The article “Life As a Fake Beauty Queen in Small-Town China” published on the Atlantic website last week, contains some absurd images of the exportation of a hyperreal (as Appadurai uses the term)European and American culture to China. This exportation of culture is very literal– the story focuses on beauty pageants held in China where the models are imported from Eastern Europe and Latin American to become fictionalized “Miss Americas” or “Brazils” or “Canada.” Their biographies, names, and costumes are assigned regardless of the model’s true national or racial identity to create sensationalized characters. The writer, Meredith Hattman, connects these staged pageants to the “knock-off culture” of China extending from fake Starbucks or Apple store to an Eiffel Tower replica abandoned in a small Chinese town. Apparently, caucasian men are even payed to appear at store opening ceremonies for new businesses to lend their Western validity.
Appadurai would use phenomena such as these to expose a disjunctured mediascape that creates imagined ideologies of countries. What is described as happening in China by this article is not Americanization or globalization, but a “global culture of the hyperreal” being created by cultural imaginaires that have been uprooted from the context of their specific historical referential field. These images and pieces of culture are then fed to another historically and culturally situated country of people who live out an imagined American or French or Brazilian culture that does not exist.