American star power still rules the globe
February 22nd, 2013
09:10 AM ET

American star power still rules the globe

By Richard Wike, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Richard Wike is associate director of the Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project. The views expressed are his own. You can follow him @RichardWike

For decades, Hollywood has been a big part of brand America, and U.S. movies continue to break box office records around the world. Over the past year, blockbusters like The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises have earned over half a billion dollars outside the United States. And this weekend, according to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, viewers in more than 225 countries will tune into the Oscars.

Surveys consistently show that movies – and more broadly, American popular culture – are a strong suit of U.S. soft power. And, while studio executives spend considerably more time thinking about box office returns than public diplomacy, Tinseltown is actually pretty effective at nudging America’s international image in a positive direction. (Certainly, with anti-Americanism still strong in the Middle East and among some other nations, brand America needs all the help it can get).

American culture is especially attractive in Europe. The continent may have a long tradition of intellectuals deriding U.S. culture, but average Europeans embrace it. A 2012 Pew Research Center poll found solid majorities in all eight European Union nations surveyed saying they like American movies, music, and television, including 72 percent in France, home to the Cannes Film Festival, Jean-Luc Godard, and (until recently) Gérard Depardieu. As is the case with nearly all things American, U.S. pop culture is more popular among Europeans in the Obama era than it was during George W. Bush’s presidency, although even during the Bush years, when European anti-Americanism was surging, most still had a favorable opinion of American entertainment. And it’s not just Europe – about seven-in-ten of those surveyed in Japan, Brazil, and Mexico, for example, say they enjoy U.S. movies, music, and television.

In nearly all countries included in the survey, America’s pop culture is especially attractive to young people. For instance, a stunning 94 percent of Germans under age 30 like it, while just 47 percent of those 50 and older agreed. Huge age gaps are also found in Russia, France, Britain and elsewhere.

In many nations, there is also an education gap. In China, where a growing middle class increasingly has yuan to spend on entertainment, 74 percent of people with a college degree enjoy American pop culture, compared with less than half of those with less education.

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It’s true that Hollywood isn’t popular everywhere. In particular, it has limited appeal in some predominantly Muslim nations. Among 20 countries surveyed by Pew Research, the only four where majorities said they do not like American movies, music, and TV were Pakistan, Turkey, Egypt, and Jordan. Views about culture are intertwined with other aspects of America’s image, and in countries like these, widespread opposition to U.S. policies and deep distrust of American motives continues to drive strong anti-American sentiments.

But the Muslim world is not monolithic, and attitudes toward American culture vary among Muslim populations. Six-in-ten Lebanese Sunni Muslims express a positive opinion, as do almost half of the country’s Shia Muslims – a fairly impressive number, given the fact that, when asked about their overall opinion of the U.S., only 7 percent of Lebanese Shia offer a positive response. Meanwhile, about eight-in-ten Lebanese Christians like American pop culture.

Of course, even in countries where the U.S. and its entertainment exports are generally popular, many still voice reservations about the reach of American culture. Japan was the only nation among the 20 polled where a majority (58 percent) said it is good that American customs and ideas are spreading to their country. In contrast, less than a third in Britain, France, Spain, Germany, the Czech Republic, and Greece described the spread of U.S. ideas and customs as a good thing. In Egypt, Jordan, Turkey and Pakistan the numbers were even lower.

The reality is that resistance to American culture often goes hand in hand with a strong attraction to it. French sheep farmer José Bové may have become a hero to the anti-globalization movement by famously helping ransack a McDonald’s in 1999, but it hasn’t stopped the proliferation of golden arches in Europe or elsewhere. Similarly, the international demand for American films is growing, and Hollywood’s profits are increasingly driven by the foreign box office.

All this means that when the red carpet is rolled out on Sunday, concerns about the ubiquity of American culture won’t stop millions across the globe from tuning in to see who wins Best Picture.

