The Influence of American Culture

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    Jul 02, 2013
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The Influence of American Culture Photo by Aleksandra Kovrlija

American popular culture is the most influential and globally spread culture today. It has expressed itself through nearly every medium. Donald Duck, Mickey Mouse, Elvis Presley, Madonna, Aerosmith, Elizabeth Taylor, Gone with the Wind, jazz, the blues, Rap & Hip Hop, The Simpsons, Michael Jackson, Britney Spears, Superman, Indiana Jones, Sesame Street -  these names, genres, and phrases have joined more tangible American products in spreading across the globe. It is also worth noting that while America may be a great exporter of culture, it also absorbs many other cultural traditions with relative ease. Television is one of the major media in US. Cultural globalization includes the domineering dimension of the media.  American situational comedies (sit-coms) are famous all over the world. They try to provide models of appropriate behavior. During 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, 2000s and the early 2020s, there were many variations of sit-com family: African American families, single- mothers, single-fathers, two-dads, or two-mums. 
In this genre, the family is directly represented in a familiar environment where the emphasis is placed upon social relations rather than upon the wider world of class and economics. Many sit-coms naturalized middle-class life, making it appear to be the norm, the ``natural`` way of things as opposed to the economic determinations and other cultural factors that in reality shape lives. The sit-com has the effect, as a myth of American family life, of masking social contradictions and problems and presenting instead a portrait of life easily resolved and set in established roles and expectations. (Campbell and Kean, 1997: 266)

American cinema has had a profound effect on cinemas across the world since the early 20th century. Its history is sometimes separated into four main periods: the silent film era, Classical Hollywood cinema, New Hollywood, and the contemporary period (after 1980). In 1894, the world`s first commercial motion picture exhibition was presented in New York. The next year, the New York`s audience saw the first commercial screening of a projected film. US was in the forefront of sound film`s development in the following decades. Since the early 20th century, US film industry has largely been based in and around Hollywood, California. Director D. W. Griffin was central to the development of film grammar. Orson Welles`s Citizen Kane (1941) is frequently cited in critics` polls as the greatest film of all time. American screen actors like John Wayne and Marilyn Monroe have become iconic figures. Walt Disney was a leader in both animated film and movie merchandising. The major Hollywood film studios were the primary source of the most commercially successful movies in the world, such as Star Wars (1977) and Titanic (1997).  Classical Hollywood cinema, or the classical Hollywood narrative are the terms used in film history which designate both visual and sound style for making motion pictures and a mode of production between the 1910s and the 1960s. Classical style is built on the principle of constantly editing, or ``invisible`` style. In other words, the camera and the sound recording should never call attention to themselves (as they might in modernist or postmodernist work).  As the result of this principle, we can now enjoy watching such classics as The Wizard of Oz, Gone with the Wind, Stagecoach, Casablanca, It`s a Wonderful Life, City Lights, Red River and Top Hat. ``Post-classical cinema`` is a term used to describe methods of storytelling in the New Hollywood. Chronology is sometimes scrambled, storylines may feature ``twist endings``, and the lines between the antagonist and protagonist may be blurred. Filmmakers like Francis Ford Coppola, George Lucas, Martin Scorsese, William Friedkin and Steven Spielberg contributed a lot to American cinematography. There is no doubt that the world`s cinematography would be less successful without American film artists` contributions.       

The music of the United States reflects the country`s multi-ethnic population through a diverse array of styles. Rock and roll, blues, country, rhythm and blues, jazz, pop, techno, and hip hop are among the country`s most internationally- famous genres. US has the world`s largest music history and its music is heard around the world. Since the beginning of the 20th century, some forms of American popular music have gained a global audience. Many American cities and towns have vibrant music scenes with a number of regional musical styles.  The development of African American musical identity out of various sources from Africa and Europe, has been a constant theme in the music history of the United States. By the mid-19th century, a distinctly African American folk tradition was well-known and widespread, and African American musical techniques, instruments and images became a part of mainstream American music through spirituals, minstrel shows and slave songs. Nowadays, African American musical styles are an integral part of American modern popular music through gospel, blues, jazz, rhythm and blues, rock and roll, soul, funk and hip hop. Country music has long been perceived as a form of white music.  It is also intertwined with geographic identity. Country music is specifically rural in origin and function. On the other hand, other genres, like rhythm and blues and hip hop are perceived as inherently urban. Some important events and representatives of American popular music are: 1908 - First published sheet music using the name blues; Antonio Maggio`s ``I Got the Blues`` emerged as an accessible form of self-expression in African-American communities. Blues diversified in such subgenres/regional scenes as: Delta Blues, Electric Blues, Louisiana Blues, or Chicago Blues and they were represented by the following artists: Sonny Boy Williamson, Bessie Smith, Muddy Waters, B.B. King and John Lee Hooker.  1917 – First appearance of recorded jazz, by Original Dixieland Jazz Band. Jazz played a significant role in shaping American culture and society and it was represented by the following musicians: the 1920s Jazz Era musicians Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington; the 1940s bebop jazz musicians as a saxophonist Charlie Parker, a pianist Thelonious Monk,  and a trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie; or the 1970s and 1980s fusion and free styles of jazz musicians as  a trumpeter Miles Davis, a saxophonist John Coltrane, a bassist Charles Mingus, or pianists Keith Jarret and Herbie Hancock. 1955 – Little Richard recorded ``Tutti Frutti``, identifying rock and roll with manner of performance. Other famous rock and roll musicians were Elvis Presley and Chuck Berry. The expression of this genre culminated in the Woodstock Festival (1969).  This festival featured artists such as Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin. It was Civil Right Movement Generation`s   protest against the Vietnam War. 1972 – Clive Campbell created the blueprint for hip hop music and culture that was founded upon the Jamaican tradition of improvising and including poetry and sayings into music. The deejaying also developed – the process where the breaks of funk songs (usually based on drumming) were isolated and repeated for the purpose of all-night dance parties.  Disco music was very popular from mid to late 1970s. Famous American disco musicians were Donna Summer, the Sunshine Band and Gloria Gaynor.   1980s in music – The 1980s were usually associated with the usage of synthesizers. Therefore, synthpop music and other electronic genres were very popular. The 1980s were characterized by developing electronic genres, including techno, electro, house and freestyle. The most famous American pop musicians were: Lionel Richie, Tina Turner, Prince, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston and Madonna. 1990s in music – This decade was featured by the rise of alternative rock bands. The most distinguished American alternative rock bands were: Hootie and the Blowfish, The Offspring, Nirvana, Alice in Chains, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Soundgarden, Live and Pearl Jam. Teen pop and dance pop trends were also very popular. Rap, modern R&B, and other forms of urban music retained their popularity.  2000s and the early 2020s in music – Teen pop was still very popular in the early 2000s. It was characterized by the success of teenage pop singers: Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera.   This period is marked by noticeable elements such as the common usage of Auto-Tune, as well as the rise of the internet, media player programs such as iTunes and music & video sharing websites such as YouTube.


1. Campbell, Neil and Kean, Alasdair. (1997). American Cultural Studies: An Introduction to American Culture.  London: Routledge.

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