Globalization, Racial Stereotyping, and Cultural Imperialism: 21 Accents
Emily Pellicano and Natasha Yu
Amy Walker is an American singer, actress, and artist who is famous not only as an actress, but also as a YouTube star. In this video called, “21 accents”, she introduces 21 different accents from a variety of countries within the states of America. She is saying basically the same sentence in 21 different accents with different gestures and tones of her voice. Many people “liked” the video on YouTube, and the video had so many comments. However, because of the actress’s use of only English and just a few gestures that are considered as “typical”, this video implies the concepts of Cultural Imperialism and Racial Stereotyping.
The actress in 21 Accents illustrates cultural imperialism in the respect that she concentrates on the English language only, the various accents associated with English, and diminishes culturally unique accents to a two minute YouTube video. Cultural imperialism is a concept in which one culture, specifically Western culture, infiltrates into other countries, typically developing countries, and diminishes the established and unique culture that is already present and developed (Croteau, Hoynes, & Milan, 2012, p. 250). Cultural imperialism establishes a dominant culture that moves into another region and this culture is typically viewed as “better” than the established culture that is present. She simplifies the unique accents of regions, such as Europe, into short lines of her age, name and region of the accent. The mannerisms and use of English only as a base for all language used in the video suggests that English, specifically Western English, is first and foremost before other languages. This establishes that English language is dominant.
Furthermore, it diminishes the uniqueness of each accent, given that many of the accents are actually indications of another language; for example, the French accent is an indicator that the speaker is typically fluent in the French language. The clip concentrates on the French accent that results from the person speaking English, and the actress completely disregards the unique French language. This film illustrates the way in which through media, that Western culture and specifically, language, begin to infiltrate into other cultures, and diminish the language already established.
In the video, whenever the woman switched from one character to another, she used not only different accents, but also different gestures and tones of the voice. Wilson, Gutierrez, and Chao (2003) suggested the concept of, “Racial stereotyping in American culture” (p. 190). The concept in a nutshell is that because such minorities are comprised of a relatively small part of the population, mainstream media did not see them as an important segment of the mass audience. It does not necessarily have to do only with racial differences, but it also has to do with regional differences. Therefore, when it came to media content, racial minorities were either ignored or stereotyped. In this video’s case, the regional differences are stereotyped. Because many people often see people speak the way the woman in the video represented in media, the video was then able to bring sympathy to people. That is how the video got so many hits and “likes”. Based on globalization, people will be exposed to media that contain all the different cultures and languages. Therefore, racial and regional stereotyping is one thing that will always take parts.
Despite the number of “likes” and positive reviews, the actress and her video illustrate cultural imperialism and racial stereotyping. Two concepts that are prevalent in mass media, and other media that we ourselves and the world encounter each day. The world is becoming interconnecting, across oceans, continents and states, and with this connection, we must become aware of what our media is based upon.