Hollywood as an International Cinema - A Research Paper

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Harvey Mudd College
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Research paper
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The global film market is a strategic site for examining the worldwide influence of American media culture. US films dominate in the global film market. Therefore the huge urge for Hollywood to establish a global box office has translated to various changes in the content of Hollywood films towards deculturized, transnational films a trend that is also evident in other leading countries in the global film market. With 50% of its revenue now coming from abroad and increasing, Hollywood sees the world market as it new frontier especially the Asian markets (China and Indian). In pursuit of the billion plus viewers from those countries, the studios are operating in ways that incorporate and reflects diversity to the world's audiences. Hence it can no longer afford to be monolithic Institution with only one method or style.

However, it one thing to say and another thing to implement, the enormous effort of Hollywood to establish itself as an international film cinema has done little to globalize it production style, but instead, they have globalized the market, making their films more successful in the global market. The production styles, the stereotypes, and marginalization of other ethnic groups are still prevalent in the Hollywood scenes, where it is always about the American heroes and the rest of the world is the villain.

History and Types of Cinema

The Hollywood concept of what a movie is has dominated the world scene often sidelining of cinematic approaches. Hollywood film is practically defined as being a political, palatable and non-confronting; it is an industrial machine whose goal is that of financial success primarily. The European model, however, especially from the French one is preoccupied with the artist truth behind the silver screen thus the concept of first, second, third and fourth cinema begins to come into play. This is a useful concept to understand when thinking about international cinema because the audience often tends to think regarding Hollywood and the rest of the world.

First cinema is Hollywood. Large budget films typically created for enjoyment and profit, these films strive to be accepted by as many people as possible and as a side effect of overtime become somewhat diluted in the process. The strengths are that they have the highest chances of crossing the borders making them international, however not all Hollywood films are first cinema nor does all first cinema films come from Hollywood, France has a share in the equation.

Second cinema is the power poles representing motion film, it is abstract, challenging and exists almost in direct opposition to the first cinema. It is preoccupied with truth, it does not like to hide the cuts, uses long takes, and an obsession of showing reality capturing life as it is. The primary goal here is an artist one rather than a financial goal. Second cinema rejects what the entire first cinema is about; the notion of fantasy, escapism, and entertainment. It typically tends to come out of Europe, i.e., France

Third cinema looks at first and second and it responses one of revolution, it is a discourse, the revolution of filmmaking; these typically tend to come out of Latin America, Africa, and Asia. It directly challenges the idea of both first cinema, and second, the film is about self-expression, whose AIM is to spread the message of activism and revolution. They are not meant to be sold they are an argument. Fourth cinema is shorthand for indigenous cinema; It is a relationship between the indigenous cinemas that emphasis on self-representation thus seeks to replace that with the tropes of mainstream cinema. The negotiates the effects of mainstream cinema and indigenous identity.

Hollywood and the World: Common Stereotypes

Racial Stereotypes

Regardless of Hollywood being diverse in culture, the depictions of those cultures differ greatly from the reality there is a huge prevalence of racial and national stereotypes in Hollywood. Characters of color remain largely underrepresented in the mainstream TV shows and movies; there are stereotypes of Blacks, Hispanics, Native Americans, Arab Americans and Asian Americans. Arabs are represented as anti-American villains or belly dancers, harem girls and oil sheiks. Indians are portrayed as bloodthirsty warriors out to spill the white mans blood, and harm white women, favorable portrayal is when they are shown as medicine men who lead whites through difficulties, and the Indian women are often viewed in a one-dimensional perspective as a beautiful maiden princess.

Blacks are portrayed as magical Negro when portrayed in a positive outlook like in the movie The Green Mile Michael Clarke Duncan type; these characters help white characters to overcome their adversity. Others are such as a house cleaner or nanny or typically functions as a helper to her white friend normally the protagonist or depicted as thugs or brash women. Latinos being the largest minority is consistently portrayed narrowly playing house cleaners and gardeners. They have been sexualized as Latin lovers and Latinas as exotic, sensual vamps. Asians are often seen as foreigners; their women are portrayed as dragon ladies ruling women who are sexually attractive but immortal hence bad news to white lovers, in war films they are often seen as prostitutes. Asian men are given less masculine characteristics such as a geek or math whizzes, on the other hand, they are portrayed as martial artists, the Kung Fu stereotypes of Bruce Lee.

