Friday, November 20, 2009

Media Imperialism

“I think we were directly or indirectly responsible for the fall of the Soviet empire," Larry Hagman

In his essay "Media Imperialism," John Tomlinson considers media to be an important aspect of larger "cultural imperialism." Cultural imperialism is any instance of one culture advancing its value system on another by force, or in the case of media, by seduction.

The author has 3 criticisms of prior theories
-the problem of specifying culture as political/economic
-the problem of naivety

-the problem of seeing the West as only capitalist

Media imperialism, suggests Tomlinson, is much more complex. It advances political and economic values but also transforms societies. The notion imperialism is associated with transnational media that reaches a global audience. Media works as “patterning” behavior so that lived culture influences the media and vice versa. Media representations can inform/replace the authentic and even teach people about themselves.

Tomlinson is specifically interested in the European distribution of the television show Dallas. Dallas premiered as a miniseries in 1978 and continued until 1991. The show centered on the Ewing family, an oil and cattle ranching family in Texas. The show was a glorification of materialism that generated Marxist critique.

From "How 'Dallas' Won the Cold War": “I think we were directly or indirectly responsible for the fall of the [Soviet] empire," Hagman told the Associated Press a decade ago. "They would see the wealthy Ewings and say, 'Hey, we don't have all this stuff.' I think it was good old-fashioned greed that got them to question their authority.” In Romania, "Dallas" was the last Western show allowed because President Nicolae Ceausescu was persuaded that it was sufficiently anti-capitalistic.

A few facts

Although EU countries make more films than the US, 75% of the income of European cinemas comes from American films.
A study on American media in Europe found that the best evidence of influence was the sudden appearance of American names (Jennifer & Jason in the 1970’s)
Because of its unique geographical position, Europe is “invaded” by media from both the US and Arabic countries. Recent articles discuss less of the US imperialism and more of an Islamic imperialism

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