Friday, March 22, 2013

"They're over here . . ."

American supermarket chains come to Italy - illustrations for an article on 'The Americanisation of Europe' in the Telegraph magazine 1965.   'Ronald Searle asks whether "Le Supermag" indicates the thin edge of a nasty wedge' indicates that he also wrote the copy as he would do for TV Guide in the 70s. It contains his usual eloquent phrasing and biting satire as sharp as his drawings .
'Europe may look askance at American politics abroad but she is trying to swallow whole certain other elements of American life.  By some, the self-Americanisation of Europe is seen as a rather nasty sort of masochism; by others, as a sinister and disarming method of infiltration by the CIA.  True, that many buildings go up instead of out, that the glass matchbox has become a dreary part of most European cities, dominating the gently crumbling tourist attractions.  True, that Coca Cola discs can be seen littering the walls of coffee shops in villages as remote as those of the High Atlas in Morocco.  But ths rash of red spots can no more pinpoint an Americanisation of Europe than a flood of Scotch whisky can indicate the Scotlandisation of France, or the now pot-holed autobahns of Mussolini and Hitler indicate the growth of Fascism in America because the Italians and the Germans got in first with super-highways . . . '
'. . . Though the importation of Le Supermag in France, or Selbestbedienung in Germany (to pick only two examples), might seem to indicate the thin end of a rather nasty wedge, the appearance in them of the now legendary can of red wine no more indicates a mass switch from the bottle than the appearance of canned London fog in America indicates a mass switch by the American continent away from American fresh air.
The American supermarket is an exportable idea, as is the European cuisine and the European pocket book.  A continent absorbs these elements into its own pattern until it comes to believe that they are its own.  If you told housewives that staunch British goods such as Lipton's Tea and Persil were, in that order, American and German in origin, they would look at you with pitying disbelief.
This imagined Americanisation of Europe is a European dream fulfillment.  It is not entirely wrong to say that in America, the word France conjures up a vision of the Can-Can.  In Europe, the word America conjures up the Wild West, cowboys and Indians, gangsters, James Dean and blue jeans.  America is New York (skyscrapers), Chicago (gangsters) and Hollywood (of course).  Anything else is the Far West (including Washington), or the Deep South.  However, this list has recently come to include Dallas, Texas. . . '
'There are Dr Kildare syringes in European toy shops, but Bonanza gets the ratings.  My local cinema in Paris showed 100 cowboy films in 100 days last year,and any night you had to queue to get in.
The latest addition to the neighbourhood is Le-Drugstore-Saint-Germain-des-Pres.  It is built of marble and brass and embellished with bronze shields which embody either the eye or the lips of a hero of our time.  The eye of Picasso is there, and so are the lips of Bardot.  Sticking out from the walls into the boulevard are half a dozen old bracket lamps, no longer lit by gas but still crowned with the traditional spike.
I predict that the first head to be impaled on a spike will be that of the American who gazes around Le Drugstore and says "Gee, this is just like we have at home."
Photograph of original drawing

The series of drawings was expanded and re-ublished a year later in American VENTURE magazine.  Searle's ever canny agent consistently sold the same drawings to multiple publication outlets!  The drawings added for Venture are even more impressive (and actually features the 'SuperMag' mentioned in the Telegraph piece but not illustrated!).

Searle had, of course, poked at the post-war American cultural 'invasion' previously such as this editorial picture for LIFE magazine almost a decade earlier.
"A critical view of American conduct abroad is expressed in this drawing . . . of U. S. visitors in an Italian town. Villagers watch, fascinated, from stairways as the strangely clad members of a tourist party, just disgorged from a huge American automobile, disport themselves about a fountain while one of a group of lounging GIs gives a wolf-whistle at a passing girl."

LIFE magazine 23 Dec 1957


Ben Whitehouse said...

The second one is absolutely amazing!!!! If only we could see it in super hi resolution. Many thanks again for these, Matt!

Matt J said...

Thanks Ben, appreciate the feedback. Even the original printing in LIFE mag isn't great but I'll scan it and see how it looks.

Ben Whitehouse said...

Hi Matt! I just wanted to say, thank you so much for uploading a new scan of the piece for life magazine. You are the bloomin man!!!!

Thank you for all of the ridiculous hard work that you have put in to this blog. I doff my cap to you, sir!

Matt J said...

Thanks Ben. It's great work isn't it- this blog has become an obsession but the joy is unearthing all this gold! I'll keep going until I run out of material... Appreciate the supportive words .