Let’s not have Vanilla

In our recent history of media we are faced with an issue that if left unchecked, possibly could impact culture on a wide spectrum. Where now we live in a world of diverse cultures, beliefs and ideas, if we allow the current climate of globalization to endure we are faced with a world that possibly could become vanilla in it’s cultural makeup.

I wanted a mix of chocolate, strawberry and salted caramel... not this.

I wanted a mix of chocolate, strawberry and salted caramel… not this.

This is not to say that globalization is a bad thing. It has allowed us to produce almost any product cheaply so that nearly anyone can afford it, has helped bring the world closer together by spreading ideas across borders and has given rise to new opportunities. Despite this, the issue which currently stands is which ideas get preference over others in the big scheme of global distribution, most accurately, American ideas.

Currently American ideas, or media in this case, get favoritism over other cultures caused in part by how much America distributes throughout the world in comparison to other countries. With a world that consumes a vast amount of American media and content, it results in cultural imperialism which then cascades into a “largely one-way or uni-directional flow of media entertainment from the US to the rest of world… Many countries import US entertainment media, but the US does not import many TV shows and films made elsewhere.” (26) To add on to that, most shows that we do import get remade. For instance, shows such as The Office, House of Cards along with several others were originally very popular British shows that got remade with American casts.

The American Version

The American Version

The British Version

The British Version

This remaking of content demonstrates the core problem, the one way flow of media. Of course this is an issue globally but this is just as much if not more so a problem with the US. Instead of demonstrating the US to new ways of thinking, we instead reinvent these original ideas by filtering them through US entertainment ideals and then regurgitating them as a ready to consume product that we are confortable with. It’s like McDonalds took unique foods from around the world, made them easy to make like their burgers and fries and sold them. Yes the original idea is from a different culture but the end product is closer to the same McDonalds we had before had rather than something that we can expand our palates with.

So why is it important for the US to expose itself to different cultures? Shouldn’t we try and empower nations to simply invest in their own entertainment industries and create new content? Yes we should, in fact some countries have started to do so with “States within the European Union compel(ing) their national TV broadcasters to commit a portion of the daily schedules to “European” entertainment. In Kenya, the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC) strives to “provide quality TV” programs that preserve indigenous values and promote “universal access to information for all” (Kenya broadcasting corporation 2011)” (105). But this is not the issue I want to address, the issue I want to address is the miss use of globalization. If the US is the only power who is able to distribute culture on such a massive scale then the rest of culture in the world just becomes bland but more importantly becomes resistant to new ways of thinking. A pleasent thought would be to dismantle these large corporations in favor of smaller content providers and to try and bring in other nationalities to the mix. However the US media providers already have entrenched themselves throughout the world and it would be difficult to fight them as they have large amounts of power and money, so why not take advantage of this?

Why not use pre-established US media distribution to introduce different popular shows and movies from different countries throughout the world? We already see this with the internet with companies like Netflix giving access to foreign TV and movies to it’s viewers. Not to mention several channels show foreign material already like how Cartoon Network has a specific section dedicated to Asian cartoons called Toonami. Yes the program is only on Saturdays from 12AM to 3:30AM but it is a step in the right direction by having some access to foreign media via large media outlet’s and popular TV channels.

A (small) step in the right direction

A (small) step in the right direction

What we require is to rethink our media policies. We need to rethink not only what content is made in the states but also how to balance it with foreign media. This cannot be just seen a cultural betterment for the US but also a chance to create a stronger market as “a market works best when no one seller has extraordinary or significant control over the production and distribution system, the conduct of its competitors, or the price of goods” (75) By introducing other media we encourage a stronger sense of competition between US corporations and foreign entertainment industries. As a result we may not just see more diverse cultural media but also better content, all being streamed through the same distribution systems that are already in place.

By simply seeing US media distribution as just being inherently evil, we overlook the potential of these systems in order to distribute a culturally mixed media and in the end a mixed bowl of ice cream.

Quotes taken from:

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

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