First Things First…

Cultural appropriation can be defined as the ‘adoption of elements of one culture by members of another culture’ (Turnbull, 2019). It can often lead to racist generalisations or stereotypes. However, it can also be deemed as high fashion or ‘cool’ when the privileged use aspects of that culture for their own benefit (Turnbull, 2019). Appropriation occurs when the appropriator is unaware of the history and significance of the culture they are consuming.

Photo source: https://medium.com/@aye.tee.tee/why-defending-your-cultural-appropriation-is-dangerous-ef29c7288fb

Westernized rap music is an example of cultural appropriation. Article by Blanchard (2019) discusses the routes and significance of rap music in African American culture.

Rap was first used during the slave trade, so slaves could articulate their creative intellect as a form of entertainment (Blanchard, 2019). Years later, rap music was formally pioneered by Jamaican ‘Kool DJ Herc’ in New York’s South Bronx in 1973 (Blanchard, 2019). It was originated from African American forms of music, including jazz, soul, gospel and reggae (Blanchard, 2019). Rap music was viewed as giving African Americans a voice, when they were (and still are) so commonly misrepresented by the media (Blanchard, 2019). 

Kool DJ Herc.
Photo source: https://www.blackpast.org/african-american-history/campbell-clive-dj-kool-herc-1955/

Rap is now a global genre and has been appropriated in many Western Countries. However, many Westerners take aspects of African American culture which are seen as ‘cool’ without understanding its oppressive history and context. Article by Eberhardt and Freeman (2015) discusses to what extent non-African Americans use linguistic features of African American English (AAE) in aim to create a ‘hip-hop’ identity in their music. The article specifically focuses on how white Australian rapper, Iggy Azalea, uses AAE in her lyrics, but not her every day ‘normal’ public speech.

Photo source: Google Images

The study conducted on Iggy Azalea confirmed her use of AAE in her music is extremely high compared to other hip-hop artists, even African American rappers (Eberhardt & Freeman, 2015). Due to her excessive use of AAE in her music, it is evident she relies on the appropriation of African American language to create popular music. She uses aspects of black culture for her musical identity yet does not experience or understand the oppression as an African American. This is an example of white privilege. History shows that white people never suffered racism in the United Sates, but instead benefitted from its structure and racist culture (Eberhardt & Freeman, 2015). Iggy gains reaps the benefits of her ‘blackness’ in her music while maintaining a typical, attractive ‘white female body’ (Eberhardt & Freeman, 2015). She is accepted and celebrated in the world of Western music, however, uses elements of African American culture to be trendy and unique in the eyes of Westerners.

Iggy Azalea.
Photo source: https://www.complex.com/music/2019/08/iggy-azalea-addresses-cultural-appropriation-claims

Overall, the significant history behind rap music is something that should be respected, not taken advantage of. As rap music is so appropriated in the Western world, it is crucial as listeners to be discerning of the intentions behind the music and the artists background. 

References

Blanchard, B 2019, ‘The Social Significance of Rap & Hip Hop Culture’, Stanford University, viewed 20th of August 2019, https://web.stanford.edu/class/e297c/poverty_prejudice/mediarace/socialsignificance.htm

Eberhardt, M & Freeman, K 2015, ‘First things first, I’m the realest’: Linguistic appropriation, white privilege, and the hip-hop persona of Iggy Azalea’, Journal of Sociolinguistics, vol 19, issue 3, pp. 303-327

Turnbull, S 2019, ‘Global Music’, lecture, BCM111, University of Wollongong, delivered 19 August 2019.

Global Film: Lion

Lion is one of my all-time-favourite films. The interwoven thread of themes, storyline and setting create one of the most confronting yet beautiful films I’ve ever seen.

If you haven’t seen the film yet, feel free to watch the trailer so you have a brief understanding of what I am referring to throughout this blog.

Trailer for ‘Lion’.

The movie Lion highlights the division between the ‘Global South’ and ‘Global North’.  This global division is characterised by socio-economic and political power.

Benevenuto and Caulfield (2019) discuss three key aspects that characterise the Global South. These three features are evident in the town of Kolkata, India, where the first half of Lion is filmed. The first aspect is physical exclusion; barriers that affect the mobility of physically disadvantaged groups (Benevenuto & Caulfield, 2019). Another trait is geographical location. If a town is isolated, it is hard to ever leave due to lack of transport (Benevenuto & Caulfield, 2019). Exclusion from facilities is another key feature. A nation that lacks hospitals, schools and shops can create a poverty trap (Benevenuto & Caulfield, 2019).

Kolkata, India.
Photo source: Google Images

Lion shows Kolkata in its raw form and can be confronting for Western audiences. Article by Mishra (2018) specifically studies the history behind Kolkata’s poverty. The first factor is that neighbourhoods are disproportionate. Many parts of Kolkata are cramped and create an uncomfortable life style (Mishra, 2018). Kolkata is also prone to flooding’s due to recurrent monsoons (Mishra, 2018). Furthermore, Kolkata has inadequate sewerage and infrastructure facilities, a high slum population and unhealthy drinking water (Mishra, 2018).  