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Topics: Culture • Diplomacy • United States

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soundoff (51 Responses)
  1. Apzal

    oscar is a big jok.
    it is for holywood, usa and their lap dogs like uk, india and australia.
    china russia north korea and Pakistan (all with nukes) don care about this idiotic chest beating award.
    p iss off usa
    long live Pakistan

    February 22, 2013 at 6:36 pm | Reply
    • Joe

      Very brilliant are quite a scholar based on the insight and depth of your geo-political summary

      February 23, 2013 at 1:42 am | Reply
    • Hamza

      Pretty sure 3rd world war will start off from a retarded comment like apzals

      February 23, 2013 at 8:41 am | Reply
    • apzal

      most of my repliers are isrrili agents and raw or usa agents who don like the truth.
      down down usa and its drity tricks to branwash the world with hollyywood.
      Long Live Pakistan

      February 25, 2013 at 5:40 am | Reply
      • Falati

        Get real, brother. Even most Pakistanis love American culture. In fact, they even like INDIAN MOVIES.

        March 14, 2013 at 3:40 pm |
    • LT Fang

      I was born in China and Chinese *love* Hollywood movies.
      Even crappy Hollywood movies find a big market in China.
      Find, bootleg DVDs, but the point is Chinese people love watching Hollywood products.
      Those are facts.

      April 19, 2013 at 4:23 pm | Reply
    • SAWOLF

      Strange , you take our money and weapons, then stab us in the back. Typical muslim.

      May 16, 2013 at 11:21 pm | Reply
      • Sasha Prendergast

        So true. Pathetic.

        May 26, 2013 at 1:21 am |
  2. valwayne

    Roman culture, engineering, baths, and roads has spread throughout Europe and Norther Africa when the empire was at the height of its power, bringing order, peace, and prosperty. Yet back in Rome corrupt, dishonest politicians, and power mad emporers were destroying the empire with DEBT, Bad economic decision, and weakness. American culture as spread by Hollywood, Music, and McDonald's has reached its zenith. While back in Washinton DC an arrogant, corrupt regime destroys the foundations of the nation with its arrogance, and anti-business, anti-growth, near Marxist policies. And almost before you knew it the worlds greatest empire collapse, the empire was gone, and the dark ages decended on the old Roman Empire. Obama is repeating history!

    February 22, 2013 at 11:05 pm | Reply
    • demaris

      The Romans discovered that if you put lead oxide in wine, you could sell cheap spoiled wine as premium, because it would taste sweet. They got stupider, and stupider. And fatter, and fatter.

      So tell me again why we're just like the Romans?

      February 27, 2013 at 11:36 am | Reply
      • SAWOLF

        One major difference. Rome employed slaves which stagnated technological development and required ever more land under agriculture. The technological advancement we are witnessing will ensure an elite with extreme control and concentration of wealth, without a need for an expanding populace..

        May 16, 2013 at 11:25 pm |
    • msr42day

      To avoid a mistake, you must know about it (e.g. how the USA is like the Roman Empire. Most USA residents are very weak on political history, mostly because it's not explicitly provided in a tantalizing fun way – which is the staple of K-12 Education these days. Sure wish the CGI developers would get fully into Educational Content delivery and move the whole US populace along in their knowledge. I'm sure they could make the writing of Julius Caesar and the rest of the Emperor/Dictators both interesting and educational.

      May 4, 2013 at 10:31 am | Reply
  3. adec

    Just like the superbowl, WHO CARES? California is a dump, Hollywood is a drug infested sleaze pit and the Oscars are just another way to give a talentless ego a big head!

    February 23, 2013 at 5:18 am | Reply
    • Please!

      You are just jealous! California is the 4th largest economy in the world and the rest of the US will be nothing without us.

      March 30, 2013 at 12:59 pm | Reply
      • Bloodnut the Flatulant

        You might check your info. It is inaccurate. 8th might be closer, and don't forget California is leading the other states by far in debt.

