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America’s Cultural Exports Now

How the world sees the United States. American cultural exports now, from Miley Cyrus to “The Hunger Games.”

WreckingMiley

A still from pop singer Miley Cyrus’ music video for her song “Wrecking Ball.” (Vevo)

Tune in to the Golden Globes from anywhere in the world in this age of global media, and you’ll see plenty of glam and smarts – and Tina Fey and Amy Poehler going pretty racy to introduce Leonardo DiCaprio.  Tune in to the MTV Video Music Awards from Yemen or Malaysia, and you got near-naked Miley Cyrus in full twerk.  In the US, we are inured to the racy and raunchy of our popular culture these days.  My guest today says much of the rest of the world is not, and it’s costing us.  This hour On Point:  The commercial media takeover of American public diplomacy, soft power, and its price.

– Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Martha Bayles, humanities professor at Boston College. Author of “Through a Screen Darkly: Popular Culture, Public Diplomacy and America’s Image Abroad.”

R. Nicholas Burns, professor of the practice of diplomacy and international politics at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. Former U.S. Foreign Service official, U.S. Ambassador to NATO, and U.S. State Department spokesman.

From Tom’s Reading List

The Washington Post: Now Showing: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly Americans — “Today, as we witness the decline of America’s reputation around the world, we’re paying far more attention to Franklin’s first stratagem than to his second. Indeed, despite a mounting stack of reports recommending drastic changes in the organization and funding of public diplomacy, very little of substance has been done. And most Americans, including many who make it their business to analyze public diplomacy, seem unmindful of the negative impression that America has recently been making on the rest of humanity — via our popular culture.”

ThinkProgress: From Angry Birds To Shark Energy Drink, Five Cultural Exports That Are Big In Myanmar — “Lots of folks in Myanmar wear t-shirts in English–my favorite, spotted in Bogyoke Aung San Market, was ‘We Love Fixed Gear Bikes’ –but among the most frequent are shirts for metal bands, particularly Metallica and Led Zepplin. I’m told, though, that the most popular metal band in Myanmar is Iron Cross (not the hardcore band from the Washington, DC area, but a local iteration) that’s popular in part because of its role playing benefits for Cyclone Nargis recovery.”

The Hollywood Reporter: Soul-Searching in China Over Weak Movie Sales Abroad — “While China’s domestic box office in 2012 was a hefty $2.8 billion, overseas earnings were just 1.1 billion yuan ($180 million), down nearly 50 percent on the $330 million clocked up in 2011. ‘The dissemination of Chinese films overseas in 2012 saw few highlights, and it’s worrisome,’ said Huang Huilin, director of the AICCC, to Chinese media outlet Global Times.”

Read An Excerpt From “Through a Screen Darkly: Popular Culture, Public Diplomacy and America’s Image Abroad” By Martha Bayles

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  • http://freeourfreemarkets.org/ Steve Banicki

    The rest of the informed world sees our moral and economic decay with a government not capable of governing. until we remove money from politics not much will change.

    The problem today is politics has become an advocation instead of a vocation.

    Republicans and many Democrats made the decision to place their political and personal desires and tactics ahead of governing the nation. Once a bill they oppose is passed they look for ways to sabotage it. The voters should be outraged. These tactics cost the country time, money and in many cases opportunity.

    Radicals have taken over my party. The GOP has gone from one with conservative principles seeking to do what is best for the nation to a party that is focused on winning elections at all cost, even if the cost is borne by the country and its citizens. They look at themselves as the ruling class. Their tactics extend beyond the issue they oppose. They oppose health care reform and in order to impose their will they block Presidential appointments for cabinet and judgeship positions. They also implement strategies to stall other unrelated legislation.

    I am a Republican and voted for the Republican running for President in every election starting in 1968 up to 2008 when I supported Barrack Obama and I voted for him again in 2012. I hope to be able to vote Republican in 2016. Presently I am upset with the GOP and things must change before I will give them my vote….. http://lstrn.us/1hUry5t

    • geraldfnord

      My sympathies; please note, though, that many (nearly all?) of these bad actors do—or at least use as an excuse—believe that they are in a national life -and-death struggle for our nation’s very soul, and that extremism in the defence of extremsm no vice and compromise in the name of a readonable temperance no virtue…. This makes them much more dangerous than simple careerists—faith can be great for getting a good person doing utterly indecent things.

    • HonestDebate1

      You can’t be serious, you just can’t be. Look what Obama did to get elected. He lied about his plan having the mandate, he tacitly accused Romney of murder, he said his administration would have no lobbyist and be transparent, he said Al Qaeda was decimated, he sent Susan Rice out to lie, he targeted the Tea Party with the IRS, he spied on us with the NSA and on and on. Meanwhile Romney laid down and lost.

      Maybe you are talking about Jon Huntsman who was responsible for some real desperate nastiness. But still compared to Obama he’s an angel.

      • Bluejay2fly

        I am no fan of Obama but if you think the other side of the aisle has clean hands you are delusional. We did not ruin this country by one party alone, get real.

        • HonestDebate1

          I didn’t say that, did you mean to reply to Mr. Banicki?

          • Bluejay2fly

            Oops, I only have one lens in my reading glasses and am having a time of it!

      • nj_v2

        “he targeted the Tea Party with the IRS”

        More dispatches from the fact-free, parallel universe of DishonestMisDebator Greggg.

    • alsordi

      “””The problem today is politics has become an advocation instead of a vocation.”””

      Your statement is flawed. Politics should be about advocacy, instead of a vocation or a job for political animals.

      What you discuss is this charade of party politics, when the entire congress and presidency is bought and paid for by the lobbyists of wealthy interests. And now add to that a quasi-fascist security state.

  • geraldfnord

    Blue jeans helped Russian Imperialist State Capitalism, a.k.a. ‘Communism’ fall. (Good: it was a system I never liked at all as much as some conservatives who never ceased praising the obedience of their young people, the shortness of their young men’s hair, their supposed patriotism and sexual probity and avoidance of unusual drugs, their union-less workers, their keeping the ‘media’ in its place instead of letting them get their hooked noses into important dealings, and their régimes’ hatred of evil rock and dzhast music and the blue jeans that went with them).

    The moment they went from ‘you don’t want those stilyagi trousers’ to `here’ s our version’ and it was terrible…not all by itself, of course.

    • Bluejay2fly

      Perhaps, you should start reading historical books ,and to learn about the Cold War may I suggest “The Hawk and The Dove”.

      • geraldfnord

        I lived through much of it, and read as I went about events current and past. I find it hard to believe that between Kenan and Nitze you couldn’t find some support for the power of our mongrel, vibrant, culture…and note that I explicitly said that it didn’t do it alone.

  • alsordi

    The Hunger Games had to be the worst movie I have ever watched. The bad acting, the extremely slow dialogue, the non-sensical plot, the blurry filmography, the unimpressive scenery.

    It was a grueling effort to finish this movie. But after all of the advertising from Hollywood and gratuitous hype from various media, I had to see what the draw was.

    The Hunger Games is indicative of the decline of American culture, and the quality of life. This was a badly-made cheap-ass movie passed off as a blockbuster.

    • Bluejay2fly

      You are correct. I am so tired of dystopian movies and TV shows and the bulk of these are not even made well.

