November 27, 2008

American Cultural Imperialism

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — Bob Patterson @ 7:40 pm

(Fremantle W. A.) November 28, 2008 Stella, from Great Britain, was disconcerted (and a bit intimidated) when she arrived in Australia and folks took to shouting (or pretending to yell) her name. Someone finally explained to her that they were imitating Marlon Brando in the movie “Streetcar Named Desire.”The anecdote points out an unusual paradox that might surprise many Americans: American cultural references are much more prevalent (and understood) by Australians than by Brits.

The concept of “American Cultural Imperialism” was first discovered by this columnist in an exchange of e-mails with an Australian writer, a few years back.

After becoming familiar with the concept, the idea seemed plausible. A visit to Australia is much more convincing. At times Australia today seems like a journey back to California about 40 years ago.

The fact that Australia is (culturally speaking) much more of a “farm club” for American entertainment endeavors than Great Britain has a double significance. People who think that Hollywood stars are world famous, have a nasty shock awaiting them when a Brit asks “Who is Paul Newman?” and the people who ignore the America-Australia connection are snubbing one of the U. S.’s greatest potential markets.

A lawyer in Western Australia told this columnist that it is becoming more and more difficult for him to distinguish between visits to the USA and travels in his home state in Australia because more and more business franchises in this Australian state are familiar names for all American visitors. Parts of the Perth area seem more like New Jersey than cities in a part of the world with Indian Ocean beaches.

If this columnist’s perception is accurate, it means that Hollyweird (American slang for Hollywood) has two challenges: they have to work harder to convince people in Great Britain that “Streetcar Named Desire” was an “all time great”movie and, at the same time, that they are not purposely ignoring the large growing market for American goods and entertainment in this country south of the equator.

It seems logical to this American columnist to assume that Hollywood would have a much greater impact on Great Britain than Australia. Stella’s plight proves that the exact opposite is true. Many more Australians seem to be able to make the Stella-Marlin Brando connection than the folks from London can. Does this mean that Londoners are not as “hip” as Americans assume or does it mean that Australians are a much more likely to understand American cultural references? Wouldn’t you think that the Australians would be much more likely to have interchangeable cultural references with the Brits?

TV in Australia is chock full of local programs and American reruns. How did the Americans shut the Brits out of this built-in-in market for entertainment?

Australians who have some resentment concerning Hollywood’s attitude toward talented Australian film makers seem to assume that it is precisely because they are Australian that they are being shunned. A possible explanation (we don’t have the time or the fact checking facilities of the Santa Monica Public Library at our disposal ) might be that Hollywood resents talented outsiders, even those who are American, and make it difficult for outsiders to break into the “In Crowd.”

During President Bush’s lame duck period, additional criticism of the Texan seems too late to matter, and harsh assessments of President Obama would be unfairly premature, so this columnist’s response will be to devote attention to pop culture topics and hope that this web site’s management will let some extraneous topics slide until more relevant political commentary becomes appropriate.  (We will try to get the spacing done correctly as we learn to do these interim posts.)

Should American web sites send a corresponded to Australia just to get a better perspective for reviews of “Australia”?

Another famous line from “Streetcar Named Desire” was: “Whoever you are, I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.”

Now, the disk jockey will play Stella Soleil’s song “Kiss Kiss” and we will bid you adieu. Have a “what are you rebelling against?” type week.

1 Comment

  1. Sadly,Bob,Nationalism is making a comeback in the UK.
    All Americans are Philistines with “W” and the Knuckle-drags who supported him post hurricane katrina were seen as the proof.

    This clip serves pretty well,I know its a show about cars but it is also the Worlds most popular
    car show.
    The challenge here was to get each other beat up
    while driving through the Southern states.
    Watch what happens:

    Comment by Rainlander — November 28, 2008 @ 12:52 am

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