Ethnic/International stereotypes

Besides the racial stereotypes, foreign countries or cultures are also stereotyped. The independence Day film pans to an African nation where they are dancing with spears (warlords). According to Hollywood Africa has not Advanced, they show Africa engulfed in poverty and corruption or the movie Simba showing Africa as an exotic hub of wild animals and Safaris, in a sense that Africa is incapable of having modern. Asians characters are often replaced by American character such as Tom Cruise playing the character of The Last Samurai. White characters end up beating Asians in their own game, in Kill Bill Vol. 1 the bride is better at martial arts than Lucy Liu and the entire army. They transfer all positive attributes of the Asian culture to a white character and relegate Asian characters as villains or supporting characters.

In fantasy movies, every character has to be white, such as The Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones, when a different race character appears they are shady or foreigners or they do not hold any significant roles. The Hollywood idea of fantasy is white people with British accent dealing with savages and fighting monsters. Russians are often portrayed as villains, which dates back to the cold war where Russia was represented as a geopolitical threat to the west. Indians are portrayed to have a thick accent, bad fashion sense and are nerds, which means that they are socially awkward among others.

The Independent Day Insurgence

This movie is about a second alien invasion two decades after the first invasion that nearly destroyed humankind. This time around the alien mothership is more than twice as powerful as the previous one, and therefore the world armies must band together to save the world. Despite the movie being about the world coming together to survive the alien invasion, everything is a stereotype, on the international stage, Russians are vaguely menacing, Arabs wear turbans and Africans wear loincloths and carry spears all the times. The huge purpose of the movie is to make Americans love America contrary to its storyline. The entire story about space pilots from all over the world where characters who speak languages that are not English are dumb. It also assumes that everyone speaks English when the American president is addressing the world through a shortwave radio. In the end, it is not about the world saving the world but America saving the world.

Captain America -Civil War

In this movies, political interference in the avenger's activities leads to a rift between former allies Captain America and Ironman. The movie depicts classic Marvel studio movies where a superhero always saves the day. When the government introduces a Heroes Registration Act that creates a divide among the Avengers, Captain America is against the government while iron man is for the government. In a way, this movie can be seen as global since it tends to relate to everyones desire for a superhero figure. Marvel comics have revolutionized the issue of stereotypes in Hollywood movies by including a broad range of diversity. It prides itself never to marginalize a particular group or ethnicity, it depicts religious extremism as not limited to Muslims character but also radical Christians such as Choir (X-men and have characters with different ethnic backgrounds such as Nick Fury.

Although there is still a long way to before Hollywood globalizes their films, Marvel is a good way of depicting a global image although at a deficient percentage. Probably the main reasons why Hollywood is so popular to the international market is Mainly because of their long-standing dominance in the industry and their movies are very entertaining to some extent. Hollywood also spends a huge budget in promoting their movies since they are profit based. Therefore, it is safe to say that Hollywood movies have a wide global market success, but their productions regarding characters and storylines are all American. The huge misrepresentation of another ethnicity can act as a blow in the long run when the international market's ignorance wears out, and they boycott stereotypical movies. Therefore, Hollywood will have little choice but to revolutionize that.



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Klein, Christina. "The Asian Factor in Global Hollywood." Breaking Down the Notion of a Distinctly American Cinema, 2003: 25-45.

Lang, Brent. Global Box Office Hits Record $38.6 Billion in 2016 Even as China Slows Down. March 22, 2017. http://variety.com/2017/film/news/box-office-record-china-1202013961/ (accessed September 18, 2017).

Lorenzen, Mark. "Internationalization vs. Globalization of the Film Industry." Hollywood and Beyond: Globalization Of The Film Industry, 2007: 349-357.

Little, Nadra. Common Racial Stereotypes in Movies and Television. June 11, 2016. https://www.thoughtco.com/common-racial-stereotypes-in-movies-television-2834718 (accessed Sep 18, 2017).


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