      • alsordi

        I actually like dystopian movies but Hunder Games was crap.
        Alternatively ELYSIUM was an excellent movie, amazing cinematography and story line.

        • Bluejay2fly

          OK, but: After Earth, The Colony, The Road, World War Z or anything zombie, Book of Eli, etc will never rival Shawshank Redemption, Jaws, The Sting, Murder in The First, A Few Good Men, etc.

  • Bluejay2fly

    What culture? Our news media has degraded into gonzo journalism. Americans have become the most fearful nation on earth worrying about everything from terrorism to serial killers. Our movie industry makes some great works but the bulk is horror/thriller/ slasher films which seem to reflect our current negative and very dark national mood. Our current culture is bleak and depressing. Furthermore, all we seem to do is eat and shop which has made us into a nation of fat consumers. We do not dream anymore, build great things, or do great things. We have turned into cowardly, angry, paranoid, and defeatist. America may turn this around as we are full of surprises but as of now this is the state of our state.

    • myblusky

      Most movies are made for export. The film/tv industry has realized dumbed down dialogue and story lines are easy to translate across language barriers so they can maximize profits by selling the movies and shows off to other countries.

      It seems industries can’t be happy with making a good profit. The bean counters (MBA’s) come in and tell them how they can make the maximum profit so that’s what gets done. It has to appeal to the most people. Pure greed in my opinion. It’s the attitude in general that has changed in this country. Everything has to be done for the highest profit imaginable. I am not against anyone making money, I’m against greed.

      • Bluejay2fly

        That is why companies make terrible decisions like putting non durable plastic parts in their products. They figure a durable metal part my cost 25 cents extra cutting into their obscene profit, I get it you are correct. However, we do have a common culture which is proud of its ignorance. How often do you argue with someone about history or social philosophy who has not cracked a book in thirty years and feels his opinion is just as valid as someone who reads prolifically on the subject. At least in my father’s generation Old Joe might have been a know nothing about Japanese history but at least he knew about auto mechanics, plumbing, house building, farming, agriculture, etc. Today you have to listen to your uncle the cop or Family Dollar manager spout off about Bengazi and the *sshole cannot even fix your car or help you with your dying apple trees.

    • geraldfnord

      I beg to defer: gonzo journalism prizes a rough but sparkling intelligence and a critique of the conventionally accepted—and it is never cowardly, and is in fact more willing to be fool-hardy than to risk timidity.

      • Bluejay2fly

        OK, withdrawn. Perhaps it is more like Soviet or Cuban style propaganda where we are expected to believe that an Ivy League graduate (Gretchen Carlson) says she does not know what the meaning of the word tzar is. FOX, MSNBC, etc it is all crap!

        • geraldfnord

          Given that ‘gonzo’ has now been used from everything from a muppet to pr0n, it were understandable that it might be used oddly but in good faith; I had just heard an hour of reminsicences of H.S. Thompson and good-to-indifferent readings of “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” so his qualities were to the fore of my mind.

          As for our journalism, I think the commodification of our journalism has resulted in its becoming one part journalism cut with one to nine parts Friendly Pudding…as usual, I blame one of the tendencies of the ‘Sixties, the idea that ‘no-one is better than you’ is equivalent to ‘no-one is better than you at anything’—I’d be happy to have élite journalists across the spectrum (I’ll note that the Right had no problem with the Fairness Doctrine back when they had little media power) tell us what they think we _ought_ know as opposed to our getting fed things we’ll already agree-with that we want to know—that is to say, I wish that very good reporters reported, and we’d decide. (My primary objection to Fox News is that they generally don’t do good journalism—from the beginning their mandate was agit-prop, Roger said so according to one early source [whom I don't know were in the recent book on Ailes or no].)

  • alsordi

    America always led with a high consumer-oriented standard of living. But true quality always came from Europe and elsewhere abroad. What most people don’t realize is the best of the USA ever produced, was and is mostly produced by recent immigrants.

    One only has to look to places like rural Alabama, Kentucky, Appalacia and the Ozarks to see the most established generations of America. My point is that the more assimilated to the US culture, the worse it gets. As we are all witnessing, its all leading to DUCK DYNASTY and GATOR BOYS.

    • Bluejay2fly

      I have a different take. I believe technology has given everyone a voice. Years ago, stupid uneducated people toiled on their farms, in factories, or drank in their run down apartment ,but now they are participants in public discourse. Furthermore, they are consumers to be reached which is why the History Channel went from Modern Marvels to Ice Road Truckers, yeach! Not only have stupid people been given access to media they are becoming principle players with their own reality programs (Honey Boo Boo, etc). It is all about money and if something edifying is not very profitable (the old History Channel) then make room for something low brow that is.

      • Ray in VT

        It really does amaze me what gets passed off as entertainment on TV today. I used to love the History Channel, but that was when they showed history. True people once sometimes referred to it as the Hitler Channel, but such a focus on World War II was preferable, I think, to 10 hours of Pawn Stars. I prefer to get most of my information regarding reality TV from the Soup.

        • Bluejay2fly

          I was glad to finally see the Military History Channel ,as they were getting too war obsessed. It has now declined into stupidity, methinks this may be in line with Common Core.

          • Ray in VT

            I wished that I got that one. Military history is one of the things that I have been interested in since I was very young.

      • geraldfnord

        Yup, and if you don’t like it you’re a damned Élitist.

      • geraldfnord

        And in a nation of {3×10^8}+ people, any number of people spouting any given ill-supported viewpoint can be found, and some person or people found to be used as sources of supporting anecdote-disguised-as-definitive-data.

    • Ray in VT

      I think that we have a pretty good history of producing some very high quality works. I have some lovely furniture that has been in my family for 100-200 years, and it seems as solid as the day that it was made. I do think that we, as a country in general, have gone with the cheap stuff route in recent decades, and a lot of that stuff doesn’t last, but that hasn’t always been the case.

      • alsordi

        And 200 years ago, the person who made that furniture in Phili or Boston, was probably an immigrant. What was coming out of North Carolina was not impressive and has since been outsourced to asia.

        • Ray in VT

          My stuff was largely made by my family members, who were pretty much all here by 1650.

          • alsordi

            I cherish the things my family made as well.

          • Ray in VT

            I think that it provides a nice piece of continuity with the past. My 4 or 5 times great grandfather made one piece, and it has come down through time to me. Now it is my duty to preserve it so that those who follow me can have it.

  • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

    The Internet itself is at the top of the list.

    Followed by Google, Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, etc.

  • alsordi

    If I didn’t know better, I would say that Miley Cyrus was monetarily encouraged by the defense industries and some other lobbies in order to enrage the muslim extremists to spark more hate for America and more war.

    It was the obscene decadence of Berlin in the 20s and early 30s that grew immense support of the Nazi party, more so in some cases than the banking excesses and inflation. In those days, just like Hollywood today, kids from the country would run away to Berlin and end up exploited on the streets. Berlin was full of Miley Cyrus’ and worse.

    • Ray in VT

      If I was going to put money on someone being on the take to outrage Muslims (and I’m not), then I would go with Pastor Terry Jones.

      I don’t think that the “obscene decadence” of Berlin compares well with the shame and anger over defeat in World War One and the abysmal economic conditions that existed throughout much of the Weimar period.

      • alsordi

        Pastor Jones doesnt get the press that Miley Cyrus does.

