#2. Hollywood Is Overrun With Australians
Hey, what do Thor, Wolverine, and at least one version of the Hulk have in common? Besides having nice chiseled arms, that is.
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You're welcome again, ladies.
That's right, the actors that play them are all Australian. Actors from Australia, as well as other non-American English-speaking countries like England and Wales, are as disproportionately represented on American screens as sparkling white teeth and matching bra-and-panties sets. If you've watched a TV show on Netflix in the past week, chances are at least one of the people spouting off a perfect regional accent on your screen was raised in Melbourne or London. Given that Australians and other foreigners face extra hurdles breaking into the Hollywood market (faking an American accent, long plane trips), it's doubly strange that foreigners are so popular. Or that they're so difficult to pick out as foreign on the screen, given that North American actors doing foreign accents tend to look ridiculous.How Did That Happen?
When asked, casting directors give a bunch of reasons in favor of hiring non-Americans: they're cheaper, they're more willing to do television work, they're less likely to support an opposing sports team, etc. Another stereotype applies purely to the menfolk: male American actors, the story goes, tend to lean towards "pretty" and "boyish" when it comes to looks, making them unsuited for most action roles. You have to look overseas to find dudes who can pull off punching other guys in the face on screen for two hours. Maybe this is because in America, drama is not looked upon as a particularly manly occupation, whereas Australia and the U.K. don't have the same gender-based limitations.
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Outside of the U.S., all drama clubs are held on top of active volcanoes.
Are they exaggerating? Possibly. But consider the role of Captain America, a role that was restricted to American actors in order to avoid a plague of late-night outsourcing jokes. Casting people searched in vain for months to find an American actor for the role, before finally giving the role to Chris Evans, who didn't even want it and had to be personally roped in by Robert Downey Jr.
#1. Fundamentalist Islam Has Mostly Been Exported From One Place
As we've said before, the particular form of fundamentalist Islam that we associate with extremism is actually relatively new. Sometimes known as Wahhabism, this interpretation of Islam dates back no further than the 18th century, and only got really popular in the last 60 years or so. But why, exactly, did fundamentalist Islam get so big so recently? Was it just the right time for it to span the world, like some sort of worldwide dance craze? Historical and political events were definitely a part of it, but a lot of fundamentalist Islam has been exported from one place: Joliet, Illinois.
Haha, just kidding. It's Saudi Arabia.How Did That Happen?
Back in the 18th century, Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, the founder of Wahhabism, allied with Muhammad bin Saud, a local emir who went on to found what would eventually become the kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Their political-religious alliance has stayed in place, and Wahhabism is still the dominant religion in that country.
Now, as some of you might have heard, Saudi Arabia has quite a lot of of oil money. And rich Saudis haven't been putting all this money to waste on Powerpuff Girls sculptures made of cocaine like the rest of us would: much like rich Americans spreading their weird "prosperity gospel" Christianity in Africa, many Saudis have been spending money telling the world that this pure, back-to-the-7th-century form of Islam is super awesome. Since 1975, Saudi Arabians have spent between $2 billion and $3 billion every year on "religious causes" overseas, including mosques, schools, and religious books.
They also started a chain of Wahhabist liquor stores, but those flopped for some reason.
Saudi-published books have been so well funded that they've even put other, more mainstream Muslim publishers out of business. Because of this religious market-dominance, Saudi-style Islam is becoming more and more popular in places where Muslims formerly practiced local, more liberal forms of the religion, like India, Bangladesh, and Indonesia.
Let's be clear: I'm not saying that Saudis are sitting back pulling the strings on global Islamic extremism like a giant looming puppet master (or octopus, depending on your preferred form of conspiracy theory). The world, alas, is more complicated. Although Saudi citizens giving money to terrorist groups is a problem, much of the current extremism in the Middle East is as much of an "oh shit" moment for Wahhabists as it is for everyone else. Think of it as being like if you let your kid grow up watching nothing but Disney's Robin Hood and playing Star Fox, and then walked in one day to find your teenager naked and humping a fox suit. It's kind of your fault in a sense, but God knows you never wanted it to go that far.
For more from C. Coville, check out 5 Secret Languages That Stuck It to the Man and 6 Isolated Groups Who Had No Idea That Civilization Existed.