Americanization

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The included image was taken by Mikail Ustinov on the 30th of November 2012 at a small music venue in San Francisco called DNA lounge. The event that was being held was called Project Mayhem and hosted various forms of electronic music though primarily centred around dubstep. For those of you who don’t know, dubstep is a very bass heavy form of electronic music that originated in the UK. It typically has a half speed drum beat (compared to techno and other forms of dance music) accompanied by many deep, modulated bass synths making it very rhythmic as opposed to melodious. Recent trends in the dubstep scene (as well as many other forms of electronic music) have led to the genre becoming plagued with artists who have completely missed the point of the once respectable art form that used to be dubstep. The music has ended up with the artists competing with one another to see who can create the loudest, heaviest, meanest, and, at the end of the day, most obnoxious synth sounds which they then lay over a bland half speed drum loop and call it a day. And America absolutely loves it. Maybe this is my inner hipster speaking but it seems to me that America has managed to turn the genre into this nonsense that makes me almost too embarrassed to reply when asked what sort of music I listen to. America has reshaped the genre to the point where it is almost looked down upon. There are however many artists and fans in the US who still pursue dubstep in its original form. There are even some artists who have been able to find the middle ground between the two forms which I have discussed (there are others) and have ended up creating some of my favourite tracks. It is one of these artists, Megalodon, who was performing at the time this photo was taken.

Megalodon, currently residing in Los Angeles, has managed to keep the feel of the original dubstep while still incorporating heavy basslines that the American crowd loves. This allows him to draw in fans from both ends of the spectrum and this is displayed very clearly in the above picture.  The girl in her neon underwear, the “candy kisses” braclets that symbolise the use of MDMA, the extravagant head gestures, and the scrunched up faces are all part of the typical American dubstep/rave scene. The fact that there are a few select individuals in the crowd exhibiting these trends demonstrates very well the effect of the Americanization of the genre.

Dubstep in the US is not the only example of Americanization and was definitely not the first. Dubstep just happens to be something close to my heart and therefore opened my eyes to Americanization and how prevalent it is in today’s society. And it isn’t all bad; Americanization can lead to some great results. Examples of good Americanization include the TV show “The Office.” While the original show was created in England by comedian, writer, director, producer, actor, (philanthropist) Ricky Gervais (Science, Ricky Gervais), the American version was extremely successful globaly winning 27 awards, including a Golden Globe, and receiving another 127 nominations (IMDB).

All this discussion of Americanization relates to the article written by William McClain: “Western, got home! Sergio “Leone and the Death of the western” in American film Criticism.” While the paper you are currently reading will discuss the, Americanization of other cultures, McClain’s paper discusses the “Italianization” of western films. It is interesting to see the contrast and yet similarities of the two. The same thing is happening in both yet it’s being observed from a different perspective. In my case I am discussing America as the culprit whereas McClain is discussing America as the victim.

This isn’t sushi; this is America

Americanization is a term that many of us are familiar with but for those of you who aren’t, it’s when something from another culture becomes heavily influenced by America and, in the end, becomes part of American culture. To put it in better terms, the Cambridge Dictionary Online defines the verb to Americanize as “to become or make something typical of the US or US culture” (Cambridge Dictionary Online). This action of turning foreign things into “America,” I feel is a very key part of America’s culture. Like I said earlier, this can go both ways. There have been some amazing things coming out of the Americanization process.

Food is a great example of this; think burritos, deep dish pizza, California rolls and so on. The outside world has come to the US and has changed accordingly to fit in. I was at a sushi restaurant the other day and it was one of the most Americanized experiences I’ve been had. Firstly it was all you can eat (can’t get more American than that), and secondly the rolls were huge; covered with all sorts of nonsense that would never be there in Japan and stuffed twice as much as normal. Now, to the sushi connoisseur this would be an outrage. They would take a look at my plate, laugh, and stroll off muttering with his friends about how “this is not sushi.” And he’s completely right. This isn’t sushi; this is America. The only thing that’s still “sushi” about this place is the sign on the door and perhaps the little boats that were carrying the food past my seat (though that might be an American thing too). It’s supposed to be good tasting food which, while definitely based off its Japanese origins, has evolved to work in America. If you go in there expecting gourmet Japanese sushi, you’re not going to like it. If you go in there the way I did however, and expect an Americanized version of Sushi, you will more likely enjoy it.

This sort of thing is happening all over the US; like I mentioned earlier, there is Americanized food from a ton of different cultures. When you take a step back and look at it however, it all kind of makes sense. America is huge. I would probably consider it to be the only (or at least one of the few) real superpower nations remaining. This is obviously going to bring a whole load of immigration as people see America as this massively powerful nation, a land of freedom and opportunity. In my sociology class I took in the autumn we spent a few whole weeks discussing the American dream and what it means to the outside world and immigrants. People want to live here. People want this opportunity; a chance at fame and fortune and it shows in the culture. The net migration rate for the US is 3.62 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2012 est.) (indexmundi.com). This is the ratio of people moving to the United States to people emigrating per 1,000 people. It’s a pretty high number. Now we see why Americanization is so prevalent in today’s world. It’s not Americas fault, America is just being good at whatever it does, it’s more just the simple fact that America is being bombarded with all these cultures and they are therefore permeating into society.