        And I agree with you about Germany, but it was the decadence of Berlin that all the German citizens could see, comprehend and be outraged.

        The USA has been defeated in many recent wars, and inflation and economic decline is hitting them as well, but unlike media obscenity, the rest is having a boiling frog effect.

    • geraldfnord

      Umberto Ecco has written of the genius of Fascism in being both reactionary (the modern age is a decadent fall from a notional Golden Age) and revolutionary (all traditions must be put on the bonfire if they conflict with absolute obedience in the pursuit of national glory). I think that the Dolchstoßlegende, a generation of nationalist and racialist propaganda (I’ve seen a quote from a 1916 article touting the German racial destiny to rule the world…in a national, mainstream, Lutheran magazine), and deeper pockets (Thyssen, Mussolini, and possibly Ford, along with all the industrialists who assumed they could use the Nazis and were due for a surprise) than the Communists…had much more to do with it.

      Once in power, the Nazis did use their retelling of the recent past in the mass media they cranked up to 11 in convincing a population not yet sceptically used to such….

  • Ray in VT

    It can’t be going all that poorly. We’ve got Dennis Rodman on the case, right? ;)

    • TFRX

      Wondering what we can get in return. He’s a basketball player and we’re trading him, aren’t we?

      I mean, I don’t wish him harm, and plenty of other ex-atheletes have gone on to much more tragic situations, but…

      • Ray in VT

        I don’t think that his trade value is very high these days.

  • nj_v2

    I’m not sure the lowest-common-denominator, appeal-to-base-instincts, slob culture (Jene Shepherd’s coinage [RIP]) aspects of popular culture are any more prevalent or dominant now, and in the U.S. than they have been in any other culture at any other time.

    The (mostly electronic) delivery mechanisms are more extensive, and the craft more sophisticated, but i have to think that the equivalent of nutrition-challenged fast food, black-velvet Elvis paintings, and other forms of “pop-culture” dreck have been delivered to the witless masses since daVinci’s time.

    It would be interesting if any of the guests could discuss the Miley Cyrus and Big Brother equivalents in other cultures, past and present.

  • hennorama

    All countries are viewed inaccurately by outsiders, based on impressions in the media and elsewhere. Outsiders also have inaccurate views of other countries based on the actions of governments.

    Twas ever thus.

    • nj_v2

      How limited, stereotyped, and ugly does anyone, including Ms. Bayles, think most Americans view people from other cultures and countries?

      Would you like some Feedom Fries with your Muslim stereotyping?

      • Ray in VT

        I prefer Liberty Cabbage myself.

        • geraldfnord

          I’ll take both, with a side-order of The English Vice and the French Disease…if you don’t try to gip me on the payment, I won’t try to welch you or jew you down, I haven’t had enough Dutch Courage to do that

    • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

      And also it is not just “media”. It is also “news” – I have traveled outside the US, and people were under the impression that we *all* carried guns.

      • hennorama

        Neil Blanchard — and of course these stereotypes are not held by outsiders. Many Americans have inaccurate views of those from other states, for example.

      • Ray in VT

        I got that impression when moving between states. People in parts of New York seemed to regard Vermont as some sort of lawless wild west because of the prevalence of guns. Even some New York rednecks were shocked to see a guy in Vermont wearing a gun on his hip on the street.

      • geraldfnord

        I heard a story from a credible someone about visiting his distant
        relations in Morocco c. 1976; his very young third(?) cousins, about
        seven and nine years of age, greeted them with «Vous n’êtes pas
        Américains, où sont vos pistolets?» (‘You’re not Americans, where are
        your guns?’) All they knew of America came from
        Le Virginien…so it’s not a new problem.

    • geraldfnord

      I heard a story from a credible someone about visiting his distant
      relations in Morocco c. 1976; his very young third(?) cousins, about
      seven and nine years of age, greeted them with «Vous n’êtes pas
      Américains, où sont vos pistolets?» (‘You’re not Americans, where are
      your guns?’) All they knew of America came from Le Virginien…so it’s not a new problem.

  • Ray in VT

    I do wonder where the prime time family comedies have gone. I’m thinking Full House or Family Matters. There isn’t much that I can watch in prime time with my kids that isn’t fairly loaded with sex, which I don’t find appropriate for children their age.

    • James

      They’re all on cable, (i.e ABC Family, Nick etc)

      • Ray in VT

        Yeah. That’s where we go. I think that my kids have been watching Sam and Cat and the Haunted Hathaways.

  • longfeather

    In the 1990′s something was on our local TV station, don’t remember what, and although I am very liberal, I was shocked, but mostly because I had young in harms way in Saudi Arabia after the Kuwait Invasion. I called the local TV station, explained how this could be seen by the natives where my soldier was. I tried to explain how this local stuff could be carried back there and that my relative would now be seen as “Of the Devil.” Well, when you see how industries that could pollute can make environmentalists seem “Of the Devil” and that regulations are Of the Devil, why can’t they see that the rest of the world would see us as a threat when vulgar and distasteful stuff is on the TV?

  • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

    Our number one source of bad PR is probably our advertisements. Lately, many of them are beyond bizarre …

  • James

    Why does every On Point show seem to boil down to we need more regulation.

    • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

      Why do you think that is the logical conclusion?

      • James

        Because the thesis of the authors book is that

        1. since the deregulation (and libertarian media) US exported culture has gone from High Culture to Pop (Low) Culture.

        2. And that this Pop culture is negatively effecting our image world wide.

        • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

          Has she said anything about “regulation” specifically? I think you are missing what is being said; and you are happy to jump to a preconceived conclusion.

          • James

            She did mention deregulation of the media and used the terms libertarian media and free. And she wrote about how this was a deliberate action after the cold war to let commercial media run free, And she wrote a book about this public policy. One doesn’t write a book about public policy, unless they want to change public policy.

          • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

            No one is proposing “regulation” as THE solution.

          • James

            First it’s not “regulation” either you control through the use of incentives and the like what is seen on media or you don’t.

            Actually ‘I’ve been using the wrong word, if you are using government to control what is allowed to be seen or heard in media, that’s censorship.

          • James

            Second you admit regulation may be A solution, along with the government sponsored exportation of the culture that policymakers want other nations to see (otherwise known as propaganda)

        • AC

          you should see what passes for ‘high’ culture in some places. gaudy, tacky, child-molest-y, you name it. omg, it can be embarassing for a woman traveling alone. we’re not great, but we are certainly not so bad….eh?

          • jefe68

            Japanese TV is a hoot. Talk about a nation of cultural contradictions.

          • Ray in VT

            It’s really bizarre, at least from our perspective, isn’t it? I loved the Spike “adaptation” of Takeshi’s Castle (MXC). It was blatantly dirty, but it really did make me wonder just what the heck was going on on Japanese TV.

    • AC

      are you from W Virginia?

      • James

        Not sure what that has to do with my question. And Yes, I know what happened with the water there.

        • AC

          i was being snarky. i like regulations, but i travel a lot and see the diff. – like w virginia on a massive scale.
          i don’t get people that don’t understand the point of regulations…

          • Jeff

            Because there were no regulations about putting chemicals into drinking water…oh, wait. But at least the regulations stopped it from happening…oh, it still happened? Well I’m not sure what good the regulations did then..?

