ABSTRACT

A ccording to the US Census Bureau, American residents overthe age of 12 each spent an average of 3,667 hours in 2003 on commercial amusements, over 40 per cent of the total hours available.

The same average American spends over $760 per year on entertainment media,

not including live events or the hardware – TVs, PCs, DVD players, games

consoles and hi-fis – now so fundamental to the American appetite for home

entertainment. That twenty-first-century Americans devote as much time to

entertainment as to working or sleeping indicates the pervasive influence of

popular culture on American social behaviour and national character. A tor-

rent of mass-produced images, stories, spectacles and sounds now pours forth

into every nook of daily life and cranny of private consciousness, making the

United States not only the world’s dominant military and economic power,

but an empire of signs whose global supremacy is asserted as much through

the pervasiveness of its popular culture as through its military reach or its

command of international trade. Indeed, as its products form an ever-greater

proportion of that very international trade, US popular culture has become

the principal vehicle for advertising and legitimating the ‘American way’ on

the world stage.