America is the only place you can do as you like in.
(Anonymous traveller on the ‘tube’ or ‘subway’, London, 1943)
The Yanks colonized our subconscious.
(Wim Wenders) 1
Consume any particular item of popular culture and you may well be ‘Americanized’. There won’t be any warning on the product and few people will be able to give you any information about the symptoms. None the less, if you listen to certain albums, watch certain videos, films and TV programmes, eat your dinner in a fast food chain, follow American football and baseball, read certain examples of mass fiction, or even take in news from abroad, try to complete a crossword, wear a particular type of jeans as well as other items of clothing, then in some people’s eyes you will have come under the influence of American culture and the massive commercial industries behind it. The signs are, it is asserted, self-evident. But do you know this is happening to you and should it matter? Has Britain become the 51st state of the USA?
To evoke in this way the spirit and the journeys of Walter Benjamin’s flâneur may strike an anachronistic and discordant note for travellers in the late twentieth century (Benjamin 1978:156 and 1979:12). For many there may well be better and more engrossing ways to cross the countries of modern culture, ways better suited to the terrain and more likely to illuminate it. Yet it remains one of the most positive ways to begin to encounter such a pervasive but elusive phenomenon like Americanization—its