22 Cultural References And American Jokes From TV And Movies That I Find Extra Confusing
Mean Girls: "You could try Sears!" Me: "Haha... is that bad!?"
Have you, a non-American, ever been watching a TV show or a movie and a character has referenced something or someone that's gone straight over your head? Well I have – more than a few times!! Here are some examples:
1. Do you remember when Joey met his "identical hand twin" in Friends? Well it turns out that the theme song he comes up with for their TV show is actually based on a pretty popular American folk song!
2. After Annie meets the picture-perfect Helen in Bridesmaids, she spends her entire car trip home making fun of her, including how snobby she is. Here, Annie mimics Helen throwing shade at how she is from Milwaukee.
3. In a scene from You've Got Mail, Joe asks about a journalist Kathleen is seeing who uses the handle NY152; Joe then reads him to filth and likens him to a Clark Bar.
4. Remember this iconic line in Mean Girls? Regina goes to try on a Spring Fling dress she's held back and finds it no longer fits her, so the shop assistant suggests she try the department store Sears, which is allegedly kind of... tacky.
5. In Disney's Hercules, Pain and Panic suggest calling a telephone number in Roman numerals. The number would be familiar to Americans, but in the UK it would be IX-IX-IX, or 999!
6. In Never Have I Ever, Devi suspects her classmate Jonah is gay and accidentally mentions it out loud. He confirms this by referring to himself as a "baby Buttigieg".
7. When Abbi and Ilana visit Trey's place in Broad City for a party, they complain that he lives near somewhere called Port Authority, which is apparently hell on Earth.
8. At the beginning of the final season of Canadian sitcom Schitt's Creek, we dive straight into Patrick and Alexis making fun of a hungover Stevie who spent the night before drinking two alcoholic drinks at the same time i.e. "double-fisting".
9. This guy... who appears in SO MANY things!
10. There's a joke in The Simpsons in which Krusty is mocked for being such a bad gambler that he bet against the Harlem Globetrotters. I assumed these guys must rule the NBA and completely missed the joke.
11. Is it just me or is the "DMV" always depicted in American media as some sort of hellhole? Apparently, the Department of Motor Vehicles – where you renew your driving license and other such stuff – is terrible, as seen here in Zootopia!
12. Perhaps, like me, you've heard this "tricks are for kids" line in lots of different things, from Kill Bill to RuPaul's Drag Race. Well, if you also thought it was just a fun little epithet, you'd be wrong! It's a reference to an American ad for breakfast cereal!
13. There are hundreds of subtle references in Gilmore Girls but this particular moment, in which Kirk is trying to drill up enthusiasm for an egg hunt in the town square à la Howard Dean, was particularly obscure for non-Americans.
14. When Derrick Barry read the late, great Chi Chi DeVayne during season eight of RuPaul's Drag Race, she mentioned a store that I assumed was a bargain clothing retailer, but it's actually not!
15. I have no idea what this line from Troy in Community is supposed to mean, but I'm guessing it's not a compliment.
16. Towards the end of Bruce Almighty, Debbie tells Bruce that her typical evening involves watching Conan. I did not put that together, and spent the rest of the movie wondering who Conan was.
17. The 555 area code you often see in American TV shows and films isn't a real code. It was left unassigned so that the US media could use it and no one watching would ever be able to dial a number on screen and reach a real person.
18. Remember when Emily and Richard were fighting in season five of Gilmore Girls and Emily had this to say about Reno, Nevada:
19. Another candy bar joke wasted on me comes from A Cinderella Story. Shelby sees David on his own without his Musketeer buddies and doesn't recognise his costume until he tells her he's a Three Musketeer, which is apparently the name of an American chocolate bar.
20. The Pottery Barn episode of Friends is one of my absolute favourites, but for all I knew Pottery Barn wasn't even a real store!
21. Remember when Peter, Lois, and Meg were at a college fair in Family Guy and they dropped a really good Oral Roberts joke on us?
22. And finally, pretty much all of Portlandia.
Are there any American references that went over YOUR head? Tell us in the comments below!
Nevada is the only U.S. state where prostitution is legally permitted in some form, hence why Emily makes that reference in number 18 of this list. Thanks to our readers for pointing this out!