America has been the number 1 cultural exporter in the world for the past century if not longer. Even if you don’t speak English, you know where Hollywood is, who Michael Jackson, Elvis, Muhamid Ali and Barack Obama are. Why? Because not only are they important figures who have influenced millions and millions, but they are also American.
When I was growing up in Ireland, we had three Irish TV stations (well, there was a fourth, but it was all in Irish and nobody watched it.), and they went in popularity from who showed the most american programming to the least. American media was the best. If you spoke English you were listening to American bands and singers, watching American TV shows and going to the cinema to watch Hollywood movies. In non-English speaking countries, they do the same thing but with subtitles where applicable. This goes to explain why Asia is so familiar with Western culture, but Western culture doesn’t really understand Asian cultures.
It’s only recently become popular for Western culture to consume Asian media and the Western powers that be don’t really like it. Hollywood would rather remake a successful foreign film than to show it with subtitles, and whatever America does influences the rest of Western culture. You could view it as marketing to their target audience, but you could also view it as a kind of censorship. BUT. The times, they are a changing.
When I first went to Korea, I didn’t have a clue about Korea. I assumed I could get along just speaking English. Wrong. When I was introduced to Korean media, it was strange and a bit ‘wrong’ feeling to me. I would spam my friends by posting Kpop videos on their Facebook walls. I had never seen anything like it and it was hilarious to me…. until I grew to like it.
Fast forward two years to my return to my tiny hometown in Ireland. Chatting to my younger cousin who was then going to my old secondary school / high school, she said there was a group in her year that were really big into Kpop. I couldn’t believe it. Imagine, Irish farmer girls, going to a very Catholic school run by nuns… being into Kpop. Mind blown. I asked her, “How do they know about Kpop?” Her reply was “Youtube. Duh!”
And so it’s begun to happen. America’s hold on what the Western world watches, are entertained by, are culturally influenced by has lessened as everyone is free to explore other cultures on the internet. With subtitling and fan subbing, the English speakers of the world can have a step into Asian media. We can begin to see their culture from how they prefer to project themselves. We can see who their cultural icons are and what values are celebrated in them. We can start to see how the other side of the world lives, which I think is the most important thing. In wars, countries dehumanise the enemy to make the act of killing all the easier. But the more that we can relate to our neighbours, the more open we are to compromise, communication, teamwork and growth.
I just realised that this post is somewhat timely, due to Psy and Snoop Doggs new single release. I very much like the idea of artists collaborating internationally, the mixing up of languages in a song is cool, the music video is cool… just the song isn’t very good. I believe in the future there will be more collaborations like this, not just in the music industry but in TV too (as it’s already happening in film.) I just hope that the quality of the work produced will be of a higher standard ^^;
If you haven’t seen it, heres the MV.