Technology is currently reaching new unprecedented heights, acting as amajor contributor to the disintegration of international borders (Smith, 2000) (1) and the creation of a’global village’ where metaphorical distances between countries and cultures canbe minimised through the use of technology (McLuhan 1962). We are now able to look intodifferent cultures and share our ideas about anything and everything withouthaving to leave the comfort of our own homes, and this freedom of informationcan have different outcomes. Theorist Frederic James (1998) (2) notes that the adventof a so-called ‘global village’ can have two consequences; we can either entera harmonious and pluralist society where differences are celebrated andenjoyed, or create a society where a single culture dominates and dictates aglobal identity. A society where nations are deprived of individualism andcharacter. As much as we would all prefer the former society, data from the U.SDepartment of Commerce (3)suggests the latter is more likely to take place. In 2016, the U.S had thelargest export of media and entertainment, with a market worth $712 billion.
$712 billion worth of media consumed by individuals from countries all over theworld, each of them consuming Western thoughts, ideologies and beliefs. Each ofthem learning and incorporating those beliefs into their daily lives, each ofthem slowly shedding their cultural identities and adopting a belief that isnot truly reflective of their own nations. It can be argued that we arebeginning to lose our individuality and our differences, creating a world whereculture is homogenised and traditional values and indigenous cultures are beingeroded. The view from the lens of the West is becoming the social norm, leavingme with the question; to what extent can we argue that globalisation is merelyAmericanisation in disguise? Americanisation can have multiple different impacts on society, eachvarying in terms of severity. The youth currently appear to be the most malleable in termsof identity, after all they are constantly following the next big trend and”changing themselves as easily as they change their clothes.” (4) This level ofadaptivity combined with the eagerness to consume any good that has thepotential to make them ‘cool’ may create a combination which makes the youngindividual more susceptible to losing their cultural identity and insteadpartaking in the global village where they are no different to another teenliving in the opposite side of the world.
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One such media product that mayinfluence them in this way may be a series of posters created by Diesel, titled”Be Stupid”. (5)The posters feature young individuals participating in dangerous activities,accompanied by different slogans and bold text in the corner stating “BeStupid”. Some of the activities portrayed in the posters include a young manburning a pile of items whilst dancing around in his underwear which reads”burn burn”, a young woman taking a photo of her genitals in what appears to bea forest wearing only her underwear with a lion behind her, and finally a youngman who is holding a costume head, laughing as three police officers chase him.Each slogan is written with vivid colours and a bold font, making them morevisible to the individual viewing the advert and putting forward the idea ofbeing daring. The Western notion of the youth being carefree and adventurous isclearly communicated in these adverts, and the overall message appears to bethat the youth should enjoy themselves without being too worried about theconsequences, as illustrated by the text which directs the audience to “BeStupid” rather than just suggesting that they should consider it.
This campaignhas clearly been created in order to cater to young audiences and attract themto the Diesel brand, ultimately putting across the idea that by consumingDiesel products, the viewer can become trendy and adventurous, much like theattractive models portrayed in the adverts. It is important to note that thenotion of being trendy and adventurous is defined by the West, and the factthat these traits have become desirable speaks volumes about the impact Westernideologies can have on the rest of the world. We can now see that this encouragementof consumption also acts as an agent for spreading Western ideologies about theyouth being unconcerned about their responsibilities, instead choosing to spendtheir time having as much fun as they possibly can and utilising their youth. Needlessto say, this idea can be damaging for a vast number of reasons. First andforemost, it can be argued that this advert portrays a fake reality.
Mostteenagers do not take part in such activities, and representation of youth isoften seen as ’empty categories’ as the representations are constructed byadults (Giroux). Thefact that young audiences may believe this representation more than realityitself may create a hyper-reality (Baudrillard, 1983) that may cause damage to their already fragileself-esteems. They may feel like they are the only teenager in the world that’snot outside having the time of their lives in what’s deemed to be their ‘bestyears’. Feeling regret about wasting their youthfulness, the young viewers maythen decide to emulate the activities presented in the advert, which can leadto conflict within the family and the creation of cultural barriers thatprevent the teenager from pursuing such activities.
A shift in ideologies mayonly occur in the young individuals who have access to the plethora of mediatexts and adverts online, whereas their families may not consume as muchforeign media as they do, leading to complications where the teenager hasdifferent ideologies to those in the rest of their family. Over time, however,the ideologies the parents have been taught will most likely cease to exist asthe young individual will grow up and pass on whatever they have learned fromthe media. This is just one of the many instances where a loss of culturalidentity occurs. The clash in ideologies and the unrest caused by it suggeststhat the fake realities portrayed in Western media can have a significantimpact on an individual’s life, which then begs the question, why does oneconsume media products that do not represent the same ideologies they have? In the case of Diesel, consumerism seems to be the simpleanswer. Many non-western countries (especially those located in Asia) viewWestern designer brands, such as Diesel, as a power symbol, a means ofadvancing on the social hierarchy and spending their way to the top (Chadha & Husband). (6) What is interesting, however, is thatthe nations with the most consumption of luxury goods (such as China) aretypically viewed to be in poverty.
With an average disposable income of $8.22 aday in 2014, (7)one would believe that Chinese consumers would avoid paying $5,750 for amicroscopic Louis Vuitton bag. (8) Yet within the same year, Chinese consumers accounted for46% of global luxury goods sales. (9) This goes to show the intense influence Western brands canhave on foreign societies. Whilst purchasing the extortionately priced bags,trousers and jackets, Chinese consumers are not only acquiring a physical good,but they are also purchasing what they believe to be a symbol. A symbol thatshows off their supremacy, their riches and most importantly, their socialstatus. The fact that this connotation has been pinned onto a Western productonce again proves the superiority of the West in the eyes of foreign countries,further highlighting the influence Western culture can have on non-westerncountries.
The ideologies of the Westmay then be trusted as it may be believed that a being so superior cannot beincorrect, leading to a loss of local identities and an adoption of Westernbeliefs. It can be argued that adverts (such as the Diesel campaign) and mediatexts in general are an important export industry in America as they promoteU.S values alongside U.S goods (Putnam,1997) allowing Americans to achieve cultural imperialism whilst makingthemselves richer through the sales of luxury goods. It can be stated with confidence that we mainly consumemedia texts for our own uses & gratifications (Blumler & Katz, 1974).
By following the livesof celebrities, we may seek a form of escapism