Rambo proved to be widely successful in Asia. Throughout the continent, people flooded into the theaters night after night, some paying the “equivalent of two month salary for their seat” (3). Pico Iyer, author of the essay “Love Match”, justifies this cinematic victory as a retaliation for America’s military defeat out East. In other words, the film succeeded where the Army failed. Yet, one could argue that this sneaky mechanism of cultural imperialism at the hands of the United States has social implications far more devastating. Arthur Koestler, a writer referred to by Iyer, perceives this Americanizing mass culture as “a form of mass suicide”. As the transnational flow of mainstream media and technological advancements facilitate the exportation of American hegemonic ideologies disguised as the “American Dream”, the threat of ‘generica’ becomes increasingly real. Pico Iyer presents an interesting point when he admitted that in going to Asia he “hoped to discover which America got through to the other side of the world, and which got lost in translation” (5). Furthermore, with Hollywood films laced with sex and violence, how was the West perceived in the East? Is it possible to define what exactly was so seductive about Western media? Questions with splintered answers that merely reinforce the complexities of the inital inquiry.
In tandem to the cultural transgression of mass media images, the onslaught of Western tourist into the East fueled the steady encroachment of cultural imperialism. The repercussions of this growing tourist trend mustn’t be overlooked. “In 1985, many Asians considered the single great import from the West, after Rambo, to be AIDS” (6). Despite this, the ideals lacing what it meant to be an American (“wealthy and free”) was and still is to a certain extant coveted. However, considering the fact that Japan, India and China are among some of the oldest civilizations gracing our planet at present, it seems paradoxical that they would look to the West in an act of cultural mimesis. The facility at which the media transgresses cultural borders results in having the ideals of the Western world exposed to a once isolated small rural village in the foothills of Nepal- rendering arguably discontent where there was once none. However, Pico Iyer brings up an interesting point in contrary, claiming “an imperial arrogance underlines the very assumption that of the developing world should be happier without the TVs and motorbikes that we find so indispensable ourselves” (14). From a post-structuralist point of view, it is the power structure that determines what is best for the indigeous, poor and under-priviledged- yet the media corrupts ignorance bliss and implants materialistic aspirations in the heads of the have-nots. Needless to say, the complexities of globalization at the hands of mass media are as culturally deep as they are spatially vast.
On a personal level, I was able to connect with Pico Iyer’s narrative of his experiences abroad as an American. I’ve bargained for saffron in the spice market of Budapest, trekked through the Himalayas, stood at the edge of the world in Patagonia and watched the sunset bleed into the horizon as bodies burned on the ghats of Varanasi. Traveling renders an unparalleled education. Beautiful and grostesque, this world has revealed both sides to me. Over the course of the past decade however, America has lost much of its respect as a nation on the global stage. This unfortunate turn of events was triggered namely by poor political decisions laced with ulterior motives by that power that be. But as the saying goes, power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Once again, one observes from afar, from the images on the media and headlines in the newspaper, America’s bombs prove far less effective then our popular culture. Coveting the status of a world citizen, I strive to construct my identity not by the nation from which I came but from my collective experiences abroad. Yet, more often than not, it’s easier to say I’m from Canada. However, I must admit I always find it amusing to observe how effortlessly many will criticize America all the while sporting Nike shoes, smoking a Marlboro cig, drinking Coke Cola, listening to Bob Dylan, wearing the Gap and standing on line at a McDonalds. I suppose cultural imperialism behaves in a sneakier fashion.