Film and movies are one of the most effective and accessible forms of culture and art around the world. While politics and governments are repeatedly portrayed in cinema around the world, there is a very strong opinion revolves around the movie lovers, i.e., films and movies are often used as government and political propaganda. Politics, foreign policy and U.S. cinema have long been en interlinked with each other. From cold war film exchanges to WWII screening in different parts of the world, movies are used as a form of cultural, diplomatic outreach. The collaboration of U.S. diplomacy and cinematic representation has evolved as a result of distorted perceptions of culture and contentious international relations. There are predominant issues regarding power and soft power which is important in laying the theoretical groundwork in regards to movies and literature. This essay will predominantly evaluate the issues related to energy and soft power, public and cultural diplomacy, the role of culture and perception in foreign relations. The essay will further dig dip into the knowledge of the U.S. in abroad, cinematic reception and representation of the real-life event to portray a critical analysis over the chosen argument. The essay will predominantly delve into the way political events and propaganda is portrayed in Hollywood movies over the years.
Edmund Gullion first coined the term public diplomacy in 1965 about the process of cultural and international relation. Later, several studies have shown the way cultural and international relation is portrayed in the films for the best interest of a country. There are multiple theoretical frameworks associated with the topic “Films as diplomacy”. Due to its vast expansion throughout general understanding of culture and polity, conceptual framework such as notions of power, the conceptualization of communication, audience or reception analyses and perception of U.S. on abroad plays an effective role in satisfying the chosen argument. Hence, public diplomacy is seen as a type of governing people to improve people to people outreach through education and art intending to captivate international society in a way that politics and governments are influenced.
The concept of power is extremely crucial to this argument. There is a range of abstract theories of power associated with different fields such as sociology, political sciences and philosophy. Understanding the power relations in a typical society is quite important concerning the understanding of the formal institutions of a country (Lugowski, 1999). Even in western societies, power tends to be centralized. Several studies have integrated to identify the conceptualization of tactics and strategies and conceptions of hegemony. It predominantly helps in identifying the interrelation between power and these determinants. The concept of power is typically defined in different ways depending upon a particular context. The application of force in U.S. A has been largely depicted as coercive as well as soft. If power is considered as someone’s ability to achieve goals, resources such as education, military force, legitimacy or credibility, and attractive ideas are the entities that change the behaviour of others directly or indirectly.
Films are a definitive way of communicating with a large number of people. Hence, it is quite evident that movies are targeted by propagandists to achieve greater objectives. Hollywood has a very strong connection between U.S. politics and international diplomacy. Thus, it impacts U.S. politics to a significant extent. Anecdotally, the content of most programs and movies tends to promote the positions of liberals, which can lead to broader acceptance of such situations. It includes gay marriage, LGBTQ and the supposed police. If you question that, all you need do is pay attention to what now passes for comedy at award shows.
At the same time, there are a lot of voters who reject Hollywood’s ideas out of hand (Kord and Krimmer, 2013). Those voters see no reason to think that celebrities have an any better sense of what is good policy or not than just regular folks (and many come across as fairly dim). A sense of us vs them can develop as a result, with most of the 'us' being people in the middle of the country (which Trump won handily) and them being the Hollywood and media elites, concentrated on the West Coast and New York. However, the influence of celebrities is limited. Its effect is greatest in the places where liberal ideology already has a stronghold. Inclusion of progressive ideas in entertainment programming likely has more of an impact, certainly over time.
The process of connecting with everyday people in different countries is a critical task. In this day of globalization, there are several ways of global communications. Therefore, the scope of ‘culture blend’ has also increased drastically. International relations in terms of economic social and political transactions have improved (Van Zoonen, 2007). Hence, the relevance of public diplomacy has also increased. Public diplomacy was revolutionized in the mid-1990s when the idea of nation branding was surfaced. Nation branding is where the national governments look for associating their identity of a country by fabricating an emotional component that can be identified by peoples worldwide. The strategic self-presentation of a country largely depends on the medium through which it can be presented over a diverse population (Questia.com, 2020). Therefore deductions can be made from this statement about how public diplomacy focuses on influencing the perception or opinion of people abroad to create an environment that is equally receptive and useful for promoting national interest or meeting foreign policy goals. There is much academic debate on whether American public diplomacy projects continue to focus on making a wider audience informed about U.S. (Dittmer, 2011). The public diplomacy of America has an extensive propagandistic history. In the contemporary scenario, it is linked with branding, that resulted in the formation of new and innovative ways to inform people about certain foundations of a country.
Cinema and art, on the other hand, involves a complicated dynamic. Movies can reflect the culture in a multidimensional way. It is the most effective form of educating people about a different culture and their details. It is extremely crucial to understand that a lot of people around the world watch movies just to create a perception of different cultures. The involvement of movies in precipitating ideas about a certain religion is quite common. Aitken (2011) stated that cultural diplomacy is a variation of public diplomacy with mixed objectives. In other words, cultural diplomacy aims to be to develop various modes of creative expressions to enhance a country's image and to promote understanding about cross-cultural transactions of thoughts on the globally relevant matter—the government funds such diplomacy. Hence, the best interest of the government is to generate maximum return on investment. Therefore cultural diplomacy is used as a tool to public diplomacy and soft power. Thus, it acts an increasingly important form of their creative expression.
