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The issue of American culture

The issue of American culture and its globalization has raised a lot of controversy. The era of globalization is becoming the preferred term to describe the current times. The term Americanization has been around for years. It was first used when the United States was being heavily immigrated into. The new Americans began to enjoy the freedoms associate with our country and gradually began to act less like a foreigner and more like a real American. Today we are able to witness an essence of American culture almost everywhere around the world by what we call cultural icons of our times.

Sneakers, blue jeans, burgers, Hollywood blockbusters are only a few. To many, globalization is synonymous with Nike, Levi’s and MTV. In fact, the most visible sign of globalization seems to be the spread of American burgers and cola to nearly every country on earth. It crowns the United States the king of pop culture. Globalization does more than allow businesses to operate in countries all around the globe. In addition to global commerce, globalization allows for social activism, journalists, academics, and many others to work on a global stage.

According to Keith Porter, a co-host and executive producer of a nationally syndicated radio program on world affairs globalization can be both a good and bad thing. He quotes, Thomas Friedman in saying Globalization can be incredibly empowering and incredibly coercive. It can democratize opportunity and democratize panic. It makes the whales bigger and the minnows stronger. It leaves you behind faster and faster, and it catches up to you faster and faster. While it is homogenizing cultures, it is also enabling people to share their unique individuality farther and wider.

Without the role of globalization it is not possible to speak of a term called American dominant culture. The dramatic effect of globalization has and will be strengthening this term. People around the world have become less like themselves and more like each other. The most common name that puts this in front of our eyes is McDonalds. When a McDonalds restaurant opens in a foreign country, it represents the penetration of a foreign symbol into a host country.

The adoption of that symbol invariably initiates a metamorphic transformation whereby that symbol is refined within the culture in question, including the use of the products in question and the role they play in the particular cultural setting. So with the introduction of a foreign symbol into a host country like a new McDonalds restaurant, the impact is not so dramatic and the host country does not fully take in the American culture but shapes it in a way to suit their lifestyle and tastes. For example, the food and names of the food at McDonalds in Tokyo is slightly different to those in America.

In India, it serves lamb burgers and in Germany beer is available. This shows that the American formula was not as international as had been hoped, and local cultural practices had to be acknowledged. That is to say, globalization is not determined in its effects; the cultures impacted upon are not without resilience and creativity. The American culture passes through so many filters as it crosses the ocean – filters of language, values, and references – that what East Europeans are receiving for example is far from what Americans think they are sending.

The term Americanization was originally used to describe the movement during the first quarter of the 20th cent, whereby the immigrant in the United States was induced to assimilate American speech, ideals, traditions, and ways of life (http://www. encyclopedia. com/searchpool. asp? [email protected]%20Americanization. ) The times have changed, but the process of Americanization is still happening only on a worldwide scale. Ambassador Cynthia P. Schneider gave a speech at Erasmus University on the topic of Americanization.

She believes that the reasoning behind the output of American culture is because the United States is a world leader, both in terms of economic and cultural influences. It is also the same country that experiences many of the changes we call modernism (http://globalization. about. com/gi/dynamic/offsite. htm? site=http://www. usemb. nl/051800. htm. ) The United States is very accepting. We dont have standard that are written in stone that tell us what is acceptable and what is not. We, for the most part, willingly agree to change and adapt our products for change.

The United States has a democratic government that allows for free speech and the same rights for everyone in its boarders. Although the United States has a relatively low dependence on international trade for most goods, the size of its economy its international is immense (Fu-chen Lo,76. ) Since the United States is more independent than many other nations, it capitalizes on its strengths. In addition to fulfilling Americans needs, the country has begun to meet the worlds too. By exporting American products, we are not only sending out the item for consumption but also our culture.

When the topic of Canada comes up among peoples, immediately the thought of ice hockey, the Mounted Police, and beavers comes to mind. In fact, Canada has truly lost its true identity that we once knew. It is slowly being assimilated and in fact Americanized in aspects of social identity, nationality and especially entertainment. Canada is an example of how much influence one country can have over another. Canada has a population of 30. 7 million. (http://www. infocan. gc. ca/facts/index_e. html) This number is fairly small when compared to the over 280 million people living in the United States.

