Culture Matters

Spherex's weekly insights into the globalization of entertainment.

Understanding international cultural trends and narratives is critical to the media and entertainment industry’s ability to adapt, evolve and innovate.


Impact of US Drama Binge-Watching in the Emirates: Third-Person Effect and Cultural Self-Conceptual

The study investigates respondents’ perception of the negative effects of US drama binge-watching on their cultural values as compared with its perceived effects on the cultural values of others. The study helps in understanding the extent to which Arab residents in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) perceive media’s imperialist influence upon themselves as compared with others. It examines the perceptual and behavioral components of the third-person effect (TPE) in relation to binge-watching TV. Cultural background traits (individualism and collectivism) are studied as an intervening variable. The results showed that binge-watchers of US drama tend to perceive the potential negative influences of US drama to exist more for others than for themselves. The presence of individualist vs collectivist cultural tendency did not have a significant impact on the workings of TPE. The perceptual component of TPE was proved, while the behavioral component was not significant. [Saudi Arabia]


Racist mockery on a Lebanese TV sparks outrage on social media

A popular Lebanese TV show has come under fire for another incident of offensive behavior. “Indian, I’m not sure — but British-Indian…” the latest guest on the consistently criticized MTV Lebanon show “3a Gheir Kawkab” (On Another Planet) explained, before shaking her head — mocking the traditional Indian nod — and in a stereotypical Indian accent, said: “Madame you’re very beautiful.” The show’s presenter — Pierre Rabbat — and other hosts broke into laughter as the paid crowd roared in applause. By contrast, social media exploded with anger at the blatant racist mockery the variety show was presenting. This is now the state of Lebanese television — once a media pioneer of the region that attracted talent from all over — but now a symbol of the country’s dwindling standards. [Lebanon]


Content on OTTs: Between a rock and a hard place

For the last six months, a Mumbai-based producer was deeply invested in putting together proposals for two web shows, to be aired on top video streaming platforms. The script, episodes, director and tentative cast was in place for one, and a firmer plan with actors signed up was ready for the other. Today, both her proposals seem untenable and are on the backburner as their storylines involved depicting media. Other than religion and politics, media, too, is suddenly a taboo topic for India’s over-the-top (OTT) video streaming platforms after the fear psychosis created by multiple complaints, FIRs and court cases against webs shows, their directors and platform executives. The producer, left high and dry with her stuck projects, said she is not alone in her misery. It’s mayhem out there in Mumbai’s content production industry. “Everyone I know is on the edge not knowing what stories to pick. Streaming platforms are turning new pitches upside down and shelving the next seasons of the existing shows for fear of offending somebody— anybody," she said. It could be the government, politicians, religious groups, nationalists— the list is endless. [India]


Netflix removes drug-related film, series from Singapore service after takedown demands from IMDA

Streaming giant Netflix removed two shows with drug-related content from its platform in Singapore, following written takedown demands from the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA).  In its annual Environmental Social Governance report, Netflix said IMDA had requested they remove the series Cooked with Cannabis and the film Have A Good Trip: Adventures in Psychedelics in May and August 2020 respectively. [Singapore]


Fears of censorship after Hong Kong film festival pulls opener for ‘technical reasons’ 

The Hong Kong International Film Festival has cancelled the world premiere of the highly anticipated crime thriller Where the Wind Blows at the request of the movie’s owner and due to “technical reasons” – a term one industry figure says is often used when censorship is involved in the decision. The film from writer-director Philip Yung Tsz-kwong and starring celebrated actors Tony Leung Chiu-wai and Aaron Kwok Fu-shing was to open the festival at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre on April 1. But the organisers announced this week the screening had been axed. The film was made by Hong Kong’s Mei Ah Film Production in a co-venture with mainland Chinese firms Dadi Century and Global Group. Tenky Tin Kai-man, executive committee chairman of the Federation of Hong Kong Filmmakers, said the movie might not have obtained the necessary approval from mainland censorship authorities and the owners did not want to jeapordise the upcoming screening over the border, so they cited “technical reasons”. [Hong Kong]


90 Day Fiancé: Armando & Kenny's Story Censored By Anti-Gay Countries Explained

The fan-favorites of 90 Day Fiancé: The Other Way season 2, Kenneth Niedermeier and Armando Rubio were also the first male same-sex couple in the franchise. Despite their sizeable age difference, the couple’s romance was drama-free, with Kenny and Armando having no fights. The TLC show ended with Kenny moving to Mexico and, through a rough patch of acceptance by Armando’s family, got granted permission to marry. However, these 90 Day Fiancé stars are now facing discrimination of a different kind, as brought to light by Armando who revealed that his and Kenny’s story was censored by governments in Russia and Southeast Asia. [Southeast Asia & Russia]


Film censor BBFC recommends watch list of five movies with transgender themes in bid to 'start conversations' among families about gender issues

The UK's film classification body has recommended a selection of films about the transgender experience in a bid to prompt discussion among families. The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC), which decides on the certification of movies and episodic content, hopes the five films will offer a 'springboard' to the issue for both parents and children. [United Kingdom]


Poland Film Festival Cancelled Over Content of Two Movies

The Polish Ministry of Culture and National Heritage cancelled the online film festival Herstorie for Women’s Day organised by HER Docs allegedly because it contained a segment with movies The Vibrant Village and You Are Overreacting. The organisers of the festival, which was supposed to take place on FINA’s digital platform Ninateka, published a statement saying that the decision about cancelling the festival “for formal reasons” came as “a huge surprise for both us and the event coordinators in the Ninateka team.” The Vibrant Village tells the story of a factory producing sex toys in Hungary, and You Are Overreacting is a documentary about violence against women. Freemuse documented 225 situations of film censorship in 2020, with 16% of them being censored because of the women themed content. [Poland]


How Big Brother Brasil awoke to become a battleground for identity politics

In February, ”Big Brother Brazil's” viewers witnessed “the first gay kiss taking place on a reality TV show in more than two decades, broadcast in South America.” But a few hours after appearing as a bisexual when kissing another black man live on TV, contestant Lucas Pintido left the program. "I tried to be myself in every way," said the 24-year-old actor, who faced the reaction of some of his housemates over the kiss. The other participants, some of them people of color known as LGBTQ, accused Penteado of using the LGBTQ flag to advance the game. “Big Brother in Brazil” [is] currently in its 21st season, and [has] won national accolades for readjusting it to include conversations about race and gender. After it became clear in 2020 that participants who discussed feminism and racism translated into high scores, the final season was strategically planned to include a group with ethnic and gender diversity. Of the participants. Nine of the 20 participants are known to be descendants of Afro-Brazilians, and many of the housemates are members of the LGBTQ community. [Brazil]


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