Disney. Macdonalds. America’s next top model. What do all these have in common?
They are American products.
The American mass media is the main operating enterprise that is used to export American products to the rest of the world, causing the globalization of American media. This is known as Cultural Imperialism.
An American media critic, Herbert Schiller, wrote: “The concept of cultural imperialism today best describes the sum of the processes by which a society is brought into the modern world system and how its dominating stratum is attracted, pressured, forced, and sometimes bribed into shaping social institutions to correspond to, or even promote, the values and structures of the dominating centre of the system.
Also, according to dictionary.com, Cultural imperialism is ‘the imposition of a foreign viewpoint or civilization on a people.’
Now, I believe ‘imposition’ is too strong a description, as it implies something forceful and perhaps negative. With the vast amount of American media available to us, there are bound to be negative AND positive effects that come along with it. I will be focusing more on the positive effects of Cultural Imperialism in my entry.
Cultural imperialism has been a dominant phenomenon seen in the context of Singapore culture these days. With the plethora of American television series featured on our local television channels, such as ‘American Idol’, ‘America’s next top model’, ‘Criminal minds’ and the popular soap opera ‘Days of our lives’ just to name a few. It is undeniable that their prevalence aid to retain, or improve the viewership count. Many may feel that this devalues our local television programmes as they are depicted as unpopular as compared to exported American series. However, there is positivity in depending extensively on American media instead of local, as this allows more of the countries revenue to be used on other perhaps more important issues at hand such as innovative infrastructure and tourist attractions, that too can help to spruce up our cultural identity, allowing us to create cultural recognition abroad.
Furthermore, since its evident that Singapore has a fairly small market, it is difficult for our media production industry to flourish. Hence, it is more feasible to cost effective to buy the license of western television programmes for local screening.
However, as the saying goes ‘Monkey see, monkey do,’ will too much consumption of American media become unhealthy and perhaps harmful to us?
I, personally believe that so long as we are able to stay rooted to our own national identity, whilst being open minded to the American culture induced in such American television programmes, there is nothing to worry about. Also, individuals can discern whether the media available to them is applicable to one’s own culture, and if there are good aspects that can be learnt from them. Hence, cultural imperialism can be beneficial to our society.
Reference: Unit 4 Lecture Notes, “Thinking through Communication: An Introduction to the Study of Human Communication” by Sarah Trenholm