I grew up thousands of miles away from the cultural realms of America yet I am not a stranger to it, especially American pop culture. I grew up listening to Bob Dylan and Jim Morrison, watching Knight Rider and Full House, eating peanut butter and jelly and learning the English vocabulary but with longer spellings such as “colour” and “programme.”
My primary source for getting acquainted with American culture was electronic media, thanks to the local Nepal Television that aired American series and songs. I remember making no reservations for the weekend: Saturdays were for Knight Rider and Sundays for my weekly dose of hits from the Billboard chart. I must admit though, as a child, I wasn’t a fan of the man with suspenders, Larry King, for whom I had to sacrifice my time with Tom and Jerry to my father. Though I was living in Kathmandu, I was captured by American culture, most of which I learned through television.
In this modern day and age, technology is not only limited to radio and local television channels. Satellite television and the Internet are a part of people’s lives. Millions of people across the world are addicted to modern technology, which gives them a greater share of the American culture. Music, movies and television shows play a vital role in disseminating the American culture, especially for youth.
A story in The New York Times by Michael Kimmelman discusses the popularity of American culture through TV shows such as “Friends” and “Prison Break” and the music of Tupac and 50 Cent in Gaza, a sign of integration of the Western culture in the Arab world.
“Especially for young Gazans, what’s on satellite television and the Internet, on tapes and compact discs, is a window to the world beyond the armored checkpoints and a link to Arab society elsewhere and crucially, to the West, Kimmelman writes.
What is branded as “America’s favorite” isn’t only limited to the U.S. territories these days. The popularity of TV shows such as “American Idol” has become a global phenomenon, and Russia and India have their own versions of the show.
According to a BBC article, in Ghana people watch “American Idol” and mimic the aspiring stars on stage. In India, youngsters play music modeled on American rock bands. These are just few examples of the influences of the American culture throughout the world.
However, it’s not only American culture influencing the rest of the world. American culture now embraces other cultures more than before.
The music scene in the U.S. has been arbitrarily altered by sounds from other countries. From reggae tones in Bob Marley’s classics to the Latin beats in Daddy Yankee’s contemporary dance hits and Punjabi MC’s bhangra tunes, the sounds are prominent examples of the cross-cultural fusion. Furthermore, American artists have also collaborated with India’s film industry, Bollywood. A recent Bollywood hit titled “Singh is Kinng” features Snoop Dogg rapping with Indian singers.
From music to movies, the influence of other cultures in American media is apparent.
From the French New Wave, adopted by Hollywood since the late 1950s and ’60s, to contemporary action movies inspired by the Hong Kong movie industry, international cultures are reflected in Hollywood products. While French New Wave brought new style and narration breaking the conservative style of movie making with directors like Alfred Hitchcock and Wes Anderson, Hong Kong based movies such as “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” and actors like Jackie Chan, Jet Lee and Michelle Yeoh have popularized martial arts among American youth.
Another wave of influence coming to Hollywood is from Bollywood. In Devendra Banhart’s latest music video, Natalie Portman is seen dancing as a Bollywood princess. Also, the new Cheetah Girls movie, “The Cheetah Girls: One World” is filmed in India, giving the audience a different cultural experience.
In a CNN interview, Debra Martin Chase, producer of the Cheetah Girls movie said, “It was all of our hopes that we would begin to educate the whole new generation of American kids and their families about the India of today.”
Today, it’s not only American culture that influences the world, but America and Americans have adopted international culture through mass media. We are not only learning about each other’s cultures but also integrating them into our lives. It is indeed a good sign of cultural harmony.
Bibek Bhindari is a senior international communication major from Kathmandu, Nepal.