As my children and I rode the train from Rome to Milan last week, we were confronted with one image again and again: Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, glowering through bladed hands crossed in front of his face. It was the poster for The Wolverine and it was plastered all over Italy.
I knew that America exported culture, but I had no real idea of the scope of that exportation. It was staggering to see. And this is in Italy, a country with its own rich and proud culture as well as its own entertainment industry.
Hugh Jackman wasn’t the only one. We saw posters for many, many Hollywood movies: Epic, The Croods, White House Down, and something that translated as “Night of the Lions…3.”
Familiar faces filled the TV. Spongebob. Phineas e Ferb. And more adult fare.
That’s Gossip Girl on my hotel TV.
In bars, malls, cafes, swimming pools, and radios, we heard familiar music. This is a vastly partial list of the music we heard: Kanye West, Tom Jones (one immediately after the other, which was weird), Katy Perry, The Beatles, Bruce Springsteen (Born in the USA, no less), Michael Jackson, I Believe I Can Fly (played not ironically, which was weird) and Guns N Roses.
I’d say, as an estimate, more than half of the music we heard in public places or on the radio was in English. Standard pop music. Not all American, to be sure, but pretty much all part of the Hollywood-London-New York-Nashville machine.
I’m not sure how I feel about this. On one hand, from what I hear, Wolverine is a pretty good movie. On the other, hearing Rihanna beg “give it to me like I need it” made me feel embarrassed, slightly ashamed there in the cradle of Western Civilization that we’ve boiled so much down to sex, and fairly meaningless sex at that.
There’s no putting the genie back in the bottle at this point, but it sure makes me hope that the people who are making these movies, songs, and TV shows are conscious of what they’re doing.