Guangming Daily, China
How American Movies
Spread Their Values
By Zhou Kai
Translated By Nathan Hsu
25 July 2012
Edited By Adam Talkington
China - Guangming Daily - Original Article (Chinese)
For a long time, the United States has placed great importance on using films to transmit its way of life, culture, system of values and even its way of thinking to people in other countries. American movies only comprise six to seven percent of the world's aggregate film production, but they account for over half of total worldwide screenings. This makes film one of the United States' most important tools for spreading its values and cultural philosophies.
Individualism is the core component of American values. It emphasizes individual accomplishments, adores individual struggle and strives for the achievement of individual values on the highest level. American films are the primary tool for this outpouring of individualism; from "Spiderman" and "Superman" to "2012," "saviors" let America play the role of saving the world time and again. Heroes coming to Earth fight "for American truth and justice," leading audiences to unconsciously acknowledge that the United States has the natural capability of a superpower to save and lead the world.
"The Pursuit of Happiness" is a classic inspirational flick that reflects the ideologies of individual freedom and the American dream. The movie tells of the struggles of an ordinary, unimportant person in 1980s America who becomes a stockbroker. The protagonist perseveres to follow his dream and does not give up any opportunity to realize his goals. He thus embodies the American values of believing in and loving the struggle of the individual, the pursuit of freedom and equality and reliance on your own strength to realize self-worth. The film tells audiences that anyone living in America can obtain success in their careers as long as they are sufficiently hard-working. The portrait of an idealized society that the movie creates brings out people’s thirst for success in the “American dream” and also serves as propaganda for the U.S.
Meticulous attention is paid to every facet of scenery and setting: the Statue of Liberty, the Stars and Stripes and the streets of Manhattan are all commonly used shots. Whether using stunning shots produced by modern technology or artistic and romantic depictions of everyday life, [these films] all evoke in the audience a yearning for America. Work done in the cutting room, the tone of the movie and even the background music all serve the purpose of disseminating the ideologies behind the film. Take, for example, the editing for the movie "2012." After showing the poor and backwards mud-lined streets of a developing country, the film follows with a shot of a charity relief event in a capitalist country. On the one hand, the American president resolutely chooses to live or die with the people. On the other, Noah's Ark is endangered and cannot move because of a Chinese mistake. The capitalist superiority complex becomes quite apparent.
To attract larger audiences and expand to overseas markets, cultural elements from other countries and ethnic groups have also become a creative point of origin for American movies. Hollywood has repeatedly used bits of Chinese culture to shoot "Kung Fu Panda," "Mulan," etc. "Kung Fu Panda" is set in China, and Chinese kung fu, of which the world is so familiar, was chosen as the point of introduction, both allowing Chinese audiences to identify with the film and piquing the curiosity of foreign moviegoers. In the film, the original legend and tale are no more than a narrative shell; its inner core remains thoroughly American. By all appearances, it assimilates and spreads the culture of another people. But in reality, it is only a vehicle for American cultural values. Concealed ideological judgments still lay behind the deliberate removal of ideology.
American movies excel at organically combining the essence of the [American] spirit and a marketable cover, the values tending to be packaged under a superficial layer of intense audio and visual effects. The American film industry not only reaps vast economic rewards for the United States, but also spurs the development of America's cultural products. At the same time, it sells America's system of values, creating an "American cultural ecosystem and cultural ecology" beneficial to spreading its national image.
The ways in which values are spread by American films are a revelation. They show us that China's film industry must also have ample cultural awareness and cultural self-confidence, holding to the concept of "think globally, act locally" with the help of cultural products like film and television to spread China's core values and expand the international influence of Chinese culture.
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