US Remakes: Hybridisation or Cultural Imperialism?

Today all culture is hybrid. To deny this and strive for cultural purity is to ‘museumize’ culture and deny it evolvement (Werbner cited in Kraidy, 2002). National borders are set, culture is far more fluid; the internet has condensed the ‘global village’ into something even smaller, a ‘global flat-share’ if you will, in which the denizens are in a constant state of flux and evolving the cultural landscape of a common environment.

A nation should be an imagined community, not an objective reality; a community being a creation of shared identity (Bhabha, 1990). A US national cultural identity becomes a ridiculous ridiculous concept when we realise how nebulous culture is. Colin Woodward identifies 11 distinct cultural ‘nations’ in the US.

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“Hollywood persists in remaking ‘foreign’ movies because of their sophistication, wordliness and finesse – then gutting them of it” writes Neil Smith, lambasting remakes while lauding originals. Box office figures for Let the Right One In, Let Me In, The Ring, Ringu, The Birdcage, and La Cage Aux Folles show American remakes outperform their counterparts globally. While Hollywood’s ability to produce massive marketing budgets is significant in this there is also an argument as to whether these films are popular because they are more ‘accessible’ (remakes are good) or ‘dumbing down’ (remakes are bad).

Are we ‘anti-remake’ because Hollywood is a business, commodifying art? Surely those more cine-literate or culturally diverse would be more likely to see the original movies; why deny those that aren’t the opportunity to engage? Michael Haneke’s remake of Funny Games was made for the original’s intended audience (Dawson, 2008).

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Is intellectual snobbery to blame for our negative perception of US media imperialism and its inferred dumbing down? Must the masses be dragged up to our lofty expectations in order to preserve ‘museums’ and a sense of cultural purity that cannot exist in our constantly developing global flat-share?

Tony Pomfret

Bhabha, Homi. (Ed) (1990) Nation and Narration, London:Routledge

Dawson, Nick. (2008) Michael Haneke, Funny Games U.S. Filmmaker Magazine. Available at http://filmmakermagazine.com/1307-michael-haneke-funny-games-u-s/#.WJhrxBKLTMU (Accessed: 4 Feb 2017)

Kraidy, Marwan. M. (2002). Hybridity in Cultural Globalization. Communication Theory, 12 (3), 316-339. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/ j.1468-2885.2002.tb00272.x

Smith, Neil. (2010) Please: no more gutted US remakes of European Films. Guardian, Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/film/filmblog/2010/feb/23/robert-de-niro-everybodys-fine (Accessed: 4 Feb 2017)

Woodward, Colin. (2011) American Nations: A History of the Eleven Regional Cultures of North America. New York:Penguin

 

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