12 June 2010

Soccer's strange cultural imprint on North America

There was this soccer naysayer on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart a couple of days ago, saying "soccer" is a simple game, good enough for little kids to play, and Americans like complex games. Hmmm. I don't see Americans being obsessed with cricket and although "soccer" isn't my favourite, it is far superior to American and Canadian football, a.k.a. rugby for sissies.

It came to me though, how soccer has infiltrated North America in at least two interesting ways. I looked up the Urban Dictionary and almost all "soccer" terms are linked to women and so are the two concept which sprung to mind this morning and prompted this blog.

First of all, there's the "soccer mom". I found several blasphemous definitions on the web, but basically, a soccer mom is a middle-class woman who drives the kind of cars used for invading Iraq in order to transport one, two, or more children to after-school activities. They might well go to Starbucks, yoga and buy organic but they could just as well be decidedly more downmarket, culturally if not monetarily. Basically, a soccer mom is a woman who has given her power over to a man by "choosing" to stay at home and raise his children.

Second — I don't think there is a term for the motif of little (and not so little) girls who channel millennia of violent impulse through "soccer". It is true one can verify that stereotype with girls' field hockey and lacrosse. There is a verifiable myth of billion dollar heiresses "playing" lacrosse in New York's Central Park. Playing as in trying to kill each other. The phenomenon is satisfyingly demonstrated in the excellent film, Igby Goes Down.

But because "soccer" is more popular with the American middle-classes, it is where the "girls as gladiators" zeitgeist resides. And it is probably more popular because lacrosse and field hockey come with sticks and, trust me, you don't want these little girls carrying a stick. There's a very funny "Gilmore Girls" episode about Luke Danes sponsoring a "soccer" team and the terrifying need for little girls to express their rawest instincts on the pitch. I have never had the chance to see this for myself but "violent 'soccer' girl" is sure part of our culture.

And Elizabeth Lambert is the queen of them all. See for yourself.

That is all. Just wanted to share the curious ways in which "the beautiful game" has entered North American culture.

1 comment: