British Consumers and the American Dream: A Study of American Media Production and British Consumption Trends Post 9/11.
The United States of America; the country that embodies, and is entrusted as curator of the American dream, has since the 9/11 attacks produced a tyrannical leadership bent on foreign military interventions; a global economy reminiscent of its own monopolistic capitalism; a working middle class consistently demoted to a poor lower class; a society unwilling to relinquish arms, clinging on to a history of violence inherent to it through its founding parchment; and a growing distanciation from a bestowed vision of freedom and democracy that with each passing day, becomes all the more elusive. Dr Giovanna Dell’Orto strongly suggests that despite the negative image America has amassed in recent times, “Europe still buys American – not just Cokes and Starbucks, but the American dream”, (2008: p.2). She continues by stating that “perhaps more unquestioningly than Americans themselves, Europeans believe in the promises of the American dream”, (ibid: p.2). The overall objective of this research is to refute such claims.
The attack on the iconic twin towers at the heart of America’s financial centre was widely accepted as an attack on the very freedom and democracy that America represents. Ironically, and as filmmakers such as Michael Moore – amongst many others – so effortlessly point out, since then, Wall Street has come to represent capitalist oppression and greed rather than freedom and democracy. It then seems only fitting that consumerism should be the measure by which one can identify whether Europeans continue to buy into this new version of Americana. Furthermore, according to Dell’Orto America is “globalisation itself”, (2008: p.22). That social theorists would consider a consumerist world market the ultimate expression of this globalisation might then suggest that it is not only fitting, but also that consumerism must play a significant part in how Europeans ‘buy’ into the American dream – although this is by no means reflected in her investigation. Therefore, how Europeans (literally) buy into this concept – an intangible set of ideals that according to the writer are as historic as they are pervasive – is important insofar as attempting to quantify, and hence substantiate, a theoretical conclusion. Since the media industry constitutes an important sector of the global economy – particularly television, with its underlying notoriety as a vessel of ideological transmission – then, consumption of American television production should be central in ascertaining whether in fact, Europe still buys into the ideology of the American dream. Furthermore, such results would then be substantiated by what could be considered a significant majority – since television remains the most popular medium despite new technologies and platforms.
Dell’Orto has instead constructed her arguments based on the critical analysis of European journalistic publications and official communications from two separate time periods in which, America had disproportionately flexed its superior military muscle and invaded foreign territories. Since European sentiment on American issues is unquestionably strong, and as conceded by Dell’Orto herself, as of late has been more oppositional than supportive, it might then not seem such an unlikely outcome if Europeans had instead abandoned their historical pursuit of the American dream. European sentiment is such that its allegiance might fall on either side of the fence. Since Dell’Orto arrived at her conclusions to a large extent by hypothesising – her occasional reference to opinion polls are mostly in opposition – she inadvertently leaves room to conduct an alternative study that might prove contradictory towards her findings.
In the interest of keeping this research within manageable levels, it will be restricted to a single European country. England – a constituent country of the United Kingdom – has consistently declared its allegiance to the United States of America, maintaining their kinship and ancestral descendancy as common ground in pursuit of this historical relationship. It would then seem a more significant representation if there were a decline in the consumption of American culture in the United Kingdom, than in any other European country not privy to such a historical alliance. If the results indicate that even America’s closest ally has lost faith in her leadership, they could then, almost certainly be considered categorical and conclusive. The overall objective of this research will thus be met through a study of British television viewing trends and the consumption of American television production.
Semester 6 (January – May 2016) : Final Major Project.