Hollywood, Movie Globalization, and International Politics

Posted: March 16, 2012 in Uncategorized

The symbolic links between political power and cinema — and notably Hollywood — stretch bac to the earliest days of the movie industry.

For general background reading, see the chapter on movies in my book Weapons of Mass Distraction. See also the Klaus Dodds essay, “Have you Seen Any Good Films Lately: Geopolitics, International Relations and Film“. Also see “Lights, Camera….Covert Action: The Deep Politics of Hollywood“.

Disney characters such as Mickey Mouse have become synonymous with global American culture. Historically, the Disney company worked directly with the U.S. government as part of its diplomatic initiatives. During the Second World War, Disney made many propagands cartoons to appeal to American patriotism and demonize Hitler and the Nazis. After the war, Disney played an instrumental role in the U.S. government’s “Good Neighbor Policy” towards Latin America, notably by making movies and cartoons about the region.

Interestingly, it was from South America that the most articulate opponents of Disney “imperialism” emerged, particularly the Marxist critique against Disney as a cultural vehicle for “capitalist” propaganda. The best-known example of this critique is Ariel Dorfman, whose book How to Read Donald Duck decoded the Disney cartoons as propagands for American imperialism. For a general background on the issue of Disney imperialism or globalization, see this article on the BBC site, “Spotlight on Disney’s Cultural Legacy“. See also this piece titled “A Mickey Mouse Approach to Globalization“. See also this article in the Christian Science Monitor, “In 2,000 Years Will the World Remember Disney or Plato?

With the rise competing national cinemas and the globalization of the international movie market, Hollywood’s power has been waning in recent decades. Hollywood can no longer make “American” movies and export them globally with the same success as in the past.

On the transformation of Hollywood, see this article, linked  here, published in The Wall Street Journal in August 2010: “Plot Change: Foreign Forces Transform Hollywood Films”. The article notes: “The rising clout of international audiences is a sea change for Hollywood. Decades ago, a movie’s foreign box office barely registered with studio executives. Now, foreign ticket sales represent nearly 68% of the roughly $32 billion global film market, up from roughly 58% a decade ago.” Finally, see this article published in The Economist in May 2010: The WorldWide Cinema Boom: The Box Office Strikes Back“. 


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