Hollywood and the Rise of Cultural Protectionism

Published: 2021-09-30 12:15:04
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Like an iceberg, most aspects of culture are largely invisible to the casual observer (for example, gender roles, ways to solve problems, conversational patterns). Using Hofstede’s and Trompenaars’ definitions, what aspects of culture do Hollywood films promote around the worldIn what ways do Hollywood movies affect the cultural values of people outside the United States?

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Harvie Conn has described film as a “cultural mirror,” and that it is a valuable reflection of contemporary attitudes, philosophies, values, and lifestyles of individuals around the world. Others, such as Michael Medved, have placed more emphasis on the idea of film as a ‘former’ of culture. (Frame, M, John, n.d)
Hofstede’s definition
Culture it self has been defined in several ways by several theorist, such as Hofstede’s who defined culture as the “collective programming of the mind which distinguishes the members of one group or category of people from another.” Furthermore he stated it consists of the unwritten rules of what he referred to as a ‘social game’. (Hofstede, Geert H. 2010) He also described culture as the “software of the mind” that guides us in interactions we face on a day-to-day basis. (Hofstede, 1995) He identified 3 levels in human mental programming:
Human nature (universal; inherited);
Culture (specific to group/category; learned)
Personality (specific to individual; learned and inherited).
To conclude he stated that “Culture is always a collective phenomenon, because it is at least partly shared with people who live or lived within the same social environment which is where it is learned.” (Hofstede, 1995) In relation to film and the question of whether aspects of culture could be taught to individuals around the world, it is likely that Hofstede would agree so, that that culture could be taught through Hollywood films, as he believed that culture can be learned and also inherited.
To expand on the assumption that culture could be learned, particular through film, this could be caused by the ability of individuals to have unique patterns of thinking; feeling; and potential acting which were learned throughout their lifetime, Hofstede would believe that these patterns of thinking’s could be learned through what they see in their lifetime, and what is depicted through films individuals see. (Hostede, Geert, 1991)
The reason as to why he believed that culture is inherited was because of the assumption that much of it is likely to be acquired in early childhood, he argued at this time a person is most susceptible to learning and assimilating’, and that ‘As soon as certain patterns of thinking; feeling and acting have established themselves within a person’s mind; (s)he must unlearn these before being able to learn something different; and unlearning is more difficult than learning for the first time.’ (Hostede, Geert, 1991) One should agree with this theory, as what we learn from a young age and what we are continually told always will have an impact on our decision-making and interpretation of things in life.
With this being said it could be assumed that when a human becomes older any future learned cultural opinions could have been influenced through Hollywood movies, we will look at the impact of Hollywood people outside of the United States.
Trompenaars’ cultures definition
Fons Trompenaars is a Dutch theorist within the field of cross-cultural communication and international management. The theorist developed a model of differences in national cultures. This model includes seven dimensions, it was used identify how people in different national cultures interact with each other. The respective culture’s most likely response to each dilemma, this can be seen to illustrate the deep values entrenched in different cultures, and are used to generalize each national culture’s most likely response to everyday dilemmas and human interactions. The different dimensions are useful in understanding different interactions between people from different national cultures, and can give guidance to e.g. expatriates having managerial tasks in different cultures. (Anon, 2009)
The seven dimensions identified are
Universalism vs. particularism (What is most important – rules or relationships?)
Individualism vs. collectivism (Do we function in a group or as individuals?)
Neutral vs. emotional (Do we display our emotions, or do we hide them?)
Specific vs. diffuse (Do we handle our relationships in specific and predetermined ways, or do we see our relationships as changing and related to contextual settings?)
Achievement vs. ascription (Do we have to prove ourselves to receive status, or is status given to us?)
Sequential vs. synchronic (Do we do things one at a time or several things at once?)
Internal vs. external control (Do we believe that we can control our environment, or do we believe that the environment controls us?)
