You’d be hard-pressed to find a country or a people who haven’t borrowed art, food, music or even words from other places. In light of globalization this fusion of culture is inescapable. Its inevitable then that media will see a blending of cultures. Whilst previously, cinema was seen in a nationalistic form of art- even propaganda- the expansion of the market to a global audience has caused a shift and retooling in how different cultures are portrayed. Fan Bingbing, a movie star in China, was recently cast in Hollywood blockbuster X-Men:Days of Future Past playing the (previously caucasian) Blink. It been reported that when she asked director Bryan Singer was an asian actress was being cast, he replied, ‘I just want to find a face to amaze the world’. But in reality, by inserting a Chinese figure in the film, the studio was guaranteeing to increase the audience by millions.
Bingbing’s roll in X-Men is an example of a poor attempt at ‘socio-cultural variation’. By merging the story telling techniques of Chinese, or incorporating Bollywood/Hindi themes into Hollywood films, we see the ‘hybridisation’ expand the audience (Karan, K and Schaefer, DJ 2010, pp312).
Lagerkvist has called Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon “an Eastern movie for Western audiences, and … a Western movie for Eastern audiences” (2009, pp 370). I believe a similar thing can be said for Quintin Tarintinos Kill Bill films. The blending of asian elements with western storytelling creates a hybrid of new age cinema- but this melding of cultures raise its own set of issues.
Firstly- You’d be hard-pressed to find a country or a people who haven’t borrowed art, food, music or even words from other places. In the face of globalization this fusion of culture is inescapable. But when cultures blend, and dominate culture adopts and/or absorbs elements of a smaller culture – how do we know when we are honouring another culture, or simply engaging in cultural theft? i.e. Cultural Exchange Vs Cultural Appropriation.
In short- cultural appropriation is where is where you take something from a culture you don’t belong too, and
use it outside that cultural context- often overlooking its cultural significance. i.e.- wearing a sacred Native American Headdress as a costume.
Where as Cultural exchange occurs when two cultures share cultural items ideas and traditions with each other in a respectful and informed way. i.e. Hindi Spiderman.
The Key to figuring out if the use of one culture by another is an exchange or cultural appropriation is reciprocity. The main question to ask is ‘How accurate/respectful is it to the source?‘, and ‘Does this promote a exaggerated or negative stereotype of the other culture?
The other issue that is worth touching on briefly in discussing transnational film and the blending of cultures is with the merging of culture, a dominant culture enveloping and suppressing the subordinate culture, causing it to be lost. We can perhaps see the beginning of this with the increased modern (i.e. ‘western’) content found in Bollywood films (Karan, K and Schaefer, DJ 2010, pp313).
With the media audience now moved from a national scope to a global scope, the trend of transnational film is only going to continue to grow.
Davies, M 2014, Katy Perry Misses the Point on Cultural Appropriation Criticism, Jezebel, 30 July 2014, viewed 30 August 2015, <http://jezebel.com/katy-perry-misses-the-point-on-cultural-appropriation-c-1613481313>
Fayaz, M 2014, Appropriation vs Appreciation, Interruptmag, weblog post, 23 September, viewed 25 August 2105, <http://interruptmag.com/article/appropriation-vs-appreciation>
Karan, K and Schaefer, DJ (2010) ‘Problematizing Chindia: Hybridity and Bollywoodization of popular Indian cinema in global film flows’, Global Media and Communication, 6: 3, pp. 309-316.
Lagerkvist, J. (2009) ‘Global Media for Global Citizenship in India and China’, Peace Review 23: 367–75.
Uwujaren, J 2013, The Difference Between Cultural Exchange and Cultural Appropriation, Everyday Feminism, 30 September 2013, viewed 3rd September 2015, <http://everydayfeminism.com/2013/09/cultural-exchange-and-cultural-appropriation/>