Transnational Film: A Form of Cultural Appropriation?

If you’re thinking about getting corn-rows because your saw Kylie Jenner on Instagram posing with her ‘new do’, then think again. It may seem like a cool trend or the latest fashion but it is also a key example of cultural appropriation.

Cultural appropriation refers to the adoption or use of elements of a culture from members of another culture. Generally this is done without paying respect to the culture or understanding the significance of the tradition and can often change its original meaning (Marinashutup, 2014). Sadly, cultural appropriation has become a common practice in today’s society. It not only occurs in the fashion industry, but has also become quite common in the film industry.

Image source: buzzfeed.com

Let me introduce to you, transnational film. Transnational films blend elements of many nations and cannot be easily defined as belonging to one particular nation (Evans, 2015). Think of the film Mad Max: Fury Road, the 2nd highest grossing film that Australian has produced (Hawker, 2015). But really, how Australian was the film? The cast included actors from South Africa and Britain, the film was written by a British writer, funded by American studios and based on American stories and it was shot by an international film crew with some scenes being in Africa (Evans, 2015). A perfect example of a transnational film. As mentioned above, the film is based on American stories but released as a purely Australian movie, does this count as cultural appropriation?

From early days, cinema was seen as a way to promote nations. However there has been a paradigm shift from national cinema to transnational cinema (Evans, 2015). Instead of films being made up purely of one nation, various nations are being blended and elements of different cultures are being portrayed in ways that come across as degrading and disrespectful. China’s strict film censorship board disallows films that negatively portray Chinese people to be released or screened in the country (Evans, 2015). The film Iron Man 3, for example, when released in China, featured significantly different context to the film that was released to the rest of the world.  In order for the film to be realised in China, extra scenes shot in Beijing were added to the film, a Chinese actress was added, and the mandarin villain (who was a deeply offensive stereotype of Chinese culture) was played by a British actor instead (Daniel, 2013). This could just be an example of China being patriotic to their country, or are there underlying fears of cultural appropriation that has caused this reaction?

Cultural appropriation is clearly evident in today’s society and can also be brought about by transnational film. Although transnational films can promote cultures to appreciate one another, they can also lead to negative consequences like disrespect and humiliation. Whilst transnational films will continue into the future, cultural appropriation in film is something that can hopefully be resolved. By having a deeper understanding of cultures and the significance of their elements, and by using these elements in a way that will not cause offense to the culture, transnational films will hopefully be something every nation can thoroughly enjoy.

Sophie

References:

Daniel, J 2013, ‘Iron Man 3 execs ‘changed film for Chinese audience’ by adding four minutes to the film with Chinese actors’, Daily Mail Australia, 14 May, viewed 31 August 2015 <http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2324077/Iron-Man-3-execs-changed-film-Chinese-audience-adding-4-minutes-Chinese-actors.html

Marinashutup 2014, What is Cultural Appropriation | Feminist Fridays, video, YouTube, 5 December, viewed 31 August 2015 <https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCJ2yCFYUDiBJajga4tXRdNA>

Evans, N 2015, ‘Transnational film & the politics of cultural ownership’, BCM111, University of Wollongong, Wollongong, 19 August

Hawker, P 2015, ‘Mad Max: Fury Road now second-highest grossing Australian film internationally’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 8 June, viewed 31 August 2015 <http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/movies/mad-max-fury-road-now-secondhighest-grossing-australian-film-internationally-20150608-ghiot0.html>

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The Frustration of International Education

Many students dream of an education in a foreign country. Learning a new language, exploring a new territory and the experience of immersing in a new culture are all appealing factors. However too often the negative consequences of studying abroad are unnoticed.

In Australia, there has been a significant increase in international students attending universities. Australia is ranked as the 3rd most popular destination in the world for international students. According to the Australian Government Department of Education (2015), in 2014, 249,990 international students attended university in Australia. The main reasons for international students choosing to study in Australia include; the diverse range of courses offered by universities, the high ranking of Australian universities as opposed to other countries and Australia having 5 out of 30 of the best student cities in the world (Future Unlimited, 2015). However, studying in Australia also has negative aspects for international students.

Image source: Australian Government Department of Education

Image source: Australian Government Department of Education

Marginson (2012) writes, “International education is not the rich intercultural experience it could be”. Research shows that international students desire interactions with local students, and are willing to go beyond their comfort zone to achieve this, however, most local students are not interested (Marginson, 2012). The language barrier between international students and Australian students is a clear issue. Many exchange students find the Australian accent hard to understand and the terminology and colloquial language difficult to learn. This is a huge disadvantage to non-English speaking students and jeopardises their desires of intercultural experiences.

Another difficulty for international students in Australia is finding accommodation. Whilst most universities offer on-campus accommodation for international students, those who miss out on obtaining a position in university housing must find their own accommodation. This can be extremely expensive as affordable housing is hard to find. “Many students crowd in groups of 10 to 20 into three and four bedroom houses, often in unsanitary and unsafe conditions” (Marginson, 2010). Sadly these international students feel as though they have no other options.

