Intercultural Communication

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Elton John, Taiwanese Reporters, and Intercultural Communication?

Posted by thuicc on September 24, 2004


It wouldn’t be hard to call the conflict between Elton John and Taiwanese news media a failure of intercultural communication. Obviously, the two parties had very differing opinions of what is supposed to happen when a foreign rock star steps off his private plane and goes through immigration. According to the Taipei Times article about the incident, John (and other foreign stars) wouldn’t have expected such a large group of aggressive (or should I say “eager” to be more objective?) reporters to be present at his arrival.

Despite previous grievances of the sort John encountered, local media representatives with a pass are allowed to enter the restricted areas of airports, according to a statute governing the use of airports’ restricted zones.

In many countries, however, it is not the normal practice for the media to be allowed access to such areas.

Interestingly, the cable TV news programs that I saw last night didn’t mention this “cultural” difference regarding the access the media has to restricted areas in airports. They (for the most part) seemed to emphasize only Elton John’s swearing at the reporters.

The English news on FTV (民視) was especially interesting: it provided English subtitles for everything Elton John said, but when a Taiwanese reporter yelled (in English), “Why don’t you get out of Taiwan?” there was no subtitle. We only saw a subtitle for John’s reply: “We’d love to get out of Taiwan if it’s full of people like you. Pig! Pig!” What impression might this give people of Elton John?

What do you think about this episode?

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8 Responses to “Elton John, Taiwanese Reporters, and Intercultural Communication?”

  1. Anonymous said

    As a citizen in Taiwan, I am tired of Taiwan’s reporters. They always do this kind of stupid thing when any stars come to Taiwan. I don’t know why they can always go into that area without any regulation. Elton John is not the first person who encounters this kind of situation. There are lots of people including Japanese singers, French singers, American singers who were embarressed by Taiwan’s reporters. It is a shame when this kind of issue happens too many times in Taiwan’s airport. I think those reporters in Taiwan should do self-examniation(however, they would never do)Why it always happens in Taiwan again? why again?

  2. Anonymous said

    The reporters always focus on the negative side, and the audiences who don’t think too much will consider this is the truth. For example, when my friends saw this news, one of them said:” This bad gay, how dare him hate Taiwanese and cheat money out of us at the same time?”
    Anyway..
    I don’t think this news is objective.

  3. I have to admit I was at first swayed by the way the media portrayed the incident. Although I still think Elton John should have controlled himself better, now I also believe that the press probably shouldn’t have been allowed access to him and that definitely the Taiwanese reporter (cameraman?) shouldn’t have told him to “get out of Taiwan.” It’s not really the news media’s job to say those kinds of things to people, in my view.

    I think Elton John has also been influenced by his experiences with the “paparazzi” in the past and especially by his connection with the late Princess Diana (whose car accident, as you probably remember, was partially the result of a “race” with paparazzi). I don’t say this to excuse his behavior, but to point out some of the possible causes of it.

  4. Lydia said

    This kind of things seem to happen over and over in Taiwan. I don’t know when this culture is so deeply rooted in Taiwan’s media world. However, on the positive side, only if you are famous, you are able to under this kind of “treatment.” Perhaps, next time, we should inform in advance to any celebrity who would like to take a visit to Taiwan about this unique culture.

  5. What you’re suggesting, Lydia, was also mentioned in one news article I read about the incident–celebrities who were “warned” in advance seemed to be able to deal with the situation better. I think with some of the celebrities (perhaps Tom Cruise, I think), the stars’ agents and the Taiwanese media came to some sort of agreement before the celebrity came to Taiwan. That way everybody was happy.

  6. Michelle said

    Truly, in my mind, Taiwanese media are more and more like “professional paparazzi.” But, why do Taiwanese media want to, even dare to, report “unexpected behaviors” of those famous singers or movie stars? Because the audience like to watch it. If those celebrities who are “warned” in advance, that kind of reports won’t attract the audience, since we may think that kind of reports is just like another “arranged performance.” However, if we stand in those entertainers’ shoes, we may also feel that those entertainers really don’t receive lots of respect from the media. How sad they are, aren’t they? Recently, I have seen some articles about Elton John from Yahoo news. I found Elton John is really a hot-tempered person; he usually says something to embarrass others. So, when Elton John shouted Taiwanese media with four-letter words, I think, more or less, that also shows his personalities. : p

    However, one Taiwanese reporter yelled back to Elton John, I think that did leave a bad impression on those foreigners. I think not only the Taiwanese media but also the officials of Taiwan government sometimes say something to embarrass ourselves. Like “LP,” I think how can that kind of stuff be told in the formal speech? How might other people in other countries think of Taiwan?

    I feel that Taiwan’s international image is going down and down!

  7. little ant said

    About such kind of incident, I think that it results from that they don’t achieve the effective communication. Taiwan has Taiwanese rules, so does Elton John. They should make sure the rules and customs very carefully. Therefore, I think that the similar problems will be improved if they can achieve the effective communication between local media and entertainers.
    Besides, since it is news, in order to catch audiences’ eyes, reporters usually choose the more “exciting” part to record. In other words, to report Elton John’s swearing is more exciting than to discuss the intercultural conflict.

  8. This is true, Ant. Especially for TV news, where the picture and sound is so important–more important (alas!) than making the audience think. Newspapers seem to have covered the issue a little more thoughtfully, though.

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