Transnational Americanisation

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You walk into your local DVD store; you feel like watching a movie (but you’re not into piracy) . You take a look around browsing all the genres. All the basics are there Comedy, Action, Horror… yep nothing out of the ordinary here. You notice the foreign films section in the far back corner. You decide to take a look (for the first time ever). Yep just what you expected; a bunch of subtitled films that you have never heard of before. Once again all the genres are there Chinese, Indian, French…

STOP! what is wrong with this picture?

Let’s analyse this scenario for a second. When you were looking in the ‘normal’ section, What were you seeing?  Was it divisions being made by genre?  That is odd because in the ‘foreign’ section I could have sworn divisions were being made by nationality. So are we saying ‘other’ countries don’t have genres?  They mustn’t because obviously all Indian films are Bollywood and off course all Japanese films, Chinese films, Malaysian films.. etc, simply fall under the category of Asian. Let’s not forget the most important part, the English speaking movies were ‘Normal’  and could be categorized into what they were, not where they came from. Welcome to the world of Americanization, where the English language is a transnational commodity and Hollywood is King.

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I find this concept somewhat confusing. Why do we feel the need to separate foreign films into their own section? Why not just put them in with the genres they are? (and perhaps put a sticker alerting the lazy people of the world that there are subtitles). I mean seriously even movies that come straight from Hollywood itself are not even entirely American. Every movie in existence (don’t quote me on this) has been derived from multicultural and multinational backgrounds. Take Christopher Nolan‘s modern Batman remakes. They have to be some of the biggest blockbusters to ever arise from Hollywood, but the truth is the production team and actors are from a collection of many different countries. It would make more sense calling it a British film as the director and the main actors (Christian Bale and Michale Caine) are all British.

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Another thing that really gets to me is Hollywood’s need to keep remaking successful foreign films. For me a prime example of this would have to be The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. In my opinion Niels Arden Oplev’s Swedish film adaptations of  Stieg Larsson’s hit novels were perfect as they were. Although there was nothing wrong with David Fincher’s American adaptation, I sill feel that it was completely unnecessary and I feel annoyed that for a movie to reach global audiences it has to be remade in English with big name Hollywood actors. It makes me wonder was this unnecessary remake just a cynical attempt to hook in audiences who couldn’t be bothered to read the original adaptation’s subtitles?

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This, however is not always the case. In my opinion Martin Scorsese’s film The Departed is very different and yet very good adaptation of the Chinese film Infernal Affairs. While the blatant Americanisation of the film can be clearly noted (the constant yelling, over the top action and over use of the word f@#%), I feel that this was an adaptation that needed to be made in order for the film to transition better into global markets. There is a certain subtly in Chinese cinema that is not always well translated by other audiences and so this remake was necessary.

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Hip Hop (An International Langauge)

Hip Hop has come a long way since its spawn into the underground culture of the1970’s New York, Bronx. Today it exists as this dominating global phenomenon that operates in every city across the world. That’s right Hip Hop is globalization in action and though it can be labeled a single genre or style, it is far more complex than just that. Hip Hop is a dynamic being that exists on both a local and a global scale. It is a Hybrid force that somehow manages to mix the mainstream with the niche, the traditional with the modern and the secluded with the united.

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In order to better explain let’s take a little look into what Hip Hop is.’ A music genre consisting of a stylized rhythmic music that commonly accompanies rapping, a rhythmic and rhyming speech that is chanted. It developed as part of hip hop culture, a subculture defined by four key stylistic elements: MCing/rapping, DJing/scratching, break dancing, and graffiti writing’ (THANKS WIKIPEDIA!).  But what it can really be defined as like most music is a medium for expression. Hip Hop originally started as a “voice” for the disenfranchised youth of low-economic areas, a means for minorities express their feelings on inequality and a way to ignite a sense of brotherhood and hope. Hip hop is a little bit different nowadays though, ( I mean I’m not sure what Nicki Minaj shaking her ass has to do expression of inequality but who am I to judge). The point I am trying to make however is that this ideology of Hip Hop being an outlet for the misunderstood youth is what allows it to gain such influence on a global scale.

Hip Hop can be found everywhere from America to Guatemala, from Japan to Australia, From London to Iran, it’s huge and with each locational region comes a new flare to to the genre. That’s what I was talking about when I said it combines the local with the global. It is a universal style that adapts to its location. Not only is it cross cultural but it is becoming less gender specific with artist Like M.I.A  reaching critical acclaim. She alone is a perfect example of intonational Hip Hop being a London artist having grown up in Sri Lanka.

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Take a look a Die Antwoord for example they are white, South Africans whose music makes constant reference to Asian sub cultures. They are a strange hybridity that falls into the niche market even though they are played on mainstream radio and they mix traditional South African culture with modern rave beats.

Now I’m not saying Hip hop is a beacon sent by God to free the oppressed and outspoken…

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I mean seriously, Hip Hop reinforces some intense negative stereotypes and racial profiling. Not to mention the promotion of violence, drugs, vanity, murder, and sexism. On a shallow level when you think of Hip Hop, I’m sure you think of Male African American ‘gangsters’ with their baggy pants, shinny grills, jewellery, drugs and guns; with the way some Hip Hop artist act, its not surprising that you might think that. Have you ever played GTA San Andreas? that has to be one of he most derogatory games in existence (it is also one of the greatest I might add, best GTA thus far).

