Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Globalizing by Localizing The Office

Havens and Lotz (2012) discuss how media texts will be "localized" by overcoming cultural barriers that would otherwise not allow the text to flourish. This is how media texts are able to thrive due to the process of globalization. I think that this is exactly what The Office has done by its transition from British to American format, production, and styling. Beeden and de Bruin (2010) give sufficient examples of how the American version of The Office has lost its "Britishness," but they also discuss how the show kept to its British roots in some ways. For instance, they discuss how both versions of the shows are different from other typical sitcoms that are on television and that is how they are the same. The situations, the characters, and the humor are similar in execution, but the specifics of each are what make them either "British" or "American."

This is where I think that Havens and Lotz's (2012) term of "localization" comes into play. The British version's situations are similar in that it is a paper distribution company in an office workplace setting, but the mood of the settings differ. Beeden and de Bruin (2010) discuss how the British version has a sense of hopelessness in its bleakness, but the American version has an air of hope through its upbeat tempo and happy setting. They also point out how the characters in both versions almost mirror each other, but their attitudes and behaviors are tailored to appeal to either a British or American audience. For instance, if Gareth was supposed to be a volunteer sheriff's deputy, their wouldn't be much to identify with in Britain, and the same goes for Dwight if he was a member of the Territorial Army. Finally, Beeden and de Bruin (2010) point out that the humor of both versions are directed at class and race issues. The British version focuses on class where the American version focuses on race, but both touch on both. By the American version adapting all of these qualities to fit American television, the show is localizing to make the show more relevant to an American audience. This is arguably why the show did so well in America, and why other shows that tried to adapt from their British roots did not fare so well (Beeden & de Bruin, 2010).

      As for Havens and Lotz's (2012) concepts of globalization as cultural imperialism or cosmopolitanism, I think that it is overwhelmingly cosmopolitanism. Because the show is an American adaption of British television, I don't think that American culture values are being dominated by British ones. Rather, I think that it brings issues of class and racial misrepresentations to light. It allows for viewers to feel sympathy for those who are still being oppressed within those groups. It also allows those who identify with these oppressed groups to feel like their issues are being addressed by popular culture and gives them something to identify with. Again, I think that this has to do with localization and how the show is made to appeal to particular audiences.

Here is Ricky Gervais on the differences between the two, giving a good example of how localization played into the production process:

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