          • AC

            perhaps if you read what i wrote, you would find your answer. …

          • Ray in VT

            Regulations will never totally eliminate most, or even, all sorts of incidents, but they can certainly change behaviors in such a manner so as to discourage perhaps the riskiest or most ill-advised actions that can lead to bad things.

          • jimino

            Well I guess it’s past time to repeal laws punishing murderers and pedophiles since we still have them despite the attempt to regulate such behavior.

            Now that I have written that it sure seems silly, doesn’t it?

          • jefe68

            What? Are you really this immature?
            I get the sarcastic meme about regulations but your libertarian ideology is flawed. If there were no regulations then there would be no recourse or way to get this cleaned up and the corporations would have a field day in getting away with dumping toxic chemicals anywhere they wanted.

            Look up Love Canal and while you’re at it the Cuyahoga River fire.

          • nj_v2

            ^ A little fuzzing on the history of corporations in early U.S. history, are we?

            Early chartering legislation uniformly provided for severe penalties or complete dissolution if a corporation did anything that wasn’t in the public interest.

            Congratulations on the Stupidest Post of the Day Award.

          • Jeff

            My point was that regulations don’t prevent accidents, people do. Creating a regulation didn’t stop this accident..there are all sorts of non-regulation reasons to prevent a chemical spill. Regulations don’t stop anything…if a business can be punished in court then they already have an incentive to not spill. We waste time and money trying to put labels about not submerging on our hair dryers and toasters thanks to regulations…they don’t do anything but employ a government employee to “verify” that regulations are followed.

      • hennorama

        AC — presumably you were referring to the WV chemical spill rather than the cancelled MTV show “Buckwild,” which was filmed in the same exact area.

        • AC

          what was that about?

          • Ray in VT

            Rednecks getting tanked and screwing.

          • AC

            ah, i see now my education is incomplete. i must find this on netflix and catch up. i will do that first thing (ha!)

          • Ray in VT

            I think that Joe Manchin, when he was governor, asked MTV not to air it because he felt that it reflected very poorly upon his state.

          • hennorama

            AC — it was about a group of young people who fit the descriptive title. Sort of a WV version of Jersey Shore.

            You didn’t miss anything by not knowing about it.

  • Ray in VT

    Baywatch, while not quality television, was certainly very welcome to my eyeballs when I was about 13. It was just about the raciest thing on network television.

    • anon

      When I moved to the Middle East around 20 years ago, Baywatch was broadcast 2 or 3 times a day on one of the new satellite networks (I think it was a FOX company), and the ads boasted that it was the most watched TV program on the planet…

      • Ray in VT

        I am a bit surprised that the governments there let it be shown on TV.

  • dt03044

    We worry about American culture viewed from abroad? How about a bigger concern: Dennis Rodman acting as a quasi-ambassador to North Korea. What is that???

    • Ray in VT

      Tragedy masquerading as farce?

  • Rick Evans

    I wonder how many North Koreans now think that Americans are a bunch of tattooed, lip ringed, babbling buffoons. Dennis Rodman is the perfect example that proves Kim Jong Un is a malevolent genius who knows how to propagandize by example.

    • Ray in VT

      One of my former professors once taught for a year in China (1986). He said that Chinese citizens who were going to study or visit here were shown some materials to teach them about American society. They were shown the Godfather as an example of what America was like.

      • Jeff

        At least they picked a good movie!

        • Ray in VT

          I guess that we can give them good marks for that. I do wonder if it was picked to scare people into having second thoughts about going abroad. That way the government could claim that it was people who no longer wanted to go to America.

          • hennorama

            Or to fear oranges.

  • Epysteme

    Having traveled from Africa to Western Europe in my childhood during the late 80s and early 90s, I can tell you firsthand that Michael Jackson and Madonna, Michael Jordan, Eddie Murphy and even John Wayne, probably did more for modern American goodwill than Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Jefferson and Madison ever could. Moreover, the copying of American cultural artifacts has become an important catalyst of globalization. Overall, i am not sure that this is a bad thing at all. Nor am I sure that things have changed much from Madonna to Miley Cyrus. However, I am sure that your guests are making WAY too much of the actual moral or representational content of that entertainment. Foreigners are just as capable of pragmatic appreciation of entertainment as Americans themselves. After all, even those who may have objected to Baywatch still came to the United States. The US might well be a devil but it’s the devil that everybody knows–which is a devil that very few people want to kill.

  • ianway

    Yeah, lets go back to the “true” version of America presented in Maybury RFD and Hollywood films where even married couples don’t sleep in the same bed.

  • Scott in WI

    Americans are often accused of cultural ignorance, or, of making generalizations about an entire people based on what WE see in the media… The obvious example being terriorism and the middle east. It is often put that it is OUR OWN responsibility to not generalize and make broad assumptions about a culture. So, it’s not that I don’t care what the rest of the our thinks, but I expect THEM to also formulate informed opinions and to NOT generalize about Americans based on hollywood or our government.

  • TFRX

    Today, as we witness the decline of America’s reputation around the world…

    Wow, way to lead the witness, WaPo.

    Really wondering what it was like back when the number one show was either Three’s Company, Charlie’s Angels or Dallas, and we foisted the Pet Rock on the world. In the next decade we upgraded to PacMan, plus a top-ten Billboard charting song about PacMan,(Rubik’s Cube? Invented by a Hungarian) and several Dallas derivatives.

    I will not pretend I didn’t watch some of these programs.

    But there’s the rub: The “quality” stuff on TV and at movies have always been more niche than we like to remember. We’re simply at a point where everything can be sent everywhere instantaneously.

    • James

      Exactly, my parents watch Columbo on MeTV, if you watched that 30 years ago, you’d think the country is filled with sociopaths liars, hell there was a time in our history when Jazz and Elvis were scandalis.

      • Ray in VT

        Well, that Elvis shook his hips, and you know what moving your hips leads to.

        • TFRX

          Dancing?

        • hennorama

          A quick move past a basketball defender?

      • TFRX

        (From my pre-internet memory, so this is subject to “deterioration”:)

        In the bad old days Columbo was one of the Western TV shows which was allowed to be shown behind the Iron Curtain, and was very popular in Romania.

        Due to some situation making new episodes unavailable, Peter Falk dressed up as Columbo and made a short videotaped announcement apologizing for the reruns. He didn’t know from Romanian (the show was dubbed), so he stood there and read it phonetically from cue cards.

    • rubi-kun

      PacMan was made in Japan, so we’re really just responsible for the pop song.

  • David_from_Lowell

    Did I hear the guest say earlier that because people in China have no sex education, and they are able to watch American TV shows, then American TV shows should do a better job of presenting a more realistic view of sexuality. How about China provides sex education, first. While I agree that sex is used to sell crap to people they don’t need, I don’t think TV has a responsibility to be nanny to the world.

    • Scott in WI

      I couldn’t agree more. You can extrapolate that logic to this entire show. We are often accused of cultural ignorance or of making broad generalizations. Instead we should make informed opinions. If people in other countries choose to make generalizations about us, based on media or our politics, it is their ignorance and their problem.

  • http://www.findingourdream.blogspot.com Hal Horvath

    Trying to shame most people in a mass, national effort.

    Now that is just really ambitious.

    It’s really just a classic, repressed feeling of No — don’t dance, don’t sing, don’t be amorous. Don’t do what I don’t like.

