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English, American Popular Culture and Canada

17 Nov 2017Essay Samples

Canada has many definitions for different people. For new immigrants, it can be a land of culture challenges and language challenges. It can also be a land of opportunities and liberty. For many long time residents of Canada a large part of being Canadian seems to be not being American. However, for many short time residents of Canada the amount of American popular culture in Canada is remarkable. This essay will present a discussion of the impact of American popular culture in Canada.

The first thing that is important is that this discussion is different of French-speaking Canada and English-speaking Canada. The United States is mostly English speaking and American popular culture such as movies, television and books are mostly in the English language and some are Spanish. There is very little French-speaking in America. In this way I think that French-speaking Canada is further away from and protected from American popular culture.

Of course many French-speaking Canadians also speak English and also probably watch American television and movies. Also, they can be watching shows, where French is printed with the English language or the actors, are edited with French voices. Therefore, there is an American popular culture influence in French-speaking Canada and the language difference is making it less. Also, because the language of French- speaking Canada is not the English of American culture there is a bigger culture industry of Quebec.

This industry is producing French-Canadian programs and movies and French-Canadian books. Therefore, there is less American popular culture and more French-Canadian culture. Both of these situations make French-speaking Canada freer from the influence of American popular culture. So there are French writers writing about the lives of French-speaking Canadians like Gabrielle Roy and Roch Carrier.

Overall, in Canada however, culture is overwhelmed by the influence of American popular culture. Consider the follow statistical of 1998:

  • Of the films shown on Canadian screens, 96% are foreign, primarily American.
  • Three- quarters of the music on Canadian radio is not Canadian.
  • Four in five magazines sold on newsstands in Canada, and six in every ten books, are foreign, mainly American.

(“Culture Wars”, 1998)

This makes plain how much American culture there is in Canada.

The shows broadcast and the books bought are being watched and read and talked about. They are becoming part of Canadian society and culture and they are majority from outside Canada, mostly United States. This means that for every Canadian that reads a book by a Canadian one reads a book by an American and for every Canadian that watches a movie about Canada twenty-four watches a movie from America and probably about Americans. Also, Canada is not the only country that worries about this influence of American popular culture. Debates like this also occur in France and other countries. (“Culture Wars”, 1998)

American popular culture has many advantages in the world marketplace. “America has the advantage of a huge domestic market, a language that is becoming ubiquitous and a genius for marketing.” (“Culture Wars”, 1998) It has a large domestic market to make production profitable, its language is the most spoken in the world and growing, and capitalists marketing well and determined to sell products and make profits export it. In this sense Canada is like a mouse beside a cultural elephant.

Because of this situation there is a great deal of American popular culture in Canada on television, in movie and plays, and in books. However, at the same time it is interesting too that Canadian culture is very successful in the rest of the world. Canadian authors sell and Canadian films (like Atom Egoyan) are watched. According to the Chairman of the Ontario Arts Council, Hal Jackman (2000) Canadian culture has global influence:

Canada's artists and cultural entrepreneurs have made Canada one of the top exporting nations against countries two or three times its size. Books by Canadian authors in terms of both titles and sales have trebled in the past decade and foreign-rights sales are booming. In the 1960s only 5% of books sold in Canadian bookstores were by Canadian authors. Now the figure is over 30%.

Therefore, on one level we worry about American popular culture in Canada but on another level we are also exporting our own culture to other countries.

In conclusion, there is more to popular culture than books and magazines, television and movies. There are many other ways that American popular culture is also present in Canada. This is revealed in almost every chain and franchise operation in Canada. There are exceptions such as Canadian Tire and Tim Horton’s but they compete with Wal-Mart, Krispy Kreme and, of course, McDonalds. There are many American retail and fast food operations in Canada. Also, Canadian’s drive American designed cars built in Canada but by Canadian companies that are only subsidiaries of American carmakers. On this level of day-today living and shopping Canada is almost just like the United States.

However, on this level of day-to-day living there are also the biggest differences of popular culture. Canada does not have as many guns and violence as the United States. This is true in the countryside and also in the biggest cities. But then on television and in movies is all the violence of the United States. Also, overall Canadian cities are safer and cleaner and nicer than American cities.

References

  • “Culture wars” The Economist 348: September 12, 1998.
  • Edwards, John Multilingualism Routledge New York: 1994.
  • Jackman, Henry R. (Chairman, The Ontario Arts Council) “Biggest threat to Canadian culture: Ottawa's billions” Canadian Speeches 13: February 2000.
  • Szeman, Imre “The rhetoric of culture: Some notes on magazines, Canadian culture and globalization” Journal of Canadian Studies October 2000, pp. 212+.

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