Anti-Americanisation sticker from the 1980s
Anti-Americanisation sticker, 1980s


The
Americanisation
of Australian
Culture



Andrew Patterson



Americanisation is the effect upon a local culture by the long-term and large-scale importation of elements of a crass consumerist culture founded in the USA. It is a commercial culture of Coca-Cola and Pepsi, Hungry Jacks and McDonalds. It is a television culture of Jerry Springer and Oprah Winfrey, The Simpsons and Mickey Mouse, and "reality shows" (such as Survivor and Big Brother).

The Americanisation of Australia's culture is a sad and terrible thing. It is a process whereby ordinary Australians are bombarded every day with images of American lifestyle, so much that it merges almost unnoticed into their own lifestyle. It is a process whereby our home-grown entertainment industry is overwhelmed by the enormous powerhouse of the American economy, with drastic effects upon the modern Australian nation.

As the USA has a population base of over 290 million, along with a successful economy, it has meant that the American population has a large amount of money that is surplus to basic requirements, and that therefore may be devoted to the luxuries of leisure and entertainment, hence the development of such a huge entertainment industry.

Due to economies of scale, it is proportionately cheaper - and more profitable - for the American entertainment industry to produce movies, television shows, etc., than it is for the local entertainment industry to produce the same in Australia. Once American entertainment businesses have made their money on a TV series, any sales of those productions to overseas markets (such as Australia) is pure profit. Therefore, American businesses can afford to sell TV shows to the Australian TV networks for below-cost prices (a practice called "product-dumping"), effectively undercutting the sale of local TV productions - hence, fewer local productions are made, and fewer Australian shows are seen on TV.

Facing the economic Goliath of the American entertainment industry, our local industry cannot compete. If it wasn't for Australian laws ensuring a certain amount of local content, along with some government funding and tax breaks, Australia's movie and television producers would be in dire straits.

As is the case in much of the developed world, ordinary Australians spend many hours watching TV (especially Australian youth), with the result that we are subtly influenced by its content - whether we want to be or not, whether we are aware of it or not. Due to the massive amount of American content on television, especially during prime time, Australia's culture and way of life is being heavily influenced by American culture and its trends.

Tearlach Hutcheson, an Australian living in the USA, said that



This American influence can easily be seen in our language, fashions, general knowledge, and cultural mind-set.


Language

American words (or common general English words, now laden with an Americanised meaning or application) and American phrases have buried themselves deep within the Australian language, often without our being aware of their origin.

American words: babe, bro, dude, hoe, homies, ok, whatever

American phrases: chill out; like totally; you go, girl; you're so busted

The computer world also brings American influence. Most major computer applications originate from American companies, such as Microsoft, and therefore, by default, encourage the spread of American English in the spelling of words - when computer programmes are set to recognise American English rather than British or Australian English, such as in the usage of our/or and sation/zation (for example, favouring "color" over "colour", "organization" over "organisation"). [Whilst typing this article, my copy of Microsoft Word automatically changed my typing of "recognise" to "recognize" - with no prompt or warning - and it was only by luck (or diligence?) that I noticed the change]. With the youth in Western societies heavily reliant upon computers, such "hidden influences" can only add to the cumulative effect of Americanisation.

Professor Pam Peters (Associate Professor in Linguistics at Macquarie University), noted the results of one linguistics researcher: As Bruce Moore says,
Fashions

Many people used to slavishly follow Paris fashions (and some still do), however that trend has become more diversified nowadays, and is generally limited to the upper end of the market.

However, the American influence upon street-wear can often be seen; for instance, in the "hip hop" rapper-style fashions worn by many teenagers; along with a profusion of bandanas and baseball caps (especially when worn back-to-front, in the American style).

American influences loom large over the clothing industry, especially the youth market, with brands such as Nike (sport), Wu Tang (hip hop), and Levi's jeans.


General knowledge

Through the saturation of our television networks with American movies, situation comedies, and assorted other TV shows, Australians often know more about the USA than they do about their own country. A minor survey carried out by this author asked Australian-born subjects to list the states, native tribes, and national leaders of both Australia and the USA; sadly, most people could name more of those from America, rather than from Australia. The results were an indication of the deep American influence upon our society. It would be interesting to see the same survey conducted by a major polling company, although similar results would be expected.

It has even been reported that, after having been inundated with a wide diet of American police/crime shows, some people in Australia have dialed 911 (the emergency telephone number in the USA) instead of 000 (the Australian emergency number).

Also, whether via print or via computers (especially on the internet), sorting out the American date system from the Australian date system can also bring its own problems - is 7.4.2004 to be read as "7th of April, 2004" (Australian) or as "July 4th, 2004" (American).


Cultural mind-set

Perhaps most unfortunate of all, many Australians have begun to adopt an American mind-set. This might not be so awful if it was that of small-town America, but instead it is the crass mind-set of the major cities where much of American television and movie entertainment is set and produced: Los Angeles, Washington, and New York ("The Big Apple", which has a reputation for thinking money is far more important than people).

