Sociology, Department of


Date of this Version



Deegan, Mary Jo and Michael R. Hill. 1992. “The Americanization of Ritual Culture: The ‘Core Codes’ in American Culture and the Seductive Character of American ‘Fun.’” Paper presented at Conference ‘92: The Americanisation of Culture, University of Wales, Swansea, 15-18 September 15-18.


Copyright 1992 Mary Jo Deegan and Michael R. Hill


Modern life in the USA is driven by four “core codes” of oppression and repression which structure a wide range of cultural patterns, from fleeting, face-to-face interactions to enduring, large scale social institutions. The four codes (sex, class, bureaucratization, and the commodification of time) also give recognizable contours to modern American cultural rituals (participatory as well as media-constructed) and contribute to the seductive character of “fun” which these rituals typically generate. American “fun” provides short-lived, incomplete escapes from mundane routine, and simultaneously strengthens and reproduces the core oppression and repressions of everyday life.

American “fun” provides its consumers with ritual experiences which are simultaneously attractive and alienating. This double-edge feature characterizes most media-constructed and participatory rituals in the USA. Fun-producing rituals result when the “core codes” of American life are imported into ritual events that could otherwise generate “play,” community renewal, and culturally significant releases from the oppressive and repressive dimensions of everyday life.

The Americanization of culture is everywhere accelerated when ritual culture from the USA is marketed globally. At stake here is not the simple merchandizing of “fun”, but simultaneously the mass export of the “core codes” which make “fun” ever more attractive. A paradigm example of this process is the recent opening of EuroDisney and its powerful combination of participatory and media-constructed rituals. In the guise of good-natured “fun” and harmless “good times,” the marketing of American ritual culture such as Star Trek and EuroDisney insidiously reinforces the predatory American “core codes” that make “fun” seductive to consumers and profitable to investors.