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Literature / America (The Book)

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I would certainly read this book if I were alive today, which, for all you geniuses out there, I am not.

America (The Book): A Citizen's Guide to Democracy Inaction is a Satire/Parody/Pastiche of high-school textbooks about the history of American democracy and politics by the writers of The Daily Show.

Now has a sequel of sorts: Earth (The Book): A Visitor's Guide to the Human Race.

Not to be confused with I Am America (And So Can You!) by Stephen Colbert.

This book provides examples of:

  • The Abridged History: pretty much what this book provides.
  • And All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt: The book has a photo of a 1800 presidential campaign shirt (fake, obviously) that reads "I endorsed the candidacy of Thomas Jefferson, for which I was inadequately compensated with this tunic of poor qualitie!"
  • Animeland: Japan, according to this book.
  • The Annotated Edition: The second printing of the book contains humorous "fact check" annotations in red ink.
  • Attack of the Political Ad: An entire page in the chapter on campaigning is dedicated to satirizing negative political advertising as well as highlighting some of its most famous Real Life examples. Among the book's surreal claims, a year after Lyndon Johnson's "Daisy" ad from the 1964 US Presidential election suggested that his opponent Barry Goldwater would start a nuclear war, Barry Goldwater started a nuclear war; Willie Horton was Michael Dukakis's running mate in 1988; and an underground smear campaign in ancient Rome depicted Caligula as "a pretty nice guy", to which it then said Caligula immediately went into "damage control" by publicly sodomizing a puppy.
  • Audio Adaptation: Mostly narrated by Jon Stewart with the chapter titles and some sections read by Stephen Colbert. Samantha Bee also narrates the "Would You Mind If I Told You How We Do It in Canada?" sections. Some parts are also read by Rob Corddry and Ed Helms.
  • Author Tract: Mallard Fillmore is mocked as one. The eponymous character rants about environmental regulations and income taxes until the last panel, in which he realizes that he forgot to tell a joke.
  • Balkanize Me: Parodied. The book claims that today, each resident of the former Yugoslavia "lives in the Independent Republic of Himself".
  • Blood on the Debate Floor: The book claims that after Preston Brooks beat Charles Sumner half to death on the Senate floor, only "wiffle canes" were allowed in the Senate.
  • Canada, Eh?: Canadian contributor Samantha Bee has a recurring feature called "Would You Mind If I Told You How We Do It in Canada?", mocking Canada's reputation for being polite, unassuming, and boring.
    • Don't forget her own full length book, Pardon Me, but May I Interest You in a Book About Canada?, advertised in the back.
    • And of course, New Zealand is mentioned in one sentence: "Australia's Canada".
  • Colon Cancer: Law & Order: Special Victims Unit: Molested Corpse: The Movie
  • Comically Missing the Point: The "corrections" in the Teachers' Edition.
  • Crapsack World: The portrait of future America, replete with zombie politicians, evil children, no water, and rampant obesity.
  • Dedication: To the huddled masses, keep yearnin'!
  • Dirty Coward: The book claims that while Nathan Hale did say "I only regret that I have but one life to give my country." he continued with "But what I really regret is that I'm giving it now." And then began the begging.
  • Drinking Game: Invoked. Page 66 provides a number of drinking games for C-SPAN. For instance, when members of Congress are forced to use polite terms (e.g. "my esteemed colleague") instead of calling each other assholes, drink.
    • That's called chugging...
  • Even the Subtitler Is Stumped: In the section about Australia, they attempt to translate the lyrics of "Waltzing Matilda". Whoever was writing ends up giving up when they can't figure out what the hell half the things in the song mean. "'English-speaking' country my ass."
  • Fan Disservice: Naked pictures of the Supreme Court Justices (of course not real, but their heads are imposed on naked bodies appropriate for their age and shape). This got it banned from Wal-Mart.
  • Fell Off the Back of a Truck: Source of swag for politicians who support organized labor.
  • Footnote Fever: The sidenotes are to keep up the illusion of being a school textbook, which often have all sorts of bizarre infoboxes in the margins. The footnotes are unexplainable except by Rule of Funny, however.
    • One of these was as follows.
      "Were You Aware?" That the term "Did You Know?" is copyrighted by another publisher?
    • It also has a faux essay on "How to Filibuster" that's basically a page of footnotes, footnotes within footnotes, symbols that look like footnotes within footnotes...
    • A later "Teacher's Edition" of the book adds another layer of commentary, in the form of angry red notes scrawled all through the book by a history professor who is almost but not quite aware that the book is comedy. He gives it a passing grade of B-.
  • George Washington Slept Here: Among the list of George Washington's achievements is "All-time record holder for Most Places Slept."
  • Hair of the Dog: The RNC schedule has a wake-up call at 7:15 am and "Hair of the Dog" at 7:16 am.
  • Helping Granny Cross the Street: Subverted in a section about campaign propaganda that claimed Caligula's enemies "smeared" his reputation as, well, with such accusations as helping an old lady across the Appian Way.
  • Hiroshima as a Unit of Measure: Parodied; trial coverage is measured in "Buttafuocos".
  • Historical Hilarity
  • The Internet Is for Porn: It referred to the Internet as a source of communication, information, and "a staggering array of human sexual fetish".
  • It's Not Porn, It's Art: The book mentions Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart's famous quote about recognizing pornography ("I know it when I see it") and adds: "Stewart spent the remainder of his judgeship obsessed with better defining pornography, eventually settling on slightly more graphic characterization: "that which gives me wood."
  • Missing White Woman Syndrome: Provides a handy formula for determining how much coverage your disappearance will get:
