(Please note that this post is not intended as America-bashing. I’ve met a few Americans and they seem perfectly pleasant and normal. Although they do talk funny).
The recent release of “American Gangster” got me thinking – Why so many movies with the word “American” in the title? There was the Oscar-winning “American Beauty”, “American Pie”, “American History X”, “American Psycho”, “American Splendor”, “American Dreamz”, “An American Tail”, and, of course “American Ninja 4: The Annihilation”.
Apart from the fact that these films are set in America and feature American characters, is there any reason to highlight their nationality in this way? Are the stories they tell quintessentially American – could they not just as easily be about Koreans, Australians, the Swiss? And yet if they were, I’d bet that the titles wouldn’t be “Korean Psycho”, “Australian Gangster” or “Swiss Beauty”.
Searching other nationalities on imdb.com, the results seem to suggest that, for example, the words “British” or “English” in a title denote feeble comedy, the word “French” in a title either means a feeble American comedy poking fun at cheese-eating surrender monkeys, or else the US distributor changed the title in order to warn unsuspecting movie-goers “Careful! This film contains subtitles and the occasional wardrobe malfunction!”
Or maybe it’s just a lack of imagination. “It’s about gangsters. It’s American. What can we call it?” I suppose they felt that the title would give an impression of mythic epic-ness (i.e. Oscars), of sociological and cultural importance, of gravitas, of coolness.