American Exceptionalism in The Commitments

The Commitments was very intriguing, particularly because of the implications it has on the transatlantic. In my opinion, it emphasized the strong sense of American exceptionalism that was present in Ireland. One notable aspect is how the band members constantly compare themselves to Black American soul musicians, like James Brown and Sam Cooke, and view them as their standard. This is significant with the appropriate context. During the 80s and 90s, not only were there influential Black European musicians that could have been mentioned, but there were White European musical icons like David Bowie, The Beatles, and Elton John. Despite all of this, the Irish band seemed to only gain inspiration from Black American musicians. At times this even extended to parts of White America, as shown by the numerous references to Elvis Presley. Some may argue that the constant reference to Americans reflects the popularity of American soul music and the influence of American culture on the global music industry. However, I believe that The Commitments are a perfect example of what it means to view the world through a lens of American exceptionalism. Furthermore, within the American exceptionalism in The Commitments, there was also an interesting question about cultural appropriation and authenticity. For example, the band members are all White Irish people whose goal was to imitate the styles of Black American soul musicians. It could be argued that this is a form of cultural appropriation since they are taking aspects of another culture and using them for their own gain. On the other hand, it can also be contended that the band is simply appreciating Black American soul music and it is not derogatory. All in all, The Commitments reiterates the idea of American exceptionalism since the band routinely compared themselves to their American counterparts.

One Reply to “American Exceptionalism in The Commitments”

  1. Keeshon, I agree that this movie does take on the lens of American exceptionalism. It is interesting to see that Black Americans are the “exception here” as that is rare for foreign white people to take things from the culture. I do think that this is cultural appropriation though. Throughout the novel and the movie, Jimmy said that they were going to make “Dublin soul”, which was literally just performing soul songs with a few references to Ireland in there. The songs are not really original, so I’d consider this appropriation.

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