Saturday, February 14, 2009

Why is it okay to make up a country in Africa? The current season of 24, the only fictitious television program endorsed by AWYHIGTC, features a fictitious African country named Sangala. Presumably a portmanteau of Senegal and Angola, Sangala is facing an imminent US invasion to prevent genocide and restore its exiled president to power. This is even more egregious than the plothole wherein a faction that can not even control its own country has the ability to take over the mythically powerful computer system of the United States.

You see, there is something called a "CIP device", and this allows anyone with a Dell and enough RAM to take over water treatment plants, air traffic controls and God knows what else. This, of course, is because the people that designed the impenetrable computer systems of the world's most powerful country were stupid enough to link it all together. It's possible that they learned computer programming from Inspector Gadget's niece Penny and her magic computer book.

The idea of making up a country in a television show that otherwise strives to be realistic is absurd and mildly racist. A fictious country named Bolividesh somewhere on the Asian or South American landmass would be absurd, as would one in Europe called Moldova, Andorra or Azerbaijan--oh, right. Putting a made-up country next to Germany or America or China would received well-deserved ridicule.

Granted, Africa has some countries that only gazetteer conventioneers would have heard of: Guinea-Bissau, Swaziland, Eritrea, Gabon, Cape Verde and my personal favourite, the Central African Republic. Still, there would be nothing wrong or offensive about using a real African country as the backdrop for the cliche civil war playing out in Sangala. There are 53 countries to choose from after all, from Angola and Algeria all the way to Zambia and Zimbabwe. After involving Russia and China in very serious plots, do the writers at 24 really have worries about offending Lesothans?

Indeed, the writers at 24 went out and picked a small town named Kidron, Ohio for death by gas leak. The same courtesy could not be extended to Africa, presumably because Africans are all interchangeable for the most part, and the difference between a real country and a fake one is negligible. When it comes to America, even a town with 1,000 people needs to be real. Americans should treat the less-famous countries of Africa better because, believe it or not, 92% of Central Africans and 87% of Malawians have a favourable view of the US government, roughly double that of actual Americans at the time of the poll.

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