For instance, it is only in recent years that we have seen the emergence in Australia of the concept of "loser"; in the past, someone who had fallen on hard times would be termed as a "battler", implicit in which is a struggle to rise up again; whereas it is quite common nowadays to hear such people referred to as "losers", a nasty and disdainful phrase, implicit in which is the idea that such a person is destined to always be at "the bottom of the pile" and to be somewhat beneath contempt.

The "reality shows" genre, originating in the USA, is another example of crass Americanisation that adversely affects our cultural mind-set. All these shows have a common theme of making people look bad, and of individuals being encouraged to stab each other in the back to win. Exactly what kind of culture, morality, and mind-set is this going to foster in our nation's youth? Certainly not a good one. Is crass Americanisation going to bring about a Western culture that is steeped in selfishness, nastiness, and back-stabbing?





The influence of Americanisation upon our culture is clearly evident: American output also dominates the local music charts. Like many other countries, Australia is awash with music from the USA - which undermines local music output. As with the situation in television, it becomes cheaper to promote and sell American music rather than promote Australian music.

The African-American influence is strong on the music scene. In decades past, the black musical forms of blues, jazz, rhythm and blues carried much influence, whilst the modern music form of rap influences Western youth, along with a contemporary rap subculture of basketball, break-dancing, and graffiti writing (that is, graffiti in a particular style, including that of "tags").

We can look at an essay by a high school student, Eric Bird, published on the internet: Several other writers have linked Americanisation with globalisation: Dr Brendon O'Connor (a lecturer at Griffith University) writes that: A letter to The Bulletin magazine stated: The problem of cultural Americanisation has arisen in many countries across the globe, not only in English-speaking areas, but in non-English nations as well - from France to Norway to Russia, even into Asia and Africa.

Indicative of many Western countries, one South African stated that her typical countrymen would be: Sadly, as a side-trend, it is not uncommon in Western nations for a small minority to culturally and emotionally identify with America more than they do with their own culture and country.





Like all cultural exchanges, Americanisation does not occur on a one-way street. There are foreign influences upon the USA as well; however, the flow of traffic is definitely in favour of the Americans. It would appear that whilst American influence is flowing outbound to the world on a ten-lane highway, the inbound traffic pedals along on a bicycle path.

American influence is creating an urban Western culture that is much the same worldwide - no matter whether you are in New York, London, Paris, Berlin, Rome, or Sydney. In this globalist world, living in a consumerist climate, saturated by Americanised culture, many people from many different Western nations are now wearing the same style of clothes, eating the same types of junk food, watching the same television shows, and listening to the same music - and this domination by American popular culture comes at the expense of traditional cultures.

The Americanisation of culture, in Australia and across the world, is not a positive development. It is enormously detrimental to our national identity, and is destructive to the cultural diversity of nations worldwide.






This document is a first edition only, and has been released in this form following a request for early publication of material on this subject. The author intends to release a second edition so as to include further information, as well as to explore other aspects of this topic.

July 2004




References


Rex Benn (Pymble, NSW)
The Bulletin, Vol. 120 No. 6
http://bulletin.ninemsn.com.au/bulletin/EdDesk.nsf/0/dc2094b683fa5ab0ca256b4f0001a895?OpenDocument

Chris Bigum. "Antipodean Dreaming", CPSR News Volume 15, Number 1: Winter 1997
[Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility]
http://www.cpsr.org/publications/newsletters/old/winter97news/bigum.html

Eric Bird (Year 11, Melbourne High School ). "Australia steps into the global spotlight"
[Centre for Economic Education]
http://cee.org.au/EricBird.doc [no longer on the internet; available in the cache of www.google.com at the time of the publication of this article]

Tearlach Hutcheson. "Australian & Hollywood Cinema, 1906 to the Present, or, A Hills Hoist in the Shadows of a Neon Coca-Cola Sign"
[Australian & New Zealand Studies Association of North America]
http://www.utexas.edu/depts/cas/anzsana/papers/hutcheson1996.html

Mary Jane. "Globalisation Must be Stopped"
http://www.planetpapers.com/Assets/3933.php

Rabia Lockwood. "Remembering an Australian sound"
http://www.vibewire.net/articles.php?id=2278

Bruce Moore. "Do They Still Roll the Jaffas Down the Aisle?"
http://www.anu.edu.au/ANDC/jaffas.html

Brendon O'Connor. "Does Aussie culture need protection from US cultural imperialism?"
[First published in The Courier Mail, 21 June 2003]
http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=447

Professor Pam Peters. "How English is English?"
http://www.immi.gov.au/amep/reports/pubs/papers/peters.htm [no longer on the internet; available in the cache of www.google.com at the time of the publication of this article]

Guy Rundle. "Local Drama"
http://www.melbourne.indymedia.org/news/2004/01/60457.php

T'Mar. "How to tell if you're South African"
http://www.zompist.com/za.html


Australian Nationalism Information Database
www.ausnatinfo.angelfire.com