British & American Influence on Australia
Before 1945, many people, including Australians themselves, considered Australia to be nothing more than a British colony whose national identity was virtually the same as the British. During this period of Australia’s history, our modes of entertainment, food, fashion, sporting culture and our social values and attitudes were largely dictated by British culture. One of the most significant changes to have taken place in Australian society since the end of WWII, has been its drift towards American, rather than British culture.
As the American way of life was projected further into Australia via popular culture, it would rapidly alter the ways we spent our money, entertained ourselves, dressed and socialised. Australia in the 1980s was a mixture of many cultural flavours but America still proved to be the dominant foreign cultural influence. As Australia enjoyed an economic boom, the nation warmly embraced the American consumerist ideal. Due to economies of scale, it is proportionately cheaper – and more profitable – for the American entertainment industry to produce movies, television shows, music etc. than it is for the local entertainment industry to produce the same in Australia. American music artists like Madonna and Michael Jackson swept the Australian music charts in the 1980s as well as American rap and hip hop. This influence would eventually lead to the creation of a small but thriving Australian hip hop scene. American hip hop culture also crossed over into the field of fashion and many Australian youths adopted the baggy pants and baseball caps of their favourite hip hop stars. The rise of video clips also gave overseas artists greater airtime on music television.
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However many Australian acts, such as Men at Work and INXS, were also enjoying local and international success. American films were dominant at the Australian box office. The 1980s became the era of the big-budget action film. The Terminator ,Lethal Weapon, Die Hard, Ghostbusters, E. T. , the Empire Strikes Back were all successful examples from the 80’s. American soap operas like Dallas and Dynasty were popular in Australia in the 1980s. Sitcoms like The Cosby Show and Family Ties rated highly, along with crime dramas like Magnum P. I. and Miami Vice.
Entertainment plays a significant role in forming the culture, beliefs and values of a nation. A strong entertainment industry, therefore, is important to the development of a strong national identity. American words heard on movies, TV etc have buried themselves deep within the Australian language e. g. bro, dude chill out, cool By 1980, there were 105 McDonalds stores throughout the Australia. These outlets offered fast, affordable food that could be consumed in-store or at home. This convenience meant that fast food quickly became an established part of the diets of many Australians.
By the 1980s, lunches, snacks and drinks consumed by Australians were, more often than not, American in origin. The trend towards American convenience foods also affected the amount of time people spent preparing food. By the 1980s, American culture had changed the nature of Australian sport. The uptake of traditional American sports like basketball and baseball boomed in Australia. In the 1980s, for example, basketball was the fastest-growing sport in the country and teenage boys idolised American NBA stars like Michael Jordan.
These changes in sports participation also crossed over into Australian fashion and popular culture. American sports clothing like trainers and baseball caps became extremely popular with young people and both amateur and professional sportspeople began to use high-tech sporting equipment developed in America. The quest for an Australian identity While the British and American influence has played a major role in defining the shape of Australia that we know today, a number of other influences have contributed to the development of the Australian identity.
As new settlers in a harsh, unforgiving land, the Australian identity was long bound to the stereotype of the tough, heroic bushman who fought to tame a difficult landscape. Australian values like ‘mateship’, ‘fair go’ and the ‘Aussie battler’ emerged as a result of this myth. Throughout the prosperous post-war years, however, a new Australian ideal emerged. Typical Australians were no longer stoic bushmen, but laidback, pleasure-seeking suburbanites who owned a ? acre block of land and enjoyed ‘the good life’.
As migrants poured into Australia over the decades, they introduced new stories, traditions and perspectives to Australian culture. The traditional concepts of an Australia as a white British colony, or a land of struggling bush-dwellers, no longer seemed to fit with the diverse new reality of society. Also, as Aboriginal people were finally acknowledged as the original owners of the land, the role of Indigenous values in the construction of a true Australian identity became apparent.
Australian society has absorbed many cultural influences across the decades – not just British and American, but Indigenous, Asian, European and many more. As such, the Indigenous and migrant influence has intervened in the American and British effect on Australian culture. In the face of globalisation, the future of Australia’s unique national identity was increasingly challenged by the development of a global culture. Globalisation, Americanisation and Australian culture American influence had pervaded almost all areas of Australian cultural life in the 1980s.
This process, however, was not unique to this country. It was part of the broader process of globalisation, whereby the cultural, political, economic and social spheres of individual countries were becoming increasingly mixed and interdependent. This process was largely driven by communications technology like the internet. As America was influential in many fields, particularly that of economics and the diffusion of cultural products, the process of globalisation was often considered a process of Americanisation.
Looking to the future Whether or not Australia can continue to carve out a distinct national identity in the face of Americanisation remains to be seen. Australians, however, continue to enjoy seeing their own stories represented on television, in film and in music despite the saturation of American products. Furthermore, many people believe that throughout its history, Australian society has continually absorbed a range of foreign cultural influences and transformed them into a distinctly Australian culture.