Every once in awhile, someone manages to overcome Creator Provincialism
and make a show that takes place in a foreign country or other exotic locale and focuses on foreign characters. However, they often can't resist making some reference or connection to their home country. This can be as small as an offhand reference or as large as arbitrarily including a character from that area.
Basically, this is about stories that take place in other countries and focus on characters from other countries, but still mention the author or audience's home country in a non-plot-essential way. Basically a Shout-Out
to the home country.
Related to But Not Too Foreign
(foreign character has a "local" connection) and Foreign Correspondent
(viewpoint character is a foreigner to the story's setting).
Anime and Manga
- The first Fullmetal Alchemist anime had one single offhand reference to an "eastern island" from which Shōgi was imported.
- In JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, Hirohiko Araki always includes references to Japan or Japanese characters in every story arc from Episode 3 on, whether the story is set in Japan or not. Some can be pretty sneaky references only people with knowledge of Japanese culture might get (Example: Guido Mista's belief in Four Is Death).
- in Bad Santa, Willie is asked by a kid what the North Pole is like. As the movie takes place in Arizona, Willie replies: "Apache Junction," which is commonly associated with rednecks and trailer parks.
- Finding Nemo director Andrew Stanton is from Rockport, Massachusetts, so he included several references to it, including lamp replicas of two lighthouses in nearby Thacher Island and a photograph of "Motif Number One", a local landmark, as well as lobsters with thick "Bahston" accents.
- The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. At the request of studio executives, the League included an American (Secret Service Agent Sawyer) so American audiences would have someone to identify with.
- In The Matrix The Wachowskis (who hail from Chicago) make reference to "the Loop" and various other downtown Chicago place names including Balbo Drive - Chicago is the only major city in the world with a street named Balbo. (Named after Mussolini's heir apparent during the 1933 "Century of Progress" Worlds Fair, on the occasion of his transatlantic flight from Rome to Chicago.)
- In the 2009 Sherlock Holmes movie, the villain mentions during his Evil Gloating that he has plans to take over America as well as Britain. Justified as he was attempting to anger an American ambassador in that scene to further his plan.
- Kevin Smith, a Jersey native, regularly makes nods to his home state, from mentioning local landmarks (e.g.: Monmouth College—now Monmouth University—is mentioned a couple of times Clerks and Mallrats, and most obviously the Quick Stop and RST Video stores in which the former mostly takes place) to towns that nobody outside the state could reasonably be expected to have heard of (Leonardo, both the setting and filming location of Clerks, the suburb of Toms River being turned into the Temple of Doom in Clerks: The Animated Series).
- Alfonso Cuarón included a few nods to his native Mexico in Harry Potter And Theprisoner Of Azkaban. For example, the courtyard fountain has four statues of an eagle eating a snake,◊ a reference to the Mexican coat of arms.
- Mary Poppins references the Boston Tea Party as the last thing to have caused a run on Fidelity Fiduciary Bank:
Mr. Dawes Jr: In 1773, an official of this bank unwisely loaned a large sum of money to finance a shipment of tea to the American colonies. Do you know what happened?
Mr. Banks: Yes, sir. Yes, I think I do. As the ship lay in Boston harbor, a party of the colonists dressed as Red Indians, uh, boarded the vessel, behaved very rudely, and threw all the tea overboard. This made the tea unsuitable for drinking, even for Americans.
Mr. Dawes Jr: Precisely. The loan was defaulted. Panic ensued within these walls. There was a run on the bank!
Mr. Dawes Sr: From that time to this, sir, there has not been a run on this bank. Until today!
- Jules Verne was a French author who wrote in French. Many of his stories had minor (at least non-protagonist) French characters alongside protagonists of other nationalities. Examples are Michel Ardan in From the Earth to the Moon and Jean Passepartout in Around the World in 80 Days.
- Averted in another Verne work, The Voyages and Adventures of Captain Hatteras. Verne's editor wanted him to include a French sailor in the crew, but Verne was determined to make it an entirely "English" story. (However, translator and editor William Butcher notes that Captain Hatteras himself displays traditionally "French" characteristics in his temperament, etc.)
- Author Patrick O'Brian's Irish ancestry and his move to a Catalan town in his youth show up in the character of Stephen Maturin, as part of the Aubrey-Maturin series.
- The Horatio Hornblower series of books and movies largely went out of their way to avoid referencing conflict between the United States of America and the British Empire, due to CS Forester's biggest market being the United States. It was also important for a variety of political reasons, given that the books were published during World War II and the early parts of the Cold War. The end result is that we largely never see the Americans, save for a number of cameos in various books, the most important such cameo being the USS Constitution in Hornblower And The Hotspur (changed to USS Liberty in the televised adaptation, Hornblower: Duty.)