        April 10, 2013 at 12:07 pm |
  4. karthick

    you are always saying America. America
    what are you having in your mind
    history will repeat itself and your face will be teared soon

    February 23, 2013 at 7:16 am | Reply
  5. John

    It is no dream, but the "glory days" are over. No one in Hollywood rules the world. What is even more scary, movies incorporate "anti-American" sentiments, and are counter-productive. Do not waste US$ for anti-Western movies.

    February 23, 2013 at 8:14 am | Reply
  6. Tyrone


    There is right vs wrong there is stupid vs smart! Then there is the one plus one equal three people! These people are very articular in articulating stupid that undermine America! Like Republican politician voting against “The Affordable Health Care Plan”. Then accepting and using the plan for their family! Today some of the Republican Governors that spoke out against the plan. Now have accepted the plan for their state! Theses are the one plus one equal three people. GET WHERE I’M GOING??? Conservative are against abortion yet are for unnecessary war in Iraq. That killed 4,500 American troops for nothing and left 150,000 troop disable for life. And 250,000 Iraqi citizen dead for nothing ..THOSE DEATHS ARE OK IN THE MINDS OF CONSERVATIVE!

    Allowing the un-born to be killed................ BAD! Allowing American troops to die in a unnecessary war in Iraq for nothing............ GOOD! GET WHERE I’M GOING??? Those people are the one plus one equal three people! They are able to articulate and believe in the unbelievable! The 15 Republicans that gathered at the Caucus Room in Washington two days before President Obama took office. At a upscale restaurant where a New York strip steak costs $51. Were all one plus one equal three people! Attending the dinner were House members Eric Cantor, Jeb Hensarling, Pete Hoekstra, Dan Lungren, Kevin McCarthy, Paul Ryan and Pete Sessions. From the Senate were Tom Coburn, Bob Corker, Jim DeMint, John Ensign and Jon Kyl. Others present were former House Speaker and future – and failed – presidential candidate Newt Gingrich and the Republican strategist Frank Luntz, who organized the dinner and sent out the invitations. GET WHERE I’M GOING???

    These white men some elective official took a oath to uphold the laws of the land. Came together to plotted against the President and the American people and the laws of the land. They plotted to be“obstructionist”! To attack and slow down President Obama and America recovery! THEY CAUSE!!! These white men are very intelligent and can articulate and believe in their stupidity. To the detriment of America! Republican Governor that past laws like “Stand Your Ground” and “Make My Day Laws”. Are one plus one equal three people. These Governors past laws that disenfranchise the American people! The “ID Requirement Laws” past and attempted to be past by Republican Governors. Was one of the most identifiable one on one equal three examples during the 2012 elections. It along with other election laws past by Republican Governors. Resulted in longer election lines and many American not able to vote!

    Bottom line PEOPLE!!! There is right vs wrong there is stupid vs smart! Then there is the one plus one equal three people! These people are very articular in articulating stupid! It is your responsibility to identify and dismiss one on one equal three people! One plus one equal three people are responsible for “Slavery” “Greed” “Jim Crow Laws” “Discrimination” “Separate but Equal Laws”! One plus one equal three people justify police officers shooting “UNARMED” ..NON-COMBATIVE HANDCUFFED black people in the back on video! One plus one equal three people can see evil and call it OK!
    American exceptional America the greatest.........The one plus one equal three people kill that!!!!!!

    February 23, 2013 at 3:13 pm | Reply
    • SteveDave

      Valid points, but you are in fact a racist.

      February 27, 2013 at 3:58 am | Reply
    • VladT

      So, your extremely polarized, ultimately biased, anti-republican anti- white rant has what to do with this article?

      February 27, 2013 at 10:21 am | Reply
  7. ArghONaught

    The Oscars were a promo to get customers into theaters during the depression years. It is by Hollywood, for Hollywood, and many, many films are shootem up nuclear threat focused targeted at American's paranoia about anyone and everyone.

