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The Globalization Reader, 5th Edition by John Boli, Frank J. Lechner

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46 Cultural Imperialism

John Tomlinson

“Watching Dallas”: The Imperialist Text and Audience Research

For many critics, the American TV series Dallas had become the byword for cultural imperialism in the 1980s. Ien Ang's study, Watching Dallas takes as its central question the tension between the massive international popularity of the Texan soap opera:

… in over ninety countries, ranging from Turkey to Australia, from Hong Kong to Great Britain … with the proverbial empty streets and dramatic drop in water consumption when an episode of the series is going out …

and the reaction of cultural commentators to this “success”:

Dallas was regarded as yet more evidence of the threat posed by American-style commercial culture against authentic national identities. In February 1983 for instance, Jack Lang, the French Minister for Culture … had even proclaimed Dallas as the “symbol of American cultural imperialism”.

Ang detects amongst European cultural critics an “ideology of mass culture” by which she means a generalised hostility towards the imported products of the American mass culture industry, which has fixed on Dallas as the focus of its contempt.

Ang quotes Michelle Mattelart:

It is not for nothing that Dallas casts its ubiquitous shadow wherever the future of culture is discussed: it has become the perfect hate symbol, the cultural poverty … against which one struggles.

The evident popularity of Dallas juxtaposed with its hostile critical reception amongst “professional ...

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