THE BRIDGE: CULTURAL PROXIMITY AND LINGUISTIC DIFFERENCE

International productions offer a window into other nation’s cultural values and ideals. Programs produced by foreign cultures will contain elements that the viewer is both familiar and unfamiliar with. How we respond to these shape our viewing experience and also play a large part in creating and developing our understanding of foreign environments and cultures.

Globalisation, facilitated by technology has led in one sense to a level of homogeny within texts, but at the same time it has provided access and distribution of a wide range of texts from all over the world.

Bron/Brohen or The Bridge is a Swedish/Danish produced crime-drama television series. It follows a drama structure similar to the American crime-drama we are so familiar with in the Western World, however there are many noticeable differences in the way the story is told and the production elements employed. Unlike the American crime-drama, The Bridge is its own genre. A scandinoire, it revolves around political tensions with characters that are neither purely good or bad. The development of this dark genre can be seen equally as a as a development of a single genre from a culture that harbours suspicion towards government and figures in powerful positions due to past events and a way of appropriating a popular Western genre for the Scandinavian audience. 

Glocalisation is the concept that a product is more likely to succeed if tailored to the local community. Roberston (2012) suggests that “…contemporary locality is largely produced in something like global terms, but that certainly does not mean that all forms of locality are thus substantively homogenised…”. It is clear that American culture has infiltrated many socities via the media and it’s powerful influence has in turn led to homogeneity in the content on our screens. This is derived largely from our desire as an audience to be connected to texts. The Bridge is not directly a product of glocalisation as it does not seek to replicate all the features of American crime-dramas for a Scandinavian audience. It does however incorporate certain elements that the Western audience find familiar.

The Bridge has that polished, ‘fashionable’ look incorporating muted colours, a shallow depth of field that is similar to current popular American films and TV such as I Origins, Elementary and Hannibal. Though this look will date, it is one familiar aspect of the text that elevates it across many cultures, creating appeal to a wider audience through the style of production.

 Linguistic dissimilarity (and the fact that conversations occur in Danish and Swedish) being a key difference, La Pastina & Straubhaar (2005) highlight what may seem an obvious point, that “…audiences will tend to choose to watch television programs that are closest, most proximate or most directly relevant to them in cultural and linguistic terms”. This is largely true and linguistic proximity does play a huge role in what content we choose to engage with, and the content that is available for us to engage with. In conversation with some friends who are not media students, but are avid consumers of TV, many of them agreed that they find shows in foreign languages too hard to follow simply because the act of having to read the subtitles and process the information is something that they are not used to. Furthermore, often simply the unfamiliarity with foreign names can make the viewer feel isolated from the experience.

Having studied French for sixteen years and recently travelling Europe I suppose that my interest and passion for foreign texts, particularly European films, is largely based on my familiarity with the language and culture. Over Christmas I spent two weeks with a Swedish family and visited multiple cities and the countryside. Whilst I was there I watched The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and fascinated with the dark mystery, upon my return I went on to read all the texts so my interest in The Bridge is enhanced because I can identify with the landscape.  

I enjoy foreign texts and the level of engagement they demand from the audience in terms of linguistic and cultural understanding. I find America’s need to adapt series for the American audience an intriguing concept. The Bridge has been adapted for both the French/UK audience as The Tunnel and the US audience as The Bridge (US). Their appraisal has not been anywhere near as widespread as the Swedish/Danish original version.

 


 

Multiple proximities between television genres and audiences: The schism between telenovelas’ global distribution and local consumption, Pastina, Antonio C. La ; Straubhaar, Joseph D., Gazette, June, 2005, Vol.67(3), p.271-288, via class handout on August 22 2014

Globalisation or Glocalisation, Roberston, R., Journal of International Communication, 2012, Vol.18(2), p.191-208, accessed August 25 2014

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