The Problem with Westernized Cultures


Through the long months of being in the suffocating reality of quarantine, I shut myself in my room and watched four movies a day.  That sounds, at first, pathetic, but I can say that I watched media that altered my perspective completely on culture and what we consume as viewers.  I never saw myself watching foreign movies, however, I thought to myself why I seldomly watched this vast genre.  Then, I finally pinpointed why.

There is this ongoing perception of westernized cultures holding a superiority complex.  It is embedded in the roots of media and history.  In history class, learners are met with how the Europeans conquered the United States of America, yet what they forget to state is how they single-handedly destroyed indigenous civilizations with their distinct ways of life.  Now, it is not as severe.  Cultures are flourishing, but this uncomfortable air is still circulating, creating prejudices and discrimination towards language and diversity. 

I turn to foreign music and films as a metaphorical statement of why westernized cultures have toxicity running through their veins.  For example, I suggested a French film to a friend.  Instead of being met with a pretend “I’ll watch it,” he got agitated and said that American movies are better so he does not have to waste his time watching a foreign film.  Yet, that claim was not what triggered his narrow-mindedness, it was the lack of understanding that art is art, and one to degrade a society due to a language barrier is detrimental to someone’s work.   

Jasmine Schoone, a film student attending the University of Amsterdam, expressed her opinion on the constant discrimination against other cultures in the westernized world.

“Definitely, yes. Black people and people of color who live in western countries face discrimination, racism, and xenophobia daily,” Schoone said. “Globally, I feel like many of those same American-made artists look down upon non-western artists when they enter the US, and criticism towards non-western acts are mostly xenophobia in disguise.”

Racism and white-washing other stories and arts is also a form of destroying a piece of creativity. BTS, the popular K-Pop group that has revolutionized the music industry by beating various records, has been noted to experience xenophobia, or discrimination against people from other countries.  As the group gained a notable amount of followers and fans, the VMAs decided to create a separate award group for K-Pop.  Making a different category just for K-pop not only isolates them, but it shares the notion that K-pop is not on the same level as westernized music, thus furthering the division between foreign-speakers and English-speakers. This also goes for films as well.  Bong Joon-Ho’s film, “Parasite,” only could register in the “Foreign Film” category at the 2020 Golden Globes and not any other category. 

White-washing various films or TV shows to make them more westernized has also been a topic of discussion.  “Avatar: The Last Airbender” was created into a live-action movie in 2010.  Instead of celebrating the acclaimed diversity that was in the original television series, they mostly cast white actors to play the parts of people of color.  The harm of excluding the original cultural background of this film in an attempt to segregate people of color is not only extremely harmful, but it teaches the concept that if it is not of western descent, it cannot be supported. 

So, why should you try to give foreign films and cultures a chance?  For starters, breaking off from the misconceptions of what foreign films are and embracing cross-cultural ideas is something that can broaden your horizon.

“There is no one specific way to learn about different cultures, but I reckon it simply takes time.  I do believe that accepting foreign music and films and content from other countries other than the US, and countries outside of Europe, helps people broaden their mindsets and perspective on non-western cultures,” Schoone said.

 Making an effort to emerge and become aware of other ways of life will benefit an understanding and appreciation of others. We should all try to immerse ourselves and grab chances in learning about different cultures.  If it is even through film or a piece of art, it all holds significance, so why not give it a try?