    "y = Family Income * (Abductee Cuteness/Skin Color)^2 + Length of Abduction * Media Savvy of Grieving Parents^3 (Where y = minutes of coverage)".
  • Moral Guardians: Pulled from the shelves at Wal-Mart because it included cut out paper dolls of the Supreme Court justices. Naked.
  • Naked People Are Funny: The aforementioned naked cut out paper dolls of US Supreme Court Justices.
  • Note from Ed.: A portion of the "Would You Mind If I Told You How We Do It In Canada?" essay about Parliament is "deleted due to extreme boringness" by the editor.
  • People's Republic of Tyranny: Lampshaded in the section on Africa; the Democratic Republic of the Congo is noted as one of these, and apparently gets worse as the "democratic republic" part of the name is further emphasized.
    Central Africa's largest nation has grown more oppressive over the decades, and its name has kept pace."
    Congo. Inherent lies in name: 0. Oppression level: bloody.
    Republic of the Congo. Inherent lies in name: 1. Oppression level: sadistic.
    Democratic Republic of the Congo. Inherent lies in name: 2. Oppression level: genocidal.
    People's Democratic Republic of the Congo. Lies in name; 3. Oppression level: inhuman.
    Shiny, Happy People's Democratic Republic of the Congo. Inherent lies in name: 5. Oppression level: HIDE.
  • Robot War: The Constitutional Robocracy appears to take place after one.
  • Sarcasm Mode: Frequently.
    1300 BC: God gives Ten Commandments to Israelites, making them His Chosen People and granting them eternal protection under Divine Law. Nothing bad ever happens to Jews again.
  • Sensual Slavs: The section on Russia notes the Russian Paradox that young Russian women are beautiful while old Russian women are hideous. A picture comparison purports to show a young beauty queen before and after she crosses the threshold, becoming an old crone in the span of two weeks.
  • Sequelitis: Invoked. According to the book, John Locke's Second Treatise on Government was panned by critics "who saw it as a flimsy pretext to bring back the characters from the First Treatise".
    • And again when they mention the (fictional) sequel to Letters From a Pennsylvania Farmer, entitled The Pennsylvania Farmer and the Goblet of Fire.
  • Shadow Government: The original hardcover edition came with a parodic pullout poster outlining the separate branches and departments of "The Shadow Government" that all operate in secret beneath the three co-branches of US government.
  • Sir Swears-a-Lot: The Third Duchess of Kent is a literal example.
    "Fuck with a motherfucker's tea and shit be on."
  • Some of My Best Friends Are X: There's a section listing the most controversial Supreme Court nominees. One of them is (fictitious) Floyd Burnington, who was a member of The Klan. The book notes: "But some of his best friends were... Actually, they were all white."
  • Strawman News Media: The media get a huge Take That! in the form of a one-page rant about how they have abdicated their responsibilities of fact-checking government processes in favor of ratings. The next page (a re-do of that chapter) claimed that it was fueled by sleep deprivation and Red Bull.
    Why they've stopped doing that is a mystery. I mean, 300 camera crews outside a courthouse to see what Kobe Bryant is wearing when the judge sets his hearing date, while false information used to send our country to war goes unchecked? What the fuck happened? These spineless cowards in the press have finally gone too far. They have violated a trust. "Was President Bush successful in convincing Americans to go to war with Iraq?" Who gives a shit? Why not tell us if what he said was true? And the excuses. My God, the excuses! "Hey, we just give the people what they want." "What can we do, this administration is secretive." "But the last season of Friends really is news." The unmitigated gall of these weak-willed... You're supposed to be helping us, you indecent piles of shit! I... fuck it. Just fuck it...
    • Even after the restart, it's worth noting that the ensuing chapter on the media is the longest one in the book.
  • Super-Fun Happy Thing of Doom: The more pleasant and optimistic an African government/country sounds the more dangerous and depraved it is. The wording could apply to Japan as well.
  • Take That!: A section for mock political cartoons aims specifically at comics like the conservative-leaning Mallard Fillmore and the liberal-leaning Doonesbury. The MF stand-in ends the strip with "Oops! I forgot to tell a joke", a stab at Fillmore's tendency to go on Author Tracts - and faux-Doonesbury is simply three panels of the White House with absolutely nothing happening, mocking the strip's dry penchant for abstract political metaphor. Even the professor making notes in the Teacher's Edition gets in on the action, noting that the Mallard Fillmore parody "accurately portrays the strip's typical level of humor".
  • Tempting Fate: Discussing a flaw with the system of checks and balances through the separation of powers, the Founding Fathers decided that the only way it would be a problem is if one political party (keep in mind a number of the Founders were against political parties even existing) were to have an elected president, control both houses of Congress, and a friendly judiciary (particularly a Supreme Court).
    "And then they laughed and laughed and laughed."
  • Translation by Volume: It references this concept of shouting at foreigners. "Do... you... speak... English?"
  • Ugly Slavic Women: It hits both ends of this trope: "Russian women are known for three things: their beauty, their heartiness, and the speed with which one turns into the other." This is illustrated by a picture of a young, attractive woman, captioned "Miss Vladivostok", and an old crone, captioned "Miss Vladivostok, [some implausibly short amount of time] later".
  • Vice President Who?: The "Welcome Letter" signed by all the former Vice Presidents claims that the duties of the office are so minimal that "there's no reason you shouldn't spend the better part of your day in a drunken stupor." The Presidential Library spread depicts the former VP as a janitor.
  • Your Mom: According to the book, Senator McCarthy responded to Joseph N. Welch's famous question "Have you no sense of decency, sir?" with "Indeed I do, sir, only I seem to have left it on your mother's nightstand." Then out came the wiffle-canes.