I’m not sure if all aspects of Hip Hop Culture should be considered good, but one thing I am sure of is that Hip Hop is a international phenomenon that exists on a massive scale  and that it is only going to continue to flourish in this global society.

Getting On With Aussies

After attending my International Media lecture this week I was surprised to discover just how big of an industry International Education is here in Australia. Did you know that International Education is Australia’s third largest export and that it stands to bring millions into the Economy? There are approximately 630,000 full fee paying overseas students in Australia, possibly the highest in the world as a proportion of the total population. Just this year alone we had 55 thousand Indian students migrate here for university.

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However the thing that surprised me most of all, was not the prevalence of International Education in this country but rather the treatment of the International students themselves. With more than one quarter of of the Australian population being born overseas, you would think that Australia would be a land of extreme diversity and tolerance but in actual fact it is still a very Ethnocentric country and as a result of this many international students find it hard to have as valuable a culturally enriching experience as they deserve. Perhaps Ethnocentric is too harsh a word, while I’m not going to sit here and say racism doesn’t exist in this country (ahem the Cronulla riots), I would like to think that MOST Australians are not overtly discriminative. A more appropriate word might be Parochialism in the sense that we Australians are very limited in the scope of how we see the world.

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Children In China are learning the English Language as early on as kindergarten and many parents who can afford it are sending their children,  as young as two, to private lessons in the hope that they will become fluent at an early age. Here in Australia however our attempts to learn the language of other cultures is limited. Most of us don’t even get the option to study another language until high school and even then, most of the time, it is an elective subject, not a compulsory one. ‘Nowadays the English language is subject to commodification, characterized as a marketable product that provides opportunities to economic, educational and immigration opportunities’.

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Australia is such a diverse and globalized nation and yet it’s citizens know very little about the outside world. This is why when International Students come to study in Australia we expect them to act Australian and if they don’t, we feel that they don’t belong. There is a direct correlation between the level of assimilation an international student makes and the level of acceptance they receive socially here in Australia. The more ‘Australian’ an international student is the easier it is for them to make friends. Why is it that we have this belief that assimilation is the best possible outcome? We have this strange ideology that our way is the right way. Do we think that all international students came here to experience Australia and therefore must adapt into ‘our’ culture?

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I, myself am not exempt from this attitude, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been put into a group activity at Uni with an international student and thought ‘aww man, how am I supposed to work with them when they can’t even speak english?, I’m going to have to do this whole assignment on my own’. That is exactly the narrow minded attitude I am speaking of, that exist within Australia and even I am guilty of it. International students have just as much culturally enriching information to share with us as we have to give to them. With the global world we live in, it is in the best interest for Australians to to learn more about other nations. For a multicultural country we need to become more tolerant.

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I Still Call Australia Home?

When someone asks where are you from, do you instinctively say the place you grew up in or do you say the place you live in now? perhaps you talk about your heritage or nationality or even the place you associate with the most.

When someone asks me this question my answer would have to be Australia because it is the only place I have ever lived but recently I have been thinking about what it means to be Australian and I have come to the conclusion that I don’t really know.

There are some aspects of Australia that are considered to be a part of our culture but the truth is I don’t really associate with these things at all. I don’t like football or cricket, I’m not that fond of barbeques or the beach, I almost never wear thongs, I’ve never lived out in the bush and I am in no way Aboriginal. So does this make me less Australian? Perhaps I should say I am Italian because that is my heritage, but then I’d still feel the same because I’m not really connected to Italian Culture either. If it’s the place you associate  with the most that determines where you come from than I would gladly say I am Japanese because nothing makes me feel more at home than eating Ramen, drinking some sake and watching an anime or reading a Manga. But how could I say that when I am not even from Japan?

Australia is a prime example of a ‘global village’ in the sense that it’s a culture made up of many different cultures. When I stop and think about my everyday Australian life from the things I eat to the clothes I wear, from the movies I watch to the music I listen to, all of it is either influenced by or entirely imported from other cultures all over the world. This leads me to the question has all this cross cultural integration led to a destruction of culture itself?  What it means to be Australian is a difficult question to answer when Australia is so multicultural that is ceases to have its own identity.

At the same time though while I know Australia is very diverse and multicultural, I sometimes wonder just how globalized it really is. It is still a western dominate culture and the existence of cultural Imperialism is clearly evident. As Todd Gitlin states” If there is a global village it speaks American“, take film and television here in Australia for example. About 80 percent of movies released here are American Hollywood blockbusters and the television shows we import are primarily American as well. There are so many great Australian Movies out there but when I think about how many I have seen personally, It would probably be less than forty and when I think about how many American or British Movies I’ve seen it would be in the hundreds (yeah I watch A LOT of movies). The truth is there just isn’t that many foreign films available in Australia. Even look at the magazines we read, What are we reading about each week? American celebrates and American pop stars. You can’t even enter a town in Australia without finding a McDonald’s or two and everyone here has an iPod. So yes it can be noted that Australia in some ways is heavily dominated by western culture particularly American however in other in ways it is a very diverse and multicultural nation. The hard part is determining where global influences end and Australian culture begins.