American vs. Danish Television

In Global Entertainment Media, Tanner Mirrlees thoroughly examines the dichotomies between cultural imperialism and cultural globalization. It appears as though cultural globalization better encompasses both new and old ideas about the influence and control that the United States possesses in the global arena. Mirrlees discusses how broad terms like Americanization and Westernization are ideological at best, representing capitalism, democracy, consumer culture, etc. Although cultures tend to be categorized in a black or white mentality, there are numerous factors that contribute to the identity of a culture. While the rise of “multiple, shifting media centers” across the globe have contributed to diversification, it is clear that the United States “remains the world system’s media power center”(47).

When one thinks of Danish television- well let’s be honest no one ever thinks about Danish television. Since Denmark is such a small European country, it often gets grouped with the other Scandinavian nations. Although Denmark differs considerably from the United States, Danes speak impeccable English and both cultures share similar values. With that being said, there are similarities and differences between each country that have influenced the production of Danish television shows.

http://vignette3.wikia.nocookie.net/newgirl/images/b/bd/New_girl_season_4_2.jpg/revision/latest?cb=20140731072024

For example, audiences had very positive reactions to the American TV series, New Girl, when it premiered in 2011 on Fox. After having such successful ratings in the U.S., the popular Danish TV network Zulu followed suit by airing the pilot of a TV series with a very similar plot to New Girl, called Sjit Happens, which premiered in 2012 (following a pause in production, the entire first season aired in 2013). Based on IMDb’s ratings, both shows are nearly tied in popularity with New Girl scoring 7.8 and Sjit Happens 7.1. Even though Lars Bang and Thomas Gold are credited with the creation of Sjit Happens, the similarities not only in the premise, but specific episode plots, make it appear as though this show is copying from New Girl. For instance, the plots of episode 4 in season 1 of both New Girl and Sjit Happens are so closely related in theme that it is raises questions of authenticity:

New Girl: “When Jess walks in on Nick naked, his confidence is sent to an all-time low.”

Sjit Happens: “Ane captures the interest of photography, and because of that she needs to use Emil’s naked body for a photo shoot- a project that he is anything but enthusiastic about.”

https://i0.wp.com/ia.media-imdb.com/images/M/MV5BMzE1MTEyMzM0MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMDQ1Mzc0MTE@._V1_SX214_AL_.jpg

It is quite noteworthy that both shows have similar episode plots, but the fact that this is taking place on the exact same episode and same season is more than coincidental. Despite this, the style and humor of Sjit Happens differentiates itself from its American counterpart, making it more suitable for Danish audiences. The lighthearted and cheerful atmosphere in New Girl is quite different from the darker tones in Sjit Happens. Also, the presence of alcohol is more apparent on the show because the Danish drinking culture is more relaxed and integrated into society than it is in America. It is evident that American television influenced the creation of Sjit Happens, but even with those similarities, the Danish version has its own unique qualities that set it apart from the expectations of an American sitcom, further emphasizing the concept of globalizing entertainment media as a “complex and contradictory process…[among] a smorgasbord of national and multinational media sources” (51).

Another popular Danish TV series, Klovn, “shares many concepts with the American sitcom Curb Your Enthusiasm… even the score is similar.” Like the situation with Sjit Happens, the creators of Klovn also argue their ides to be original. According to Mirrlees, “media corporations…target an audience of viewers who prefer to consume entertainment made by and featuring people ‘who look the same, talk the same, joke the same and behave the same’ as they do” (47). From that, Danish TV producers saw the popular response to Curb You Enthusiasm’s innate dark humor and took advantage of its likely appeal with Danish audiences by creating something specific to their culture. Although Danes watch this American show, they would rather watch something more relevant to their own lives, especially in their language (according to my Danish friend). Despite their fluency in English, their native language connects them to their national identity and furthermore their culture, making Klovn more powerful and engaging.

All in all, it is no secret that American television and film dominant the world stage, but the alternative options found in other countries provides the consumer the benefit to pick and chose what they want to watch. Although this is more prevalent in such European countries as Denmark, there are still many places where the American entertainment industry overpowers native cultures. Hopefully, more domestic content can be produced once there are outlets for financing, production and distribution so people can actually have the opportunity to view their own country’s media content.

 

*I wasn’t able to incorporate this video into my blog post, but I thought it encapsulated how, from time to time, European countries seem to be lacking original ideas and look toward the U.S. for inspiration (or blatant copying). Please enjoy!

 

“Klovn.” Wikipedia. Web. 12 Oct. 2015. <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Klovn&gt;.

Mirrlees, Tanner. Global Entertainment Media: Between Cultural Imperialism and Cultural Globalization. New York: Routledge, 2013. Print.

“New Girl.” Wikipedia. Web. 12 Oct. 2015. <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Girl&gt;.

“New Girl: Episode List.” IMDb. IMDb.com, n.d. Web. 12 Oct. 2015. <http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1826940/episodes?season=1&gt;.

“Sjit Happens: Episode List.” IMDb. Web. 12 Oct. 2015. <http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2382978/episodes?season=1&ref_=tt_eps_sn_1&gt;.

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