Did Desperate Housewives’ credits need localisation?

November 10, 2012

As I was paying attention the opening credits of the uplifted American soap series, I realised it was a bit more than just a succession of animated classical paintings. For those who don’t know the credits, take some more or less known pieces of art from different times, adapting them to the purpose of the series. Here’s a clip of it:


Here’s a lit of the various pieces used in it (retrieved from the YouTube page I borrowed the video from):

– Adam & Eve, Lucas Cranach The Elder’s.

– The tomb paintings of Queen Nefertari of Egypt, David Roberts.

– The Arnolfini Portrait , Jan Van Eyck.

– American Gothic, Grant Wood,

– Pin Up, Gil Elvgren.

– Am I Proud, Dick Williams.

– Campbell’s Soup, Andy Warhol.

– Romantic Couple & Couple Arguing, Robert Dale.

As you can see, the choice of art follows the historical thread most American would know of or possibly identify to. However, these credits do not port very well, or even at all to other cultures, countries or languages.

The very first picture of Adam and Eve already excludes any country of religious tradition that would not be Christian. The Arnolfini Portrait is representative of a European time that Asian or African countries inhabitants probably never heard of. The American Gothic is even more restricting as it mirrors a period of history that only really took place in North America.

Looking at the list of channels and countries that broadcast Desperate housewives, the series was exported on all five continents. Then how are the credits perceived in Thailand, Japan, Russia or Kazakhstan? Do the viewers understand the message and the references brought to them? If so to what extent? And if not, how would it have been adapted? Imagine the clip redone for China or India. How interesting would that be? I can already picture the French version (for France) with Eugène Lacroix’s La Liberté guidant le peuple…

Can you think of other paintings that could have been used for a specific region?

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