American Media’s Effect on Our International Reputation

Written by Bailey Ochs. Media by Fallyn Paruleski.

American media, especially television and movies, have come a long way since the black and white films that wouldn’t have thought of showing sexual scenes and using what most would call foul language on the air. Since the internet has been made available to individuals, even less of what is seen on screens around the world is censored. It is no secret that American entertainment is viewed outside of the United States. Around the world, people are watching American television and listening to American music. For some people who do not have the chance to travel, the image of America received through watching and listening to American media is one of few images of this country they will ever get. In many cases, I don’t think that this is helping Americans out internationally. If we really think about what is portrayed in our movies, television, and music, can we say that they represent what real life is like for Americans? Are our values made clear and our lifestyle portrayed?

When I have heard non-U.S. citizens answer the question “When you hear ‘America’ or ‘Americans’ what do you think?” on YouTube or in my own personal experiences, a lot of the answers are not very positive. A couple of answers that are fairly common are “fat” and “loud.”  Some answer that Americans are arrogant and do not know very much about other cultures. They are seen as people who think that they are better than everyone else. Just go onto Google or YouTube and type in “What (insert any country/people group) thinks of America(ns)” and see what people are saying. When I hear these answers, I get frustrated and hope that these people are able to experience different, positive aspects of the United States as well. But what else are they supposed to believe about our culture when our entertainment says otherwise?

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America is still an image of freedom and opportunity for citizens and for immigrants. That is one of my favorite things about living here. But just because it is the “land of the free” does not mean we should use that freedom to debase our own reputation and dignity by making what others see increasingly trashy. Everyone does not have to have the same morals and beliefs about what is right or appropriate. But we need to realize that just because people can party until they are completely out of their minds, make jokes about other nations and races, have sex with anyone they like, and rebel against all authority figures does not mean that they should. Nor does it mean that the rest of us are interested in watching it happen. I am not saying that everyone’s freedoms should be taken away and that we should censor anything that could be controversial. Controversy is a natural result of having freedom. I am saying that when people know that they have a large audience, including people that they may never meet or see, they should realize that what they say and do does not just affect their own reputation. Just like someone who only gets information about Australia from watching one Australian movie will come away with a very one-sided and incomplete view of Australians, the same could happen with American media. Let’s think about what that one view someone might have is going to say about us.

If we have any sort of voice in the world, what do we want it to say? I would bet that if a majority of Americans were polled on the street, they would agree that love, peace, loyalty, compassion, generosity and other similar qualities are good things. If that is what Americans believe, maybe we shouldn’t be advertising the opposite. Why do our movies and television shows have to be so violent, sexual, and self-seeking? In my opinion, we don’t really need to make ourselves look worse in the eyes of the rest of the world by acting like those things do not hurt people. I am not saying that all of our movies and television shows should only talk about happy things and have good messages and end perfectly. That would be boring, not to mention unrealistic. There is evil in the world. We should not censor truth. But what we say about that truth is what is important.

Maybe I am wrong and Americans are really uneducated, chauvinistic, fat, lazy, loud, arrogant, and self-centered. But I do not see America as a whole in that way. However, some people do. We can sit around and hope that everyone takes the time to investigate the good side of America too. Or we could change for the better so that that is who we are as a nation.



  1. Bailey has expressed an unusually insightful perspective on the issue of how others view the U.S. Having lived in other countries, I can vouch for the fact that American movies and television have a powerful impact on how others perceive us. I shudder at the thought that many form their opinions about American young people through what they see on Jersey Shore. But it works both ways. Many Americans think Muslims are terrorists. That’s one of the reasons why I like cultural interchanges, and why I think that there are few educational substitutes for encouraging GC students to participate in missions trips and study tours.
    Thank you, Bailey for drawing our attention to this issue.


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