Americanization of Foreign Media

David Tennant as Alec Hardy in Broadchurch from http://tennantnews.blogspot.com

David Tennant as Alec Hardy in Broadchurch from http://tennantnews.blogspot.com

Recently I found out that David Tennant will be in the American version of Broadchurch called Gracepoint apparently reprising the same character, although under a different name. Now when I originally heard they were going to do an American version of Broadchurch I was not particularly surprised. There seems to be a history of us thinking the story will work in America, but we do not just want to take the story as is and instead wanting to relate it more to the American experience, I guess. When I heard that David Tennant was reprising his role in the American version it just made the whole thing seem kind of pointless. Broadchurch was such a good show and so well done. The humanity of the story is understandable even if you are not British. They technically did show Broadchurch on BBC America already, but I wonder about other channels getting the rights to showing foreign shows. I do wonder if it is part of the fact that we feel need to “Americanize” the foreign media.

This show is not the first time that we have seen a foreign media changed to an American version of the same story. It is the fact that it is using the same actor that just seems to make it even more ridiculous. I love David Tennant as much as the next, but why do we have to make something new if the original still works.

Cultural References

One piece that I can kind of appreciate is the desire to have the audience understand all the cultural references in a show. We want people to be able to connect to the situation and characters and I can appreciate how that can be easier if we relate to the situation being shown us. At the same time I do not think it should be that important. There are basics that no matter where you are you can understand and possibly even learn a little about a different culture. It is cynical of me, but it definitely feels like an example of American arrogance to want to make a new version of a foreign media. It seems to be saying that we can do it better or that we cannot think of our own original ideas. I know every case is different, but it feels that way sometimes.

Subtitles

Another place that I can understand wanting to remake a piece of foreign media is when it would have to be subtitled. A lot of people do not like watching things if they have to deal with subtitles (something that also feels a little bit arrogant, but that is a different issue). If you really want people to watch something it drops if they have to read subtitles, probably especially for a show of some sort. There are quite a few Japanese movies that have been redone with American actors for this purpose I am sure. I have read various discussions about the fact that the Japanese version is often better and yet most Americans will see the remade version. Dubbing a live action sequence has never turned out well as far as I have seen, so remaking it is really the way to get a wider audience. At the same time how narrow minded that we are not willing to watching these things in their original language. With the example of Broadchurch it doesn’t even have to do with subtitles so it makes it even more ludicrous to me.

Money

Okay the other piece that needs to be mentioned is the fact that there is probably money to be made. If you just reshow what has already been created you are not increasing your own assets. By buying the rights to the story and recreating it then you are creating a commodity that you can sell yourself. I have mentioned the cultural reasons for doing something different, but we cannot discount the monetary reason. If we think people are more likely to buy it as a remade piece of media then we will most likely try and recreate it. The reason they are using David Tennant in both versions is because he is popular right now and therefore he works for both options.

Broadchurch to Gracepoint

Gracepoint has not aired yet, so we cannot really make too much of a judgment call on what the series is going to be like. Is David Tennant going to be reprising the same character, but doing an American accent? How will the story be changed for an American audience? The mystery of this series was so well done it will be interesting to see if it holds up. I have to say originally I was probably not going to watch Gracepoint, but now that it has David Tennant it makes me interesting to compare the performances and the characterizations.

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2 responses to “Americanization of Foreign Media

  1. I was also surprised by the move to make Gracepoint with David Tennant. I’m not sure having him in it is really based on his popularity, since he’s not really at his height internationally right now – if he wanted to try to make a move toward Hollywood, he should have done it right after Doctor Who. He’s always struck me as an actor who’s more content on British stage than in film or TV, so doing Gracepoint at all seems odd.

    I think that you discount the importance of the cultural references and subtitles a bit too much. When I first started watching Doctor Who, I couldn’t understand Christopher Eccleston at all, and the same thing happened when I watched Tennant’s other performances, and his Scottish accent isn’t all that heavy. (I’m now very comfortable with many of the British accents – DW has expanded my horizons.) If you’re not used to an accent, having to figure it out detracts a lot from enjoying the show, and there are quite a number of different accents in Broadchurch. I’d think it would also be difficult for an American audience who has to figure out what a DI or a SOCO or an A&E is while trying to pay attention to the plot.

    I’m hoping that with Chris Chibnall writing Gracepoint, it will be well-done, but I’m not holding my breath on it. I am much more looking forward to Broadchurch 2.

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    • I can definitely see how my experiences make me underplay the importance of cultural differences and subtitles. I have had the privilege to travel and have never had a problem with accents. So it is not as much of a distraction for me. It makes me wonder how other countries experience our media. Looking at the domestic versus international revenue for movies might be a place to start.

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