For almost the past one hundred years the United States has used it size and power to overtake the Canadian entertainment industry. Since the 1920s the Canadians have struggled to evict Hollywood and the mega production-distribution complexes that control theaters in Canada (http://www. tv. cbc. ca/national/pgminfo/border/filmfact. html. ) In the past few years there have been very few popular movies, tv shows and musical acts from Canada. The most popular films have been Exotica, Black Robe and Jesus of Montreal. Most Americans would not recognize the titles of these popular Canadian films.

Although these films were more popular in their homeland than in the United States, Canadian films often have a difficult time finding a large audience in their country. Canadian films collect merely between four and six percent of the Canadian box office revenues (http://www. tv. cbc. ca/national/pgminfo/border/filmfact. html. ) To ensure the continuation of the dominance in the Canadian market many American studios have established distribution offices in Canada. In 2000, the major U. S. production-distribution houses control 80-94% of the theatrical film market (http://www. tv. c. ca/national/pgminfo/border/filmfact. html. )

A few of the major studios already with offices in the country include Universal, Warner Bros. and Disney. By setting up shop in Canada these companies are almost guaranteeing their success. They will receive the best advance publicity, the longest runs, and the best theatres. On the other hand, films made by Canadian films get few previews or press kits, and very little hype. Dominance of American movies is not limited to Canada. Another example of supremacy the United States film industry has over other countries is in Germany.

In this country imported popular culture from America is common. Almost 95% of films shown in theaters in Germany are films from Hollywood (http://www. rice. edu/projects/topics/globalization/movies-germany. htm. ) Just about all of the films are dubbed in German because the audience prefers to watch the movie in their native language. The power of American entertainment is not just limited to films produced in Hollywood. The television industry in the United States is huge. Throughout the years our selection has become larger.

Since the early eighties cable television has been added to public television, followed by the satellite dish. In the last five year Direct TV has becoming increasingly popular. Not only are programs produced in the United States popular here but in nations around the globe. Syndicated television is popular all around the world. It would be near impossible for a channel to have new programming that they created running twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Not only would it be hard to create that kind of volume but also production cost would be incredibly high.

Syndicated material is the answer for both of these problems. Syndicated programming is nationally produced programming that is supplied to stations (Folkerts, 188). The United States programming is used worldwide to fill in the needs of those countries that cannot provide enough material to fill the hours. It is not only popular because it fills in the gaps. Because of the expectations of the American public has about the standard of television the United States our programming is often of a higher quality than those produced internationally.

Even counties that have a strong domestic television industry have a high import rate of American television. Brazil, Mexico and Argentina import more than seventy percent of films and television series from the United States. These shows account for more than fifty percent of prime time (Thussu, 174). In countries where the television system is less sophisticated the numbers are even higher. In Latin America and the Caribbean more than sixty-two percent was imported from the United States. Thirty percent of the programming was from other countries on the continent.

Europe provided six percent of the shows while the rest of the world supplied only two percent (Thussu, 174). These numbers show the role that the United States plays in providing television for the rest of the world. Considering how much of the worlds entertainment the United States exports people may wonder why some individuals choose to complain about what they see. According to Daya Kishan Thussu, author of International Communication: Continuity and Change some countries are afraid that our programming promotes individualism and self-indulgence.

While these things are not considered to be bad or evil in the United States, other countries perceive these messages to be less than desirable. They fear that by watching American programming that often depict a people satisfying their every desire they will lose or damage traditional values such as respect for elders and the family. Many Americans, upon hearing this often scoff and say that we have a high moral system. While this may be true, the image most often projected by the entertainment industry does not suggest this.

Professor Kim Smith at Iowa State University lectured to his students that entertainment television does not represent the world we live in. It exaggerates, ignores and distorts the real world. The result is that television represents characters in a highly stereotypical manor. An excellent example of how true his beliefs are is the number one globally syndicated show is Baywatch (Thussu 168). This show hardly represents the typical American. Baywatch is not popular because of its high entertainment quality but rather because of the amount of promotion behind it.

