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America’s Cultural Role in the World Today

America’s position as the world’s dominant superpower has also led to global American cultural influence. Up until World War I, America was viewed as a cultural backwater. Then America began to export some of its homegrown culture abroad through films and music. After World War II, the rise of the consumer economy and an “American lifestyle” gave American popular culture a global impact.

The English language

A constant stream of American TV shows, films, songs, computer games, and websites have spread American words and expressions. The young learn American slang through songs, films, and TV. American English and culture provide a common channel of communication for people worldwide. An estimated 2 billion speak some form of English, most of them influenced by American English.

The media

America has cultural influence in the media because it has a huge market. The United States has a domestic market of over 300 million people in addition to a potential global market of more than two billion English speakers.

Another reason for America’s cultural influence is innovation. Many new forms of communication have taken shape in the United States. TV broadcasting is a good example of this, from American TV networks to cable TV and international news networks. Personal computers and the World Wide Web also both arose in the U.S. and spread worldwide.

American programming appeals to the interests of a global audience. American culture celebrates the commonplace and the average, and as a result it has gained a universal audience.

Films

Motion pictures may not have been invented in the US, but Hollywood has dominated modern movies. One interesting effect of the dominance of American culture in films and other media is that many people who have never been to the country still feel they have a good idea of what it is like to live there.

Literature

Many of the best American works of fiction depict individualists, misfits and social outcasts who view American society with varying degrees of disapproval and distrust. American authors have used fiction to criticize and poke fun at American society.

Music

In the 20th century, American popular music conquered the world—ragtime, blues, jazz, big band, country, rhythm & blues, rock & roll, hip-hop & rap. All these forms of music are listened to around the world.

Since the “British invasion” of rock and roll in the 1960s, many of the greatest talents in rock & roll haven’t been American. Music that arose in America has been re-imported into the United States with new sounds and variations. Rap has also been adopted around the world.

Art

It wasn’t until World War II that the United States became a center for modern art. American painters like Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol were early leaders of the Pop Art movement.

Sport

The United States has not made much impact on international sports. It does usually dominate many events at the Olympics, but when it comes to international sports leagues, the US is outside the dominant culture.

There are two reasons for this. First, the two most popular games in America – baseball and American football — aren’t played in many other countries. Second, “the sport” in most countries is soccer, which is a minor sport in the United States.

The world has slowly begun adopting American games. Basketball was invented in the US and is a global sport today. There is now an American football league in Europe. Can baseball be far behind?


Source: America’s Cultural Role in the World Today
© Cappelen Damm AS

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