    Don’t do what I don’t like.

    But of course you can do these things in the certain limited ways I DECIDE for you.

  • Christina

    The raunchyness and violence of pop culture would not exist if we stopped watching. So maybe it isn’t so removed from our values. Something to think about.

  • ianway

    The Wolf of Wall Street is as powerful and truthful portrait of the American experience as any film by John Ford. I can’t help but see this objection as anything other than another manifestation of a very old reaction to the subversive quotient of pop culture, a culture which has arguably has been a more potent counterforce to oppression than any political action.

    • rubi-kun

      And Wolf of Wall Street is in itself a brilliant criticism of the evil that is going on in America, because every offensive thing in that movie WAS SOMETHING PEOPLE ACTUALLY DID AND GOT AWAY WITH FOR REAL.

  • DeJay79

    here’s two more “random clips” of our culture for people past and present to judge us by:

    http://youtu.be/W6YNHq1qc44?t=24m30s

    and

    http://youtu.be/doLdmYhpNyc

    it is easy to make any point when all you do is take two things out of context.

  • geraldfnord

    Our media do a great job misrepresenting ourselves to _ourselves_—many (most?) Americans think the murder rate is much higher than it is, that most murderers and child molesters are strangers to their victims, and that rich people are less happy than the rest of us.

  • James Patrick Dwyer Jr.

    There are areas in Detroit, L A., Nashville, New Orleans that you cannot go and be safe. In Nashville a few years ago a family went down the wrong street and was killed. I’m sure that just about everywhere your safety would be at risk if you were not very careful.

  • thykingdomcom

    In the news today is word of yet another school shooting. Also, someone was shot for texting in a movie theater. I believe these incidents (such frequent shootings) inform the world about American society today. I think the cultural incidents have their own, often generational, rhyme and reason, and in any case have to be understood in a certain context.

  • UmbrellaHolder

    I think it’s more a matter of taste. American pop culture taste has largely descended toward the lowest common denominator, instead of aspiring toward good taste. It says something about American culture that cannot be denied…

  • AC

    i apologize, but i feel like this guest is very out of touch….this show is silly today.

    • hennorama

      AC — she has an interesting and thought-provoking point of view. I disagree with her premise, but found the topic of interest.

      • AC

        i feel like it’s stuff you hear all the time, but having been exposed (& really, you don’t have to travel to be exposed to foreign culture anymore) and i can honestly say, we’re not so bad. some of the sexist and borderline pedophil-ic (is that a word?) type stuff in other countries – embarrassing!!!
        and then if you don’t want to mock the ‘capital’ type productions, you can go into the ‘district 13′ types, they’re like fox news on steroids, spewing with angst and ideology of hatred and sanctimonius, self-righteous-nauseating yucky-ness….yikes!!
        there are likely more ‘media savy’ americans than elsewhere

        • hennorama

          AC — I understand your perspective and don’t disagree. But the topic was American pop culture and how it might add to an inaccurate impression of the US by those on the outside looking in, and not vice versa.

          The idea that we should be concerned about this is certainly a more Cold War viewpoint, but OTOH, there still exists a real world concern of the “clash of ideas” to be considered.

          Again, I disagree with Ms. Bayles’ premise, but thought that pointing out the fact that an outsider’s view of the US is impacted by pop culture to be interesting and thought-provoking.

          • AC

            you’re right it’s supposed to be about ‘us’, but i just think maybe the picture and time for this discussion is when there are better stats for world/cultural internet access/use.
            a ‘world’ culture of sorts will develop – that will be when the question of looking internally will be really, really interesting.
            -
            humans in general can’t seem to use anything without ruining it somehow.
            i guess i’d rather look at the whole picture before picking on one group. for now, i don’t know why, but i just didn’t get much out of this particular show…

          • hennorama

            AC — well, at least you found out what ‘Buckwild’ was about.

          • AC

            i’m not sure how i’ve been existing w/o having heard of it before, alas i must move on….well, i’m sure i’ll be aware of the next 15mins of fame group of ninnies as they expose themselves

  • longfeather

    Just thinking about taking a Bratz doll into a village of Ymen and it would be locked up, but used to show the adult males what would happen to their women if ‘Yanks’ were allowed in. Here in Virginia, it is hard for many African Americans to trust vitamins because of Tuskkeegee experiment.

  • Jon

    discussion of this kind going no where – want freedom and censorship at the same time but no idea who and how to set a standard which is of course against freedom and liberty!

    • Ray in VT

      I think that some people may expect the cream to rise (what they, whoever they are, perceive the cream to be) to the top of our culture, despite ample evidence that sex, drugs, violence, partying, etc. is what really sells.

      • Jon

        hey a true American out-sell them with your alternatives and be that cream. America is a market for ideas right? Whoever gets the mass audience take the lead.

        • Ray in VT

          If what is currently selling the most is considered the cream of our culture, then I think that that would say something very bad about the state of our culture.

          • Jon

            ain’t that the virtue of democracy, rule of the majority of sales and its buyers?

          • Ray in VT

            Not is schlock rules the day.

          • Jon

            disagreed, rule of the jungle is always rule of the day.

          • Ray in VT

            It’s a good thing that I don’t live in a jungle, then.

          • Jon

            better off living in a dream?

          • Ray in VT

            If by dream one means preferring something like Sherlock to the Jersey Shore, then yes.

          • Jon

            ever imagined everybody living the dream like sherlock?

          • Ray in VT

            Not really, but I’ve seen people trying to live the nightmare that is the Jersey Shore.

          • Jon

            if nobody bother to sell no ideas the world is in eternal peace

          • Ray in VT

            I’m pretty sure that society would get along just fine without another show depicting dopes getting trashed, fighting and screwing.

          • Jon

            that’s the opposite of democracy.

          • Ray in VT

            I thought that autocracy or monarchy was the opposite of democracy.

          • Jon

            autocracy or monarchy is selling, too. anarchy is not

          • Ray in VT

            I’m pretty sure that one can sell under all three of those systems.

          • Jon

            anarchy with isolation is not selling. libertarianism is still selling by the act of interacting and competing. agreed?

          • Ray in VT

            Sure. I just think that there is a pretty fair amount in pop culture that isn’t particularly valuable in any sort of meaningful way, and I merely choose to not partake of such things.

          • Jon

            politics is just the same under the mechanism of democracy

          • Ray in VT

            Sometimes. Perhaps even often.

          • Jon

            always. democracy cannot tell right from wrong, ever

          • Ray in VT

            It is the worst form of government ever devised, except for all the others.

          • Jon

            except for knowing there is a virtue called yielding

          • Ray in VT

            Democracy does, in part, depend upon some measure of that if some aspects of our Constitution are to work.

          • Jon

            no, democracy is all about unyielding. And it’s a fatal flaw of democracy to see Constitution as a divine scripture.

          • Ray in VT

            Considering the horse trading that went into the creation of that document and the many compromises that various people and parties have made over time in order to get business done I don’t see that to be the case. Divine? No. A creation of men that is a pretty good framework and guide in my view.

          • Jon

            compromising is yielding and it’s from conscientious not from democracy which is designed to to win at all cost. Of course it’s divine or the gun control will be in order already

          • Ray in VT

            I don’t see your declaration that democracy is to win at all cost to be particularly valid considering the long history of that not being the case. Politics may be some nasty business, but it seems to me that, considering our available options, investing the power in the people and then having a system to attempt to constrain some of the less desirable parts of our natures is probably our most successful system.