The second half of the film is set in Tasmania, Australia. Australia is categorised under the ‘Global North’. Nations that come under the Global North are clean, wealthy and have government stability. The scenes set in Tasmania highlight Australia’s superb scenery and robust education systems. This contrast between Australia and India in the film is effective as it highlights the difference between the Global South and Global North culture and lifestyle.

Tasmania, Australia.
Photo source: https://www.discovertasmania.com.au/

Cultural proximity is a term for when audiences prefer their own language and culture to be represented in the media (Turnbull, 2019). This is demonstrated in Lion. The first half of the film is set in India, spoken in Hindu and is cast with Indian actors. The second half of the film is set in Australia, spoken in English and cast with Australian actors. As a result of including both cultures and languages in the film, it is appealing for both Indian and Westerner audiences, as they can respectively relate to and understand the lifestyle and culture in parts of the film.

Nicole Kidman and Sunny Pawar in ‘Lion’. Photo source: https://www.deccanchronicle.com/entertainment/hollywood/021217/sunny-pawar-gets-best-actor-nomination-in-australia.html

The vast contrast between Australia and India shown in Lion opened my eyes to the corruption and poverty in the Global South. Through highlighting the great global division and cultural proximity between India and Australia; Lion made me feel uncomfortably privileged as a Western audience member.

References

Benevenuto, R & Caulfield, B 2019, ‘Poverty and transport in the global south: An overview’,  Transport Policy, vol.79, pp. 115-124

Mishra, S.W. 2018, ‘Urban deprivation in a global south city-a neighborhood scale study of Kolkata, India’, Habitat International, pp.1-10

Turnbull, S 2019, ‘Global Film’, lecture, BCM111, University of Wollongong, delivered 12 August 2019.

The Rise of Netflix

Gone are the days I work my evening schedule around catching my favourite show on cable television. The internet creates a world where consumers can watch what they want, when they want, within a click. Netflix is an example of this. As consumers, we like different realities and choice. Netflix offers a vast variety of content that is accessible to subscribers whenever they want.  Netflix is also popular due to how it shapes culture and norms; especially in the Western world. Netflix is also quick and easy, and therefore, it works for the ‘binge’ generation we currently live in.

Photo source: https://www.techhive.com/article/3405576/netflix-and-the-end-of-watching-everything.html

Article ‘The Secrets of Netflix Success’ by Jasper Jackson discusses why Netflix is a global success story.  Netflix is available in every country except for North Korea, Syria, China and Crimea, and translates to 23 different languages. Shows such as ‘Narcos’ (about Central American drug trade), and ‘Death Note’ (a Japanese Manga) help draw local viewers while also appealing to a global audience (Jackson, 2017). This viewer combination provides Netflix with a large audience scale.

Photo source:
https://warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/pais/study/studyundergrad/ugmodules/po374/

Although Netflix is global, it is still extremely Westernized.  Just under half of Netflix subscriptions are from the United States, and the top ten countries that use Netflix most are all Western (Iqbal, 2019). This is because Western countries are in the ‘global North’. Nations in the global North are wealthy, developed and powerful. Therefore, most of the people who live in the global North can afford internet, televisions, computers and Netflix subscriptions. This can explain why Netflix mostly appeals to Western audiences.

Global North and South divide. Photo source: https://www.rgs.org/CMSPages/GetFile.aspx?nodeguid=9c1ce781-9117-4741-af0a-a6a8b75f32b4&lang=en-GB

Netflix says a lot about the world we live in. We consume with no effort and dip into other worlds with no personal consequence. Article ‘The Impact of International Television: A Paradigm Shift’ by Michael G. Elasmar discusses why we enjoy television as consumers, “information is readily available, little effort is needed to process it, realities are presented in summary forms and simple portrayals of cultural groups and their environments” (Elasmar, 2002, p.29).

Netflix also plays a huge part in shaping culture, as it starts trends on a global scale. Elasmar examines three theories which suggest that the television we consume has effects on its global viewers. These theories can help explain why Netflix is so influential.

Cultivation theory suggests that television presents an inaccurate picture of reality that is easily accepted by viewers, due to the pervasiveness of the images presented (Elasmar, 2002).

Social cognitive theory implies that because we learn through observation, therefore what we watch has large influence on our values and behaviours (Elasmar, 2002).

Cognitive functional theory believes that audiences easily accept and adopt values, behaviours and norms portrayed in television when these cultural forms are seen effective in earning rewards (Elasmar, 2002).

Photo source: https://www.imperial.ac.uk/news/185180/binge-watching-tv-could-increase-bowel/

Overall, Netflix is a global phenomenon due to how diverse, fast and easy it is.  Netflix allows consumers to explore new worlds within an instant. Due to how many countries Netflix reaches, it has the power to make trends in society, especially in Western culture. Most importantly, Netflix is transferrable and fast. These factors explain why Netflix is so popular in this generation, and why cable television is slowly but surely losing its place in the world.

References

Elasmar, M 2002, ‘The Impact of International Television: A Paradigm Shift’, Routledge pp. 29-30

Iqbal, M 2019 ‘Netflix Revenue and Usage Statistics’, Business of Apps, viewed on 10/08/2019, https://www.businessofapps.com/data/netflix-statistics/

Jackson, J 2017, ‘The secrets of Netflix’s success’, New Statesman, vol 146, pp. 19