British comedians Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant produce a television show, “An Idiot Abroad,” starring their friend Karl Pilkington, whom they deem to be an idiot, as he travels to different locations around the world and shares his rather unique view of the experiences which many are expected to enjoy. This series involves Karl taking on activities common on a bucket list, and for the first time, Karl is filmed exploring America with a whole episode central on his travel down the iconic Route 66. I found this to be a worthwhile example as it examines an American icon from an outsider’s perspective. We’ve discussed what Route 66 symbolizes to us as Americans, but in this show I observed how this icon translated to someone from England.
When presented with the option of travelling down Route 66, Karl appears skeptical. He does not understand the appeal of this journey, instead believing Americans to be overly excitable. He isn’t convinced on the iconic Route 66 journey questioning, “Is it just America who’s made this seem like a good thing to do?” Is this true? Are Americans overly sentimental about their icons? Or is Karl seeing Route 66 too simply, and not metaphorically?
Karl is eventually convinced to take this journey once being promised a convertible car in which to take this journey. While he expects a classic model, the joke is on him when he is given a convertible smart car, which causes him to loathe his journey even more.
The cultural divide is always apparent as Karl continuously questions many American activities and fascinations. He believes the iconic status of Route 66 to be uniquely American, and it would never be acheived anywhere else.
The entire episode is up on youtube, and it runs about 45 minutes.