Tag Archives: soft power

Desperately Missing ‘Marissa’: Was Mischa Barton the Last Great American Icon?

Moments of transcendence in the context of the act of purchasing a consumer fashion magazine are usually rare to the point of non-existence, but back at the start of 2005, the person who was to become Mediolana’s Creative Director & CSO experienced precisely one such episode on seeing Mischa Barton grace the cover of the short-lived Elle Girl. Barton – at the time, the ace face of a certain California-based teen soap opera – was an it-girl with a difference: namely, an unusual depth of being which was almost totally incongruous to the rapidly-decaying US media environment she found herself inhabiting.

With the best part of a decade-and-a-half has passed having elapsed since this point, we at Mediolana have recently been troubled by a question to which we have no satisfactory answer: with no female (and almost certainly no male) remotely of Ms Barton’s stature having emerged from Hollywood and its domestic satellite media markets in the intervening period, was this remarkable actress the last great American icon?

This question is not merely an academic one. Particularly in the post-1945 era, the projection of US dominance has been inextricably linked to its national brand; in turn, the ability to create personas worthy of emulation and adoration is a key element of this vital ‘soft power’ element. For decades, Brand America enjoyed peerless reach, and globalisation was presumed by many to be synonymous with Americanisation.

However, since the increasingly catastrophic moral and geopolitical failure that constituted Operation Iraqi Freedom – in 2018, Chinese and Russian oil companies are operational in what was until at least the late 1980s a US client state – the United States has apparently been unable to engage in cultural reproduction with anything like the same degree of success (with seemingly even post-Season One installments of The O.C. suffering). Indeed, it has been losing market share in the domain of scripted content to nations such as South Korea and Turkey for some time now.

Of course, explaining this phenomenon requires a broad and sophisticated examination which is beyond the scope of a mere blog post. But it surely isn’t unrealistic to posit that one core reason behind this decline is the total, jarring absence of anyone who can enthuse viewers – particularly young consumers – from São Paulo to Istanbul in the way that Mischa Barton so evidently could. This is something for US policymakers – and not merely television and film executives – to contemplate in an atmosphere of profound sobriety.

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Korean Wave Latest: International Students Flocking to Soft Power Player!

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World War Trade Latest: American Business Schools Experience Declining Footfall!

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A Textbook Case of Censorship: Chinese Education Ministry Erasing Foreign Content!

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Big Trouble in Little Africa: Guangzhou Entrepreneur Hub ‘Evaporating’!

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Another Fine Messi: Argentina Cancel #FIFAWorldCup Warm-Up Game!

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Back to the Drawing Board: Three Must-Implement Fixes for Russia to Avoid World Cup Humiliation

The media reaction to the 1st December 2017 Kremlin Palace draw for the 2018 FIFA World Cup finals was dominated by the apparently benign group allocation handed out to England; however, this curious focus has only served to obscure the event’s Really Big Story – the probable elimination of the hosts less than two weeks into the competition.

Drawn in Group A, Russia will kick off the tournament with a relatively easy game against the notoriously inconsistent Saudi Arabians (14/06/2018), but their other pool opponents – Egypt and Uruguay, in that order – seem almost tailor-made to spoil the Russian party. Both these latter sides are respectively spearheaded by world-class strikers with pace to burn – Mohamed Salah and Luis Suárez – and have the personnel to soak up opposition pressure before launching decisive counterattacks; the contrast with a Russian national team which is characterised by overly-ponderous, predictable passing patterns and sluggish midfield runners could scarcely be sharper.

In normal circumstances, this sub-optimal prognosis would be par for the course: since its inception in 1992, the Russian national football team has only got into the knockout stages of a major tournament on a single occasion, when a stylish side inspired by the Arsenal and Zenit Saint Petersburg icon Andrey Arshavin finished a highly-creditable fourth at Euro 2008.

However, these are not normal circumstances: with Russia hosting the FIFA World Cup for the first time, another average group-stage exit would represent nothing short of a soft power catastrophe. Something therefore needs to change – but what? After some contemplation, we at Mediolana believe we have the makings of a master plan to spare Russian blushes at next year’s global party sans pareil:

  1. Press Fast Forward. Russia seem to flourish when they resist the temptation of taking the game to the other team and instead intermix snappy passing on the break with sitting moderately deep when not in possession. Crucially, their players have the technique to manoeuvre the ball in tight areas, so this attribute should be taken advantage of.
  2. Find Other Creative Outlets. Russia’s finals performances at recent tournaments have been crippled by the non-availability of Alan Dzagoev, a joint-top scorer at Euro 2012 who has developed a knack of running into injury problems at precisely the most inconvenient moments. While the presence of Dzagoev will still be critical to Russian success in 2018, drastic over-reliance on a single player is simply inexcusable given the size of Russia’s professional football base.
  3. Promote Youth. Russia presently have a clutch of midfielders and strikers – all of whom have excellent technical ability – populating their U21 squad. These players are exactly what is needed to enable the team to make the transition from lumbering liabilities to exponents of sultry and effective football. In particular, Fyodor Chalov and Timur Zhamaletdinov (CSKA Moscow), Zelimkhan Bakayev (Spartak-2 Moscow), Ayaz Guliyev (Anzhi Makhachkala), Rifat Zhemaletdinov (Rubin Kazan) and Ivan Oblyakov (FC Ufa) are all genuinely gifted individuals who should be given a chance to propel their country’s senior soccer collective to new heights.

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