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Movies: A Connection To American Culture

Luke Skywalker finding out the truth about his father. Marvel's Avengers assembling to defend New York City. Harry Potter fighting Voldemort wand-to-wand. The blue Na'vi flying winged creatures above their world of Pandora. Dorothy and her companions following the yellow brick road on their journey to see the Wizard. Charlie Chaplin's The Tramp getting stuck in the cogs of machinery. Frodo Baggins throwing the One Ring into the fiery pit of Mt. Doom. Elliot and E.T. on a bicycle backlit by the moon. Captain Jack Sparrow setting course for adventure. Batman and the Joker facing-off in a Gotham City police interrogation room. Seeing the dinosaurs of Jurassic Park for the first time. Sandra Bullock as Dr. Ryan Stone spinning through the black void of space, hopeless, lost, and alone. Indiana Jones outrunning a giant boulder.

These are just some movie moments and characters that have connected with audiences the world over. Each of these movies is a part of American culture. Given their worldwide fame, they are, in a way, ambassadors of American culture that have become part of a larger world culture. Movies account for one of the largest American exports, and arguably the major export of American pop culture.

The international box office brings in billions of dollars of revenue each year for the major Hollywood studios. In today's Hollywood, international ticket sales have a massive influence on the movies that get made and how they are marketed.

As you embark on the journey of searching for a college or starting college this fall, perhaps that journey will bring you to the United States. If even a small number of the above movie moments are familiar to you, then you are already familiar with a big piece of American culture. And you already have something in common with your future American classmates. Movies are a universal commonality. They are a way to bond with people. Movies lay bare everything from our technological breakthroughs to our hopes, wishes, nightmares, and dreams. Collectively, they represent the vivid imagination and potential of any culture. We connect with them and we make them our own. From childhood favorites to new releases—we are drawn to these stories. They inspire a sense of wonder and enable us see new worlds or view our own world in new ways. They allow us to discover things about ourselves.

Can you think of any other social experience that involves hours of quietly sitting in the dark? Yet since their inception, movies have been the basis for a shared social experience. There is something about experiencing movies with others that fosters a desire to talk about what you've just experienced. Whether it's a hilarious comedy, an emotional drama, or a thrilling action movie, you've had the experience together. Maybe it elicited the same response from all of you, maybe you hated it and your friends loved it. No matter what the outcome, the experience of seeing the movie together has given you something in common that you can discuss, debate, marvel about, and bond over. Seeing a movie or even discussing your favorite movies is one way to connect with these new people you meet at college. Understanding this common bond can help ease your assimilation into American culture.

Connection. In a word it is what movies are all about. You connect with the story, the characters, and the themes. A difference of opinion when discussing movies isn't necessarily a negative thing. Debating these points can help you understand the movie from a different perspective, give you insight into another's interpretation, or allow you to understand something that you may have missed during the first viewing.

Connection is also what college is all about, especially at the beginning. Over the next few years, you will be developing lifelong friends, meeting new colleagues, and forming future professional contacts. They will help you to learn more about American culture and, in turn, you can teach them about your own culture (and perhaps introduce them to some films from your country).

Hopefully, the movies you see will help give you some early insight into this new culture that you will explore, learn about, and live in. Movies are keys that can be used to open new doors by starting conversations and discovering common interests. Just remember, when the lights dim, the screen flickers on, and the show starts, we're all one and the same. We're all part of the same cultural audience of awe and wonder, experiencing the story together.

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