that it's "impossible for me as a British citizen to go into any museum in any nation on the planet Earth without, within five minutes, starting to feel guilty."