It is no mystery that Hollywood produces the world’s most famous movies and lists the world’s most famous movie stars. Hollywood films capture imaginations across the world and can be seen on theater screens in nearly every other country. This is one outcome of globalization. Due to liberalization of trade among countries and the ease in ability to export and import, more foreign cultures have been exposed to American film. The development of the Internet over the last couple of decades has also created a medium to access movies easier and quicker than ever before. These effects of globalization and the dominant American film industry are quantifiable. The effects that this monopoly has on local cultures around the globe, however, are not. It is an issue of debate among cultural and media theorists and involves the possible practice of cultural imperialism.
Cultural Imperialism is defined as the “imposition of a foreign viewpoint or civilization on a people.” Is this phenomenon possible through the simple viewing of a film or television show? Some academics believe that movies in fact have an “ideological manipulative effect on the viewer” (Tomlinson 344, in L&B). If the global spread of fast food restaurants such as McDonald’s is perceived as imposing eating and meal practices, why can’t an influx of stimulating and memorable images have such an impact? In the 1980s the TV series Dallas was seen as a “threat posed by American-style commercial culture against authentic national identities” (Tomlinson 343). TV and film form the United States is viewed as spreading American ethos in ideals such as capitalism, commercialism and individualism. They reflect American principles in areas like health care; food hygiene, educational provision; and various “liberal” cultural attitudes towards honesty, toleration, compassion and so on (Tomlinson 349).
Movies produced by the U.S. retain these values because they reach and connect to their largest viewing base, Americans. When they are seen by cultures different from and outside of the U.S. they are imposing a new set of cultural values. It is of contention on whether or not these films are actually interpreted as such and have a transforming effect on the viewer however. I believe we look at how much a part of our culture our movies become this is a clear answer. Anthropologist Louise Krasniewicz asserts the cultural impact movies have on their viewers by describing how the “anthropological study of films would show how movies provide us with characters, scenarios, symbols, metaphors, and plots that structure and limit how we think about our everyday existence” (Krasniewicz 9).
She points out how movie quotes enter our everyday language and that we point to movie scenes as reference points for certain events in our lives. I can not even count the times per week I personally quote Star Wars or an Arnold Shwarzenegger film. “Movies are more than just stories they tell. They are symbolic constructs, systems of symbols that help people think, feel, and act”, becoming “persistent categories, cultural themes, interpretive strategies, integrated sets of symbols, and world views that members of that society see as normal and natural” (Krasniewicz 12).
Movies certainly have that power within our own culture, granted nearly all movies are aiming towards mainstream Americans. If these movies and the values and symbols constructed from them were to set hold and take complete control over all other entertainment media I believe it would surely begin/continue a transformative process in cultural ideology.
The conclusion is still interpretative and unclear, however, on whether or not this process is cut and dry cultural imperialism, or more complex. It is quite possibly resulting in a form of hybridization of cultural concepts or even creating something more universal. As other posts will point put there is a push and pull effect regarding globalization and the consequences complicate the possibility of cultural imperialism. I believe it is undeniable, however, that Hollywood’s monopoly of film and the consequential transfer of American values has been impactful in the overall exercise of globalization. The mere fact that it is often an issue of conflict among foreign cultures creates a mystique that empowers American film as “culturally imperialist cinema” (Tyrrell 373, in L&B).