A Philadelphia Inquirer article written by Carrie Rickey asks an interesting question: why aren’t Americans watching foreign films anymore?
And they really aren’t. In the 60’s, foreign imports made up 10% of the US box office – today, it’s .075%. Shocking; right? And what’s worse, Hollywood movies represent 63% of the world market. Are Hollywood movies really that much better? As the world gets smaller and globalization makes us all such close neighbors, why is it that we have isolated ourselves in this way? Is it true what Europeans say about us? Do we really not care about other cultures?
Ms. Rickey presents some interesting theories:
In foreign films we see how the world views us and we don’t like it.
Personally, I reject this theory. We Americans may be a lot of things, but we aren’t… wait – we ARE a lot of things. That’s the point.
It’s hard to be accused of not caring about other cultures when America is so diverse in and of itself, and we’re used to movies that celebrate that. We’re used to seeing ourselves in inaccurate and/or unflattering light because we do it to each other. New Yorkers portray us in Ohio as hillbilly farmers and we like to make them look like obnoxious loudmouths. If you’ve never been to the US you might think that, based on what you see in movies, all southerners are dimwits or people from LA are all shallow millionaires. We love a good stereotype – why would we mind the ones Europeans have for us?
Is it true, as some people say, that we only like movies in which we’re the heroes? In Hollywood movies, we’re saving the planet. We’re feeding the starving children. We’re the tough guys. What if an Italian or a French movie maker doesn’t see it that way?
That’s an excellent theory, except that while we love being the hero, we love being the dumbass even more. In The Hangover, Knocked Up, and Dumb and Dumber, we are decidedly not saving the planet or doing anything heroic, but we are endearing. I guess it’s possible that we don’t mind making ourselves look stupid but don’t want anyone else doing it, but we seem to love the darling dumbass characters in movies and I don’t think we care who’s made the movie.
OK then, It’s the subtitles. Right?
Or is it like my daughter Lauren has theorized – that Hollywood is a huge, monopolizing machine that crushes everything else. She says, ” We create movie stars that people are obsessed with, like actress Reese Witherspoon. We want to know everything about her private life. We scream when we see her in person. We name our children after her. We get our hair cut like hers and dress like her – of course we’re going to see all of her movies.” It’s true; Italian actors, no matter how talented, don’t have quite the same star power.
Or is just, as some have suggested, that foreign films just aren’t very good? You know that I don’t believe that, but is this the perception?
So, what is it? Why don’t Americans like foreign movies?