Worlds Apart: nation-branding on the National Geographic Channel
Ishita Sinha Roy advances her argument that visual fetishes, or symbolic representational cultural images, are used to create a “nation-brand” similar to those used in creating a commercial product identity. She uses the National Geographic Channel’s reality series, Worlds Apart, as an example by representing “brand-American” as the “family-as-nation,” and promoting the desirability of the American culture, image, and ideologies.
|academic||45 minutes||ISHITA SINHA ROY||http://journals.sagepub.com/|
|Ishita Sinha Roy||2018-06-19 00:00:00 UTC|
In this article, Ishita Sinha Roy examines her contention that the 2003 reality television series, Worlds Apart, from the National Geographic Channel (NGC) can be considered a form of “nation-branding” and a “neocolonial text.” She asserts that intercultural exchanges inform “nation-branding strategies” and that “fetishized visual codes” help set a culture’s or nation’s image. Roy suggests that a “neocolonial hierarchy of nations” was formed after World War II, with power centered in the richer, more industrialized nations such as the USA. Worlds Apart is one of several reality shows allowing American viewers to explore the world from their own homes. This show placed middle-class American families in rural communities of the Global South, and followed the participants (and their host families) for ten days as they moved from “culture shock” to the return home with a “renewed appreciation for family and nation.”
Roy’s thorough analysis of the show points to “how fetish signs are used to ‘fix’ nation-brands.” She suggests, in the sections of this paper, the several types of fetishes he finds in Worlds Apart. She defines the word ‘fetish’ in multiple ways, including the etymological roots, the anthropological meaning, and in Freudian and Marxist terms. In the show, Roy identifies “food, race, woman, and family” as “the fetish signs of the host cultures,” as both restorative and oppositional to the modern American “brand.” The set-up to each show seems designed to highlight the “otherness” of the host community; a few minutes are devoted to a view of the American participants’ usual lifestyle before they are placed in a deliberately “traditional…not overly westernized” host community. Roy suggests that this “dramatic contrast of lifestyles” highlights the disparities and recreates the colonial “tension of ’culture’ vs. civilization’” thus improving the image of the American brand for the viewing audience.
Ishita Sinha Roy is Associate Professor of Communication Arts/Theatre at Allegheny College: http://sites.allegheny.edu/comart/faculty/ishita-sinha-roy/
Behind Geographic's Reality Series, Worlds Apart: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2003/04/0422_030423_worldsapart.html
- Resource from: FRAMED the film’s No Action Context First Kit