United States of Hollywood

Justin Pepito on his experience as American abroad.

Two years ago, I sat in the courtyard of the now defunct Abercrombie Hotel while my friends cheered me on to scull a Tooheys schooner. Mateship was the only way I could prove my worth as a new Australian immigrant without resorting to mind-numbing testimonials of how much I’ve adapted to Vegemite’s taste.

After walking inside the bar to use the toilet, I found three long white tables on the dance floor. At the end of each table was a triangular formation of 10 red beer pong cups, most likely shipped in from my motherland and sold at a ridiculous premium for the sake of pseudo-cultural novelty. A poster of John Belushi, from the 1978 movie Animal house, wearing a jumper with the words “college” stitched on it hung on the wall

The DJ swiftly changed a soothing Temper Trap ballad to “Get Low” by Lil Jon, as curious Wednesday night patrons entered to investigate the commotion.

I was in an interactive frat house museum. “Imperial Hollywood does it again”, I thought.

Before immigrating I was well aware of my country’s cultural dominance in western societies like Australia. My culture shock was not finding out that Australian society consumed American media, but it was how much Australian society consumed American media and the unintended effects of said consumption.

Just like the Abercrombie Hotel beer pong tournament, my first few months of expat life consisted of cringe-worthy moments where boorish American pop-culture reared its head. I began to find once exhilarating conversation topics about America’s stereotypes of obesity and religious reverence somewhat awkward and slightly annoying as the weeks went by, as almost every argument heard began with the words:  “but I saw it in [insert movie, TV show, magazine, website etc.]” I was beginning to get the feeling Hollywood scenes flooded the mental imagery of most Australians every time something American was mentioned.

I believe we should seek to question how we view entertainment with respect to reality, whether that reality is American, Australian or another culture’s. With online streaming platforms like Netflix doubling their profitability last year the recent spike in easy-to-consume media can unintentionally expedite the entertainment industry’s culturally hazing effects at a rate even faster than it has in the past.

Ray Bradbury said it best, “The average TV commercial of sixty seconds has one hundred and twenty half-second clips in it, or one-third of a second. We bombard people with sensation. That substitutes for thinking.”