"Don't wanna be an American idiot
"Don't want a nation under the new media
"Hey, can you hear the sound of hysteria?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" was:
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, Shine 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". In fact, many Australians (and much of the national Australian media) seem to positively subvert this trope, with Australian sports commentators continually asserting the superiority of Australian competitors above all others, and TV commercials in particular being over-patriotic to the point of nausea. A drop in ratings for American shows in favour of Australian ones also started to emerge around the mid-2010s. 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 trope exists). 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 embarrassment). 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 sometimes. In fact, Welsh, English, Scottish and Northern Irish identities all have separate cringe-factors of their own — Scots, Welsh, and Northern Irish people can feel powerless and insignificant because of England's political dominance, while English people are often cast in the role of permanent "evil overlords." On the flip side, however, many people exhibit British cultural cringe while being rather proud of their own distinct country.
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 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. Even the President of China has asked his countrymen to be more polite while traveling overseas. 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 Finland
Finland didn't have literacy until Crusaders (mostly from Sweden) brought it and Christianity with them in the 1200s. Although Finnish history stretches back to the ice age and ancient Finns used to trade with Rome and participate in Viking excursions and so on, there basically wasn't a central state or a unified culture at all. The Swedes had an easy time conquering Finland. Finland was part of Sweden until 1809, when Russia invaded Sweden (and thus Finland) and annexed Finland. Finland declared independence in 1917, when Russia was too weak to interfere. After independence Finland was invaded by the USSR twice (1939 and 1941), and lost a lot of land - including a region that was central to Finnish culture - but the USSR didn't manage to occupy Finland or to pick the sort of government Finland would have after the war. They did, though, get to have massive influence on Finnish politics that didn't end until the USSR was dissolved. Because of this, Finns feel that they've existed between various larger regional powers, and consequently been invaded and ruled by them for most of their history. This is probably why they're often quite scared of getting invaded by Russia. As a culture Finns feel that they're depressed and afraid, and constantly worried that they're entirely unremarkable and insignificant in every way and will soon disappear completely. While Finns take great pride in the achievements of famous and important Finnish people (and these days companies) and especially in the justice and welfare that their society has generally been able to build, that pride is largely a reaction to their perceived insignificance. Finns ask foreigners who visit Finland if they liked it, and suspect that they didn't but they're too polite to tell. Finland is considered one of the Nordic welfare states, but Finns have a massive inferiority complex with the other Nordic countries because they're perceived as more wealthy, educated, and "European". (Probably better looking, as well.) Finns view themselves as basically a small tribe of natives that has barely been able to assimilate into European - or Western - culture.
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 Jerks – 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
This was the case for decades as far as anything even distantly related to the man with the moustache and his plans for the non-German peoples of the world and certain ethnic groups found largely but not exclusively in central-eastern Europe (and one ethnic-religious group in particular) are concerned. More broadly, this same gentleman and his actions almost permanently ruined patriotism in Germany. Germans can be proud of the Dichter And Denker, but in the same way that one is proud of a famous person from one's home town who went elsewhere: they are considered great people for the world, who happened to be from Germany, rather than great Germans. Flag-waving outside a sporting context is a particular no-no, and overt patriotism gets the same reactions as in America (i.e.: viewed as ignorantly nationalistic and xenophobic). Within the last decade or so, however, Germans have gradually begun to be prouder of Germany for Germany—but it's still far less than most other countries.
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.
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 complain 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 pride 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 the 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 causes 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 it certainly doesn't help sharing more than a thousand miles of border with the world's biggest economic, military, and culturally hegemonic superpower. 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 are common.
- 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.
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 occurred, 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 '90s, 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 Almodóvar 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 sensationalist. Watching foreign films as opposed to Hollywood movies is seen as a mark of having better education. Foreign English-language news sources like The BBC and The Guardian are considered more trustworthy than American ones. "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 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, exploitative, 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). A lot of left-wing white Americans also feel cringe at an ethnic level, as several of America's most distinctive musical forms: Jazz, Rock & Roll and Hip Hop were created by African-Americans, as well as the fact that the country is still dealing with the effects of slavery and Jim Crow. The attention toward police shootings of black people show that racism is still a major problem in the U.S. 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 of 1984 look like the Boy Scouts. This low sense of self-worth is also showing up in American media; National Stereotyping Tropes like America Saves the Day are not simply being averted, but brutally and humiliatingly subverted more often (witness the plots of Modern Warfare and the Red Alert and Generals series of Command & Conquer, where the United States seems to cause problems or make them worse, leaving heroes of other countries to clean up the mess).
Changes in the CringeThis survey 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
- This clip from The Newsroom in which an American gives America a "The Reason You Suck" Speech.
- This sketch from The Kids in the Hall.
- Scott Thompson transfers this trope to Canada (where KITH is produced) saying that Canadians burn their flags all the time—to keep warm. He then proceeds to pull a tiny Canadian flag out of his pocket and blow his nose into it.
- In Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, the English Oliver says in this video that Prime Minister David Cameron, a posh Southern Tory, "embodies all the things I hate about England and I'm English."
- 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."
- This essay, which went viral on Sina Weibo (the Chinese Twitter), satirizes Chinese culture by comparing it to American culture.
- The Onion: 'Captain Actual America' Overweight, Hopelessly In Debt.
- Captain America Statistics.