The Most American Pieces of Media (Not Made in the US)

american, movies, comics, video games, media, steel ball run, punch out, metal gear solid 3, judge dredd, tiger & bunny, the good the bad and the ugly

There are plenty of American-made movies, video games, and comics that celebrate the country for what it is, by romanticizing our past, diving into military fantasies, or putting a new spin on our culture. Over the years, the influence has grown so great that other countries have gotten in on the act. So grab a burger and get ready to import some patriotism!

Steel Ball Run

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Country of Origin: Japan

Medium: Manga

American Things: The Wild West, a Jesus Christ connection, patriotism, dinosaurs

This is the work that inspired this article. Steel Ball Run is the 7th part of Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, a manga series running for over 20 years, with each part focusing on a different member of the Joestar bloodline. But honestly, none of that is important in relation to this list.

It’s set in the old west — a background that America routinely contributes to fiction thanks to our romanticizing of cowboys and gunslingers — and follows a horseback race across the country for a huge cash prize. The race’s name? The Steel Ball Run, of course. It bleeds American culture, with the “getting rich in the Wild West” theme, a villain who wants to make America in his own image using pieces of Jesus Christ’s corpse,” and a guy with fucking dinosaur powers. If it weren’t for all the kung-fu magic, you’d swear it came from a mash-up of summer blockbusters.

Punch-Out!!

american, movies, comics, video games, media, steel ball run, punch out, metal gear solid 3, judge dredd, tiger & bunny, the good the bad and the ugly

Country of Origin: Canada

Medium: Video game (Nintendo Wii)

American Things: New York, underdog protagonist, boxing, beating other countries

Who doesn’t love a good underdog story? Everyone is, but Americans can’t get enough of boxing underdogs in particular. Cue Little Mac’s most recent adventure: a 4’7” rookie works his way up through the ranks for fame and fortune, beating up sort-of racist representations of any country the team can be bothered to remember. Typical American ignorance, right? Except Next Level Games is located in Canada! At least they can make fun of themselves with Bear Hugger.

Tiger & Bunny

american, movies, comics, video games, media, steel ball run, punch out, metal gear solid 3, judge dredd, tiger & bunny, the good the bad and the ugly

Country of Origin: Japan

Medium: Anime

American Things: superheroes, corporate sponsors, New York-ish setting, X-Men influence

Since the creation of Superman in the 1930s, comic book superheroes have been inseparable from American culture. So when Tiger & Bunny, a show about corporate-sponsored superheroes that fight crime on reality television, appeared on the scene a few years ago, the inspiration was obvious. N.E.X.T. (no idea what the abbreviation stands for, but it denotes heroes) works parallel to X-Men’s genetic-freak heroes and villains, with all the societal unease that comes with the territory. The titular heroes use very Spider-Man-y swinging cables to get around the faux New York City of Sternbild, and some of the heroes even use advertiser-friendly catchphrases. If it weren’t for the ice-powered, underage girl in a skimpy outfit, you’d never be able to tell where this show came from.

Judge Dredd

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Country of Origin: United Kingdom

Medium: Weekly comic book

American Things: The American dream, oppressive future government, east coast USA

With two Hollywood movies to its name, this entry isn’t as obscure as some others on the list, which means I have less to explain. In the impossibly shitty future, the East Coast has been turned into the gigantic Mega City One. In this cyberpunk hellhole, a futuristic police force called the Judges protect the city with an iron grip, acting as jury, judge (duh), and executioner.

It’s another long-running series, but because it is published weekly in the magazine 2000 AD, its serialized nature makes it easy to jump in to see some poorly-justified justice. Of particular note are the stories that focus on a group of rebels trying to reinstate democracy, as the totalitarian government got rid of that shit a long time ago.

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

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Country of Origin: Italy/Spain

Medium: Film

American Things: Wild West themes, the Civil War, greed, unflattering view of the US

This entry could be a surprise to those who don’t know this classic’s origin. In what might be the most recognizable spaghetti Western ever, three men get caught up in a search for a dead man’s treasure during the American Civil War and the decline of the frontier. It’s long and tense, and brings up a lot of themes we associate with American anti-heroes: doing anything to get ahead, having a personal code of honor, and getting pulled back in for one last violent job. It was filmed in Spain and Italy, and directed by Italian Sergio Leone, with a score composed by fellow Italian Ennio Morricone. This film, combined with the previous entries in the Dollars trilogy and Dirty Harry, cemented Clint Eastwood’s action star persona, something that American media would imitate for decades to come.

Metal Gear Solid 3

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Country of Origin: Japan

Medium: Video game (PS2)

American Things: Spies, military operations, betrayal by the government, soldiers and action heroes, the Cold War

If aliens ever find our fiction and comprehend it, they’re going to think the Cold War lasted 100 years. Next to World War II, it’s the go-to setting for any military fiction with a clear-cut villain. With all the subtlety of a brick-taped air horn being thrown through your window at 3am, Hideo Kojima shows that the life of a spy isn’t all about being hit on by other spies and stealing enemy uniforms. No, the life of soldier/spy Naked Snake is tangled in plans from multiple governments, with his US benefactors being a little dirtier than he thought.

Every single piece of military or spy fiction has done this theme to the point of cliche, but MGS3 has its some special twist that make it stand out as more than a copycat. It even displays our poor knowledge of other countries’ geography with its non-existent Russian jungle setting!

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Like the list? Discover anything new? Want to mention Metal Wolf Chaos? Post a comment!

Article by contributor Nick Greer.

4 thoughts on “The Most American Pieces of Media (Not Made in the US)

  1. Wow, who let this hack fraud publish an article? No sources on what he considers “American” and even then, only stuff from the US. And where is Metal Wolf Chaos?! Just because there are giant robots in it doesn’t mean it’s not American. Punch Out isn’t uniquely American racist, it could be Japanese racist! The whole thing is just a mess. Who does this guy think he is?

    (Thanks for publishing the article, guys. I had some fun putting it together.)

  2. Man, Jojo sounds so fun but I’m never sure whether to start from the beginning (don’t have time or patience) or start at whatever chapter. I could say the same thing about Dredd though, but that seems more serialized, as you said.

    Also, you missed the single most American thing ever created in Japan: Metal Wolf Chaos. I mean, only if you consider as american things George W. Bush inside a Mech with some 20-ish different guns stored inside wrecking everything. The game even had voice acting (yes, actual Jon Stewart impression-style Bush “acting”) even though it was never released outside of Japan:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pv_w-YlNIMM

    1. Both Jojo and Dredd are ABSOLUTELY worth getting into. Jojo is unfortunately one where you’d need to start from the beginning to fully appreciate it, but it never drags, and builds on itself to a wonderful degree the farther you get into it. Judge Dredd is one where you can skip around a bit more, and I personally recommend the trades “Judge Dredd Case Files vol 5” and the standalone collection of stories “Judge Dredd: America” to help you jump right into that world.

  3. I think the game Vanquish would be a good fit. It was from Platinum Games in Japan, but the characters are so absurdly cheesy, over the top American machismo filled stereotypes. It’s completely ridiculous, but too silly not to enjoy.

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