Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo

Hollywood’s Cultural Impact: Post War Movies and the False Narrative It Has Created

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at SJSU chapter.

Pop culture has a tremendous impact on Western culture and its influence has predominantly been a beneficial one. 

With the rise of technology, pop culture has been thriving which has led to a rise in globalization which is defined as different cultures and societies aiming for interdependency. The significance of globalization means individuals are exposed to new ideas, people, and customs. 

Hollywood is prominent in pop culture as the film industry has been successful in capturing our attention. We often see ourselves in fictional characters or relate movie scenes to our personal life. 

Through the film industry, many of us have experienced an empathetic awakening that we haven’t experienced firsthand. The reason I call it an empathetic awakening is because when we see the struggles of others, even if it’s one screen, we come to understand their community better and become more compassionate.

When done correctly, the film industry provides audiences with the opportunity to learn about the world’s diversity and take a step closer to cultural appreciation and not appropriation.

It’s necessary to understand the difference between cultural appreciation versus appropriation in order to understand the exploitation of one’s culture. Appreciation is taking the time to understand a person’s culture to expand their knowledge. Appropriation is picking and choosing parts of another person’s culture for some sort of personal gain. when Hollywood producers take advantage of these cultures for a profit – this leads to an inaccurate and offensive narrative.

Just as many other first-generation or immigrant young adults living in the United States, it is truly a magical moment to see your ethnicity or culture portrayed on the big scenes. 

Growing up post 9/11 with S.W.A.N.A. parents, the media was not a safe space for us. But first, what is S.W.A.N.A.? It stands for South West Asia and North Africa, a decolonial term for the Middle East that builds solidarity amongst those who experience similar racial discrimination in the United States. The hard truth is that the film industry portrays us with negative stereotypes and repeatedly portrays us as barbaric, oppressed, and savaged.

How do I explain to my fellow classmates that I’m not what the media portrays me as when that’s all they’ve been exposed to in their short lives? 

It leaves us with an odd predicament. I think it is a privilege for me to learn and love my parent’s homeland. To learn their culture, language, and customs is the greatest gift life would have offered me. I grew up within an Afghan culture. However, I spent a large amount of my early childhood attempting to whitewash myself. When I finally decided to take some time and truly learn the culture that my family was raised in, I realized how much I was missing out on. Learning your mother’s tongue exposes you to a whole new world. Once I was able to push away the stereotypes, I wanted to share this new part of myself with others. 

Recently Universal Pictures stated they are working on a “heroic retelling” of Americans during the 2021 evacuation out of Afghanistan, according to a November 2021 NBC News article.  

This movie is being planned while the country is currently going through a humanitarian crisis. There isn’t much heroic storytelling when people are still suffering. Like many can relate, the production of this movie feels like a slap to the face.

It isn’t only the people of Afghanistan who are suffering, but many Afghan Americans relive the traumatic past they have faced due to poor foreign policies from the past 40 years. While the film production plans to make a profit off this movie, people in Afghanistan are still facing a large humanitarian crisis and the wounds of this historic event are fresh for many Afghans abroad. 

The best way to amplify these voices is to consume media that recognizes the struggles these communities endure. Some examples that best illustrate this are books and movies that have first-hand experience with these events.

Some books I recommend are the Child of Immigrant by Neghena Hamidi and the Kite Runner Khaled Hosseini. For movies, I recommend Learning to Skate in a WarZone (If You’re a Girl) which follows the lives of young girl skateboarders in Afghanistan. Also start with reading articles about the region to understand the politics behind it. When you take the time to learn about the politics that lead to where we are today, you’ll find yourself loving the hidden jewels these countries have to offer. 

What are some examples of accurate representation of your culture in the media? Tell us by tagging us @HerCampusSJSU!

Hello! My name is Sabrina and I am a senior at San Jose State University. I'm a pre-law student majoring in political science with a minor in economics.