For many years American pop-culture has had great success in traveling to other parts of the world, and taking root. Of course, American films and Hollywood are probably one of the most successful forms of cultural colonization. However, this seems to have changed a bit in the last few years. Films and televisions shows from other countries are finding homes in the U.S. A plethora of television shows that have been remade are readily found, and films either directly made in other countries or funding by from outside the U.S.
Fans of genre fiction are likely to have spotted this with the return of Dr Who. Years ago, this television series was often relegated to late night showings on PBS stations. It was thought campy, difficult to understand, and low budget – and mainly had a cult following in the U.S. Today, the new Dr Who is thought to be campy, sometimes difficult to understand, and higher budget, but it has more of a mainstream genre following (I’m not sure what “mainstream genre” is, so just go with me on that one).
There has always been a style to the Dr Who series, one that in the past was thought to be to borderline humorous for serious SF/Fantasy viewers. Now it has picked up quite a following, and has spawned a related series named Torchwood (it seems this one is too steamy for the U.S. market).
In films, 28 Days Later arrived on U.S. shores with a burst of energy – it even has Christopher Eccleston, also known as the “9th Dr Who.” It is a fast paced zombie-like film, where the characters find themselves in a world suffering from an overdose of “rage.” It follows the apocalyptic zombie storyline, but has a few twists. Perhaps most notable is the lack of American actors and the setting. It lacked the camp of Dr Who, but it certainly had its own, non-standard Hollywood perspective. This film hit with such success that another is in the works.
Following fast on the heels of 28 Days Later was Shaun of the Dead. As this film is a horror/comedy, some of the campy features return – all for the good. Yes, this is a zombie film and a romantic comedy. And it is something more like The Office (another British import, later Americanized). Shaun, the protagonist, simply doesn’t see that he isn’t living life, and most of those around him are already dead – zombies or not. There have been similar American films, but none seemed to have gained the success of this one.
This leads me to the Sci-Fi Channel’s remake of Flash Gordon. This is an American hero, but with some of the original FG's (unintentional?) campy qualities. It seems that the revivified version of Flash Gordon is playing to the Dr Who market, but adding an American hero and setting instead. Honestly, I never thought that Flash Gordon would ever see the television screen or theaters after its last incarnation when Queen performed the soundtrack (that version was also campy). But maybe this time around, viewers are ready for that flavor of production.
There are countless other films and programs that are produced in conjunction with the BBC, many of which are very “Hollywood” and very British at the same time. Most have meet with success in the U.S. market. And I’ll not go into all of the other countries following this path (it wouldn’t fit with the title of this post), but there are plenty out there. I can only wonder how much this will change the American notions of film and fiction.