Trompenaars tested these 7 dimensions on 55 worldwide national cultures. The results found in every national culture, which illustrate the preferred response to different dilemmas concerning each dimension, can therefore be used by business managers to foresee, how different people from different cultures may act and behave in different atmospheres (Anon, 2009)
Hollywood’s Film Industries influence to the world
From a historically aspect, Hollywood’s influence to other worldwide cultures can be seen from ever since the World War I, after this war occurred, according to sources, the American film industry achieved international dominance and became a principal promoter of American cultural expansion, in doing this Hollywood projecting images of America to the rest of the world. (Tosaka, 2003) In relation to Hofstede’s theory which said that culture could be learned, it would be assumed that with this American cultural expansion, their culture would become taught among foreign people in foreign national cultures.
After the war according to the source, the United States emerged as the world’s leading economy and the largest creditor nation. At this time the American-controlled media flooded global markets with their American popular culture. The fact that America started to control media, would assume they were in control of what they wanted viewers to see and they were in control of how they wanted people around the world to think about America. This therefore contributed to the country being increasingly recognized as the center of international mass culture; in effect it helped with the launching of what was referred to as a process of Americanization on a global scale. (Rosenberg, 1890–1945)
The aspects that would have been taught among people around the world through film would be social values, lifestyles and fashions, the effects among people around the world, vary as individuals could loathe, admire, and emulate it all over the world. (Rosenberg, 1890–1945)
But of all cultural exports American inflicted globally, the Hollywood cinema was alleged to perhaps be the most visible and influential outpost of American culture in the interwar era.
America became powerful as they started to control most film markets; in doing this they started enacting their American way of life on the silver screen which would therefore influence the individuals of crowded movie theatres around the world. Because of this Hollywood often became subject of a growing debate about the question of cultural identity in a new, interconnected world. (Tosaka, 2003)
Some interpreted Hollywood’s control of film markets as positive, in that it helps ‘serve as goodwill ambassadors for promoting mutual understanding among nations.’ Furthermore, it has been said, that American Producers with regard to their dominance of globally of the film market, sort to ensure that every picture “shall correctly portray American life, opportunities and aspirations to the world,” while also “correctly portray[ing] to America the life of other people.” (Hays to J. F. Keeley, 23 August 1924, 281 Motion Pictures—General, 1924, RG 151) But it has been said in real life, however, just like its discourses on modernity and mass culture, Hollywood’s vision of creating global products that crossed the boundaries of culture and nation was often besieged with a constant stream of critical examination by domestic and foreign observers alike. (Tosaka, 2003)
Further criticism was made, in regard to Hollywood’s dominance and cultural power to influence people around the world. These people that sit in the cinema watching the films may take the aspects of the movies as a reflection of prevailing social attitudes and start generalizing, there has been a demand for some specific films, to require great caution such as Fictional Films. (Razlogova, Ellen 2005)
It has been said, Fictional films are complex industrial and social products. The way they are filmed, distributed, exhibited, and received by various audiences around the world and critics must be investigated to fully evaluate their ability to changes people’s perception of historical evidence. Examples have been made of this; it should be regarded as dangerous to interpret a few films from a specific period as simple reflections of American society. ‘The attitudes portrayed in a specific film may represent a series of compromises carefully designed to be non-offensive. In addition, individual films can indicate very different attitudes toward labor unions, big business, race relations, or women’s rights.’ (Razlogova, Ellen 2005)
This demonstrates that to different individuals in different cultures, even though their national cultures are different, they will still have the same perception and the same learning from watching the film, whether it is in relation to race or even women’s rights, or gay rights, it shows that film is a powerful regulator of people’s minds.