Image source: Herald Sun

International students also experience difficulties in receiving concessions for transport and other forms of government assistance that are available to Australian university students (Australian Government Department of Human Services, 2015). Not only are the university course fees considerably higher for international students, they are unable to receive concession rates for public transport that domestic university students receive. International students must pay full price for transport and are not entitled to any government assistance such as Youth Allowance or Austudy (Australian Government Department of Human Services, 2015). This is a great drawback for international students as the cost of studying in Australia is extremely expensive and can be very difficult to manage without assistance.

International students studying at universities in Australia are subject to complications such as difficulties communicating with Australian students, a struggle to find accommodation and the inability to receive transport concessions and government assistance for their studies. Despite these hardships, the number of international students coming to Australia for university is increasing. With proper policies and an improvement in international education in Australia, these hardships can be overcome. This will hopefully encourage international students to continue to choose to come to Australia for university in the future and improve their experiences in Australian culture.

Sophie

References:

Australian Government Department of Education 2015, International Student Enrolments in Australia 1994-2014, Commonwealth of Australia, January, viewed 28 August 2015 <https://internationaleducation.gov.au/research/International-Student-Data/Documents/INTERNATIONAL%20STUDENT%20DATA/2014/2014%20Time%20Series%20Graph.pdf>

Department of Human Services 2015, Austudy, Department of Human Services, Australian Government, viewed 29 August 2015 <http://www.humanservices.gov.au/customer/services/centrelink/austudy>

Department of Human Services 2015, Youth Allowance, Department of Human Services, Australian Government, viewed 29 August 2015 <http://www.humanservices.gov.au/customer/services/centrelink/youth-allowance>

Future Unlimited 2015, Why study is Australia?, Future Unlimited, Australian Government, viewed 28 August 2015 <https://www.studyinaustralia.gov.au/global/why-australia>

Marginson, S 2010, ‘International students left in the shadows’, The Age, 28 May, viewed 29 August 2015 <http://www.theage.com.au/it-pro/international-students-left-in-the-shadows-20100527-whj1.html>

Marginson, S 2012, Morphing a profit-making business into an intercultural experience, Centre for the Study of Higher Education, University of Melbourne, viewed 28 August 2015 <https://moodle.uowplatform.edu.au/pluginfile.php/455996/mod_resource/content/1/Week%203_Marginson.pdf>

Globalisation and a Series of Unfortunate Truths

Globalisation refers to an international community influenced by technological development and economic, political, and military interests. It is characterised by a worldwide increase in interdependence, interactivity, interconnectedness, and the virtually instantaneous exchange of information (O’Shaughnessy and Stadler 1999, p. 458). Globalisation and its many characteristics can have numerous positive effects on society, but unfortunately, there are also many negative aspects that affect the economy and culture of countries worldwide.

The economy is the most affected aspect of globalisation. In terms of economy, some countries benefit from globalisation due to their high international imports and exports, open markets and removal of tariffs, bans and import quotas. These countries tend to be richer and more industrialised. However, as for the countries with a lower economic status, globalisation appears to be having an adverse effect.

“Even though the economic output has doubled in the past ten years, the gap between the richest and the poorest has worsened, which is not what you might expect when globalisation is making us increasingly interconnected and interdependent” (O’Shaughnessy and Stadler 1999, p. 464)

Many multinational corporations turn to countries with lower wages for the production of their goods. These new markets allow the corporations to produce their products at a much lower cost which results in an increased revenue upon the sale of their goods. This is a great disadvantage to non-industrialised countries as they often become subject to cheap labour, low wages and poor working conditions. The cartoon below depicts the conditions in which workers from non-industrialised countries are placed; working for multinational corporations to produce their goods at a very low cost.

Another element that is susceptible to the effects of globalisation is the culture and the associated traditions, symbols and customs of a country. The advancement of globalisation can negatively impact on a society’s culture through the process of cultural homogenisation. Cultural homogenisation refers to the reduction in cultural diversity through the popularisation and diffusion of a wide array of cultural symbols. This aspect of globalisation destroys the significance and sentimental meaning of not only physical symbols of a culture, but also customs, ideas and values. Cultural homogenisation is closely linked with cultural appropriation, which refers to the adoption or use of elements of one culture by a member or members from a different culture.

The image above shows singer Katy Perry dressed as an Egyptian Pharaoh for one of her recent music videos. The singer dressed in this particular outfit to make a fashion statement, rather than celebrating the customs of another culture. This is seen in a negative light as the cultural elements are portrayed as ‘the latest trend’ rather than a significant tradition. Much like cultural homogenisation, cultural appropriation causes the significance and cultural value of symbols, traditions and ideas to be lost.

Globalisation is inevitable. Unfortunately along with globalisation comes negative aspects, such as the economic impacts on developing countries and the processes of homogenisation and cultural appropriation. Despite there being many positive aspects of globalisation, these negative sides cannot be ignored.

My main concern is; will the future hold more positive outcomes of globalisation? Or will the negativity still exist? Only time will tell.

Sophie

References:

Edeos Digital Education 2011, Globalisation, video, YouTube, 24 October, viewed 12 August 2015, <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3oTLyPPrZE4&gt;

O’Shaughnessy, M and Stadler, J 2008, ‘Globalisation’, Media and Society (fifth edition) Oxford, Oxford University Press, pp. 458-471.