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Culture and the Mass Media in the Bahamian Society

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Submitted By ZBETHM
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Culture and the Mass media in the Bahamian Society To me culture is the learnt characteristics of a particular group of people within a country and helps define it from any other country. Examples of Bahamian culture include our cuisine, music and arts, dress, social habits and dialect. The culture of the Bahamas, like any other country, can be influenced by many factors and one of these factors is the mass media. During our group discussion it was brought up that the Bahamian diet is influenced by other cultures, for example American and Chinese, and that the media does this through television and radio advertisements. Daily on all media outlets we can see and hear promotions for American fast food franchises like Wendy’s and Kentucky Fried Chicken; however, advertisements for Bahamian food establishments are very limited. I believe this may result in many young Bahamians becoming heavily influenced by foreign cultures and eventually not knowing how to prepare native cuisines, for example stew fish and pea soup and dumpling.
In addition, our group discussed Bahamian music and art. When one hears the word “reggae” Jamaica instantly comes to mind; this shows how music can be related to a country. For the Bahamas, music like Junkanoo and rake&scrap are associated with the Bahamian culture, but we realized that these forms of Bahamian music are not predominating on various local radio stations. Furthermore, Junkanoo music is only played frequently during a certain time of the year. Even though Bahamian artists like Baha Men were world renowned we seem to not appreciate or like our music. In fact, a group member stated that “Bahamian artists make themselves look unappealing and sing about foolishness”. I feel this view is enforced by the

media because we hear and view more music and videos from foreign artists which gives the perception that non Bahamian is better. The cultural art of the Bahamas includes paintings, wood carvings, conch shell jewelry and straw work. This part of our culture is highlighted in the local media. For example, newspapers tend to cover local artists and artistic events. However, we felt that the promotion was not sufficient and some elements (straw work) were not seen in the media at all. To me this is strange because there is a love for our art in fact; many Bahamians wear native jewelry and carry modern decorated straw handbags. Another expression of culture that was addressed was the way we dress. The Bahamas never had a native dress or formal dress code but our attire is influenced by other cultures through the media. It was stated by a group member that “American trends and culture” seem to impact us the most. I think this is because most of the programs and ads we watch, whether on television or online, are from America. Furthermore, popular brands for footwear, bags and clothing are promoted by American celebrities and music artists we like. We follow these people on social networks such as Twitter and Facebook and I believe this is how the media subtle manipulates us into purchasing these items. When it comes to interacting with tourists or promoting the tourism industry the culture of Bahamians being friendly and sociable is enhanced and promoted, whether in print or visually, by the local media. Within our own social circles (neighbours, friends and family) this social culture is being lost due to the mass media. Bahamian children no longer go outside to play, ride bicycles or just hang out with each other instead they prefer to stay inside and play Wii, video

games and connect with each other via social media, for example Instagram and Skype. It seems Bahamians, young and old, no longer want to spend face-to-face quality time with each other instead they interact through ipads, texting and applications like face-time. Our dialect is another example of our culture. It helps us to identify and relate to each other. In many local commercials, for example the Super Wash radio ad, it is utilized to create a sense of familiarity with the person who is selling the service or product. Also, local newspaper comic strips such as; Sideburns illustrate Bahamian dialect to express observations in a way that only Bahamians would understand. In addition, during local talk show interviews it is heard frequently by callers expressing their feels, preferences and dissatisfactions. The mass media is an important element in the Bahamian society because it can hinder our culture, change our culture and help us comprehend, celebrate and value our culture.

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