Report from My Trip to Italy: We Really Do Entertain the World

As my children and I rode the train from Rome to Milan last week, we were confronted with one image again and again: Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, glowering through bladed hands crossed in front of his face. It was the poster for The Wolverine and it was plastered all over Italy.

I knew that America exported culture, but I had no real idea of the scope of that exportation. It was staggering to see. And this is in Italy, a country with its own rich and proud culture as well as its own entertainment industry.


International posters for ‘The Wolverine.’


Hugh Jackman wasn’t the only one. We saw posters for many, many Hollywood movies: Epic, The Croods, White House Down, and something that translated as “Night of the Lions…3.”



Familiar faces filled the TV. Spongebob. Phineas e Ferb. And more adult fare.


That’s Gossip Girl on my hotel TV.

In bars, malls, cafes, swimming pools, and radios, we heard familiar music. This is a vastly partial list of the music we heard: Kanye West, Tom Jones (one immediately after the other, which was weird), Katy Perry, The Beatles, Bruce Springsteen (Born in the USA, no less), Michael Jackson, I Believe I Can Fly (played not ironically, which was weird) and Guns N Roses.

I’d say, as an estimate, more than half of the music we heard in public places or on the radio was in English. Standard pop music. Not all American, to be sure, but pretty much all part of the Hollywood-London-New York-Nashville machine.

I’m not sure how I feel about this. On one hand, from what I hear, Wolverine is a pretty good movie. On the other, hearing Rihanna beg “give it to me like I need it” made me feel embarrassed, slightly ashamed there in the cradle of Western Civilization that we’ve boiled so much down to sex, and fairly meaningless sex at that.

There’s no putting the genie back in the bottle at this point,  but it sure makes me hope that the people who are making these movies, songs, and TV shows are conscious of what they’re doing.

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  • Adrian Cam

    Correction. The Italian title of “The Hangover Part III”, “Una notte da leoni 3”, translates as “Night of the Lions 3”. Leone means lion. The Italian word for tiger is tigre, plural tigri.

  • Thanks. I updated.

  • BillYeager

    This is what Americans often don’t realise, most of the rest of the world fell in love with you during the eighties, back when you were the ‘cool cousin’ we wished we could hang out with. We welcomed your movies and TV shows with wide-open arms.

    I shan’t divulge what character we, unfortunately, see you as now, seeing as this is a family channel.

    BTW, did you encounter, on your travels, the non-radio-edit version of these pop-songs frequently being played in family-friendly restaurant chains etc.? Thanks for that America. Your pop stars all want a quick ticket to ‘edgy’ credibility, so most of the original songs they produce these days appear to need a vast amount of profanity. In a country where English isn’t the first language, they don’t see our ‘swear words’ as being offensive. So they don’t edit them out.

  • Rebecca Cusey

    Where are you from, Bill?

    I have to say, the swear word thing is totally true. It was in songs and shows, but had also made its way into Italian. I would hear “pepperoni pepperoni pepperoni F-word pepperoni” pretty frequently. (They weren’t really saying pepperoni, but that’s how Italian sounded to me at first.)

    I think your point is true that swear words only really have their power in the original language. I don’t know that it’s an American thing. The swear words I know in Spanish I’m sure are quite naughty, but they just strike me as amusing. Because I didn’t grow up with the emotion of them. I find this a very interesting sidebar because I don’t think English is the only language where this happens.

    But it was quite shocking to hear nice Italian teenagers swearing like sailors. My son was particularly shocked and we finally figured out that they didn’t mean it like an American would mean it.

  • Luthor Parks

    How does this writer have a job? The Beatles are British. I believe I can fly is R. Kelly not Jackson.

  • I didn’t claim either of those things, so I think I’m safe from losing my job for now.

  • The irresponsible folks creating most of the filth that our nation churns out know exactly what they are doing. It’s all part of a diabolical plan to seduce folks away from believing in, and living for, Jesus. It’s not enough that we ruin our own citizens. We are on a mission to also ruin the rest of our privileged planet!

  • Claudio

    The majority of the recent Italian movies are an absolute boredom or filled with political or moralistic significance, sad if we think that in Italy was born the Neorealism, the Americans are the best in making action movies.

  • lebaugh4846

    The problem is, Rebecca, the filmmakers are very conscious of what they’re doing. They’re trying to spread their own morality, or lack thereof, and their own thinly veiled propaganda and political agendas through this medium know as “entertainment”. And considering the decline of our own country’s morality, along with the news media as partners, they’re doing a very good job of it.