          • Jon

            true in practice. democracy is ideal anyway. but what about that constraint? what’s its value standard from, religion or what?

          • Ray in VT

            Everything works great in theory. The constraint that sort of exists, and as long as people believe in it it mostly works, was the best balance between competing or conflicting interests that they could come up with 225 years ago. It’s a product of their time and experience, but I think that it holds up pretty well.

          • nj_v2

            Where does Benghazi fit in?

          • Ray in VT

            Good question. Probably right in somewhere around Whitewater, but no where near the level of scandal that was Iraq war intelligence or warrantless wiretaps. It’s way worse than those of course.

          • Jon

            just like 911, the question is why do they attack America?

          • Jon

            winning if in the way like selling “sex, drugs, violence, partying, etc” and profiting doesn’t make it right just like majority doesn’t make it rule?

          • Ray in VT

            One could make the argument that like with both just because it passes doesn’t make it good, and I would agree with it at times, however, majority rules/minority rights is a better working situation, I feel, than what have been the historical alternatives.

          • Jon

            protection of minority is the rule of majority in disguise like gay rights and marriage. it’s unstoppable because it’s a majority view of human rights religion

          • Ray in VT

            Yet despite the imperfections in our system, various disadvantaged groups have been able to have rights extended to them. For many it may take too long, especially if one is in one of those minority groups, and groups in opposition have long fought rear guard actions against such moves, but what the affected groups would likely see as progress has occurred. Our system wasn’t meant to move quickly. That has both its advantages and disadvantages.

          • Jon

            right, virtue of moderation. what would be your view if you live in poverty like the bottom 16%?

          • Ray in VT

            I grew up without much money. We were farmers, and we didn’t get worked up about too much. That way of life is a long, hard slog, and it requires a great deal of patience. I think that it shaped much of my outlook. Different circumstances may have produced a different outlook, however.

          • Jon

            that’s the virtue GOP like to sell and win

          • Jon

            nothing personal. I merely suggest you need to redefine ‘success’ as a nation

          • Ray in VT

            I didn’t take anything personal. It seems that for some time we have defined success as grabbing as much as one could and not really caring what we had to do to get it. There are quite a few people who don’t find such a path very fulfilling.

          • Jon

            that’s the virtue Dem like to sell and win. you got them both – it’s a loss to both of them.

        • jimino

          Is that a quote from Thomas Jefferson or one of his colleagues?

          • Ray in VT

            I think that that was ole T.J.

          • Jon

            wow. this is just my understanding

          • Jon

            on sencond thought “America is a market for ideas” is a quote from Nancy Pelosi.

  • d clark

    Martha Bayles lives in lala land. The culture we export DOES reflect us accurately and she is deluded to say otherwise. Then one of the last callers (a woman from Nashville, I believe) said we should plow funds into more positive voices and she cited some young woman who has a Grammy but is not well known. If she has a Grammy and is STILL not widely popular, it is because people don’t want what she is selling. Our culture is becoming the perfect mirror of culture represented in the movie “Idiocracy”.

    • anon

      “The culture we export DOES reflect us accurately and she is deluded to say otherwise.”

      It certainly does to a large extent.

  • geraldfnord

    How about we look better as a nation by being a better nation?

  • homebuilding

    Thank you for this important discussion.

    Entertainment and news coverage can easily end up as the definition of a culture.

    Sadly, the USA has been defined (mostly) as thugs around the world–our bullyish military policy; our entertainment soak in sex and violence; and by the ‘if it bleeds it leads’ “news” coverage.

    On the other hand, in the USA, we have a lot of lazy journalists and politicians who refuse to LOOK at how the other countries of the world address and solve various difficulties.

    As a result, there may be, at times, only a stereotyped view exchanged between nations. Sadly, only those that visit or national boundaries have a chance to see a true picture–with a significant reduction in commercial and political spin…….

    and that is ALWAYS better.

    Regarding the concern for censorship–we COULD all be a bit more discerning and simply

    1) refuse to vote for politicians who speak only in stereotypes
    and ‘hot buttons’

    2) refuse movies/programming and boycott sponsors that feature only argumentative approaches, violent exchanges, and naked titilation

    We’re sick of the crap and we’re not going to take it anymore.

  • gemli

    What condescending twaddle. How can someone say that in China, where they don’t have sex education for a billion-plus people and have required forced abortions, that Sex and the City’s cartoonish sexuality is the problem? If other repressive cultures are disturbed by America’s freedoms, the answer cannot be to curtail our freedoms to become more like them. The attitudes of other countries are more likely formed by the fact that we ignore them, or drop bombs on them, rather than by our silly entertainments. If they are so out of touch with reality that they can’t distinguish fact from fiction, then they have more of a gripe with their repressive leadership than with us. Prof. Bayles dances around the censorship issue, but there is no way to achieve her goals without it. Pure conservative drivel, without the guts to call it what it is.

  • John_Hamilton

    I’m reminded of the observation by Karl Marx that Capitalism contains the seeds of its own ruin. He meant it in terms of accumulation of capital driving smaller producers out of business, eventually eliminating profits for all. That may indeed happen, but one could take other long-term trends that over time will cause the system to break down.

    When Jazz music entered the cultural mix its attraction was that it was a vernacular form of music, more informal and sensual. Dance became more informal to go along with it.

    Rock ‘n Roll took the vernacular to another level, appealing specifically to the sexual coming-of-age of teenagers. Dance styles to go along with it evolved as more sensual and provocative.

    Rock music took off in the culture, and became a multi-billion dollar industry. As an industry, it could not remain stagnant and still produce profits. It had to change, and did, taking the culture with it. The movie industry, TV, and everything else in the culture moved in the same direction.

    Now we are in an advanced stage of a sex and violence trend in popular culture. There is no indication that the trend is going to reverse or move in a different direction. In order to produce profits, someone more outlandish than Miley Cyrus will have to appear in the future, as just one example.

    This all is happening in concert with our power establishment’s real “interests” around the planet, which are focused on hegemony. If we go around the planet invading people and sending drones to kill in seemingly random fashion, we tend over time to generate hatred.

    This of course is all within the broader context of the unsustainability of an infinite-growth economic system under conditions of global climate change. Though the guest and host didn’t want to talk about anything beyond narrow cultural context, the world we live in is a synergistic mix of all these factors.

    • longfeather

      I remember a musicologist over 30 years ago described how people reacted to jazz and its influence on our youth. “The saxiphone was a siren calling our young folks to the back seat of cars.” And, it was true in the fifties for sure. I have relatives that went off to ‘stay with an Aunt for the Season” until she came back in high style, acculturated, and unknown to others, “minus an offspring”

  • jimino

    As a 6-decade resident of one of the “flyover” states, my interactions with other Americans indicates that most of them don’t have a clue about how people really live. So it’s not just a foreign phenomenon. And the level of such ignorance is off the charts for those elected to high office.

    • hennorama

      jimino — wait a sec … you mean all Americans aren’t good-looking, or put their toddlers in beauty pageants, or fish with their hands, or modify their bodies through surgery, or ….

  • jefe68

    … As is the Bible.

