Metro

  • Written by Paolo Sigismondi, Clinical Professor of Communication, USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism

As a kid growing up in Italy, I remember watching the American TV series “Happy Days[1],” which chronicled the 1950s-era Midwestern adventures of the Fonz, Richie Cunningham and other local teenagers.

Poster featuring the cast of 'Happy Days' ‘Happy Days’ ran on ABC from 1974 to 1984. IMDB[2]

The show, combined with other American entertainment widely available in Italy in the 1970s and 1980s, shaped my perception of the United States long before I ever set foot in the country. Today, I call the U.S. home, and I have developed my own understanding of its complexities. I am able to see “Happy Days” as a nostalgic revival of an ideal, conflict-free American small town[3].

“Happy Days” was a product of Hollywood, which is arguably still the epicenter of the global entertainment industry. So recent news that the streaming service Netflix is opening an Italian office[4] and will begin massively funding original local content with the intent of distributing it globally on its platform[5] – following a strategy already launched in other European countries – struck me.

This could be a potentially game-changing move in global entertainment. And it might even change how the world perceives, well, the world.

Learning by watching

I have explored the global media landscape[6] from the privileged vantage point of Los Angeles for the past 15 years.

TV and movies are one way that people, as we go through life, make sense of the world, building on the archive of our personal experiences and opinions of other places[7].

Absent direct experience with a people or nation, we speculate on what we do not know. This process involves a variety of sources, including reading, Googling and accounts from somebody we trust. But often it is media that exposes people to other cultures, above and beyond our own.

TV and movies fill the knowledge gaps with powerful images and stories that inform the way we think about different cultures. If the media’s messages have consistency over time, we may come to understand these as facts[8].

But media portrayals may well be inaccurate. Certainly, they are incomplete. That’s because movies and TV series aren’t necessarily meant to depict reality; they are designed for entertainment.

Angelina Jolie in a boat in a Venice canal, surrounded by crew members Actor Angelina Jolie filming ‘The Tourist’ in Venice, Italy, in 2010. Barbara Zanon/Getty Images[9]

As a result, they can be misleading, if not biased, based on and perpetuating stereotypes.

For example, there is no shortage of Italian and Italian American stereotypes in American entertainment[10]. From the award-winning “Godfather” saga to the less critically acclaimed “Jersey Shore” TV series, Italians are often depicted as tasteless, uneducated, linked to organized crime – or all three.

Media is a window to the world

But the way people are exposed to media entertainment[11] is changing. Today streaming platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Apple TV+ and Disney+ collectively have 1 billion subscribers globally[12].

Being a relative newcomer in producing original content, Netflix cannot rely on a large library of proprietary content to feed its 204 million paid members in over 190 countries[13], as legacy Hollywood players can. So it is increasingly creating original productions, including a number of non-English language originals[14] from places such as Mexico, France, Italy, Japan and Brazil.

Screenshot of Netflix homepage A snippet of Netflix’s international lineup on April 2, 2021. Screenshot, Netflix.com[15]

We might call this an example of “glocalization of entertainment[16]” – a company operating globally, adapting its content to meet the expectations of locally situated audiences across the world.

This is already the modus operandi, for example, of many popular reality TV shows[17]. “American Idol” is an American adaptation of Europe’s “Pop Idol.” “The X Factor,” “Big Brother” and “Dancing with the Stars” have similarly international origins.

Now, however, glocalization comes with a twist: Netflix intends to distribute its localized content internationally, beyond the local markets.

It is not the global reach of Netflix’s platform per se that would break down old stereotypes. French critics panned the American-produced, internationally distributed Netlix series “Emily in Paris[18]” for its cliched, romanticized portrayal of the city.

‘Emily in Paris’ was an American take on Paris, and French critics hated it.

Foreign TV executives must create shows for Netflix that both appeal to local audiences and have international potential, while remaining authentic in their portrayal of their country. If Netflix’s Italian team thinks “The Godfather” is what international audiences expect from Italy, international audiences may tune in – but Italians won’t.

To become truly international, Netflix would also have to foster the development of original local ideas not only in European countries with well-developed cultural industries but also in smaller countries and those with emerging entertainment industries, such as African nations[19].

Netflix’s opportunity – and challenge

A side effect of this strategy could be that Netflix upends the traditional way that media informs our understanding of foreign people and lands by more accurately representing these places.

But that’s a tall order, and it’s not, of course, guaranteed.

