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.


South African Filmmakers Move Beyond Apartheid Stories

Films about South Africa once focused on apartheid, but a new generation of directors and producers is making hits about modern life and love for global audiences. [South Africa]


Iraq bans terror prank TV shows

Two Iraqi TV shows that sparked outrage by pranking celebrities with fake suicide vests and staged kidnappings have been suspended. Regulators said that the programs – Tony’s Bullet and Raslan’s Shooting – breached broadcast rules. In one episode of Raslan’s Shooting, an actress passed out in fear after having fake explosives strapped to her. Viewers criticized the shows as cruel and tone-deaf, given the constant threat of militant violence in Iraq. [Iraq]


Excessive censorship handicaps Arab Gulf TV dramas

During the past two decades and with the beginning of satellite broadcasting, Gulf drama production has undergone a transformation. This has developed a local character for TV dramas and cut reliance on shows bought in from traditional suppliers such as Egypt, Syria and Lebanon. But Gulf drama production still faces many challenges which are hindering its development and the wider distribution of its programmes in the Arab world. [Arab Gulf]


First Muslim woman on UK Special Forces TV show describes ‘internal conflict’ at taking part

The first Muslim woman to take part in a popular British TV show, in which contestants are set challenges by former Special Forces members, has described both her pride in taking part but the “difficult situations” she faced linked to her faith and upbringing. Shireen Khan, an aesthetics and tech entrepreneur from London, was chosen among thousands as one of the recruits in the action-packed series “SAS Who Dares Wins.” [United Kingdom]


Is the government trying to regulate the videos you post? What you need to know about Bill C-10

Over the last few weeks, concerns have been growing over the suggestion that the federal government is leaving the door open in new legislation to allowing what you post online to be subject to federal regulations. By removing protections for individuals’ content as part of a series of changes to federal broadcasting law, the worry is that the trendy dance clips or the latest funny dog video you uploaded to YouTube or Instagram could be controlled or monitored. The conversation has been prompted as part of ongoing changes to Bill C-10, which is aimed at imposing regulations on social media companies and streaming giants, similar to those that traditional television and radio broadcasters are subjected to. [Canada]


‘Demon Slayer’ violence draws distinct responses in U.S., Japan

Japan’s highest-grossing film ever, a movie adaptation of the hit anime series “Demon Slayer,” is now screening in the U.S. with an R rating, meaning that those under age 17 must be accompanied by an adult to watch the movie. News of the rating, attributed to “violence and bloody images,” has been met with surprise in Japan, where the anime has a massive fan base among children of all ages. That’s not to say that Japanese parents have been entirely unfazed by the hefty dose of gore that has almost defined the series — some have taken to social media to express their dismay. [Japan]


Overseas release brings Malaysian LGBTQ film to the screen

"We were well aware from the start that the subject matter would have had its challenges in Malaysia and most other Asian territories," says Jin Ong, the producer of "Miss Andy" (2020), a Malaysian-Taiwanese film about the life of a transgender woman living in Kuala Lumpur. The film was released in Taiwan on Jan. 8 to circumvent a likely ban in predominantly Muslim Malaysia, where the LGBTQ community still struggles for equality. The community rejoiced on Feb. 25, when the Federal Court -- Malaysia's highest judicial body -- unexpectedly invalidated a Selangor State law that criminalized "intercourse against the order of nature." The court's ruling that the law was unconstitutional was hailed as a historic development by Malaysian gay rights activist Numan Afifi. But LGBTQ activity remains largely illegal, and Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin's Perikatan Nasional government has recently strengthened criminal penalties. [Malaysia]


Alternative Indian movies: Is Netflix at last embracing cultural diversity?

[W]hile Netflix, like its competitors HBO, Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV and others, are enjoying a global expansion in terms of viewers, for most of its history, it remained Western-centered and predominantly in English. Yet a shift emerged and today the platform, as well as others, offers a wide range of content in non-English languages, produced or directed outside the Western world. One region that has witnessed a growing and much more nuanced representation is South Asia. And while Netflix continues to produce and stream Western stereotypes of South Asia such as the action movie “Extraction”, it has also opened to a number of movies that are also different from the typical Bollywood industry and allow for an unprecedented diversity of languages, narratives, and genres. [India]


To reduce shootings, give guns on TV the cigarette treatment

There’s been a great deal of policy discussion about how to reduce gun violence but relatively little about how to reduce demand for guns themselves. In recent years, we have been examining trends in the use of guns in movies and TV. In one study, we found that the use of guns in top-grossing movies rated PG-13 — open to children of all ages — had increased to the point where their use was more frequent than in R-rated movies, the traditional home for such violence. [United States]


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