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14 Of The Dumbest Things Pop Culture Has Us Believe About The United States

List Rules
Vote up the tropes about the US you've seen the most.

Pop culture often stereotypes the United States in movies, television series, popular music, and even sports. American tropes are featured in nearly every aspect of pop culture - but how accurate are they really? Historically, many pop-culture interpretations regarding the United States aren’t as authentic as they appear in movies and other media forms. Some tropes are as far from the truth as a person can possibly get, and are only represented as fact for the sensationalism they provide. 

Most Americans aren’t rude when they travel abroad, and not every US soldier is a mindless drone serving his country. Throughout history, various movies have played to these tropes to gain a greater viewership, and they have often simplified complex history to sell their media. 

We’re going to delve into the dumbest US tropes pop culture has us believe about the United States and try to discern fact from fiction. 

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  • 1
    672 VOTES

    All Americans Are Overweight Or Obese

    All Americans Are Overweight Or Obese
    Photo: The Triplets of Belleville / Sony Pictures Classics

    The Trope: America is overstuffed with fast-food restaurants and Americans only eat processed foods, which leaves most of them overweight or obese. 

    Why Is It Accurate? Studies show that America has the highest amount of overweight people globally. In the USA, one published study found that almost 75% of men and 60% of women could be considered overweight or obese. 

    Why Is It Inaccurate? Not all Americans are obese, and the truth is that most of the world is struggling to curb the rise of obesity in its citizens. There are many Americans who are health conscious and who regularly work out and participate in healthy eating. Additionally, fast food isn’t the only cuisine Americans consume, with many choosing to cook or dine at restaurants that offers healthy cuisine. 

    Notable Offenders: The Triplets of Belleville, My 600 Pound Life, My Big Fat Fabulous Life

    672 votes
  • 2
    662 VOTES

    Americans Are Arrogant, Entitled, And Rude When They Go Abroad

    Americans Are Arrogant, Entitled, And Rude When They Go Abroad
    Photo: Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo / Sony Pictures Releasing

    The Trope: When American travelers visit foreign countries, they are rude, loud, and arrogant, continually projecting their ideas and thoughts on foreigners. 

    Why Is It Accurate? Some Americans are used to a particular mode of living and their own customs, which is why they can appear rude and entitled when overseas. Of course, some Americans have done some truly strange and sometimes unforgivable deeds while on holiday.

    Why Is It Inaccurate? Some Americans are arrogant, entitled, and rude when they travel abroad, but so are many people from other countries. These characteristics aren’t only linked to American tourists. Moreover, the actions of a few Americans while abroad shouldn’t be a generalization of a whole nation.

    There are thousands of Americans who travel overseas each year and showcase the opposite of these characteristics. In fact, America is known as one of the most diplomatic nations globally, with successful relations with many foreign countries. 

    Notable Offenders: EuroTrip

    662 votes
  • 3
    367 VOTES

    Every Non-Big City In The United States Is Everytown, USA

    Every Non-Big City In The United States Is Everytown, USA
    Photo: Supernatural / The CW

    The Trope: If an American citizen doesn’t live in a big city, they come from a small town similar to all small towns in America. 

    Why Is It Accurate? There are many towns in America that share similar traditions and atmospheres. For example, many towns in the Great Lakes states and the midwest have the same layout comprising a main road, single high school, and one or two churches. In some of these towns, if the population is small enough, most people do know each other. 

    Why Is It Inaccurate? While most of the US population lives in big cities, the rest of its citizens are spread across countless small towns - each with its own unique history. Each region of the US was carved out for different reasons and settled by various groups, all of whom had an impact on the local culture. And small towns don't just vary from state to state; anyone who lives in California can tell you that towns can differ wildly from each other in the south, the north, and the mountains.

    Small-town America can also have an outsized influence on the country as a whole. For example, Little Rock, AR, was an important town in the American Civil Rights movement

    Notable Offenders: Smallville, Supernatural, The X-Files

    367 votes
  • 4
    482 VOTES

    The United States Is Capable Of Leading The Entire World Against A Global Threat

    The United States Is Capable Of Leading The Entire World Against A Global Threat
    Photo: Independence Day / 20th Century Fox

    The Trope: Should a war break out, the United States will lead the world to safety with their military and cunning. 

    Why Is It Accurate? As one of the world’s superpowers, America possesses the intelligence, military power, numbers, nuclear weaponry, and skill to lead the world against a global threat. 

    Why Is It Inaccurate? The USA could conceivably lead the world, but it could not win against a considerable global threat without other nations' aid. It's also a big assumption that all countries would unquestionably follow America. Studies have shown that many worldwide see US power and influence as a threat to their nations.

    Notable Offenders: Independence Day, Battleship, Battle: Los Angeles

    482 votes
  • 5
    519 VOTES

    The American Dream Is Wholly Attainable For All 

    The American Dream Is Wholly Attainable For All 
    Photo: Do the Right Thing / Universal Pictures

    The Trope: All those who move to America will achieve the "American Dream," ensuring generations of peace and prosperity. 

    Why Is It Accurate? American history has largely been a story of immigrants seeking a better life for themselves and their families, and the pursuit of the American Dream remains a key part of the country's identity. 

    Why Is It Inaccurate? According to economists and researchers, the American Dream and everything it represents (upward mobility, owning a home, earning a comfortable retirement) hasn’t been achievable for citizens in the middle or working class in more than 40 years. Poorer factions of the population refute the American Dream idea and no longer believe hard work will pay off and allow them to achieve this somewhat outdated belief. 

    Notable Offenders: An American Tail, The Pursuit of Happyness

    519 votes
  • 6
    416 VOTES

    Every Big City In America Is Terrorized By Some Kind Of Organized Crime

    Every Big City In America Is Terrorized By Some Kind Of Organized Crime
    Photo: The Godfather / Paramount Pictures

    The Trope: All the big cities in America have crime families running them or vicious street gangs initiating violence and instilling fear into city residents’ hearts. 

    Why Is It Accurate? Many American cities do have street gangs and mob families present. Since the 1800s, different criminal families and factions have run crime syndicates in the cities.  

    Why Is It Inaccurate? The presence of these criminal organizations doesn’t mean that crime is rampant and various mobs are constantly terrorizing America. In September 2020, President Donald Trump claimed crime in US cities was “through the roof,” but according to official statistics, this statement is incorrect. In most major cities where organized crime is more prevalent, like New York and Chicago, crime rates are actually lower than in previous years.

    Hollywood movies and TV series often depict how crime is a common occurrence in big US cities. They portray how multiple international crime organizations like the Russian Bratva, Irish and Italian mobs, and gangs like the Los Angeles Bloods each have a finger in the criminal pie. These organizations certainly exist, but their illegal endeavors are usually perpetrated far more subtly than they're depicted onscreen.

    Notable Offenders: The Godfather, My Blue Heaven, The Wire

    416 votes