U.S. Imperialism Through Film
by Milos Stehlik
Worldview (Chicago Public Radio)
Hegemony takes many forms. In his regular film documentary, Milos Stehlik of Facets Multimedia looks at how the U.S. culturally colonized the world through film.
Is American cinema imperialist? In a word, “yes.” Sweetheart deals gave Hollywood special access to European markets after World War II. Exporting American films overseas was part of the Marshall Plan that reconstructed post-war Europe. American films were viewed as a way to oppose Communism by promoting the “American way of life.” U.S. films were dumped at cut-rate prices onto war-torn Europe, whose film industries were in ruins, under the guise of promoting the “free market.”
This scheme gave American films world-wide dominance. Today, entertainment is America’s largest export, with sales higher than any other industry, accounting for over 60 billion dollars annually. English-language films account for about 65% of the worldwide box office gross.
American film brilliantly executes its role as the sales agent for this “American way of life.” Though this way of life may never have existed in reality — it did represent a worldwide ideal: the nuclear family, the house with the white picket fence, boy gets the girl, the good guy always wins. American movies fueled the global fantasy: everyone else in the world wanted to be just like us – or just like we seemed to be in American movies.
Shopping malls, T-shirts, fast food – Hollywood films laid the path to globalization — brick by cinematic brick. Cultural imperialism blazed the trail for economic dominance: would McDonald’s or Pepsi or Coca-Cola be the global brands they are today without the Americanization of the global psyche by American movies?
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