El Salvador, El Salvador
Hollywood and US Foreign Policy
By Marlon Manzano
It is rarely mentioned how the cultural and entertainment industry can be a potent foreign policy strategy.
Translated By Mayra Reiter
19 June 2014
Edited by Bora Mici
El Salvador - El Salvador - Original Article (Spanish)
American economic and political hegemony seems to be losing ever more ground to other internationally relevant countries, such as Russia, China and India. There is talk about the possible ways or paths that will lead to the decline and subsequent replacement of the U.S. as the leading world power; some indicate that one of these paths will be the factor of the predominant business language, forecasting that Mandarin Chinese could surpass English in the medium term; others mention the economic path, whereby China, according to the International Monetary Fund, will exceed the U.S. in gross domestic product by the end of 2014.
The path of international diplomacy and management of foreign policy is also mentioned, and it is along these lines that the U.S. has been weakened the most in the past few months; the most emblematic example has been the diplomatic "triumph" of Russian President Vladimir Putin in the management of the media and the mediation he performed over the imminent U.S. military intervention in Syria over the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons against civilians.
In the end, Putin appeared before the media as the "mediator" or "peace hero," leaving the U.S. in an almost solitary position for a military intervention against Syria, thus becoming the epitome of international crisis mediation.
In this negative scenario, is there some comparative or competitive advantage in which the U.S. can place its trust to counteract those paths that threaten its international leadership? I think there is. It is rarely mentioned how the cultural and entertainment industry can be a potent foreign policy strategy.
To explain my viewpoint, let’s compare the two most important international film industries, Hollywood and Bollywood. The latter refers to all the films produced that are based on the Hindi language, one of the main languages in India and other neighboring countries, while Hollywood is a [district] of Los Angeles where the producing industry known as Hollywood is physically based.
But let’s look at the numbers; on an international level Bollywood produces an average of 1,000 films annually and sells over 3.6 billion tickets, while Hollywood produces about 700 films and sells about 2.6 billion tickets.
This gives India a large comparative advantage over the United States, but for the purpose of our argument on international political and economic importance, what is relevant is the competitive advantage, that is, that the industry generates the greatest value added for its country. For example, Hollywood annually generates $51 billion in earnings, while Bollywood only generates $1.3 billion, a difference that is based on the large budget Hollywood uses to promote its films, but especially in the multimillion dollar amounts it invests in hiring the world’s greatest actors. Actors end up becoming, directly or indirectly, ambassadors of the United States country brand, and why not, even its culture.
This can be understood in three aspects: First, the influence of Hollywood films and actors/actresses allows the continued positioning and "marketing" of the English language as an "eternally fashionable" language as opposed to other languages that are competitive in less entertaining spheres, such as business or diplomacy.
Second, the fame achieved by these actors becomes a political asset on an international level; this reinforces a virtuous cycle of growth of the Hollywood industry because the greater the fame, the greater the projected demand for future films.
Third, some Hollywood actors or singers based in the English-speaking market play an important role in the diplomatic agenda of the most important cooperation organizations or nongovernmental organizations worldwide, since these institutions understand that an image as valuable as that of an actor/actress or a singer can be the best way to deliver messages and influence the behavior of demographic groups, such as women, children and adolescents.
The U.S. should consider its film industry as a relevant guarantee for its dominant position in terms of foreign policy because Hollywood not only creates films, but also creates illusions, myths, archetypes, characters and idols that transcend borders and languages, which represent a culture in some form or another, and a set of principles and values that will be able to endure and resist any economic crisis or commercial threat; it is the permanent creation of an intangible asset that will allow them to maintain an advantageous position against the threat of the traditional ways of measuring a country’s political and economic power.
It can also serve as a call for our country to invest in industries that appear secondary, but that can be an intangible asset in terms of international political and diplomatic relevance in the long term.http://watchingamerica.com/News/240999/hollywood-and-us-foreign-policy/