Intercultural Communication

Course Website for Tunghai FLLD Seminar

Archive for March, 2006

Intercultural pizza

Posted by thuicc on March 23, 2006

Taiwanonymous (try pronouncing that!) comments on Taiwan-style pizza, expressing the suspicion that

It seems that “western” dishes allow chefs to release all the creative energies that are suppressed when cooking Chinese cuisine. For a bowl of beef noodle soup, there just are not many options for spicing it up—the most unusual thing you can do is to add tomatoes. However, when it comes to pizzas, bread, and pastries, anything goes. A cheese pizza is a bare canvas just asking Chinese chefs to let their imaginations soar.

I have to admit it took me a while to get used to corn and peas on my pizza, but now I couldn’t live without it… Guess that’s adaptation for you…

Posted in Asia, food, Taiwan | Comments Off on Intercultural pizza

Some critiques of the movie Crash

Posted by thuicc on March 18, 2006

Since Crash is about race relations in the U.S., and since it won the Oscar for Best Picture, it’s probably something that students of intercultural communication should see to find out what it’s saying. So I borrowed the DVD a week ago and watched it.

I was not particularly impressed with it, I have to say, although I generally like movies that Matt Dillon is in. It seemed too preachy to me–it was more like an essay than a movie. I was also troubled by the treatment of Asians in the movie. There are a couple of posts on the blog Mixed Media Watch that also have critiqued Crash‘s portrayal of Asians (see here and here. They point out that the major characters in the film–black, white, and Persian–appear to be redeemed (to an extent, I’d say) by the end of the film, and the Latino characters don’t seem to need redemption. But the Korean characters are stereotyped and unredeemed at the end. They are not portrayed with any complexity at all. As commenter Christine Hong writes,

every other character come full circle, gaining some measure of redemption, except for the asian couple. the audience sees no resolution to their sinfulness whereas the sins of the other characters have some sort of reason or explanation. i am so conflicted about this movie. i am saddened because once again asians are left to the wayside, left there to rot in the unfavorable context in which the writer and director as created for them. it is apparent that writers and directors who do these kinds of films don’t give a shit about the whole truth of asian american lives. by no means are we flawless, but damn it, i wish someone would give us some measure of respect as human beings.

MMW also has a critique of the movie’s Oscar win here.

American movie critic Roger Ebert defends Crash, calling it

a movie of raw confrontation about the complexity of our motives, about how racism works not only top down but sideways, and how in different situations, we are all capable of behaving shamefully.

Now, I’m sure that people are complex and that everyone is capable of behaving badly, as Ebert says. But I can just as easily look at that Matt Dillon character (the racist cop) and say to myself, “Well, I’m not racist because I would never do the things he does.” And I can look at the Ryan Phillippe character (the cop who doesn’t think he’s racist) and say, “Well, I’m not racist because I wouldn’t shoot a hitchhiker (actually I wouldn’t even pick up a hitchhiker).” So the liberal white guy can come out of this feeling good about himself, not necessarily being challenged about any racism that lurks under the surface in his mind.

Derik Smith, writing in The Black Commentator (via MMW), argues that the movie “relies upon and covertly promotes social narratives that are problematically racist”:

It seems that, upon finally reaching an era in which polite company forces most to acknowledge that racism is inexcusable regardless of circumstance, America’s favorite “race movie” is now asking us to temper our judgment of the embattled figure of the bigot.

Smith also points out that one of the main black characters in the film, a carjacker named Anthony (played by Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges), actually says some very “thought provoking” things about the situation of African Americans in the U.S.:

He thinks that white, corporate America may stand to benefit from the rampant use of the word “nigga” in contemporary hip-hop; he wonders why the names of black revolutionaries have been lost to history; and, although he’s a thief, he doesn’t want to steal from his own people.

But the movie doesn’t encourage us to accept those ideas as valid:

Yet almost as soon as they are uttered, Crash makes them laughable. The politicized commentary of the paranoid black man is framed in such a way that it ends up becoming the movie’s most consistent source of comic levity.

No conclusion here, just some things to think about if you get to see the movie.

Posted in movies, race, United States | 5 Comments »

Appropriating cultures

Posted by thuicc on March 8, 2006

There’s an interesting entry at TheThink about “racial ownership“–by which the writer, Phillip Moore, is describing how certain ethnic groups seem to consider aspects of their culture as their own exclusive property and are offended by or ridicule anyone from other ethnic groups who try to borrow or adapt those cultural aspects. For example, Moore asks:

Just because I am black, should I ridicule Japanese society for adopting hip-hop and putting their own spin on it, even when most of the Japanese who are die hard hip-hop fans know absolutely nil about the true origins of hip-hop, which date back to Afrika Bambaataa and The Last Poets in the 70s? Should I make fun of them for wearing their clothing in a seemingly awkward style, in what would seem a desperate attempt to mimic the flawless hip-hop styles of African-Americans? Should I trash the term “J Rap” as a term for nothing more than Japanese wannabes?

He also criticizes Asian Americans (in particular, Asian Americans whose ancestors came from East Asia) who make fun of people from other ethnic groups who get tattoos with Chinese/Japanese/Korean characters on them. He implies that such people (or, on the other hand, African-Americans who make fun of Japanese [or Vietnamese or Chinese] rap) are often being hypocritical.

What do you think?

(Via Mixed Media Watch, where they’re discussing the post, also)

Posted in identity, media, race, websites | Comments Off on Appropriating cultures

An online discussion about what to call professors you don’t know

Posted by thuicc on March 2, 2006

Earlier in the semester the ICC class read an article from The Chronicle of Higher Education about what professors at different schools in the U.S. like to be called. Now there’s a similar kind of discussion here at the Crooked Timber blog. Professor (Dr.) Eszter Hargittai starts with this question:

On occasion, I get emails in which people address me as Mrs. Hargittai. I’m not suggesting that people need know my personal history or preferences. However, if you are going to contact someone in a professional context and they have a Ph.D. and they teach at a university (both of which are very clear on their homepage where you probably got their email address in the first place), wouldn’t you opt for Dr. or Professor?

There are quite a lot of interesting responses in the comments section, so don’t ignore them.

Posted in greetings, identity, politeness, United States | Comments Off on An online discussion about what to call professors you don’t know

Interview with Ang Lee about Brokeback Mountain

Posted by thuicc on March 1, 2006

I came across this interview with Ang Lee today (though the interview itself is from December). It’s from AsianWeek.com. In the interview, Lee has some interesting comments about what he views as similarities between cowboys and Asians:

I see the themes of repression in Brokeback Mountain as being universal regardless of culture. However, it is true that Eastern culture and the nature of cowboys share a certain indirectness, quiet nature, and use of body language to communicate that are quite similar. There are similarities in the art of the two cultures as well–they both emphasize feelings of sadness, melancholy, and expansive space through various media.The difference is that Western culture is more macho, whereas Eastern culture is–more lunar and feminine in nature. Thus, when it comes to attitudes about homosexuality, my personal theory is that Eastern culture is more relaxed than in the West. This stems from a difference in why a culture perceives homosexuality to be wrong–in Western culture, it stems from religion, and you are condemned if you are gay. Eastern culture seems more, flexible–and being gay is more of a social issue than a religious one; there is no deity to offend. The West also seems to tolerate lesbians more than gays because it’s a very macho culture; homosexuality is not okay because it threatens this culture. Of course, this is my observation in general–I am sure that there are happy gay ranch hands in Wyoming with very sensitive neighbors as well.

Interesting perspectives. What do you think?

Posted in Asia, identity, media, movies | Comments Off on Interview with Ang Lee about Brokeback Mountain