The Culture Values promoted by various Hollywood Films
Several Hollywood Films have caused great influences among people these could be seen as positive and controversially negative. Take for instance Movies that deal with Politics such as Air Force One (DVD) 1997 Directed by Wolfgang Petersen. The film is a Hollywood blockbuster movie, starring A-list actor Harrison Ford as James Marshall, President of the USA. The plot deals with fictional political intrigue and the hijacking of Air Force One, the President’s jumbo jet, by Russian terrorists. (Davis, n.d) The films influence could be regarded as an influence on Political philosophy, which is defined as philosophical reflection on how best to arrange our collective life – our political institutions and our social practices, such as our economic system and our pattern of family life. (Miller, 1998) The film is alleged to transmit several subtle and overt political messages. The film is also seen to be a celebration of American patriotism and militarism. (Davis, n.d)
The film Dead Poets Society (1989) makes a critique of traditional education. Upon its release in 1989, Dead Poets Society (written by Tom Schulman, directed by Peter Weir) became a cultural influence among people in the world, as it’s a film that is regarded to have spoken to teens, students, the public and critics at large. (Laic, Carol 2001). The movie is alleged to have represented a social movement of ‘freedom of thought’ in the education of young adults, its influence was significant as traditional learning techniques are challenged by a new English teacher John Keating (Robin Williams) who introduces new progressive approaches in stark contrast to the traditions of disciplined learning styles. (Laic, Carol 2001). This obviously has an education influence among viewers worldwide, it had the ability to impact on influences the way we are taught new things, therefore it is influential.
In regard to influences of religion among the world, the film Passion of The Christ (2004) as stated in the case study, should be regarded as a controversial film, so controversial that the film was in Muslim countriesThe film has created a stir among ultra-Orthodox rabbis and some politicians who want it banned according to the Los Angeles Times. A survey showed that there were a rising percentage of individuals who say Jews were responsible for Christ’s death is rising, after watching the film. The poll released by the Pew Research Center in Washington is the first statistical evidence that the film’s box-office success may be associated with an increase in anti-Jewish feeling. (Ekklesia, 2004)
Films such as Borat: Cultural Learnings of America For Make Benefit (2006) could be seen as to ridicule of foreign cultures for their religious believes ect. The film Lost In Translation (2003) was criticized for its portrayal of Japanese people as robotic creatures who mix up their L’s and R’s. Because of this portrayal, it’s likely that Americans will assume this is normal for Japanese people to do; therefore it is likely that the portrayal will create ignorant stereotypes among the Japanese and East Asian Americans.
Worldwide, protectionism of most goods is insignificant or declining. Do movies constitute a separate category (culture incarnate, as stated in the case study), or should they be treated like any other goodThat is, given the nature of movies, is it okay for a country to shield and support its own film industry via protectionismWhyAre there any other cultural industries that governments should protect?
There have been many controversial issues surrounding the idea of cultural protectionism, particularly in relation to foreign film markets, such as Australia. The Australian government had been involved in a series of negotiations with the US for what was described as a bilateral trade agreement. At the time the Bush Administration promised their Prime Minister John Howard a free trade deal as a pay-off for Australian participation in the illegal US-led war against Iraq.’ (Phillips, 2003)
The agreement was beneficial to Australian businesses and farmers with better access to American markets and boost export incomes. But to achieve this however, Howard told the media, “We will have to agree to some things the Americans put to us.” In the agreement America could decline to pay taxation on films, as it was suggested by the Local filmmakers and actors argued that this shows a weakening of protective measures for the small Australian film and television industry. (Phillips, 2003) With this being said, if there is less taxation imposed on America for their films, there will be less finance from quotas (what the government demands to help finance new local-content) towards local films, as stated in the case study.
Furthermore, it was said by the Australian Screen Directors Association (ASDA) executive Richard Harris, and an actors union called the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA), that the lack of quotas to promote protectionism of goods could ‘lead to a collapse of the local industry’. They claimed that Australia’s “cultural identity” was under threat from Hollywood if these agreements were accepted for in return for the free trade deal. (Phillips, 2003)
This issue for the Australian film industry if accepted from the US, it would demonstrate a decline in the protectionism of their goods, a loss of their cultural indentify; Australia would have to make do with American film culture, and no film culture reflecting the Australian way of life. Given these circumstances it should be okay for their government to protect their film industry and providing a shield for it.
