GLOBALIZATION AND HYPERREALITY: CULTURE IN THE AGE OF

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GLOBALIZATION AND
HYPERREALITY: CULTURE
IN THE AGE OF RONALD
McDONALD
A Tale of Archaeology
In the Year 2997
Archaeologist Gucci Toyota Rolex, a
recent graduate of Ralph Lauren
University(Once Karl Marx University)
in Budapest, sits in his IBM Sensatorium
seeking clues that will help him understand the obscure origins of the major
world holidays. He believes that some of
these holidays, including Coke Day, Elvis
Day, Saint Johnny Walker Day, The Day
of the Levis, Sony Feel-Man Day, and the
Feast of the Seven-Eleven, may have
originated almost a millenium ago in the 20th
or 21st century. But the evidence is far from
clear. No major catastrophe or war has
obliterated the relevant data. In fact, the
period since the likely origin of these holidays
is now known as the Pax McDonald’s, due to
the extended period of World peace that was
ushered in after McDonald’s first entered
what were then known as China, the Soviet
Union, and Eastern Europe. This signaled the
peaceful global conquest by Saint Ronald
McDonald, at a time when McDonald’s sold
only food products and the people of the
World spoke a variety of languages. No,the
lack of data is instead because at some point
after the development of United World
Government and Entertainment Incorporated,
history simply lacked any tension to make it
interesting. There was also convincing
evidence that history was a source of
discontent and neuroses. So when people
learned to stop recording the trivia of daily
and yearly events, history stopped as well.
As a result, even the details of Saint
Ronald’s birth and life are lost in the mists of
antiquity, along with the biographies of lesser
Deities such as Colonel Sanders, the
Michelin Man, and Mickey Mouse.
Although he accepts the catechism that
history is bunk, Gucci hopes that if the roots
of current celebrations and their patron saints
can be pieced together, this proof of divine
inspiration will help stop a strange sociopathology spreading among a growing
number of the people of the earth: heretic
asceticism! Not only does this barbaric and
nihilistic cult refuse to worship Saint Ronald,
they reject all of the major world holidays
and refuse to consume the associated
products and services to which they are
constitutionally entitled. Recently they have also begun
to boycott such sacred sites as Marlboro Country, Ford
Country, Sesame Street, Disney Universe, and even
McDonaldland. What is worse, they fail to show any
enthusiasm for the games, even when such arch rivals as
Nissan and Toyota Contest. Obviously, such heresy is
dangerous and threatens not only the economy, but
essential human values. Gucci has no desire to kindle
nostalgia for a long dead past, but by returning to the
origins of World holidays, perhaps the nonbelievers
can be made to accept the legends celebrated by
these holidays and their sacrilegious apathetic
behavior can be stopped before it spreads
further.
A PLAUSIBLE SCENARIO?
Yes and No
GLOBAL CORPORATIONS

In 1990, 60 countries (excluding Eastern
Europe and those with less than 1 million
people) had GNPs < $1 Billion

In 1990, 135 Multinational Corporations
had revenues > $1 Billion
GLOBAL POP CULTURE
Historically: Slow Culture Contact
Through Soldiers, Merchant Traders,
Missionaries, & Immigrants
 In the Global Village: New Ambassadors
Include Ronald McDonald, Big Bird,
Michael Jordan, Santa Claus, & Tourists

• Santa Among the Hill Tribes
• Big Bird in China
• Ties & Chivas Regal in PNG
HOMOGENIZATION: NONPLACES & WORLD TASTES
Airports, Hotels, & Shopping Malls
 Levi’s, Sony, Toblerone, Mercedes
 Pastiche: World Music, World Cuisine,
World Wide Web
 Global Standard Package
 Consumption Community Creed: Gucci,
Rolex, Armani, BMW, Johnny Walker,
Bang & Olufsen, these are the things in
which we believe.

GLOBAL CAPITALISM &
GLOBAL CONSUMERISM

1979 & 1989-1991

Measuring Materialism
• Status Competition Supplants Envy
Avoidance
• Relative Deprivation & Deservingness
• Sacrifices--Cigarettes in Romania &
Bangladesh, Food for Refrigerators, TVs
without Electricity

Tensions, Frustrations, and Scapegoats
ALTERNATIVE SCENARIOS
Nationalist Resurgence
 Revival of Localism
 Consumer Resistance
 Local Appropriation of Meanings of
Consumer Goods
 Hybridization (Creolization)

• Two-Way
• Coca-Colonization
• Banana Republicanization
REVIVAL OF LOCALISM?
FROM AN AD IN A
BRITISH MAGAZINE
FOR EX-PATRIOT
INDIANS:





“We Indians…
Why do we assume
imported is better?
Why do we think local
means cheap?…
Why do we think
anywhere ‘abroad’ is
better?…
Why don’t we believe
in ourselves?”
HYBRIDIZATION

Chinese New Year, Singapore McDonald’s

Year of the Monkey

Hong Bao Envelopes
HYBRID MCDONALD’S


Ramadan in Turkey
“Free hot Iftar soup if you buy the ‘menu’
during Iftar hours”
HYBRID COCA COLA


“Forever Happy and Free-Spirited”
Faces of Coca Cola
• Atlanta
• Romania

The 1996 Summer Olympics
• Atlanta
• Sydney
GLOBALIZATION &
HYPERREALITY

Local Cultures are Not Just
Appropriated; They are Also Stylized
& Trivialized
• Theme Parks & Megamalls
• Themed Countries & Package Tourism
• Mexico as Gringolandia
HYPERREALITY

On Preferring Hyperreality to
Reality
• The Real Thing (Henry James, 1893)
• The Great Victorian Collection
(Brian Moore, 1989)
• Las Vegas
CONCLUDING
OBSERVATIONS
Advertising is Inherently Hyperreal
 Criticisms of Sanitized, Stylized, FantasyDriven Presentations is Not New:
McDonaldization, Disneyfication,
Carnivalization, Trivialization, etc.
 How Sinister is Ronald McDonald
& Buying the World a Coke?
 Is Finding our Myths and Fantasies in
Corporate Icons so Bad?

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