    There are a huge number of BRILLIANT movies about everyday life, very few being of American origin, but alas – no money for hollywood moguls so why give them publicity? Oscar – an American farce even above the "world" part of world series.

    February 23, 2013 at 3:16 pm | Reply
  8. Wow

    I didn't go passed the first few paragraphs of this article. What a load of ....... There is a big world out there. Get out & see how we don't need Hollywood. The flip side is Hollywood needs us. I could go on ...........

    February 23, 2013 at 6:02 pm | Reply
  9. empresstrudy

    Because wherever you go around the world. the idiots with RPGs and car bombs are all wearing American t shirts listening to American music while they mass murder people in the name of hating America and loving the 8th century. Personally I hope they succeed. Death to America

    February 23, 2013 at 7:59 pm | Reply
    • Kim

      Death to Islam. I am sick of the USA-bashing, honestly. Pakistan should not even exist in the first place.

      March 14, 2013 at 3:36 pm | Reply
  10. Acropolis

    In other words, Marshall Plan in Europe was very efficient. "By conquering the minds, you can conquer the world". We all know that. So what is the purpose of this article? Can Hollywood supremacy be threatened?

    February 24, 2013 at 2:17 am | Reply
  11. j. von hettlingen

    The success of Hollywood movies is multifold. The best entertainment often makes people unleash their emotions, they otherwise have to hold back. They dream, laugh, cry and fear before they return to real life.

    February 24, 2013 at 11:04 am | Reply
  12. Really?

    No. I'd rather traditional ethnic culture than American "pop culture" which is a material self indulgent arrogant one. Hollywood lost it's spark long ago. Old Hollywood had class, the new none. Just look at who their promoting, Snooki, KK... I'm tempted to add one more K etc.... since like the white supremacists.... They destroy! Well brain cells, intelligent level, a girl's self respect... I could go on. Asian culture is way better, still valuing family education and the more important things in life.
    Author, get a clue about the world outside of Hollywood.

    February 27, 2013 at 3:20 pm | Reply
    • SAWOLF

      Hint: turn off the TV and read.

      May 16, 2013 at 11:26 pm | Reply
  13. Dennis

    What a bunch of whining snots replying to this article. First off we are suppossed to believe that traditional ethnic culture worldwide exists outside commercialism and profit? Nonsense. It could be the beiber or some guy in leather shorts with an accordion – if you can buy the CD or go to the concert it is in the name of profit. Next we are suppossed to buy the idea that Pakistan / China and other countries of their ilk are superior because their culture features family stories promoting cultural values etc. etc. Hogwash. 1. They don´t have the freedom to create the culture they want and 2. that tight knit family unit image they promote just doesn´t exist.

    I am no USA lover. I just know that it is a hell of a lot better than communism or muslim fundamentalism or dictatorships or third world poverty. Hello. Get a grip.

    March 13, 2013 at 12:25 pm | Reply
  14. BanksterTerrorist

    Hollywood is America's Propaganda Arm for Brainwashing the masses. The Black people are FAT. The middle easterners are terrorists, the chinese are animals, the white blondes are pretty.

    Get a clue America. If we all lived like you we would be totally screwed. Progress? LOL

    The real terrorists are on Wall Street and Washington DC.

    Not living behind a 20ft wall in West bank, or in a hut in an Afghan village.

    It was only 70 years ago some White German wanted to change eye color. Today they want to control us and the population with GMO foods. Why do you think biotech and life sciences are so heavily invested in? Is it because we have 230 chemicals coming out of an wxhaust pipe? Or is the 1 Trillion dollars all the pill poppers in this country can stay stupid and dumbed down.

    It's time to take this country back.

    March 16, 2013 at 2:29 pm | Reply
  15. a guy

    "And this weekend, according to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, viewers in more than 225 countries will tune into the Oscars."

    There aren't 225 countries...

    March 21, 2013 at 3:45 pm | Reply
  16. strangerq

    America's far right T party has the same kind of rapid hatred of our own President, as Al Qaeda and the Taliban have for Israel.

