11 Swedish References in American Pop Culture You Didn't Know About

Movie Night at Summer in the Squares in Mount Vernon, Baltimore
Movie Night at Summer in the Squares in Mount Vernon, Baltimore | © Elvert Barnes / Flickr

Stockholm Hub Writer

If you have ever watched an American TV show or movie before, chances are you might have seen a few references to Sweden. Although many are stereotypical with characters having funny accents or being beautiful blondes, sometimes they can be a bit more subtle without explicitly saying that it’s ‘Swedish.’ Here are a few you might not have noticed before.

Clueless (1995)

Arguably one of the most popular movies from the 1990s, Clueless is a cult-classic that makes a small reference to one of Sweden’s most legendary characters, Pippi Longstocking. Pippi was created by world-renowned children’s author Astrid Lindgren, and she is referenced all the time among children in Sweden. In the scene, Josh tells Cher that she looks like Pippi Longstocking due to the fact that she has her hair in two braids. Needless to say, Cher is ‘clueless’ and asks ‘Who’s Pippi Longstocking?’ Josh sarcastically responds ‘Someone Mel Gibson didn’t play,’ which is a fair description since Mel Gibson never played her.

Disturbia (2007)

In this 2007 horror-thriller movie, the three main characters, Kale, Ashley and Ronnie, are discussing what’s happening with Kale’s neighbor. Ashley makes a comment that they are the ones spying on him, not the other way around. Ronnie then makes the reference that Ashley is going into that ‘Stockholm thing.’ What he’s referring to is Stockholm Syndrome, which is when a hostage starts forming an alliance with its captor. This was first brought to prominence in the 1973 bank robbery in Stockholm when Jan-Erik Olsson took four bank employees hostage yet they all defended him and attempted to raise money for him and his co-conspirator upon their release.

Everybody Loves Raymond (S02E18, 1999)

Many of us can attest to the fact that IKEA furniture can be frustrating to put together, and needless to say, character Ray Barone thought so too. Here, Ray’s daughter wants to sleep in her parents’ bed, but Ray tells her no because she “has a beautiful Swedish bed that took Daddy three days to put together.” Of course, he’s referencing the Swedish brand IKEA and how sometimes assembling the furniture can take a bit longer than expected.

The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (S03E08, 1996)

When Will, Carlton and Uncle Phil decide to take a camping trip, Will is responsible for making sure that all of the camping equipment is secured to the top of the car. When they arrive, Carleton makes the realization that none of their equipment is there. Will then makes the comment that he forgot that they weren’t going to take the Volvo. Volvo, of course, is a Swedish car brand that is headquartered in Gothenburg.

Friends (S09E21, 2003)

One of the most lovable characters on the uber-popular TV show Friends is, of course, Phoebe. She is known for being a little ditzy and a bit ‘out-there.’ Nevertheless, one of her professions is working as a masseuse. In this episode, Phoebe is essentially making random noises and saying that it’s Swedish. It doesn’t sound like words from any language for that matter, but when she’s finished she says, ‘That was the Swedish national anthem,’ in a horrific accent.

How I Met Your Mother (S02E05, 2006)

During lunch, Marshall Eriksen is conversing with a friend and discussing how his friend has tickets to see Mamma Mia! on Broadway. In case you are not familiar with Mamma Mia!, it’s a Swedish musical based off of the music from ABBA and was written by the men of ABBA, Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus. The two then talk about how it’s going to be great because “Everyone loves ABBA.”

Manhattan (1979)

In the film Manhattan, several of the characters take note of one of the most famous movie directors of the 20th century, Ingmar Bergman. Bergman was a native Swede who produced thought-provoking films that one could call ‘interesting.’ The characters in the show are discussing certain individuals in the creative arts when one references Bergman. However, a second individual refutes the claim and says “Bergman is the only genius in cinema today.”

The Muppets (2011)

The infamous Swedish Chef is seen on The Muppets Movie. Kermit the Frog sings a solo in a hallway and references the Swedish Chef and his famous one-liner of ‘Smörgåsbord.’ A few seconds later, the Chef joins in and starts singing along, however, the audience cannot understand what he’s saying because he’s ‘speaking Swedish.’ His hilarious interpretation of what the Swedish language sounds like, as well as the accent itself, is quite funny and one that many individuals remember.

The Simpsons (S20E17, 2009)

One of the longest-running comedy shows ever, The Simpsons has had its fair share of pop culture references and stereotypes in its episodes. In this particular one, Bart is telling Willy that he has a girlfriend. Willy, who is known for being a grouch and not what most people would consider a ‘catch’ says, ‘Oh, well I have one too,” and goes on to elaborate that his girlfriend is a Swedish bikini model. Bart says that it’s fantastic and proceeds to walk away. Then, his girlfriend appears out of the shed and is indeed a Swedish bikini model, which is a nod to one of Sweden’s stereotypes of having beautiful blonde women.

Titanic (1997)

In one of the first scenes of the movie when we meet Jack Dawson, he is playing poker to win tickets to get on the Titanic and get back home. What you might not have realized is that Jack is playing against a couple of Swedes. They, of course, are upset that they bet their tickets during the game and they cannot take the Titanic over to America. During this time, you can hear the Swedes bickering back and forth in Swedish, which you might not have noticed if you aren’t familiar with the language. Fortunately, it ended up working out for them because had they not lost their tickets, they would also have died during the terrible tragedy.

True Blood (S02E02, 2009)

As you may know, one of Sweden’s most successful actors, Alexander Skarsgård, was one of the main characters in the True Blood series playing Eric Northman, an old Viking Warrior who is over 1,100 years old. In one of the scenes of this episode, you can see Skarsgård break out his native language while conversing with another Swedish character. The two are speaking about Jason Stackhouse, Sookie’s brother, and whether or not they should do something about him. It’s a great bit to listen to, especially since Skarsgård sounds incredible when he speaks Swedish.

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