Many beliefs held by the people of westernised societies have been questionable and imposing these ideas on people through media plays on the idea of ‘cultural hegemony’. Marxist theorist Antonio Gramsci described cultural hegemony as “the spontaneous consent given by the great masses of the population to the general direction imposed on social life by the dominant fundamental group; this consent is historically caused by the prestige (and consequent confidence) which the dominant group enjoys because of its position and function in the world of production”(Lears: 568). The fact is western cultural influence in media is affecting how we view other portions of the world. Examples can be found in the many stereotypes, prejudiced comments and blatant ignorance for the genuine image of certain ethnic and racial groups.
Examples of this can be found in a recent phenomenon that goes by the name of islamaphobia. Before September 11th, 2001 it was not a term that had been used before. Due to the events involving the so called “War on Terror” George Bush started there rose a stigma revolving around the Middle East and it began affecting the lives of certain people of Arabic descent in the United States and even in Canada. Contemporary media did not aid the attacks on these people by using it as an opportunity to make countless parodies and jokes towards people who wore turbans or anything on their head besides a ballcap. What many people don’t understand is that not only the people of the Islam religion port headwear. Sikhs wear a version of a turban named a ‘dastar’, people of the muslim religion wear them as well. But due to the hegemonic views of the western populations they just all categorize them as “Arabs”
The motion picture “The Dictator” contains countless racial, ethnic, class and gender based stereotypes that no matter how ridiculous area good example of how the media is poking fun at a people whose reputation has been tarnished by incidents that were performed by extremists. In the clip below it demonstrates a cultural stereotype from the movie that Americans are all islamaphobes.
This American Anti-Islamic stigma has moved its way into the schooling system and is turning into a unique form of bullying. With cases of verbal and physical abuse popping up across the United States it is inherent that the racial and cultural hegemonic views change in the following article it gives a few examples of children as young as elementary school being bullied for being associated with the Arabic culture. These views come as a result to the rising stereotypes being expressed through the media.
Another example that was brought to my attention by Professor Jane Tolmie was Jeff Dunham, a skilled ventriloquist, and his act of Ahmed the Dead Terrorist. This comedy routine makes fun of the Muslim extremists and the religion in general, making comments on their approach to gender, other races and towards western culture. This demonstrates another example of contemporary media and their ignorance toward diversity of culture. The video on YouTube has over 5 million views and the following performances have brought in up to 20 million views. This means that millions of people are subject to this stereotyping and the image being portrayed is extremely negative. The mass societal views of the Islamic community have been tainted by shows such as this.
The cultural hegemony that is being held up by these expressions of arrogance towards people of Arabic descent is just one example of the mindless influences of western beliefs on populations. Even the term the “middle-east” is derived from inferring we are the centre. If one were to make a parody movie on slavery in the U.S. or the holocaust it would be immediately discredited due to the fact that they are tabooed by their cruelty. Cultural hegemony can be way to open a populations eyes to an issue that is plaguing contemporary society.
Lears, T.J. Jackson. “The Concept of Cultural Hegemony: Problems and Possibilities.” The American Historical Review 90 (): 568. Print.