    They are the American Taliban.

    March 25, 2013 at 7:04 pm | Reply
    • SAWOLF

      So the right is murdering young girls for going to school and blowing up those that don't agree with them? Don't think so.

      May 16, 2013 at 11:29 pm | Reply
  17. Courses in Biotechnology

    You could definitely see your skills within the paintings you write. The world hopes for more passionate writers such as you who are not afraid to mention how they believe. All the time follow your heart. Courses in Biotechnology

    April 21, 2013 at 12:18 am | Reply
  18. Realist

    Nah, screw the Oscars! It ain't the Oscars that is the most popular annual American cultural/sporting event (in the international stage) – try the NBA Finals! On an aside, anyone with a really sophisticated understanding of films (ANYWHERE in the planet) will look beyond the Oscars for "Good Flix"....

    April 22, 2013 at 2:04 am | Reply
  19. msr42day

    With US President 44 winning the Nobel Prize for breathing, it was as sure bet that Europe was more in favor of whatever his policies (politics) were going to be than what Presidential Admin 43 presented. Europe imagines itself as more politically equitable/fair than USA in terms of caring paternalistically for its population. As to the culture thing, the USA is pretty inventive in how to create entertainment – from talkies to radio to vinyl/digital recordings, to CGI. Note it's always been on the "back" of a newly applied technology. What is the next big "techie treasure" that will host entertainment? Probably something nano-bio that comes in a sport's drink.

    May 4, 2013 at 10:25 am | Reply
  20. Lord Truth

    This is quite an important article which is why I am bothering to write this comment which will probably not be read by more than a dozen or so people...
    The Hollywood game is important because it shows more clearly than anything political the extraordinary ability of Americans to lie about themselves and in telling lies ,get the world to believe them.
    In fact the article even begins with a lie mentioning The Dark Knight Rises a British film made by a British director with British stars and actors a British script on the biggest non sound stage in the world .....Have you read that this film is a British film .No or that it is a British American film?No ...
    And this situation applies to about half of the films known and marketed thoughout the world as American. The new Star Wars films will be made in Britain as were all the previous,probably THREEQUARTERS of Oscar winning films have a British connection.
    The way the American film indusrty which in terms of its real production control is centred in London not New York and certaimly not Hollywood,lies and lies and lies about this non place called Hollywood ,is the most disgraceful thing in the world Hlf of the US industy income..1O,OOO,OOO OOO Dollars has come from British made and created blockbusters.
    America is the greatest lying and thie ving nation in the world without exception.
    Whenever you see or hear the word Hollywood always think of the word LIE ...Incidentally CNNis a great clever distorter of the truthalso despite having rather attractive presenters..but thats another story for another day...

    May 12, 2013 at 8:54 am | Reply
    • SAWOLF

      Wow, let's not forget," The Sun never sets on the British Empire", the r a p e and pillaging of how many nations and peoples?

      May 16, 2013 at 11:35 pm | Reply
  21. Micmac666


    May 12, 2013 at 12:42 pm | Reply
    • Micmac666


      May 12, 2013 at 12:43 pm | Reply
  22. Leroy Linux

    America doesn't even have a culture. Just a bunch of people sitting home watching football or on facebook.

    May 17, 2013 at 1:28 pm | Reply
  23. Jesse

    It's funny how people get on here to hate. When you hate you spread only negative things. Why not just go along. You don't like something. Do something about it. pay attention to your own country and it's ways. Why go into another's. I'm American and Proud of it. I would Die for my country. How can you judge when some of you have never even touched American soil. We all see that big life and that's what motivates us to change and make choices that do better for us. I can understand from where many of you come from but this hate and judging isn't showing anything good. You never even try to view things from our point of view. Why should we for you.

    May 17, 2013 at 2:27 pm | Reply
  24. Maria

    No, never mess with Angelina. We need her as our angel over there.

    June 4, 2013 at 1:20 pm | Reply

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