Pop Culture And The American Image | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

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Pop Culture And The American Image

From "House of Cards" and "Breaking Bad" to Miley Cyrus and "The Wolf of Wall Street," violence and vulgarity now pervades much of U.S. popular culture. As the U.S. has cut its public diplomacy programs, cultural critics say Hollywood -- and the distorted image it exports -– has become the de facto U.S. ambassador, giving audiences abroad an exaggerated view of American values and lifestyle. We talk to cultural critic and author Martha Bayles about how our pop culture affects how Americans are perceived in foreign countries, and learn how those on the front lines of public diplomacy can alter that image.

Media Inspired By The West

China's "Super Girl" Singing Contest

In 2004, the TV division of China's Hunan Broadcasting staged "Super Girl," a singing contest inspired by the Western "American Idol" format. "Super Girl" became a sensation in China, with a finale that drew more than 8 million text-message votes -- a phenomenon that concerned Communist Party leaders. In 2008, "Super Girl" was cancelled to make room for the Beijing Olympics. Eventually the competition was restored, though the SMS voting portion was removed.

Iran's "Parazit" Political Satire Show

Hosted by two Iranian Americans based in Washington, "Parazit" reached a significant audience, despite heavy jamming by the Iranian government. (Parazit means “static” in Farsi). It also circulated widely in social media. Parazit ended in 2012, reportedly because of disagreements between the two hosts.

Classical Cultural Diplomacy

In 2008, the New York Philharmonic visited the capital of North Korea in the first visit by an American cultural organization to the country. The orchestra's program included works by Gershwin, Dvorak and Wagner, among others. As a finale, the philharmonic played "Arirang," a North Korean folk song.

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After Fan Pressure, Netflix Makes 'Daredevil' Accessible To The Blind

The series stars a blind superhero — but at first, it lacked audio descriptions for the visually impaired. Netflix has added that option, but the issue raises larger questions of online accessibility.
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Late Chicago Chef Sought To Open 'A New Page In Gastronomy'

A star of molecular gastronomy, Homaro Cantu, 38, took his own life this week. Cantu owned a Michelin-starred restaurant, but he also wanted to cure world hunger and improve Americans' eating habits.
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When Politicians Lose Their Accents

Some say Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's Midwestern accent has become less pronounced. Georgetown professor Deborah Tannen says politicians' voices often change, depending on their audience.
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After Fan Pressure, Netflix Makes 'Daredevil' Accessible To The Blind

The series stars a blind superhero — but at first, it lacked audio descriptions for the visually impaired. Netflix has added that option, but the issue raises larger questions of online accessibility.

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