Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Marketing US Films Abroad

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Marketing US Films Abroad

Article excerpt

A LOT of us have worried about the movies America's making these days - how violent they are, and what they may say about us as a people.

It's bad enough that the daily news is so often filled with violence from our streets. When we look at our movie screens, so many of the most prominent films are dominated by explosions and chases and the strewing of the landscape with corpses. Are these images, many of us ask worriedly, a mirror of us?

Recently, analysts of the movie world have offered another explanation of the upsurge of on-screen violence: a change in the movie market. The domestic market used to account for the great majority of money an American movie would make. Revenues from international screenings were comparatively trivial. But now, the money from audiences in places like Caracas, Venezuela; Munich, Germany; and Bangkok, is a significant portion of many American films' total earnings. The global audience drives moviemakers to communicate in a "universal language." That, say the movie mavens, is why the violence has exploded.

The dialogue of a movie can be dubbed, of course, but much is lost in translation. To be a global blockbuster, a movie needs images that leap over the language barrier, that communicate in terms everyone can relate to. Blood works. The rock 'em-sock 'em, chase 'em-shoot 'em of the action movie plays as well in Tokyo as in Tallahassee. According to this analysis, Hollywood speaks in the universal language of violence because of the new economics of the global market, not because of twisted cultural forces.

That explanation might provide comfort of a sort. But how much does it really explain? Even if we grant that movies are made in order to generate profits, and that money is increasingly to be made by avoiding the nuances of spoken language and instead using images that speak universally to humanity, does it follow that violence should loom so large in what the American imagination is offering the world? …

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