This is great and as long as America is making sure to hold on to its roots at the same time as adopting all this culture America will keep on being the giant mixing pot of culture that we see today. If you look around though you can see that it’s not just America. The whole world is becoming a mixing pot of culture. We talk about the westernization of the developing world with all the call centres in India and all of the t-shirts in china with nonsensical English written on the back. It also works the other way round. The chicken tikka masala, one of the more popular Indian dishes in the (western world at least), was invented in Glasgow, Scotland. Even though this essay is focusing on America and the Americanization of the rest of the world, it needs to be said that this is happening in all directions, resulting in the entire world becoming a mixing pot. Globalization is inevitable. Travel is so easy and the internet so accessible nowadays that all cultures are being bombarded with all other cultures. Some of this is good and some of it is bad but all we can do is wait with open arms and see what it brings us.

This brings me to one final point that I would like to make. While our cultures are being bombarded by everyone else’s, we need to make sure we hang on to our roots. As an English citizen who has lived abroad for the past 10 years in Switzerland and the US, I cannot tell you how important it is to keep in touch with your culture. I can honestly say I have been bombarded by culture and I’m a far better person because of it but I realise now that I have been gone so long that I am losing touch with my home. My accent is almost gone and when people ask me about politics in the UK I know insufficient details to explain it. I couldn’t even remember the names of the royal family. America needs to learn from my mistakes and the mistakes of many others. As mentioned way back in the beginning, Megalodon was able to do this with his dubstep. He took the original style of dubstep and by letting in the new forms of dubstep while staying true to his it’s roots, he was able to create what for me is some of the most exciting music being produced today. Let in all of the other culture, all of the other customs, the food, the drink, the music, the art, but don’t forget your roots. While Americanization is a huge part of America, it’s really America that makes America.

Works Cited

 

“Americanize.” Verb. Cambridge University Press, n.d. Web. 14 May 2013.

IMDB. “The Office.” IMDb. IMDb.com, n.d. Web. 14 May 2013.

McClain, William. “Western, Go Home! Sergio Leone and the “Death of the Western” in American Film Criticism.” Journal of Film and Video 62.1 (2010): 52-66. Print.

“United States Net Migration Rate.” – Demographics. N.p., 21 Feb. 2013. Web. 14 May 2013.

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2 Responses to Americanization

  1. Although Americans do take different forms of the original like dubstep that is what it is so great. To me, America is a land of evolutionary ideas and products. I respect your perspective because you have seen it in a different light and I do agree that Americans do go a bit over board at times. But, not everyone is going to be pleased, especially with art forms, it is personal opinion. America gives us the opportunity to turn things into something completely different and have an opinion on it. To be American is to be different and embrace similarities. Dubstep, EDM, Hip-Hop, techo and many other new forms of music are a great example of how Americans are a “mixing pot.”
    The point made about sicking to your roots is what make you prideful of your culture. I don’t think it is a goal of Americanization to change every way of thinking but instead introduce others of different cultures to our culture and what America has to bring to the table. I really enjoyed your picture and modern/ hip look at our generations culture and its comparison to the past.

  2. Grace Gu says:

    I really enjoy reading your manifesto, and the examples that you use are really interesting. I like the idea that you compare “Italicization” with “Americanization”. I didn’t think of any connections between them before, but right now I can see the strings. “Americanization” is like the main stream around the world. It gets things from outside and Americanizes it.
    I was laughing when I read “This isn’t sushi; this is America”. I do agree the sushi here are so Americanized, with unlimited supply and huge portion. I am not sure whether the little boats carrying the food are an American thing, because I saw them in the Japanese restaurant in China too. When I was in China, I also heard that food in Japan usually has really small portion but it is served with variety. I am not sure whether this is true or not, since I have never been to Japan before. Maybe I should ask Japanese students in class.
    Moreover, I can’t help laughing when I read “all of the t-shirts in china with nonsensical English written on the back”. I admit that there are some T-shirts in China with nonsensical English on it, but I have no idea where those T-shirts come from. If you buy clothes at big department store, the clothing company will make sure the English printed on shirts make sense. I guess some people think it is really cool to wear a T-shirt with a foreign language printed on it, but most of time, they probably don’t really understand the meaning of the sentence on the shirt. However, I feel really shocked and funny when I realize even American and British people know those T-shirts. Hopefully, there will be less T-shirts like that in the future as more and more Chinese are learning English now.

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