In contrast The French government has expressed support for French Culturalism, As the French President at the time, Jacqes Chirac strongly supported restrictions within the entertainment industry because as he puts it — he did not want to see “European culture sterilized or obliterated by American Culture for economic reasons that have nothing to do with real culture” (Rinaman, n.d)
The EU Broadcast Directive was passed in October 1989 in an effort to protect and promote the Europeancultural identity. The directive requires that EU member-states reserve a majority (51 percent) of entertainment broadcast transmission time for programs of European origin. The Directive and quotas (as explained in the case study) implemented by the French Government limit the number of American films shown in French theatres and on French Television.
After the EU Directive was implemented into the French domestic law, American entertainment executives were alleged to have complained that these laws were put in place to limit their audiences globally; they therefore weren’t pleased with these actions for cultural protectionism. In response to the outcry the EU officials claimed that quotas and trade limitations set were not intended to keep American productions out of Europe. The initial goal was to liberalize trade, not restrain it; to enhance business opportunities for all broadcasting companies selling in Europe. Europeans, and especially the French say, “A legitimate desire to preserve national and regional identities should not be confused with protectionism. Creating a more level playing ground within the film industry worldwide is goal France had seemed to be working toward. (Rinaman, n.d)
Cultural Protectionism hurts the American Industry more than foreign industry as it stands to economic control within the entertainment industry. US film producers are mostly concerned
with the directive’s implications because of the success of their industry, according to sources, the Hollywood earns $3.5 billion per year from the exports to the European audio-visual market. (Rinaman, n.d)
The United States, according to the source had held consultation with the EU under concerning the directive. They argued that the quotas in place violate member-states’ obligations under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade 1994. The US contends that it is entitled to take further action based on its GATT rights and will therefore monitor the implementation of the EU measures closely, in order to ascertain whether Super 301 measures will be necessary. (Rinaman, n.d)
Other cultural industries that governments seek to protect are also national magazine industries. The Canadian government had placed an 80% tax on all foreign magazines sold in Canada that did not contain at least 80% Canadian content. The tax was imposed in response to Time Warner Inc. Printing of its Canadian split-run version of Sports Illustrated in Canada. Even though Canadians share many basic attributes with their American neighbours; for instance they speak the same language, watch many of the same films and television programs and read the same best-selling books, they still feel the need for cultural protectionism. The Nation at the time is said to feel that its cultural identity is being compromised by broadcast mixing of programmes on the radio and satellite, this is caused by proximity allowing radio programming to cross the border between the US and Canada with very little difficulty. (Rinaman, n.d)
From a General point of view, Canada’s market of 26 million people had become saturated by American culture distributed by cultural industries in the US and Canada. According to the source, between 60 and 95 percent of film, television, music and publishing markets were controlled by Americans Four in every five magazines sold in Canada are foreign publications. This should be the reason as to why government needed to impose taxation, to protect their culture. (Rinaman, n.d)
To conclude, generally Hollywood still has an impact on cultural aspects of lives, as demonstrated in films of the 21st century, Hollywood films still have the impact to influence cultural beliefs on non-Americans, and these cultural views could be taught and learned as Hofstede believed in his theory, there are many influences such as political which could influence citizens of other nations, along with the issue of patriotism. The influences are not always easy to identify, as said it isn’t easy to see to an observer, e.g. hidden messages. These influences are a threat to societies of other nations, as movies may generalize and stereotype foreign nations. Not all influences are seen as negative as demonstrated in the educational aspects in the film Dead Poets Society (1989). With regard to most of the influence of Hollywood, because of the impact among people all over the world, the author suggests a need for cultural protectionism, to limit Hollywood’s control over the mass-media globally, so that foreign markets can promote a realistic culture among their society.
With regard to the issue as to whether it is right for foreign governments to implement strategies to enforce cultural protectionism, through taxation and legislation, if it protects the local film industries, then it should be allowed and it should not be declining, with regard to the Australian Screen Directors Association’s assumption that the lack of quota could jeopardise their film industry. (ASDA) therefore it could result in a lack of jobs being created for Australians, and therefore cause more issues for the Australian government. As outlined, there are many reasons as to why it is beneficial to promote cultural protectionism of foreign countries; it helps reflect a more realistic aspect of their national culture, if there are more domestic films being produced and less Americanised films.
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