Saturday, August 19, 2006

Youth Culture: A Creation of Globalization?

The universality of the commercial appeal was due in part to Hollywood's munificent creative and marketing skills, but also fundamentally in the fact that we are such a richly heterogeneous society that our exports had been pretested at home. Hollywood supplies over 70 percent of the European film markets and 90 percent of those of the rest of the world, with the possible exception of India. To reach the younger populations under the age of 25, who constitute the bulk of the moviegoing audience, Hollywood has been offering more dumbed-down blockbusters based on action, violence, sex, and special effects like Jurassic Park. Such films travel more easily than movies with subtle dialogue or predominantly American references, like Forrest Gump. For similar reasons, comedy was structured to hinge on crude slapstick rather than situational wit and wordplay.

The underside of this commercial success is the cultural deficit of associating America with crime, vacuity, moral decay, promiscuity, and pornography--a trend that also worries American parents; Asian and Muslim worlds are already in revolt against it, but also against the libertarian and secular messages of American media. Our media project defiance and ridicule not just of illegitimate authority but of any authority at all--parents, teachers, and political leaders. Even in the West this elicits as much loathing as love. Abroad, it may make dictatorship more difficult, but it also makes democracy less attractive.
Mort Zuckerman,
via Godspy

My inner anarchist sees little wrong with ridiculing even legitimate political leaders, yet the rest of the explanation of the race to the barrel bottom rings true. How many film releases are now pre-selected for the global market? How much particular depth is filtered from a script for the benefit of convenient universal shallowness? Europeans and the Third World complain that globalization deadens local culture, yet it seems globalization degrades the producer civilization as well as the consumer.

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