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Cultural invasion.

No American enterprise has conquered the world as completely as its popular culture industry. As author and travel writer William Ecenbarger puts it: "The world has literally become a Mickey Mouse operation...the USA reigns supreme as an exporter of music, film, television, sports, food, and hundreds of consumer products."

* Each week, more than 300 million people in 100 countries see Disney television programs. In 1996, Disney signed a 10-year marketing deal with another American mass culture giant, McDonald's. The fast food chain, through its almost 19,000 restaurants in 93 countries, is now one of Disney's main promotional channels. Along with Batman, Bugs Bunny, Kermit the Frog, Bart Simpson, and dozens of other American cultural icons the "McDisney" alliance will be peddling its world vision on a scale never seen before.

* In 1995, came news that U.S. movies account for 80% of all cinema box office receipts in the world.

* Nearly nine out of ten people who watched the 1992 Superbowl on television were outside the United States.

* Wheel of Fortune now has at least 15 foreign versions. Actresses from all over the world are sent to Hollywood to learn how to turn the letters just like Vanna White.

* And, Maclean's magazine recently offered its opinion that Pamela Anderson Lee is now the world's most famous Canadian. Her fame is due entirely to her starring role in the American TV series Baywatch.

Culture watchers worry about the concentration of power such market penetration creates. Culture reflects a particular view of civilization. So, when almost all your cultural experiences come from the dream factories of Southern California, you are going to end up with a very distorted picture of the world. (If you watch a steady diet of American children's movies and cartoons you might come to believe that people who speak with plummy English accents are villains. Watching American TV drama will give you the impression that all women are gorgeous, never get older than 25, and have big hair.)

On the other hand, U.S. scholar Irving Kristol sees the saturation of the world with American popular culture as a positive thing. He says it has a "wonderfully corrosive effect on all totalitarian and strongly authoritarian regimes."
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Copyright 1996, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:United States - Economy; U.S. movies, television and popular culture are influential in most parts of the world
Publication:Canada and the World Backgrounder
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Sep 1, 1996
Words:370
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