  • prince1113

    America democratized the concept of culture. Before us, Culture was a reserve for the educated and mostly well-off elites. Of course there were other cultural phenomena (i.e. folk cultures) burbling just outside those circles, but until we made them more acceptable and available (mass-produced products for the masses), they were largely dismissed as tasteless and unworthy of respect or even consideration. Sure, I may not personally care for Madonna or Miley, but they are just players in a larger whole. And the sort of things they do has been with us longer than some may think. What’s different, for instance, between what Lady Gaga does and what Eva Torguay was doing in the early days of Vaudeville?

    • MarkO

      You mean Capitalized the concept of culture. Culture was more diverse and less homogenized before modern media. and it was not just for the elites. During the time of exploration, the sailors had their culture, with their drinking songs and folk songs. The elites had their culture with their symphony orchestras.

      • prince1113

        I think you just agreed with me — though I see no reason to refer to the process of dissemination pejoratively. Sure, sailors had a “culture,” though no one would have called it that — nor would the products of that culture (songs, stories) have made it much beyond sailors’ circles without the aid of the tools provided by capitalist markets (mass-produced recordings, performance venues, etc.) that you appear to bemoan. And in doing so it was allowed to enrich other “cultures” that otherwise might’ve remained less diverse in terms of their influences.

        • MarkO

          Good point. I was mainly pointing out that mass production is more a result of Capitalism, not Democracy, although they are indirectly connected. The media conglomerates, which control most of the what is mass produced drown out the real culture of America and other countries, Although the internet is helping to dissolve the influence of the media conglomerates.

  • MarkO

    The media predominantly represents only part of American culture. It primarily represents the younger generation’s perspective of partying, living free, and no worries. It doesn’t represent the other side of the spectrum very well. The Older generations who have carried more responsibility and who have raised children and know what it means to be responsible for the welfare of more than just themselves. It’s like the main stream media is stuck in the teenage years, and doesn’t grow up with the individual. When was the last time a jazz musician played as the main entertainment for an event like the new year celebration?

  • Mattyster

    I don’t know who the author talked to around the world, but among Western Europeans I know the negative impression of the U.S. is fueled much more by our disfunctional politics, obsession with short-term profit, and rejection of science.

    • disqus_7aZdvwHHYK

      well, i’m pretty sure if you paid attention, it wasn’t western europeans. eastern europe, middle east, south asia… all countries that are more religious and culturally conservative (and equally rejecting of science? hence why western europe also seems to hate its religious immigrant populations?). but even among western europeans i know that we’ve been accused of being prudish about sex and dangerously addicted to violence in popular culture.

  • nj_v2

    At one point Ms. Bayles mentioned “graphic sex” (though she didn’t define it) and “violence” in the same sentence, effectively (to my ear) conflating them.

    Really?

    • Ray in VT

      Those terms are probably like pornography. Hard to pin down or define, but I know it when I see it.

    • AC

      she must watch lots of telemundo :)

  • anon

    Having lived outside the US for more than 20 years, I’m not up on the TV shows, but the impression I get is that often when there is a family shown, the kids are the center of attention, and the attitude is that they should get what they want, while the parents (especially fathers) are shown as idiots who just get in their way. (The Simpsons is the example?)

    In many other cultures, parents and older people are very much a part of one’s life and are respected.

  • Stacy21629

    “We are used to it”? “We are over it”?

    Yea. Not all of us. Calling some of this garbage “culture” is laughable. No thanks.

    -A no-TV, no-movies, no-pop-music American

  • longfeather

    Obscenity@ You know it when you see it. For Americans, who care about the old values of America, the Obscene Court’s ruling in the Citizen’s United Case, left us open to totally devaluing community values in all aspects of the American Community.
    The Supreme Court as now constituted is the very definition of obscenity to American Citizenship and free-speech.

  • Pedro Alberto Arroyo

    Am I the only one who found Ms. Bayles soft-peddling to be a little maddening? At the end of the day: do you support censorship or not? It sounded like she did, but didn’t want to admit it.

    At some point she mentioned the importance of having some way to push back against what shows up in the media. There is: if you stop buying it, they’ll stop making it!

    • arusticat

      totally agree. The entertainment industry produces what people buy. If violence in movies was a turnoff for American’s, and they didn’t buy tickets, there would be no violent movies to export.

      I guess that was part of my original thought – “cause the Europeans to look down on us?”- I am sick of a lot of it myself and I am on this side of the Atlantic.

  • Florian Miyagi

    2 cents from ze german. First of all, the USA is THE most culturally influential country in the 20th century. Swing, blues, jazz, rock n’ roll metal. yes there other countries which also played a big roll but let’s face it, the majority came from the USA. but if there is one phenomanon that can be observed over the past decade, it’s the decline of american influence – economically, politically and yes – culturally. and by decline i in no way mean downfall. the role that the US played was in my eyes was inflated. it will still be one of the major players for many, many years to come but i doubt it will ever regain the status of the sole superpower, especially in the arts and culture.
    in europe for example you have new cultural trends emerging independant of american influence – a relatively new phenomanon on this scale. (most europeans don’t like to admit this;)) yes, there are teen magazines filled with articles about mylie and what not, but to be honest, nobody really cares… we have our own idiots now jumping about on stages and in front of cameras acting stupid. and if some people are pissed off at the usa fo mylie, aren’t you (or we the west) pissed off at some other individuals in other countries…

    • Bluejay2fly

      Here are rock groups who had major influence and were not American: Rolling Stones, AC/DC, Bee Gees, Beatles, Elton John, Pink Floyd, Rush, Led Zeppelin, ABBA, Def Leopard, The Who, Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Yes, Genesis, Dire Straits, Moody Blues, Neil Young, In Other arts such as acting Canada alone gave us Don Adams, Jim Carrey, Dan Aykroyd, Tommy Chong, Michael J Fox, Monty Hall, Eugene Levy, William Shatner, John Candy, Rick Moranis, The Sutherlands, Martin Short, et al. America is certainly a market for talent but not the sole source. Just like WW2 for which many ignorant of history give us all the credit for winning it was a world event.

      • Florian Miyagi

        hmmm. that’s quit list you got there. and i absolutely agree. the usa did not solely produce everything. but ask yourself where many of these acts got famous. in some way many of them (yes, not all) are connected to the usa. there are many acts from germany throughout the 20th century which i really love and which were also internationally influential but not on the scale of what came from the usa.

      • ExcellentNews

        Most – not some – music and TV programming is not pioneered in the US for business reasons. Media executives like to see what works in the smaller European markets before they import it in the more expensive US market….

    • prince1113

      The more neutral-minded don’t refer to American “decline” but to the “rise of the rest” (e.g. Tom Friedman). In other words, it’s now a more level playing field, with many more players competing. Moreover, as someone who has lived for an extended period of time in Germany, I can say that most of your pop cultural products are little more than knock-offs of American models.

      • Florian Miyagi

        awww don’t be offended. i genuinly like the usa, though i may disagree on a lot of the foreign policies, but hey, i am not happy with german politics in general at the moment. (oh and i i am so jealous of the us for having npr) and to your point on german pop – you’re probably right, though we have more electronic crap. i guess horrible pop music is an international phenomanon. :D

  • OMA_OPINES

    “Vulgarity is no substitute for wit” – Violet Crawley. I am pretty old (63) and have seen lots of TV and movies over the years. I have sadly noticed the very predictable degeneration of good, creative story lines after a couple of seasons – adding sexual innuendo or more, sophomoric situations and pushing language to what is usually considered not acceptable. Apparently the writers have lost the “spark” and just want to sell their product. Sad.

