My Culturally Approved Halloween Party

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Ahh…October 31st, Halloween, the time to scare people, eat lots of sweets and dress up in costumes, but that’s not all Halloween does. Halloween also shows the debate on cultural appropriation, something that has become a huge issue among transnational media especially that of pop culture.

Over the years the entertainment business has developed into a transnational production merging different ideologies, themes, identities and culture into the films that we watch today. Because of this the world has become a more diverse place and has lead to the adoption of different believes, values and cultures. However, with this adoption comes the debate over cultural appropriation vs. cultural exchange.

But what’s the difference?

Cultural appropriation is defined, as the broad use of cultural symbols, artefacts, genres, rituals or technologies by members of another culture, is inescapable when cultures come into contact, including virtual or representational contact. Cultural appropriation is something that we see a lot of in today’s society, although a lot of it is trying to be pasted off as cultural exchange.

Cultural exchange happens when two or more cultures neither superior to the other, come together and share their traditions.

Within the entertainment industry cultural exchange likes to be thrown around a lot, as different elements of particular cultures are used to create films everyday. “Within cinematic public spheres, filmmakers act as bricoleurs (Newcomb and Hirsch, 2000), mixing both global and local elements to appeal to audience tastes and trends (Bhabha, 1995; Burke, 2006; Volkmer, 2003)” (Karan, K and Schaefer, DJ 2010, p. 309). Karan and Schaefer argue the increasing value of cultural exchange through “Indian/Hindu references into mainstream North American media” (Karan, K and Schaefer, DJ 2010, p. 312) has led to more film makers taking elements from different cultures and religions.

One common example of this is Avatar, which uses Indian mythology, which creates the setting and characteristics of the movie. James Cameron using these elements and intertwined them with the western view of society, this mixture of elements and cultural exchange led to an amazing production, though we do not see the use of the Indian mythology in a negative light, which it can be used in sometimes, we do not know Cameron’s full intensions to why he used these elements. Although his construct of the Indian religion was well represented. However, this is just one example of cultural exchange another example that is passed of as cultural exchange are within pop culture and the music industry.

This argument comes from cultural symbols becoming something of a fashion item and a trend to set. We see this especially with pop culture where traditional bindi’s of the Indian culture are used to highlight the “free spirited” young teens when they go to music festivals. This association with sex, drugs and alcohol can leave those of the culture offended as the symbolic meaning of the symbol has lost all meaning to make room for fashion trends.

Due to the blending of elements that we see in transnational media we see a lot of negative backlash towards these representations often being used as a way to stereotype people of a certain group in ways that aren’t true and can offend. Although many do feel like this is harmless, using it as a way to state that ‘white’ culture is only trying to blend with the rest of the world.

Cultural appropriation houses a huge debate that will always be at the surface of any new trend out there. The key is to represent it in a way that is respectful of various cultures and bring it back to cultural exchange where we appreciate them for what they are and not use them as a means to sexualise or discriminate.

Here is a video and some further reading you can do to get different views on cultural appropriation.

What Is Cultural Appropriation and Why Is It Wrong?

What’s Wrong with Cultural Appropriation? These 9 Answers Reveal Its Harm


References

Dawisha, N (2014) ‘Halloween: The Season for Culturally-Insensitive Fashion’, The Huffington Post, weblog, 31 October, viewed 31 August 2015 <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/nadia-dawisha-/culturally-insensitive-fashion_b_6070292.html?ir=Australia&gt;

Smoothiefreak (2014) ‘ White Party – A Lesson in Cultural Appropriation’, online video, 2 December, viewed 31 August 2015 <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ipx3fKn4G3U&feature=youtu.be&gt;

Alvia, T (2013) ‘The Difference Between Cultural Exchange and Cultural Appropriation’ Everyday Feminism, weblog, 30 September, viewed 31 August 2015 <http://everydayfeminism.com/2013/09/cultural-exchange-and-cultural-appropriation/&gt;

Karan, K and Schaefer, DJ (2010) ‘Problematizing Chindia: Hybridity and Bollywoodization of popular Indian cinema in global film flows’, Global Media and Communication, 6: 3, pp. 309-316.

