Sunday, January 17, 2010

Cultural Hegemon

Read two very different articles that touched the theme of popular culture. One tries to fathom Western obsession over Japanese culture and the other titled The End of Influence discusses how American influence on global cultural trends and memes is declining as the country goes deeper into debt. The authors argue, as money goes out the door, so does Hollywood's ability to be the definitive purveyor of cultural narrative :

Hollywood no longer has an inherited, built-in meganarrative -- the presentation of life in modernity in all its weird and quotidian forms: How women walk and speak, houses, murder, seduction, sex, kitchens, raising children, "making it," excursions, courtrooms, shopping centers, schools, hospitals, universities, and office buildings -- the world, perhaps of your future.

 In the Boing Boing article, Lisa Katamaya quotes W. David Marx who explains the fascination with "weird" Japan thusly :

"Japan often feels like a hyperextended high-tech version of 1950s America — frozen gender roles, mass culture incapable of controversy or antisocial sentiments, an entertainment world run by the mob. Japan is basically the Jetsons. We don't have to take it seriously, but we are entertained." 

This is exactly along the lines of what the authors of the FP article suggest will happen as American influence wanes:

The culture created by America and exported by its movies is not gone; it's not even going. It has simply gone universal and is now open to a vastly expanded range of contributors. This is very likely to be a good thing for American and world culture, an opening to new ideas, talents, and energies. And America's ambient culture is being enriched by foreign imports ranging from soccer to sushi, not to mention energetic Ph.D.'s in material and biological sciences.  

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