American Idol After Iraq: Competing for Hearts and Minds in the Global Media Age

Gardels and Medavoy, two of California's most creative public intellectuals, bring a West Coast perspective to the role of culture in foreign policy. As they trenchantly demonstrate, the shifts in U.S. popular culture since the 1960s have had a dramatic impact on global perceptions of the United States. Today, the global media marketplace is changing again; U.S. cultural products compete with Brazilian and Mexican soap operas, Japanese animation, and Chinese and Bollywood films. In much of the world, MTV offers more local than U.S. content, and companies such as Disney are increasingly producing content for non-U.S. markets and sensibilities. Paradoxically, Americans are often less aware of global cultural trends than people in other countries are; saturated in their own media, they see fewer foreign films and fewer foreign television programs. Gardels and Medavoy offer interesting observations on these and other trends. Their most intriguing prescription is for the creation of an organization modeled on the Council on Foreign Relations that would focus on the role of culture in international affairs. 

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