RVOD078 What It Means to Be an American, Part 1

(1952, Educational/Short, color)


Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy

Sit up straight!

Rating: ***

In a Nutshell:

It means fruit farming, badminton and playground fights.


It means that our schoolkids can beat up your schoolkids.What It Means to Be an American posits that being an American means you live somewhere in America. The narrator goes over a partial list of places you might live in America, if you are, in fact, American. Five minutes of this later, he mentions something about freedom of speech, along with the necessity to break up the occasional playground fight.

The latter half changes tack. It posits that being an American means you are a surly fruit farmer in the Pacific Northwest. You have lots of kids; the younger ones fight in playgrounds while the older ones ride horses. All of them love badminton regardless of age. You should make sure everyone sits up straight at all times.

The short ends and Disembaudio pipes up. “Tune in next time!” he says.


They're uh, hugging.  And telling secrets.  Yeah.If I didn’t have any preconceived notions of American-ness, and only had this short to go by, I’d have to say that being an American is essentially meaningless. All you have to do is live inside a boundary and have bratty kids. Being an American is easy!

Mike, Bill and Kevin want to know what it means to be an American too. A few of my favorite comments: When the narrator mentions something about “ideals”, Mike clarifies, “Ideals mostly based around contempt for other people’s ideals.” When he begins to introduce the fruit-farming family one at a time, Kevin adds, “Dad’s a powder keg of rage and mother’s there to light the fuse.” When the narrator goes on about “independent thinking” during yet another playground fight, Bill says, “We’ll drill independent thinking into your skull if we have to kill you to do it!” The short reaches no conclusions, but Archive.org says this short is actually ten minutes longer than the section shown. Maybe the conclusion promised by Disembaudio will explain everything for us, but I doubt it. The half depicted here is funny enough on its own.