America being one of the most multi-cultural countries in the world, has too many different cultures to obey all restrictions and limitations in terms of entertainment. Hence, one is able to see a tactful variety of entertainment such as sex appeal, drugs, murder and violence, which attracts the wide variety of TV consumers in America. For instance, Johnson, Aston and Glyn argue that since the 1990s, the screening of sex on American television has become increasingly prolific (par. 1). In the Eastern world, entertainment industries are run very differently and have to obey the cultural norms which are heavily influenced by the society and the major religion of Islam in these specific countries. Therefore, this paper will explore the cultural similarities and differences portrayed throughout the Turkish and American version of the TV series ‘Gossip Girl’. In doing so, this paper will pay close attention to the series’ storyline and character development, in terms of cultural and its barriers, in addition to the social values of what is acceptable in today’s entertainment industry in both countries. This paper will also include Aldridge’s understanding of American culture such as family vs. individualism, Hofstede’s organizational value theory and business cultural understanding.
When looking into culture and how it affects the entertainment industry in both American and Turkish, it is important to understand where culture derives from. A countries culture is the collective idea, customs and social behavior of the selected society, therefore religion is also a major part of what a countries culture equates to. In Islamic religious tradition, the TV is often considered a ‘necessary evil’ that should be used to promote various religious and educational objectives (Al-Atawneh, 2012, p. 409). Thus, even entertainment TV programmes should contain specific religious values and norms. Regardless of the fact that Turkey is often considered to be a secular country, Islamic religion affects the country’s field of entertainment as well. For example, it is argued that the entertainment industry in Turkey goes through censorship to meet the requirements of Islamic religion (Ozturk, 2014). In the meantime, entertainment in the United States is more liberalized, and is not controlled by any religious power. However, the field of entertainment in the United States tends to reflect a number of social stereotypes regarding the status of women in society, the characteristics of different racial and ethnic minorities etc. American media often contains negative images of Black people that has a strong effect o the formation of their identity (Adams-Bass, Stevenson & Kotzin, 2014, p. 367). Apart from this, American television often shows the stereotypical images of women that are emotional, passive and often economically inactive. Thus, if Turkish television is under the control of religious values and norms, the field of visual entertainment in the United States is affected by prejudice and stereotypes.
Gossip Girl is an American teen drama television series based on the book series of the same name written by Cecily von Ziegesar. Gossip Girl includes the lives of privileged teenagers on the upper east side of New York. Serena Van Der Woodsen is a blonde, beautiful socialite and everyone in New York knows Serena, as well as some people abroad. On the other hand Blair Waldorf is Serena’s best friend and she is one of the other main characters, however, the story line goes around Serena, and it’s always about Serena not Blair.
The American version of Gossip Girl, like many other teenage based American TV Shows, includes the main characters’ family background, which is highly important for American culture, more specifically, where their wealth comes from and how the family went about creating the wealth in which they live. In the Turkish version, however, such background information is kept to a minimum. The audience is made to assume the characters are wealthy, how or why is less relevant. This may be because the values of these two countries are different and cultural acceptances are. Aldridge explains that American prosperity is one of the cultural roots in the United States. She argues that ‘earned wealth not inherent wealth is a value that was immediately embraced by American cultural values’ (Aldridge). Thus, it is important for Americans to demonstrate that their wealth was earned legally and thus legalize the property that they own. This need to prove that one’s wealth has been earned as the result of one’s own efforts can also be seen in American concept of ‘self-made’ man that stresses a focus on individual’s agency in shaping his or her economic success. It seems like this value is less important in Turkish cultural context.
In the meantime, the main characters of the TV shows, Blair and Aysegül, share some differences and similarities. They two girls are both very popular and ego-centric. Namely, they both communicate only with those people that potentially can be useful for them. This concept of the ‘mean girls’ is thus present both in American and Turkish culture. However, in terms of the Hofstede’s concept of femininity, Blair and Aysegül are to some extent different because of the differences in the preferences of societies that they live in. Regardless of the fact that both of them physically match the stereotypical images of beauty and femininity, Blair tend to reflect the characteristics of American society, with its emphasis on the importance of achievement and independence. In the meantime, Aysegül’s behavior is characterized by the lower degree of independence. Regardless of being assertive, she is highly dependent on her parents, and, unlike Blair, does not have her own source of economic income.
Story line of Su’s and Serena’s family is different, regardless of the fact that the two families are wealthy. Namely, Serena’s family is often on the boards of all major charity organizations in the city. It is important to note, however, that Su’s family is not as widely engaged in such practices. This might be explained through the higher degree of acceptance and tolerance of American society. Tolerance to people from low-income families, as well as the tolerance to other socially disadvantaged groups of individuals might be one of the ‘push factors’ for charitable activities.
There are significant differences between New York and Istanbul in terms of their urban habitats. According to the Hofstede’s cultural dimension theory, Turkey is characterized by lower long-term orientation than the United States, which is evident from the comparison of the two TV shows. Namely, the urban area in Istanbul demonstrates that traditions are kept and honored in this country. The importance of cultural heritage for modern Turkish population is demonstrated in the way mosques and the architecture that is specific for the Turkish culture is depicted. In the meantime, American Gossip Girl depicts the urban views of Manhattan, where different cultures are to coexist, thus, there are no cultural markers in the urban area that would honor some concrete cultural tradition.
Much like in today’s society, in the American version of Gossip Girl, wealth is seen/shown through the use of new and updated technological devices. Dan, for example, is known to be the less wealthy from the group, this is mainly converted through ones sense of style, but mainly through Dan’s use of an old mobile phone. In the Turkish version wealth is not displayed through materialistic objects, this is simply due to everyone of the characters possessing an I Phone regardless their income.
All in all, it is obvious that Turkish and American version of Gossip Girl have major differences through out their story line in terms of cultural acceptances and cultural values. While in American Gossip Girl it is important for the show’s directors to demonstrate that the wealth of main characters’ is earned though hard work, this aspect of the family’s background is not a focus in Turkish Gossip Girl. Apart from this, there are differences in representation of female images in the two TV shows. While both Blair and Aysegül are assertive and self-centered, Blair demonstrates more independence (which is one of the features of the ‘masculinity’ dimension, according to Hofstede) than Aysegül. Apart from this, differences in the storylines of Su’s and Serena’s families demonstrate that American society is characterized by the higher level of acceptance and tolerance. Thus, the cultural and religious differences between countries are reflected even in such secular types of entertainment as TV shows.
- 21 Sept. Culture : definitions, components and characteristics. Reading : 1.8 Aldridge, M. G. “What is the basis of American culture?” in Jandt, Fred E. ed. Intercultural Communication: A Global Reader. London: Sage, 2004. (Available at http://www.immi.se/intercultural/nr5/aldridge.htm)
- 28 Sept. Organizational and corporate cultures. Intercultural Communications applied, contexts and practices. Reading: 1.2 Hofstede, G. “Business Cultures” in Jandt, Fred E. ed. Intercultural Communication: A Global Reader. London: Sage, 2004.
- Adams-Bass, V. N., Stevenson, H. C., & Kotzin, D. S. (2014). Measuring the Meaning of Black Media Stereotypes and Their Relationship to the Racial Identity, Black History Knowledge, and Racial Socialization of African American Youth. Journal Of Black Studies, 45(5), 367.
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