World History 2 263 - 15.1.3 Exporting Culture

Besides promoting controversial ideas like privatization, MNCs, many of which are headquartered in the United States, also are responsible for exporting elements of western culture, especially popular culture. Although many people around the world enjoy such things as western fashions, movies and television shows, popular music, and fast food, other people fear that such influences harm local cultures and contribute to the Americanization (and homogenization) of the world.

Few countries have been as culturally influential as the United States, thanks to its global dominance after World War II. U.S. troops at military bases around the world were often the first to expose their hosts in Europe and Asia to American traditions, sports, and norms. Consumers around the world purchased a wide range of “Made in USA” products, including Coca-Cola, Levi’s jeans, and Hollywood movies, which, along with American music, helped to spread the American dialect of the English language.

Some early Americanization efforts were intentional, such as in Germany and Japan where the goal was to lay a foundation for U.S.-style democracy by projecting ideas like freedom and affluence via popular culture. These ideas were also attractive in South Korea and South Vietnam. Typically, young people patronized fast-food restaurants like McDonald’s and Pizza Hut, purchased blue jeans and T-shirts, watched American television shows, and sought out recordings of the latest popular music.

The popularity of American culture led many countries to fear the loss of their own unique cultural characteristics and the weakening of their domestic industries. Brazil, Greece, Spain, South Korea, and others imposed screen quotas, limiting the hours theaters could show foreign movies. In 1993, France forced the nation’s radio stations to allocate 40 percent of their airtime to exclusively French music.

Hollywood movies and American recording artists are still major players, but in the twenty-first century, diversity has returned to the global stage. Japanese anime and manga have become global phenomena. South Korean K-pop bands like BTS, iKon, and Got7 have gained audiences in the United States, Europe, and across Asia (Figure 15.7). In 2021, the Korean-made serial thriller Squid Game became the most-watched Netflix show of all time. Korean television dramas are also very popular in Southeast Asian countries like the Philippines. Korean popular culture borrows American cultural styles but invigorates them with distinctly Korean elements. For example, K-pop, with its large groups and flashy choreographed dancing, was clearly influenced by hip-hop. K-pop itself is thus a potent reminder that globalization is often the product of cultural sharing rather than a one-directional flow of cultural norms.

A picture is shown of four women on a stage with a blue and orange confetti lit background. The women are all Asian and wear black, double breasted, long-sleeved jackets, black shorts, and tall black boots. The woman on the left holds a microphone in her left hand, is looking down, and has red lipstick and long curly brown hair on the right side of her head and short black hair on the left. The next woman has short straight black hair, dark eye make-up and is holding her right hand up to her face, facing to her right. The next two women stand with their backs to each other, facing out, hands on their hips. The one on the left has long black hair and the one on the right has short brownish hair. They both have dark eye makeup. There are two yellow strobe lights shining behind them, one on the left and one on the right.
Figure 15.7 K-pop groups like the award-winning Brown Eyed Girls mix Korean themes with American-style pop music and dance. (credit: “Korean Pop Group Brown Eyed Girls perform at MTV EXIT concert in Hanoi” by USAID Vietnam/Flickr, Public Domain)
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The content of this course has been taken from the free World History, Volume 2: from 1400 textbook by Openstax