Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Global Media Market

This week presentations focused on media in a global context, from X-Factor to the Golden Compass, I think the over-arching theme can be traced to making something truly "International". The X-factor group spoke about using this package (X-factor) and tweeking it to appear more culturally relevant. The show originally began in the U.K. and although it applies "glocalization" to their format I wonder if it really just boils down to the individual countries view of the West. The examples provided in class were the Middle East and China; the Middle Eastern X-Factor failed while the Chinese X-Factor flourished. I wonder if this has more to do with relations with the West and the Middle East. One need only to look at the history of U.S. and Middle Eastern relations to understand the hesitation to adopt Western....anything. The U.K. track record isn't any better.  Although Western relations with China is sometimes turbulent, it has a lot more of a reason to embrace a program like X-Factor.

X-Factor has an interesting model because it plays a popular theme--a rags to riches story. Contestants come from all walks of life, all to compete for fame and fortune. The X-Factor also uses music to draw in the audience, and its quite easy to tweek the style of music used on each program to appeal to each market, but as the case in the Middle East demonstrated--cultural adaptation doesn't always equal commercial success.

The other group presented on creating a movie that was not only appealing domestically, but also internationally. The presentation made me think of the narrow view "international" or "foreign" markets are defined.  The example brought up in class was of the Golden Compass; it tanked domestically but was hailed as a success internationally. The film was characterized as  having "heavy dialogue" and "overly complicated plot"which was described as a barrier to success in an international market. It was later revealed that the success was due to the U.K. market, where the Golden Compass has a cultural connection.While outside of the U.S. the U.K. has a Western perspective. It makes me wonder about the definition of a "international success," is it really just  that every other country outside the U.S. is lumped together and stamped with the title international? This doesn't take into account the cultural ties shared with the U.K. and the ease of cultural transferability. If this is the case I believe it is impossible to create something that is truly "international" because this definition is too broad, and can never truly be understood under the guise of us (U.S.) and them.

Many thoughts and theories can be put into practice when examining global media and it's successes and failures. Is media an assertion of nationalism? or globalization? Cultural relevance? or Cultural odor? Are we creating more global understanding? Or stonewalling and stifling smaller voices?


  1. Ginnie, you pose some of those "larger than life" questions in this post. To be honest, all of these notions you mentioned at the end of your thought piece are happening simultaneously. Within international communication, countries, cultures, groups, etc are constantly producing content that is culturally unique yet odorous, a mark of nationalism yet globalization. I think in this day and age, it's hard to make any content that doesn't fit two opposing categories.

    What's funny is you ask if there is something that is truly international. I think we've asked the opposite question before as well: can something actually be truly singularly faceted these days?

    I suppose it is best to acknowledge that all of these theories are in competition with each other because of the nature of the global media market - there is just way too much out there to begin defining categorizing everything into niche regions. It may be something we may just need to be comfortable being uncomfortable with.

  2. Ginnie, I'll chime in on your reflection on the X Factor, mostly because I worked on that project. I think a factor that should also be considered is that of finances. In our research, we found that it's much cheaper for countries to import these types of ("prepackaged") entertainment shows than creating their own. I understand you're idea behind a rocky "Western World"-Middle East relations a factor in the fall of the Arab X factor but I still stand by my speculation of an over saturated market rather than the historic relationship . With that mentality, no "Western" show should thrive in Eastern markets because of the history behind the colonizers and the colonized. Yet this doesn't seem to be the case at all. Thoughts?

  3. I not suggesting that this observation is a "one size fits al"l subscription of all Western media in the East, I think we all know that "one size" rarely fits all.I think the Wests relationship with the East is a valid argument for X-factor's failure. I am not disagreeing with the idea of over saturation, I am merely suggesting that its easy to see how something that locally produced and therefore "community owned" would have more success over something that is merely "glocalized" and stemming an area with less than stellar relations. As Echo said in the presentation about China, they see X-Factor as more prestigious because it comes from the West, while in the Middle East is more prone to accept the locally created singing show, is it because their view of the West is more contentious? I'd have to do more research but I definitely think it is a valid observation.

  4. I think your question of about film markets outside of the United States is a valid one. Certainly not all national film markets are alike. As we've said in class, audiences prefer media products that are culturally proximate. I think until recently, many countries did not have their own film industries and thus Hollywood films were their main option. Now that an increasing percentage of the audience of Hollywood films are foreign and more countries such as China and India have successful film industries, Hollywood feels the pressure to compete. As a result, films are being made that try to either "cultural odor" (think Pirates of the Caribbean) or else attempt hybridity (Slumdog Millionaire). That is why films like The Blind Side will be made less and less- they have a limited audience due to the strong cultural odor. Studios looking to make big bucks do not want to make a uniquely American or Polish or Australian film, they want to appeal to as broad an audience as possible. Get ready for more lackluster copycat action films!

  5. Ginnie,

    I think you raise a valid point about U.S.-Middle East relations and how that may factor into the unpopularity of Western TV shows like the X-Factor. Although the X-Factor wasn't successful in bringing the West and East closer together, I do think the dissemination of Western media to other countries is a great use of 'soft power' because it gives countries the opportunity to accept or reject foreign ideas and values. This is much better than coercive isomorphism which forces ideas upon an unwilling group of people. The West has been notoriously responsible for the latter; the X-Factor is a refreshing change.

  6. I'd like to jump on the bandwagon and also comment on Ginnie's interesting thoughts following the X-Factor group's analysis of glocalization.

    Sometimes we have to accept that some products fail, not because of the fact they were not properly adapted to the local culture, or even to a hybrid international (cosmopolitan?) culture. Instead, some things are just bad. The failure of the x-factor in certain regions could be because the quality of the entertainment was not up to snuff.

    I suppose, in this sense, the Golden Compass was a successful cross-cultural product: it was universally bad.