In the age of globalization, media outlets have swiftly evolved into a powerful instrument for the transmission of global cultures, often leading to a phenomenon known as culture shock. This culture shock doesn’t always occur when an individual physically steps into a new country, rather it can hit right at home, through screens, social media platforms, TV shows, and movies.
Take for instance, the 2018 cinematic sensation, “Crazy Rich Asians”. The Hollywood hit film – the first of its kind to spotlight an almost entirely Asian cast – didn’t merely shake up the industry; it stirred a myriad of cultural clashes as well.
For many Western viewers, the luxurious lifestyle of Singapore’s high society was an eye-opening experience. Concepts like the lavishness of wedding preparations, the intricacy of the traditional Chinese Game Mahjong, and the emphasis on family duties over personal happiness, were all profoundly unorthodox.
Yet it wasn’t just the Western audience left dazed. Even amongst Asian demographics, the film sparked an array of reactions. While some celebrated the recognition of Asian representation in Hollywood, others felt it failed to encapsulate the diverse experiences of Asians, narrowly focusing on the rich strata of the society instead. The movie’s portrayal of Singapore, being largely skewed towards the extravagance of an elite class, left many Singaporeans feeling misrepresented.
Another instance of culture shock in media is the popular American series “Breaking Bad”. Widely acclaimed for its storytelling, it was equally shocking for many foreign audiences. The portrayal of drug culture, violence, and moral dilapidation in a middle-class American society was starkly unfamiliar and disconcerting to many international viewers. The concept of an average, law-abiding citizen turning to a life of crime due to financial strain was a plot that magnified the much-criticized American healthcare system, leading to a cultural disjuncture for viewers not familiar with this system.
Media has traditionally served as the cultural bridge between nations, however, with the globalizing impact of contemporary media platforms, it has escalated into a cultural shockwave. This clash of cultures is not necessarily negative though. It serves to stimulate dialogue, encourage cultural exchange, and foster understanding among global audiences.
While media platforms have a responsibility to portray cultures accurately, the onus is also on the audience to approach these portrayals with a discerning eye, understanding that what is presented is not always an exhaustive portrayal of a culture. This wide range of reactions, debates, and discussions, triggered by the culture shock in media, is a testament to the shared and differentiated human experiences across the globe. As we consume media content from diverse cultures, we are also subconsciously learning, expanding our horizons, and developing a global perspective.