- Rome, despite being a BBC co-production with an almost full British cast and using different British accents to denote class differences between the characters, was notoriously devoid of references to the British Isles... except for one. When Agrippa declares his love for Octavia, he says that he would willingly travel to Hell, or even worse, Britannia, for her.
- They actually missed on a good chance to have British (Brittonnic) characters when they had Pompey send blue-coated warriors to steal the eagle of Caesar's legion as a way to humiliate them, but made them Spanish even though this custom was only practiced in the British Isles (the first to write about it was none other than Caesar himself).
- Da Yoopers are fond of making references with strong ties to Yooper culture (i.e., the Upper Peninsula [UP] of Michigan). For example, "Rusty Chevrolet" references IGA grocery stores (which are numerous in the UP) and Shopko, a discount department store chain prominent in the Upper Midwest.
- In Fiddler on the Roof, Tevye has a brother-in-law in America, and several Anatevkans set off for there at the end. When Tevye hears that his daughter Tzeitel and Motel have pledged marriage to each other, he goes into an angry monologue in which he turns directly to the Fourth Wall and asks: "Where do they think they are? America?"
- In The Mikado, when Ko-Ko needs to give an alibi for Nanki-Poo's disappearance, he says that he's gone abroad and living in Knightsbridge, a district in London which at the time of The Mikado's premiere was the site of a "Japanese village" exhibit. Newer productions generally substitute some local neighborhood for the reference.
- Gilbert also has the daughters of the King in Utopia, Ltd. educated in England as an excuse for introducing English characters into the fictional South Sea island.
- In an ironic subversion, Julia Jellicoe, the English actress working in the mythical Teutonic Grand Duchy of Pfennig-Halfpfennig in The Grand Duke, was played by a German actress!
- William Shakespeare did this all the time. For example, in Hamlet, the king decides to send Hamlet to England because he is insane. The rationale is that Hamlet can recover there, and if he doesn't, nobody will notice since Englishmen are all mad anyway.
- The main character in David Mitchell's number9dream (set in Tokyo) lives above and works part-time at a video store that seems to specialize in foreign movies, allowing lots of references to Western pop culture.
- In My Fair Lady, Professor Higgins sings that, "There even are places where English completely disappears / In America, they haven't used it for years!" The play is, of course, an American musical adaptation of Pygmalion.
- The Sakura Wars games set in France (3) and New York (Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love, Kimi Aru ga Tame) always include one Japanese party member besides the always-Japanese PC (the player is supposed to identify with him, after all).
- Around the World with Willy Fog, a Spanish Animated Adaptation of Around the World in 80 Days, adds a Spanish character, Tico, to the adventurers' party. At one point the heroes also encounter a Spanish balloonist, whom Tico enthusiastically greets as a compatriot.
- Animaniacs: When Rita and Runt go to Iraq, Rita sings that it doesn't look like Burbank, more like Van Nuys. (Both are suburbs of Los Angeles. You can guess which one has higher property values.) The reference to Burbank can be justified by the Warner Bros. water tower being there in Real Life.
- Beavis and Butt-Head at one point, encounters a VERY obscure, head-scratching example of this that left many viewers completely baffled and unaware of the meaning behind a single line for years. During one of their Music Video commentary segments, Beavis and Butt-Head watch a scene with elderly people. Beavis quips the line "I've got the V-C-Arrrrrr!!!" (VCR) in an extremely sarcastic voice. Butt-Head responds more or less with "Uhh What the hell are you talking about?". Beavis insists that it came from those old people "from that commercial.". Butt-Head insists that Beavis is making things up and he has no idea what he's talking about, he's never heard it before, and to shut up. Most viewers for the longest time had no idea what he meant by "I've Got The VCR". Especially anybody outside of a specific county in Texas where a certain mercilessly overplayed amateurish local electronics store commercial from the early 90's, originated from.
- The Ren & Stimpy Show character "George Liquor", (who only showed up in a handful of episodes, and whose actual name was never completely said to the audience due to some Executive Meddling by Nickelodeon censors) has a very strange name. The origin of the name, however, was the creator, John Kricfalusi, having seen the street sign for a local liquor store in Van Nuys, California (Where Kricfalusi lived at the time while pre-developing the series) that read "GEORGE LIQUOR". John K was astounded, and immensely amused by the liquor store owner not even bothering to have so much as an "'s" in the title to declare ownership of the liquor store as "George's Liquor" and the name stuck.