What American pop-culture has become world culture?

I was watching the Olympics the other day when I saw a runner from some other nation with a Superman symbol tattooed (quite skanky looking I might add :wink: ) on his arm.

This got me to thinking about the impact of American pop-culture on the rest of the world. Since we are the largest exporters of culture, what of ours has transcended the idea of being American, and is considered as belonging to the world?

For example, the music of Mozart, I do not think of it as Austrian. I think of it as just “classical music” and a part of world culture. I get the feeling that many movies, such as the Star Wars films have the same status.

1. Television. I have heard about (but never seen) a Turkish film in which a popular Turkish comedian, Omar the Tourist, is beamed into space where he has bizarre adventures with Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock lookalikes.

The original *Star Trek * series has been translated into about every language there is, and shown everywhere on the planet. So has every popular series that doesn’t scan TOO “American;” I know that *I Love Lucy * has been shown regularly on every continent, but I’m not sure about Leave It To Beaver. I know that Gunsmoke was very popular in France a while back; for some reason, during the seventies, the French were totally ape over generic horse opera.

Some pretty advanced, industrialized countries don’t show a lot of American television any more, from what I hear, but most people in those countries would still know who Captain Kirk, Lucy Ricardo, or Marshall Matt Dillon were, I think.

2. Comics, particularly superheroes. I don’t know why – perhaps it’s due to the cheapness of the medium (at least, at first, when comics were sold on every newsstand), or perhaps it’s due to the ease with which they can be pirated and translated, but most countries’ populations seem to know who Superman and Batman are, as well as Spider-Man and many others; I once saw a Mexican wrestling match, back in the seventies, in which one of the wrestlers was wearing a pretty good Spidey costume. There’s also a hilarious bad movie from some country or other called 3 Dev Adam, or Three Mighty Men, in which Mexican wrestler Santo must team up with Captain America in order to stop the nefarious plot of the evil… Spider-Man?

Yeah, I know. Weird. But this one film alone would seem to prove my point; somehow, for some reason, comics got into these folks minds, and stuck there. This link will explain what I’m talking about; leads to i-mockery.com.

Michael Jordan.

There was an interesting article relating to this in The Atlantic Monthly a few issues back. It basically argued that there aren’t all that many American movies anymore, at least not from the major studios (indies are another thing). The effort to appeal to as wide an audience as possible, including the internationel market, is washing away true America from the movies.
At first, this might seem ridiculous, but thinking about it, it made sense to me. A lot of movies are shot in Canada, with cityscapes trying to look generic North American. The Matrix was shot in Sidney, but there was nothing Australian about it, except for Aussies who might recognise a street corner here or there.
So in a way, Hollywood is embracing this and trying to make its pop culture transcend things American, except maybe on a superficial level.
Spider-Man really isn’t about being young in America. It’s about being young.

However, from a forreign perspective, even if all of these movies and tv shows don’t tell me about America, they still contain enough of an American flavor for me not to think they’re global. And seeing how many European film makers are trying to emulate the mis-en-scene of American movies, I think it’s fair to say that most of the American pop culture is now world pop culture, while retaining an American hue.

Speaking as a Brit, I have heard constant references to The Beaver and gilligans Island but I’ve never seen a single episode of either one.I don’t think they’ve ever been shown over here.

Not surprising. Both were fairly short-run, and Gilligan in particular was remarkably dumb.

I’ve noticed that the particularly tasteless or dumb Britcoms don’t tend to make it over here much, regardless of how wild the Brits are about them. Makes sense that the worst American stuff would likely stay over here.

But Gunsmoke ran twenty years. And *Star Trek * was an early show with international appeal.

Elvis Presley. Fairly apt, I think; Elvis is a good analogy representing what’s best and worst about the United States.
Baseball Which I get not at all, because I can’t stand the sport.
Blue jeans.

In his book and documentary “Around the World in 80 Days,” Michael Palin observed that the one constant that he encountered around the world was the movies of Ah-nold and Sly. They’re universal, at least in the mid-80s.

I think Disney would qualify. For a long time it was seen as the ultimate Evil American Company, appropriating European culture and all that, but I think it’s gotten to the point where it’s more ubiquitous than “American.”

I know I was surprised when I went to Tokyo Disneyland. I had expected it to be something like a “gaijin haven,” a place where American or European tourists could go to “get a break from Japan,” but that’s not the case at all. It’s enormously popular with the locals, and it seemed to be designed for the Japanese, not as a Japanese port of a purely Western thing.

I don’t know if food and drink necessarily count as culture but if they do, then you can’t get much larger than Coca-Cola, if at all.

Hip-hop culture. Originated in New York City, where rappers threw beats at America. Later, America started rapping back: West Coast nihilistic gangsta rap, Dirty South, Midwest, Old School East Coast; afrocentric musings, Five Precenter numerology, pop/hip-hop; etc. Then the whole world joined the party. In 1984 the term “hip-hop nation” meant young black America. In 2004, hip hop is indisputably multilingual, international, cross-cultural, global, urban. Producers have created beats sampling everything from 70s Public Service Announcements to 80s Broadway musicals to religious chants from India, and referencing everything from drug paranoia to blaxploitation to misogyny.

Elvis? Hah. Try Tupac. How many musicians put out gold-selling albums of new music after they’re dead?

In regards to the OP, it’s worth pointing out that Superman’s creators were Canadian.

Explosions don’t need translating. :wink:

Sure, but that’s because the decor and rides kick the snot out of the “American” Disney parks. And that’s not even counting Japanese-exclusive parks, like Tokyo Disneysea…

Growing up in China meant that I missed out on much of American culture until the age of eight, but Mickey Mouse was definitely one (oft pirated…) icon there that was undeniably a “children’s symbol” instead of “Western invader”. In fact, that list might be expanded to a number of other America-born cartoons I grew up with such as He-man, Ninja Turtles, and the Smurfs, though of course they don’t quite have the name power of Disney. Some of the things listed in this thread (like sitcoms and Elvis) I have some trouble seeing expanding to certain cultures, but I think children’s cartoon figures are among the most universal in marketability and appeal.


A US-invented sport, it is cheap & easy to learn, with simple rules.
It seems to have gone everywhere.

Doctor Naismith would be so proud! LINK.


I was going to mention food and drink, too. I just watched Rick Steves Travels Europe today, and he was at some ruins in Ephesus in Turkey. Right next to the ruins was a concession stand with signs in English reading “hot dogs, hamburgers” etc. and of course the Coca-cola label. It looked like your average American small ballpark stand. What was funny was he walked right by it while a voiceover talked about “the beauty of these ancient ruins.”

When I was in Egypt a few years ago I discovered that the Sphinx gazes into the face of a KFC. :frowning:

I’d say Michael Jackson and Charlie Chaplin.

Charlie Chaplin was English. He lived in America for years, until America threw him out. Bastards.

Jesus, Elvis and Coca Cola.

No one has mentioned McD’s yet.

Music, food, fashion, NBA, movies, ad nauseum

Jesus was American ? :confused: