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American Influence over New Zealand Culture

Since the start of the American Invasion of New Zealand in 1942, New Zealand has become greatly dependent on America. From political to fashion, culture and entertainment, all areas of New Zealand life have been increasingly influenced from our relationship with the United States. Our loyalty/dependency to our once influential homelands in Britain, England especially, has been slowly washed away in the tides of American culture that floods the New Zealand citizen everyday.

Just walking down the main street of any New Zealand town you dont have to look too far to see a touch of America. Teenagers walk down the street, pants baggy and wearing hoodies. Music from shop radios drift onto the street, at least a 75% chance that the song is American made. The shop windows display Americanised tabloid magazines whose covers are littered by American Celebrities and their tragic love triangles. Next to the tabloid magazines sits the New Zealand version of Americas T.

V Guide, in its pages news and show times of the hundreds of American shows that crowd New Zealands televisions channels. Inside the store American confectionary lines the front of the store, Fruit Bursts, Nestles chocolate and a hundred others. In the corner sits a stand that holds a selection of Top 40 music Compact Disks, all American artists. And in the refrigerated drink units Americas product spearhead, Coke, sits cooling away waiting to be snatched up by the next customer who walks in.

People line up at the movie theatre next door, five movies showing, all American. In the street outside a Ford Falcon is parked, another passes by on its way home. As the Ford Falcon pulls up its driveway you can see that even at home there is no escape from the relenting influence of the American juggernaut. In the garage, the fathers home away from home, an American Ford calendar hangs; on its pages are all American girls half naked and crawling seductively over all American cars. American brand electronic equipment is spread though out the house.

In the kids bed rooms the walls are plastered with dozens of posters of teen pop super stars and the latest young actors and actresses from Hollywood. The rooms are virtual shrines to all that is the American celebrity. In their shelves numerous CDs, DVDs and video games are stacked, almost all are American. Their wardrobes are lined back to back with American labels, Sean Jones; P-Diddys jeans label is evident in the drawers. Britney Spears new perfume becomes a centre piece of the dresser in the corner.

Finding something uniquely New Zealand culture is a near impossibility. A bone carved necklace lies on the desktop, but something that was once only carved as a hook or art of Maori in origin now has been carved to resemble the new symbol for a sons new favourite American rock band. In the kitchen, next to the bin, is a small pile of empty Kentucky Fried Chicken boxes, left over from the weekly Friday feed of American takeaways eaten the day before. In the freezer, stacked like bricks, are boxes upon boxes of microwave dinners and easy quick cooking frozen food.

Long gone are the days of starting to prepare a nice home cooked meal from scratch, not when you can nuke it. Out the back of the house are a few small slabs of concrete and a worn Basket Ball hoop where the kids have spent countless hours dreaming of becoming the next Michael Jordan. But even with this abundance of Americana in their own home, the family, if asked, would remain adamant that they really arent too affected by American culture. This is because it has now become part of our own. The transition from English to a more American New Zealand started right back in 1942.

The war in Europe was in full swing and New Zealand had begun to rally the troops. All able men were conscripted into the New Zealand army. Japan had begun its attack of several Asia/Pacific Islands. Pearl Harbour had just taken place and America was looking for launching pad for its counter strike against Japan. As the Japanese expanded in the Pacific and British control of the seas weakened, New Zealand was on the verge of pulling its men from the war in Europe to defend the country.

Winston Churchill, the English Prime Minister, turned to the U. S President Roosevelt to send troops to New Zealand in aid of the small pacific nation. The United States saw this as a perfect opportunity to establish a staging post for operations against the Japanese within the Pacific (Phillips, J). Thousands of US soldiers poured into New Zealand. It was the first time for many New Zealanders that they had encountered Americans. By May 1943 there were more than 40,000 U. S troops (Fig. 1) in New Zealand. American forces were always at some point of comings to and from the war in the Pacific.

The Americans trained hard in New Zealand but since New Zealanders had a very different idea of leisure, the American soldiers had to make their own entertainment when it came to time off. Baseball games, jazz concerts and dances were all started up by the American troops. And in special Red Cross Clubs cheap hamburgers, doughnuts and Coke were sold. The New Zealand public was so interested in these new American activities that at one point, January 1943, 20,000 people turned up to watch a game of baseball at Athletic Park in Wellington.

Everything from Basketball to Ice skating was set up by the soldiers. Americana was taking New Zealand by storm. When the last of the American troops finally left New Zealand shores in late months of 1943, most New Zealanders felt a loss from their brief yet almost romantic experience with the Yanks. The whole experience could have been straight from the pages of a Hollywood film script. In the 1950s great technological achievements ment that over seas media began to flow into New Zealand.

The picture theatre had been a source of youth entertainment for some time; in the 1950s American films such as Rock around the clock and The man with the golden arm introduced new attitudes and fashions. Teenagers adopted a new looklonger hair, brighter clothingthe styles of the ‘bodgie’ or ‘widgie’ (NZHistory. net) In the 1960s New Zealand was bombarded with music from the shores of the United States. American artists like Glen Miller started to replace the music previously influenced by Britain such as composers like Gilbert and Sullivan. In cafes Jazz music was becoming extremely popular.

Although their were exceptions, like the Beatles, most of the music occupying New Zealands youth was that of the United States. Through the 1970s 80s and 90s New Zealands youth followed every trend and style of fashion that its American media could feed them. And by the time 2000 rolled around the American identity had in a lot of ways blended seamlessly into New Zealand culture. Both Hip-Hop and the more edgy hard-rock/metal scenes, both very American styles, had become the base foundations for the New Zealand youth. It wasnt just the music, it was the whole image.

Clothing, hair style, social commentaries were all influenced in the image of American celebrities. All though we are still influenced from other countries and cultures, like Europe and Britain, New Zealand now shares more in common with that of the American culture. Through the films we watch, the music we listen to, the books we read and the clothes we buy, we are always incorporating the ideas and ideals of our American cousins. For good or for worse it seems that the fate of our countries culture lies hand in hand with that of the United States of America.

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