Khan, N (2010) ‘Oscar winner ‘Avatar’ has an Indian connection’, Masala, 9 March, viewed 31 August <http://www.masala.com/oscar-winner-avatar-has-an-indian-connection-19678.html&gt;

Alvia, T (2015) ‘Here Are 5 Cultural Appropriating Outfits It’s Time to Retire for Good’ Everyday Feminism, weblog, 20 July, viewed 31 August 2015 <http://everydayfeminism.com/2015/07/cultural-appropriating-outfits/&gt;

Marinashutup (2014) ‘What Is Cultural Appropriation? – Feminist Fridays’, online video, 5 December, viewed 19 August 2015 <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZT1sTYpOJ04&gt;

Nittle, N.K (NA) ‘What Is Cultural Appropriation and Why Is It Wrong?’, About News, weblog, NA, viewed 31 August 2015 <http://racerelations.about.com/od/understandingrac1/a/WhatIsaStereotype.htm&gt;

Johnson, M.Z (2015) ‘What’s Wrong with Cultural Appropriation? These 9 Answers Reveal Its Harm’ Everyday Feminism, weblog, 14 June, viewed 31 August 2015 <http://everydayfeminism.com/2015/06/cultural-appropriation-wrong/&gt;

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I am an international student!

I am an international student because I live in Australia on a Permanent Residency Visa.

I am an international student because my nationality is not Australian.

I am an international student because I am a citizen of the United Kingdom.

I am an international student because I have friends from all over the world.

I am an international student because I am taking a class in global media and communications.

I am an international student because I learnt German, French and Spanish at school.

I am an international student because I have travelled the world.

I am an international student!

This opening was inspired by the University of Sheffield’s video on the benefits of being an international student and how essentially we are all international students.

Being an international student has got to be the most life changing experience out there. You get to experience another culture and lifestyle as you’re thrown into the deep and expected to float. But sometimes you can’t float and that’s when being an international student seems bleak.

Marginson states that ‘international education is not the rich intercultural experience it could be’, and though I disagree with this claim I do see where he is coming from. (Marginson 2012, p. 1)

There have been may incidences where international students have been made to feel unwelcome in Australia, not necessarily on purpose but due to the lack of effective communication between different cultures and the inability to communicate in general. In 2009 there were various attacks placed on Indian students who came to Australia, this lead to a decrease in Indian students coming to the land down under to study. These attacks lead to extensive coverage in Indian newspapers, which cause a huge protest in Melbourne consisting of Indian exchange students as well as many other exchange and international students. However, it isn’t just Indian students who are fearful to study in Australia, even those from our neighbouring countries, those who we trade with fear for their lives when they study in Australia.

Though reading these stories of attacks on international students has me on edge, I do not feel that it is due to what Marginson states in this research. I think it has more to do with the hostility that is placed on communication differences, most of which come from the lack of understanding of ‘Aussie slang’.

Coming from an English speaking country myself I did not feel like I had much to worry about, a part from the usual ‘am I going to fit in?’ ‘Will anyone like me?’ Though after reading Marginson’s report on international students I stated to see some similarities between his findings and my own experience. Especially through certain phrases and colloquialisms used in everyday conversation that I just couldn’t get my head around and vice verser.

When I first came to Australia I had this idea that because Australia was colonised by the English there would still be strong roots of that embedded into the language, but boy was I wrong. Trying to follow what was being said all the time took extra focus and time.

Though thats not all that took a bit of getting use to. I did find that at first most people were “stand offish”, the colour of my skin didn’t make it clear where it was I was from, but as soon as I spoke things started to fall into place. Though it still took time for people to come up to me and have a conversation even though most knew I was from an English speaking country. 

However, unlike what Marginson mentions, ‘Australians are often too parochial, trapped within an Australian-centred view of a diverse and complex world’ I felt like my experience was more positive and more diverse than what Marginson states. (Marginson 2012, p. 2)

Although most of the friends I made had different heritage they were all born and raised in Australia so that may have had an impact in their communication skills towards me. However those who were purely Anglo though perhaps hostile at first, they were more than nice to me and were willing to learn more and go that extra mile to get to know me and the different cultural aspects that I bought with me.

I believe that though what Marginson wrote could be accounted by the minority of Australians, but the majority are more than hospitable to make connects with those from overseas. Though as in any situation people are shy and prefer not to stray from their existing friends and groups, but shall still go that mile to make those from other countries fell welcome and as if this were their home.

