Sunday, April 24, 2011

X is for Xenophobic

Today people generally are not afraid of foreigners. Technology and communication advances have truly made the oceans between us insignificant. While people may hold prejudices and/or still think their particular country superior, they are usually not afraid of foreigners.

Not so in Elizabethan England.  Xenophobia was thriving.  With political and religious tensions (often from the same roots), foreigners represented different ways of life that appeared threatening. This applied, not only to people from foreign lands, but to Jews and Romany who had lived in England for generations.  To quote the wisdom of the murderous mob in Disney's Beauty and the Beast, "We don't like what we don't understand, in fact it scares us," Elizabethans of every rank held and active dislike and fear of foreigners.

When I have tried to understand it in order to portray it accurately, but in a sympathetic light (considering I am writing from their pov) I pulled from my own experience with people who take a difference of opinion as a personal insult.   If the English people felt that different lifestyles/traditions/opinions/etc were, by their very existence, criticizing their own way of life, they might take umbrage and feel threatened. Again, this is just conjecture.  In the end, I have always minimized xenophobia. All three of my books involved the court of Queen Elizabeth and include the foreign ambassadors.  I treat them with the public respect they would have received (in most cases) and avoided the private derision.  The xenophobic attitude has never been central to my story and, therefore, was not necessary to include.

Today most educated people treat other cultures with respect, but that is not to say generalizations and stereotypes do not exist. I like to think they are good natured (for the most part).  My brother in law is British and pictures my husband in cowboy boots.  To be fair, my husband pictures my brother-in-law with a monocle.  While neither man wear boots or monocles, my British brother in law does own a hat collection and only would wear tennis shoes for tennis.  My husband does drive a full size truck and own a gun safe for his collection of arms.

This video is a far cry from xenophobic attitudes, but it does involve some stereotyping.  I really enjoyed it and plan to ask my brother in law about the significance of the fig newtons.  I hope you enjoy it. :)


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1 comment:

Susan Kane said...

Is there any nation in the entire world which isn't xenophobic?? I doubt it--distrust is rampant, along with other things. Good choice. Weird video. What is the significance of fig newtons?

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