Global America? The Cultural Consequences of Globalization

By Ulrich Beck; Natan Sznaider et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 5
Debating Americanization:
The Case of France
Richard Kuisel

The notion of a ‘Global America’ invites application. It asks to be tested at the national level. How might ‘Global America’, for example, apply to France? The question might be posed this way: has France been Americanized? There is considerable evidence, some quantifiable, that this proud nation has succumbed to Americanization.

Language is a place to begin. English, or more precisely, American-English, is the second most popular language among the French. In a recent survey, two out of three French people polled agreed with the statement that ‘everyone should learn to speak English’.1 American-English is so ubiquitous in popular music, movies, television, radio, the Internet and advertising that the government has tried to limit its use by legislative action. Since the French language is one of the prime markers of French national identity, the popularity of this Anglo-Saxon import is a telling indicator of Americanization. Fast food and soft drinks amplify this story. France now has almost 800 McDonald's restaurants and it has become the third largest overseas market for this Chicagobased multinational. Similarly Coca-Cola controls most of the cola market and about half of the French soft drinks market. In 1998 Hollywood movies earned almost 70 per cent of ticket sales in France. Of the top 20 films only three were French – the rest were American.2 Some television channels specialize in American programming. Disneyland Paris by the late 1990s attracted more visitors than either Notre Dame or the Louvre. Sports, another form of entertainment, supply more evidence. In 1992 after an American all-star team won the basketball title at the Olympics, a poll of French teenagers voted Michael

____________________
1
The Economist, 24 February 2001.
2
New York Times, 14 December 1999.

-95-

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