Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Office and Globalization

The success of the well-known sitcom "The Office" has been dependent on its ability to relate to its viewers through its situations, characters, and humor. In the article by Beeden and Bruin, they explain that the sitcom's successful transition to American television has been based on the fact that the show was able to adapt its format in order to achieve cultural proximity, and therefore relate to its audience. This inherently means a difference in context in terms of the situations, characters, and humour from the original British series and as a result, the sitcom has lost much of its "Britishness" in order to succeed in American television.

First, Beeden and Bruin examine how situations in each version of the show differ in order to "reflect culturally specific British and American signifiers." This includes aspects of the setting. Where we see objects in the background like a Homer Simpson toy, bobbleheads, and a basketball hoop in the American series, we see much less obvious visual signifiers in the British version. Situational differences are also seen in what actually happens in the episode. For example, when the British version of the pub quiz episode was transferred over to the American version, it was changed to a basketball scenario, reflecting the American interest in sports. These changes in situational aspects of the show contribute to the loss of Britishness which Beeden and Bruin describe. Besides the difference in situations, the contrast in characters also reflect the change in the show in terms of context. The characters, while they have similar roles in terms of what they do in the office, are very different from each other and can be associated with specific characteristics of national identity. Finally, Beeden and Bruin point out humor as another important key to the lost of "Britishness" in the crossover to American television. They point out that both versions use humor created from a specific inside knowledge and therefore, when the version crossed over to America and implemented American humor, the British humor was lost.

After reading this breakdown of "The Office," I would argue that the sitcom provides evidence for globalization as somewhat of a mix between cultural imperialism and cosmopolitanism. I say this because I view the two shows as different, but equal. It's not completely cultural imperialism because it is not as if American television is changing the show to improve it, but more so in order to appeal to a different audience. And because it is contextually different in many ways from the British version, it is hard to say that it is completely cosmopolitanism as well. Therefore, in my opinion, the crossover of the show lies somewhere in the middle of this scale of globalization.

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