Netflix’s transformative potential comes from allowing local creatives to tell stories about their own cultures and then distributing them truly internationally. It will depend on the company’s willingness to implement this strategy in a consistent, sustained, inclusive and thoughtful fashion.

Over time, widespread exposure to a diverse array of international media content might change the way people in the U.S. and worldwide think and feel about other cultures they have never, and may never, come into direct contact with.

All it takes is one click – one choice to watch, perhaps even unknowingly, a foreign-produced series.

The way Netflix works, using algorithms to suggest content[20] as viewers make selections, can prolong an initial exposure to and interest in foreign content. Artificial intelligence meant to feed us more of what we like may end up a surprising force for change, making us rethink what we thought we knew.

Authors: Paolo Sigismondi, Clinical Professor of Communication, USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism

Read more https://theconversation.com/netflixs-big-bet-on-foreign-content-and-international-viewers-could-upend-the-global-mediascape-and-change-how-people-see-the-world-156629

Metropolitan republishes selected articles from The Conversation USA with permission

Visit The Conversation to see more

Entertainment News

Ny’a: My Musical Journey

It’s been such an amazing musical journey. Starting my career in the late 1990’s and selling over 500,000 copies of my debut album “Embrace” worldwide was the beginning of it all.  It was an incredible start of my career. It was a whirlwind for m...

Ny’a - avatar Ny’a

Pro Tips for Gambling Online

While online gambling sounds like an entertaining thing to spend your afternoons playing, it is also serious business for professional players. Those that take gambling seriously know all the tips and tricks that make a good game. Not only do the...

News Co - avatar News Co

The New Art: Balancing Human and Synth in Music Creation

It’s a great time to be alive for indie music makers! There are many of us, maybe including you, who are creating good music out there, armed with nothing but our own ingenuity and the few dollars in our shallow pockets. But what’s the best way to ...

Angela Predhomme - avatar Angela Predhomme

An unstoppable force in indie R&B music since her re-emergence in 2015, Ny’a releases “Waiting”

An unstoppable force in indie R&B music since her re-emergence in 2015, Ny’a has topped the World Indie and Euro Indie Charts countless times, hit the R&B Soul Chart and Club Music Chart Top 20 and became the first artist since Janet Jack...

News Co - avatar News Co

An Aussie Band Breaks Into The US Music Market

AN AUSTRALIAN BAND’S STEPS TAKEN TRYING TO BREAK INTO THE US MARKET By skinsNbones The steps skinsNbones have taken as a band trying to break into the music market haven’t been taken in the traditional Australian way. We didn’t have the opportun...

News Co Media - avatar News Co Media

KENNY BLACK , STEPHEN WRENCH AND SHIMMER JOHNSON Release “Good Ole Love”

After a difficult year fraught with fear, anxiety and personal and sociopolitical struggles, nothing has the power to soothe our collective souls – or coincides as perfectly with our renewed sense of hope – than a heartfelt, blissfully beautiful love...

News Co Media - avatar News Co Media

Metropolitan Business News

Essential Tips for Developing Corporate Websites

The corporate industry, just like the others, is experiencing a massive technological revolution. Organizations have changed their marketing criteria by embracing the internet. Therefore, do not be ...

News Co - avatar News Co

How to Make a Personal Injury Claim for Minors

As a parent, you want to make sure your child is always safe. But as much as you want to keep him under your watch, it is impossible to be there for him all the time. When he is out there attendin...

News Co - avatar News Co

Dress for Success - Style Essentials for Every Businessmen

Did you ever glance at a person in passing and instantly think, “Wow, they must be successful”? It seems like the rich and successful people always stand out from the crowd without even trying, ...

Diana Smith - avatar Diana Smith

Why use Google Adwords?

Google ads, previously known as Google AdWords is one of the best and most effective ways to advertise your business online. According to data released by Google, over 5.5 billion searches are made ...

News Co Media - avatar News Co Media

Perfecting Web Design For A Health-Based Website

These days, when it comes to understanding what we put into our bodies, we are more focused than ever. It seems that everywhere we look, there is another health benefit, product, or trend on the...

News Co Media - avatar News Co Media

3 Realistic Reasons Why Physical Offices Are (Almost) Dead

Nowadays, more and more businesses are trying to find alternatives to traditional offices. For many years, brick and mortar offices have been at the heart of a company’s life. But work environme...

News Co Media - avatar News Co Media

Writers Wanted


News Co Media

Content & Technology Connecting Global Audiences

More Information - Less Opinion