Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Office

In the article written by Beeden and de Bruin titled “The Office”, the two writers make a very compelling argument and explanation for how television show The Office lost its “Britishness” after it was produced as an American remake by NBC.  In the article they explain that when the show was remade, it had to be nationalized because of the theory that humor is a locally based phenomenon.  Beeden and de Bruin explain that audiences prefer television shows that are adapted to their culture as closely as possible, for example language, dress, humor, and ethnic appearance.  This makes sense because we, as the audience, watch the shows that we can relate to and shows that make sense to us.  A show that contains lots of foreign objects and foreign ideas and events would not be successful because we would feel like we were on the outside looking in while watching it, meaning that we would feel like we didn’t fit in with the show.  This needs to be avoided in order to remake a pre-existing television series that has already been produced overseas. 

            Beeden and de Bruin give many examples as to how the producers of The Office changed the original British version in an attempt to Americanize it for the American audience.  For starting, the intro to the British version is gloomy and reflects the monotony of life in the office while the intro to the American version is lively and cheerful.  This could be because the American television industry functions under commercial mandates, so they try to get as big of an audience as possible and having a catchy intro helps to draw people’s attention.  Another example of alterations between the two versions of The Office becomes obvious in two parallel episodes, the British “pub quiz” and the American “basketball game” episodes.  Both of these episodes are made to place the characters in a competitive environment.  The British episode has the characters competing in an annual trivia quiz at a local pub while the American episode has the characters competing in an annual basketball game in the office warehouse.  This shows that the British audience is more inclined to verbal humor while the American audience is more susceptible to physical humor.  This is because sports are such a large part of American culture while mental abilities and verbal competition are a part of the culture in Britain.  Another example that Beeden and de Bruin make evident as a difference between the different versions of The Office is that the character that are supposed to mirror one another display different qualities and act in different ways in order to appeal to their respective audiences.  A final example given is that class is the central issue and base of much of the humor in the British version while racism is a central issue and the base of much of the humor in the American version, because these issues are issues of the two cultures, respectively.  

            I feel that The Office being remade and changed in order to appeal to different national audiences is an example for globalization as cultural imperialism.  Cultural imperialism is defined as the domination of local cultural values by more powerful American values.  The examples given are direct example of this; the producers at NBC used the British version of The Office as a template and remade it into a show that projected America’s cultural views and values, ultimately dominating Britain’s cultural values with our “more powerful values”.  A problem with cultural imperialism is that how is a nation like America or any other nation supposed to find common ground and respect the differences of other nations if media and other products are changed to fit their specific culture? 

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