The influence of media in cultural diplomacy is a widely researched topic. However, there are disputes on the findings of most of the researches. A lot of scholars identify that pictures tend to have more effect on a person’s mind than words. Displaying images can affect attitude and help in correct misinterpretations and misperceptions and convey the desired information. USA government understand the facts and implied this strategy in different instances. For example, anti-American sentiments in Bulgaria have been troubling U.S. imports for a much longer time now. In order to improve the situation, a form of cultural diplomacy was implied by the USA governments where average Muslim lives in U.S. are portrayed to be very happy (Martin, 2020). Some prominent studies have shown that this technique helped in changing the perception among people and reduced the American sentiments to a small extent. This portrays that moves can be an effective source of adjusting people's knowledge about certain aspects. There is a growing importance of perception in international relation. The possibilities are so high that some scholars have identified it as a new power along with economic, political, military and soft power that is perceptual. These scholars argue that to harness the energy, strategic diplomacy efforts must be integrated using sophisticated knowledge.
However, some researchers also argue that although there is some advantage of using the power of perception, it takes a lot of time and other soft investments to gain a satisfactory output. Therefore, the government should focus on developing an actual policy that helps in increasing reach. For example, in this day, the emergence of social media has opened new ways to reach to a wider number of individuals. Hence, a lot of government is focusing on achieving a mass by offering them cultural integration in a variety of ways. This method is cost-effective and easy to imply.
The history of communicating across boundaries is quite large. Before and During WWI and WWII, International communication was only used to transmit and absorb propaganda and psychological warfare. However, as the cold war began, the idea of gaining core public opinions has increased drastically (Harman, 2019). While more research was done on this topic, a range of theories and models were developed to influence the communications field. The findings were partly bared by the government and the profitable nongovernmental organization. The emergence of capitalistic society fuelled it, and the influence of government is reduced. In the contempo5ray scenario, the political objectives are communicated through the media in three different ways, i.e. framing, priming and agenda-setting. Priming is typically a psychological process that involves memory traces, while agenda setting involves motivating the salience of specific issues as depicted by the audience. Framing, on the other hand, comprises of both audience and media frames. Depicting culture and polity in movies can be an effective way of implementing all three forms of communicating across boundaries.
In an ostensibly democratic country, every facet of life, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant, is presided over by either is elected official or someone appointed by an elected official. It is impossible to exist truly apart from politics. Like everything else, movies are, whether we like it or not, political (Weldes, 1999). The selection of the hero reflects the identity politics of the day, as does the range of the villain. The nature of the conflict central to the movie can also be deeply political. Films reflect how society is today; there was a time in movies where women were slapped, and it was considered romantic, now it would look like domestic abuse. There was a time white actors had to do the blackface to play the role of the African-American. As African-Americans were not accepted in Hollywood, the political climate at the time was just not taking off them.
The first one is the Chinese version; they purposely made John Boyega smaller on the poster so he would not be noticed because they (movie studios) were scared that the movie would be less appealing if a non-white actor represents the franchise in China.
Black Panther the movie has a couple of political overtones. The film was released in Korea with the poster of a masked person whereas the original poster is different in the USA. These projections show how filmmakers are afraid of non-acceptance of the film in wider communities.
Although these examples are quite appropriate in the context of political overtone, some arguments contradict with this perception (Researchgate.net, 2020). A quite common theory is that Hollywood tends to prioritize profitability with the help of supporting a political agenda.
Several critical aspects can be integrated into the overall scenario depicted here. It is quite evident that the USA has a history of using media in a propagandistic way. However, in contemporary perspectives, things have become quite rational. However, movies have become one of the primary sources of government and political parties to connect with global communities. The depiction of society, lives and community of America in Hollywood movies is largely used for showing the things to the world that can be beneficial for the country. A lot of researchers, however, argued that it is choir natural for a country to show its ideological perspectives to a global audience. Socially derived information tend to involve cognitive schema, common stereotypes and frames which is responsible for influencing the way people think and interpret the data. There are controversies around anti-Americanism that try to identify if rationality or irrationality plays a role in the overall scenario. It is an important aspect to think that whether any anti-America sentiments are based on arguments as opposed to prejudices (Washingtonpost.com, 2020). It can be seen that internationally opinion regarding the U.S. has a multidimensional nature. This often leads to different outcomes and leading to false judgement. Multiple researchers have identified that the allegations of communicating political propaganda through films are mostly irrational (Nytimes.com, 1982). However, that doesn't mean there are the government does no such activities. However, the addresses are not on point, which leads to a false outcome. Whether the government has a propagandistic nature or not, Hollywood has an important soft power of the U.S. government.