  • Casey

    This conversation really offended me. This is probably because I consider the primary value of art to be it’s ability to make people questions societal norms and institutions by presenting challenging subject matter, rather it be sex and violence, or nontraditional families and foreign cultures. Bayles argument seems to be that we are losing America’s soft power because socially conservative cultures do not respect the more liberal elements of our media. Therefore, we should strive to export entertainment that conforms to more conservative (read: Bayle’s) values. How we should do that, she is unwilling to answer because she seems incapable speaking out loud the obvious answer which is censorship.

    My first problem with this self censorship idea is that I have always understood America’s primary power to be the freedoms it exemplifies. When more oppressed societies see American entertainment expressing alternative ideas more freely, they want to have that freedom as well. When Modern Family shows nontraditional families (oh no, Gays!) that is a good thing, not a bad thing as Bayle’s implies.

    Second, the most graphically sexual films that I have ever seen have come from Europe. European films also have much more frank and interesting portrayals of nontraditional relationships and cultures. The most graphically violent, sadistic, and masochistic films I have ever seen have come from China and Japan. The pop culture exports that Bayle’s bemoans are really just watered down imitations of much more graphic foreign films. This makes the whole conversation feel uninformed.

    The only argument left is that American pop culture is considered bad by the artistically sophisticated. Well…. yeah. So it has been and so it will ever be.

  • SBreyak

    Though I agree that many people overseas perceive us through Hollywood’s lens, I think the scope of this conversation is too large to put entirely on our entertainment industry. People think America is dangerous not because they watch a rap video, but because they read the news.

    But I do agree pop culture does a bad job of representing us and (to be frank) entertaining us. But after the Cold War we really wound-down our funding of the arts. If we want high-art to exist, we need to pay for it as a society. Otherwise, what makes the most money (the “blockbusters” the “summer hits” etc.) will be all we have.

    • ExcellentNews

      Generally, people abroad don’t think of America as too dangerous. They however do get a shock when they visit and see how fat we are …

  • Casey

    Yes, exactly. I may have exaggerated a bit to make the point. I was more annoyed than offended that nobody on the radio program was willing to suggest the idea that offending some people with art may be a good thing. But, I am glad one of my beliefs was challenged by this show as it shows me how other people view the world.

  • Guest

    No. It is not.

  • lazlo

    We’re Americans. Yep, we’re vulgar. We’re gluttonous. We’re profane. And when the rest of the world isn’t busy hating us, they’re desperately trying to copying us. Rock, hip hop, movies, fashion; take your pick. And the more ridiculously over the top our pop culture is, the more they love it. This says more about them than it does about us. Vive la ingnorance!

  • Broadnax

    There are two keys to successful public diplomacy: understanding America and understanding the host culture, so that you can find points of common interest. You don’t make friends by talking at them; you don’t make friends face-to-face. You make friends shoulder to shoulder, working toward common aspirations.

    America is one of the most open and tolerant countries in the world and by far the most open and toleration large country. This means that we have lots of things that others admire and lots of things they hate. We have to accept this and work from there. We also need not be concerned with opinion polls telling us how much people like us, or not. What matters is what people really do.

    Think about this for yourself. As a middle American, if asked if I like France, I might say no. Now ask a few more questions. Do I like to visit France? Yes. Do I like the French people I know? Yes. Do I like French food? Yes. the list goes on. Does my general opinion really matter? No. The same goes for the U.S.

    I recall visiting Jordan during the Iraq war. The polls told me that the people of Jordan disliked Americans and I was very American. I even wore my USMC boots. The Jordanians treated me just fine. Obviously, their general opinion didn’t translate into practical behaviors. Returning to Iraq, there were people there who hated me but didn’t try to kill me and people who didn’t hate me who tried. I prefer to judge by what people really do, rather than by what they say.

    Anyway, worry about what people do and not what they say they think and if you want to get along with others find common tasks where you can be useful to each other.

    • ExcellentNews

      Good points. May I ask, if you like so many things about France, why not like France itself?

      I also must point out that without French support against Great Britain, we might still have the Queen on our currency. France has been a strong ally of the US for over 250 years now. That alone should make you think about the real reasons for the recent anti-French propaganda coming from the likes of Rupert Murdoch and his corporate pals.

      • Broadnax

        I am making the point re why opinions reported on surveys may not matter. It is the difference between stated and manifest preferences, i.e. people don’t always do what they say or even know what they like.

        On a survey I might answer negatively re France because that is kind of a default option among middle Americans. It is the same way being against America is the default option among many left leaning folks in foreign countries. But in my case and their, the stated preference is not really very serious and based on thoughtlessness.

  • SBreyak

    Though I am not the Internet, I will speak for the Internet when I say, “Calm down, Splif.” No one is “flaming” anyone here. I think that Ms. Bayles thesis has its point and a call for a better representation of our culture would be nice.

    My point is that the cultural exports pale in comparison to what is actually happening. I suppose when it comes to sex, the argument that entertainment is an exaggeration that misinterprets us could be made. But to balance what potentially negative images of our nation that comes from our movies, TV shows and music against the violence that actually takes place is a pretty weak argument.

    We as a nation could go about exporting what’s left of what good things are happening in the arts (there are still some gems worth sharing) but if given the choice between remedying the artistic perceptions of our problems or the problems themselves, I do hope we can focus on what’s important.

  • geraldfnord

    My lat comment of too many:

    Isn’t she cribbing from Dinesh D’Souza’s playbook?—he argued that it were our eeevyiiil culture that the terrorists hated, and that the fanatickal Muslims had more in common with many American conservatives than either had with American libruls…to which many of us same replied, ‘That’s what we’ve been saying…except we didn’t go on to say that we should appease the foreign fanatics by clamping down on our culture…oh, and how are the wife and girlfriend getting along?’

  • SBreyak

    Again, I think you miss my point, Spif. I agree that our entertainment does make us look bad. But our entertainment is a product, a symptom, of our society. You say not many have seen drone strikes, but I beg to differ. You’ve seen them. I’ve seen them. Just about anyone reading this has seen them. I hope not first-hand, but if you read or listen to the news you know these things are happening. This finds its way into the arts, yes, but the arts are simply a comment on what’s happening. The arts (as is any narrative, including the news) are always and exaggeration of the culture itself. But the fiction pales in comparison to the facts. Take America as a violent place. You can weigh the whole Action section of Netflix and put it up against Sandy Hook and our continued response as a country to that tragedy. In short, our response seems to be more guns. America is a violent place compared to most 1st-world countries. Jazz-appreciation won’t change that.

    Again though, if we want better art, demand public funding of better art. But don’t polish it as an anti-terrorism or a cure for our fall from grace. If you want America to be the kind of place that other nations and people aspire to and admire then we need to fix our culture, not its exports.

  • http://djanga.ru/ Pol Dej

    America’s cultural exports in my opinion it is rather a myth, a mirage than truth. http://djanga.ru/2013/12/seine-776km/ Now the world is changing and time-honored values ​​superseded globalism. Again, this is my opinion on this phenomenon.))

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