Smith also stated that we watch these shows to be entertained and escape from the real world. The United States also portrayed as an extremely violent culture in television and film. Seventy-five percent of shows contain at least one act of violence. In these shows it is often the police, or another authority person, that is portrayed as being violent, not the criminal. In addition the majority of victims tend to be innocent random people (Smith). It is understandable that other cultures would be tentative about wanting to assimilate the United States, as it is portrayed on television.

Music Television (MTV) is one of the most flourishing world wise corporations. While most Americans think of the channel as strictly American, the company has gone global in a huge way. Think globally, act locally. The networks slogan could be the reason for their worldwide success. By targeting different areas and applying the regions individualistic music style to the channel MTV has been able to be successful all around the world. Although each channel is designed to appeal to a certain culture there is a large amount of English-language popular or rock music on all of the networks.

In 1999 MTV reached over 314 million households in eighty-three different countries and boasted that they were the most widely distributed network in the world (Thussu 172). Although MTV began in the United States, it has become amazing popular overseas. The networks biggest market is Asia that was launched in 1995. More than 107 million households in twenty countries watch MTV on a regular basis (Thussu 172). The channel broadcasts in both English and Mandarin.

MTV Asia has some real competition from its challenger Channel V. This channel is part of the star platform and claims to reach 72 million homes in Asia (Thussu 173). Europe is MTVs second largest market. Created in 1987, MTV Network Europe reaches eighty-three million homes in forty-one countries. This market has received a giant boost by the growth the increased usage of satellites and digital cable. MTV Europe is also broadcasted in English. In 1996 the channel split into four separate services. They are MTV in Britain and Ireland, MTV Central (includes Austria, Germany, and Switzerland), MTV Europe (35 counties), and MTC Southern (Italy).

A fifth service, MTV Nordic, was later added for the markets of Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Finland (Thussu, 173). The United States is the third largest market for the MTV network with a loyal following of seventy-two million. The network is so popular that it was able to split and form MTV2. This channel shows more music video, and often will preview new and less popular artists before their appearance on MTV. MTV is a true media powerhouse. As a symbol of what is popular not only in the United State but also all over the world the network has immense influence on its viewers.

Because MTVs power of influence on what is popular, advertising on the station is at a premium. By advertising on the network companies are able to reach an influential global audience. International advertisers, especially record companies, often want to use MTVs global reach and name to market their products. .. targeting youth throughout the world would be much sought after by advertisers seeking to expand their share of the world market for specific consumer goods of interest to youth, including jeans, designer clothes, watched and soft drinks (Thussu, 173).

Globalization sped up dramatically because of leaps and bounds made in communication technology in the past forty years. Today we are no longer limited by geography because of the technological society in which we live. In addition to having a having a two-way communications system, such as the telephone, we also have a advanced mass media system. All the new technologies have greatly accelerated the globalization process. The rate at which we can communicate with others half way around the world is mind-boggling.

The United States, as well as other countries, can now export ideas through mass media in seconds with the touch of a button. Cultural globalization implies a two-way relationship. However this does not tend to be the case. An Indian novelist commented, I have yet to hear that there is any writer in the West who is waiting with trepidation to hear what a critic in India has to say about her/him (Thussu, 181). This also tends to happen with the other forms of media. Occasionally shows will take on serious issues that are of global interest.

In Gilligan Unbound, a book written by Paul Cantor, it talks about how the American made television show The X-Files poses the questionWhat would the world be like without cell phones, modems, fax machines and all the other modern communication devises (210. ) For a show that usually includes vast amounts of high-tech global technology, this is quite a leap. Americanization has been around since the beginning the twentieth century. Since then the context of the term has changed but the expansion of American culture has exploded across not only boarders but also across thousands of miles of oceans.

The technologies that have made transcontinental communications possible has ensured that the world slightly conform and make very different cultures mesh into various ones that more resemble each other. As communication techonolgy continues to become better and more powerful it will be interesting to see the changes that it will lead to. Perhaps in ten years college students will no longer be writing about the topics of globalization and Americanization. Instead they will write about the time when cultures were so very different from each other.

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