I am not a big fan of American novels. I have never been to the USA, so many of the cultural references are alien to me, I don't know what a condo is, or a clam bake and if I was asked if I understood my Miranda rights I would have to answer No!.
However, I bought a few John Grisham books in a charitable car boot sale (an Americanism that seems to have killed the native jumble sale) a few weeks ago. John Grisham is one of the most popular novelists in and from the USA, he writes books about the American legal system. The legal system portrayed is totally corrupt!
Juries are vetted by multi million dollar experts, not in order to create balance, but in order to insure bias for the highest bidder. Guilt and innocence is decided, not by justice, but by money. Policemen, lawyers, judges and witnesses are routinely murdered in order to pervert the course of justice, and when that fails jury members and judges are bought or threatened in order to secure a favorable outcome for the wrongdoer.
Its not just Mr Grisham's books that portray the US in such a poor light. I don't know how many films that I have seen where people have been found innocent by a court but are perceived to be guilty and are then executed by a hero in the name of justice!
I have a Playstation game, thrown in as a bundle when the machine was bought. Liberty City Stories has, amongst the missions in the game, murdering the mayor in order to create a by election; installing a candidate favorable to a drug dealing gang; killing canvassers for the opposing candidate and destroying ballot papers. All of these activities are perceived as positive and give credit in the game.
Outside the realm of fiction, in news reports, we are told about a different America. An America where democracy, freedom and the rule of law are paramount. An America that wishes to export these values to the rest of the world.
Which image portrays the truth about the USA is, to a certain extent, unimportant. What is important is which image is perceived to be true. Because American culture is all prevailing, the image of the US that most of us have is the fictional image.
If Wales was portrayed in a less than favorable light in a book, a film or a game, I would be up in arms! I would be writing to the press, I would be calling for a boycott, I would be protesting on the streets. I would hope that the Welsh (and parts of the UK) press would be writing articles saying No Wales isn't like that!
Why don't Americans protest about books, films and games that portray their country as foul and corrupt? Why do they give literary and film awards to those who portray their country as a corrupt, unjust and undemocratic nation?
If the America portrayed by popular culture is the true America, then the USA needs to have a good look at itself and reform within. The America of the books, games and films is no better than Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe!
If the true America is the one where democracy, freedom and the rule of law is paramount, then the USA desperately needs to get to grips with the way in which it portrays itself in popular culture. Giving awards to books, such as Grisham's, tells the world that his image of a corrupt USA is true image and that the US of A is proud of the fact!