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?