For further thoughts on international life and international students watch these videos:


References

Sheffield SU, 2013, We Are All International Students, online video, 4 March, Sheffield University, viewed 12 August 2015 <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fsX_yg6ovoI&gt;

Marginson, S (2012) ‘International education as self-formation: Morphing a profit-making business into an intercultural experience’, Lecture delivered at the University of Wollongong, 21 February 2012

Whinnett, E and Hussain T, (2014) ‘Indian student numbers plunge after fresh attack’, Herald Sun, 5 January, viewed 28 August 2015 <http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/law-order/indian-student-numbers-plunge-after-fresh-attack/story-fni0fee2-1226795039267&gt;

Dong, S (2012) ‘We Came Here To Learn, But We Live In Fear’, The Age, 11 May, viewed 28 August 2015 <http://www.theage.com.au/it-pro/we-came-here-to-learn-but-we-live-in-fear-20120510-1yfhq.html&gt;

America is taking over the world!!

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For the most part we all know how American we have become, with it’s global markets increasing and all we see around us are of an American nature. But how much has it affected us?

The American film and television industry have taken over our screens pushing back and almost replacing other big entertainment industries found in other countries. This American outbreak falls under the umbrella of globalisation, characterised by a worldwide increase in interdependence, interactivity, interconnectedness, and the virtually instantaneous exchange of information’ (O’Shaughnessy & Stadler 2012, p. 458).

In Australian we see this happening through the introduction of Foxtel, which allowed the consumption of American channels and ‘American ways’ to leak out of our screens. Expect that was only the tipping point, with the introduction of even more American entertainment through the new streaming site Netflix. This global exchange saw to override streaming sites created by Australian’s for Australian’s through the accessibility and price of American entertainment. “With Netflix’s launch imminent, Presto and Stan. have been attempting to sweeten their deal to gain a foot hold in the Australian market.” The Australian market is seeing its downfall due to American entertainment, its interconnectedness is disappearing to make room for America.

But lets look at this in a different way Marshall McLuhan presented a phrase ‘the global village’ which acts as a virtual community. Thus places an image of the world in which media transcends the nation-state in a democratising process that gives everyone a voice and enables information to be freely shared. However, Castells counteracts this argument of this so-called utopia by stating ‘while the media have become indeed globally interconnected and programs and messaged circulated in the global network, we are not living in a global village, but in customised cottages globally produced and locally distributed’ (Castells 2000, p. 370; emphasis in original).

But what does this have to do with the American take over?

Well, this is the basis at which it all stems from, the Americanisation of the world has damaged the older and more traditional cultures, supposedly not giving them a voice to share. As popular American television, films, music and fashion flood the airwaves of these cultures fashioning and transforming them to the more ‘American ways’. The video below demonstrates the impact Americanisation has had on particular cultures as they now adopt more Americanised ways, pushing back their traditions and cultures.

Todd Gitlin’s (2002) claims that, ‘if there is a global village, it speaks American. It wears jeans, drinks Coke, eats at the golden arches, walks on swooshed shoes, plays electric guitars, recognises Mickey Mouse, James Dean, ET, Bart Simpson, R2-D2 and Pamela Anderson’.

Although Americanisation can be seen as damaging to other cultures by creating them in the image of a customised village, it has also allowed for more prospects to be seen through what the American culture promises. It also allows for other cultures to be brought together through its film industry, as in Pixar’s 2015 release of Inside Out, highlights the changes it made to the food baby Riley disliked depending on what country you where in. This shows the positives to globalisation, showing the interaction between cultures.

Although this could just been seen, as a ploy to sell more movie tickets this to me, seems like a stepping-stone into cultural exchange and the shift from the idea of ‘Americanisation’. Here Pixar is taking the time out to research and change the aspects of the popular movie to accommodate other cultures,“We learned that some of our content wouldn’t make sense in other countries”(Paige, 2015). “During another scene, Bing Bong (DON’T CRY) was “[reanimated] so that he points to the letters from right to left, instead of left to right to accommodate certain languages” (Paige, 2015).

Thus bringing together cultures in the simplest form by adding cultural context and highlighting the ideology of “Americanisation” is not just about making people view things in the American light.

Globalisation has grown over time, changing the way we look at things and the way we perceive them. It has popularised many things that can be seen in a negative light as a hostile take over by one nation but also as bringing together diversity and multiculturalism.


References:

Appadurai, A (1996) ‘Disjuncture and Difference in the Global Cultural Economy’, Modernity at Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalization, Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press, pp. 27-47.

O’Shaughnessy, M and Stadler, J (2008) ‘Globalisation’, Media and Society (fifth edition) Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 458-471.

Gitlin, T (2002) ‘Media Unlimited: How the Torrent of Images and Sounds Overwhelms Our Lives’, Henry Holt and Company, New York

Paige, R, 2015, Hello Giggles, The food baby Riley hated in ‘Inside Out’ was different depending on where you lived, weblog post, 3 August, viewed 29 August 2015