11.16.2006

Homogenized America



by Nick Pitas

The commercial begins with the middle aged, suburban male asking the confused pizza delivery boy, “What’s a Brooklyn-style pizza?”

According to Domino’s Pizza, the answer is that it is something quintessentially “Brooklyn,” complete with testimony from stereotypical old women and body builders with impossibly thick accents. Thanks to the fact that it is sold by Domino’s however, you don’t have to be anywhere near Brooklyn, or even the East Coast to get one.

This case of mistaken pizza identity is a microcosm of a process that is taking place all across the United States. As technology, transportation and the pace of daily life draw the distinct corners of the country closer and closer together, they are becoming more alike than they are diverse. No longer is the distinction between regions and their own dialect, cuisine, and traditions as defined as they once were.

The fact that you can drive down the interstate in any part of the country and see the same gas stations, chain restaurants and housing developments is symptomatic of the cultural homogenization of the United States. At a time that we are exporting more and more of our culture to other parts of the world, that same culture is less distinct and varied that ever before.

Think about it. What is an undeniable, regional piece of culture? How about Tex-Mex cuisine? Actually, you can get that at Taco Bell anywhere in the country. Alright, let’s try country music from the southeast then. Once again, that’s now something that is available anywhere (thanks in part to the strength of the signal from Clear Channel's WMZQ in Rockville, Maryland).

Before you lose hope however, there are still places in which real, good old apple pie Americana can be found. Head to White Post, Virginia and check out my personal favorite Dinosaur Land, where concrete dinosaurs and other fantastic creatures dot the landscape. Places such as Dinosaur Land, and the “silver bullet-style" diner are disappearing quickly, so get your fill before it’s too late, and you see a condo or a Baja Fresh in their place.

(Photo courtesy of Paul Anderson (known as earl53) from morgueFile.)




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2 comments:

Adrienne Lee said...

I agree that it's sad that big chains are replacing local, culturally-distinct restaurants, but I don't have so much of a problem with the existing chains themselves diversifying. I think the fact that Domino's is branching out into "Brooklyn-style" pizza and McDonald's now offers sweet tea doesn't take anything away from the integrity of these chains...they're representative of the country as a whole more than any certain region. So it might be good to add a little variety. Having Taco Bell or McDonald's sweet tea is nothing like actually getting a taste of Mexico or the south, and though I've yet to try the new pizza, I'm sure it doesn't compare to an authentic NY pie. The same goes for most regional foods. I think it's good that different areas offer a variety, even if they are not authentic...they're just there to remind us of home, or to hold us over until we do get the chance to do some (still imperative) travelling.

Tate Strickland said...

Oh, I've got one: green chile. I swear, it's like nobody outside of New Mexico even knows what it is. You ask for it at the supermarket and they lead you to the bell pepper aisle.

Sure, I can get Mexican food here in DC, but Adrienne is right - it can't match the real, regional experience.

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