Thursday, August 21, 2014

Culture Comparison: American things in China

-Posted by a friend of Louise's via Skype and Yahoo mail. Blogspot, google, and parts of moodle are blocked by China's censorship.
-Meant to show the differences from American culture: KFC has a much different menu and Oreo has a variety of other flavors that cater to the Asian public tastes.
-Also demonstrates the extreme difference in values in countries: China censorship and American freedom of speech.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Final Essay

The West has always been looking toward the East, from which the sun rises. The Orient has continuously fascinated them. From the time Marco Polo brought back exotic tales and wares from afar, the West has been enraptured by the mysteriousness of the Orient. In Edward Said's Orientalism, he discusses how people are so enamored by the Orient, that studies on its culture and material goods are being done.  However, in this current time period, the West no longer differentiates solely on the “East”; many other cultures and people have fallen under the label of “The Orient”.
That is not to say the Western “hunger” for the exotic Orient has disappeared. One prime example of the West’s continued fixation of the East are the movies, Kung Fu Panda 1 and 2. In Hye Jean Chung’s article, Kung Fu Panda: Animated Animal Bodies as Layered Sites of (Trans)National Identities, she describes the merging of cultures and knowledge through the sharing of digital media creations: “Mediated spaces and bodies in such films are created by a collaborative form of transnational filmmaking that utilizes the economic or cultural resources and creative talent of multiple nations, which are increasingly circulated globally via digital packages and formats” (Chung). The characters of Kung Fu Panda are digitally created animals. However, while the characters are supposed to be animals, they most certainly don’t act like ones. They walk, talk, and act just like humans do, with certain animal traits to make them unique. Due to their added traits of humanity, Chung identifies that people associate the characters with known figures and countries: “layered traces of national bodies become reanimated and recorporealized along the production pipeline through the bodies and voices of actors, martial arts coordinators, animators, and widely recognized kung fu artists such as Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan” (Chung). In Kung Fu Panda, alongside the panda Dragon Warrior, there is a quintet of animal marital artists called The Furious Five: Tigress, Monkey, Mantis, Viper, and Crane. They were modeled after the actual styles of Chinese martial arts. These characters are the epitome of Asian ability. However, not every character has that level of grace.
Most of the cast are animals traditionally associated with the Orient or exotic lands. The main character Po, is a panda; one of the most recognized symbols of the Chinese in the world. However, rather than model him as some super strong ninja, he’s modeled as someone more human; he has faults, weaknesses, and fears like any other person. In an attempt to bring the mysterious Orient closer to the West, they gave him relatable flaws.
In the article "Comparative Study Between Chinese and Western Culture in Kung Fu Panda 2", Kun Huang discusses the differences in culture between the West and the East, particularly China. He brings the aspect of politics to the movie’s cultural influences: “This movie both displays the successful discuss on the collective power of China socialist society and the personnel power in struggling for success of western individualism society” (Huang). This outlook on the movie presents the view that the audience is being guided to learning more about Asian culture and society through the experience of children movies and shows; the views and ideals are much different.
The movie brings us a kind of cultural connotation that Americans regard Savior as their heroes, while the heroes bear people’s longing and hope for world peace. Chinese heroes are the persons who can be around them and exclude the difficulty and anxiety for them when they encounter disasters. Understanding of Chinese and the Westerners to hero has much to do with cultural difference, while the difference is completely embodied in their spiritual pursuit. The hero in Western culture often refers to someone, as for how to become a hero is not pursued excessively by them, while the hero in Chinese culture becomes a genius one, which needs a team to give assistance, like the leading character, panda Po, his five partners accompanied him when he accomplishes each arduous task. (Huang)
With Kung Fu Panda, the cultural differences are bridged through the understanding that no matter the hero, Western or Eastern, they always seek to protect the weak and save the world. Their development is what sets them apart.
In part of the shows of Kung Fu Panda, the development of each of the Furious Five is described. ( The panda Po is seen story telling about the humble history of the Furious Five. Each character discovered their own strength and balance; patience, courage, discipline, compassion, and confidence (Stevenson). All these are traits that are encouraged in youths of all cultures.
However, Orientalism isn’t confined to just the Asian countries anymore. Nor is it completely negative either. Many shows and movies besides Kung Fu Panda have characters that are mysterious and exotic. It doesn’t have to be someone Asian. The Middle East falls under the realm of the Orient as well. In fact, anyone who falls out of the ordinary in appearance could be labeled as part of the Orient.
As for why it’s not always negative anymore, it’s because it’s being marketed.  The public is given doses of the Orient in movies and shows. Due to their fascination with they enigmatic beliefs and cultures, the market sells their tokens and “cultural items” to make money in the Western capitalist society.
Now, with a touch of a button or a click of a mouse, people can watch movies or internet videos about the Orient with ease. There is no more struggle to make their way across a long arduous path for some valued commodity. The people have changed to become the commodity. They are what is most valued now.
At the same time, they are also the most useless. For all that people admire the Orient, they still view the individuals consisting of the culture to be inferior and below them.  There are cultural connotations that cannot fade away so easily. In Said’s Orientalism, he felt that “the ideas impregnated with European superiority, racism, and imperialism that re elaborated and distributed through a variety of texts and practices” (Said). The emperor of China is one such example: The old emperors of China had multiple wives and concubines that are viewed negatively by Western Christian factions. While this does not happen anymore today, people still remember things about the Orient like that.
Due to the low status of the people of the Orient, there are ones who are even lower on the totem pole. The “second sex” as Simon de Beauvoir states in “The Second Sex” are “defined and differentiated with reference to man and not he with reference to her; she is the incidental, the inessential as opposed to the essential. He is the Subject, he is the Absolute – she is the Other” (Beauvoir). What this means is that for a woman of the Orient, she is not only faced with the challenge of making herself known against the men of the Orient, but is also forced to acknowledge that they are somehow “lesser” that even the second sex white women. “Thus humanity is male and man defines woman not in herself but as relative to him; she is not regarded as an autonomous being” (Beauvoir). The female of the Orient must struggle against the double noose around her neck before she can escape the labels that govern her actions.
In the current environment, Orientalism exists in the media we watch and interact with. The shows the children watch are filled with hidden meanings and connotations. Things are expected of individuals just based on their ethnicity. Just two days ago, I fainted twice due to a combination exhaustion and stress brought on by the stress of trying to get everything ready for the end of class. When I told the urgent care doctor and nurse that I was in school and close to finals, they immediately started chuckling about “over achieving Asians.” It’s astonishing how much people assume due to base ideas about other ethnicities. Orientalism is just one of those major factors that still lives on today.

Works Cited
Barker, Chris. Cultural Studies: Theory and Practice. London: Sage Publications, 2013. Print.

Beauvoir, Simone De. "The Second Sex." Marxists Internet Archive. Jonathan Cape, Feb. 1998. Web. 19 Aug. 2014. <>.

Chung, Hye Jean. "Kung Fu Panda: Animated Animal Bodies as Layered Sites of (Trans)National Identities." The Velvet Light Trap, 69.1 (2012): 27-37.

Huang, Kun. "Comparative Study Between Chinese and Western Culture in Kung Fu Panda 2." Studies in Literature and Language, 6.3 (2013): 70-73.

Said, Edward W. "Orientalism." The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. 2nd ed. New York, NY: W.W. Norton, 2010. 1866-904. Print.

Stevenson, John W., and Mark Osborne. "Kung Fu Panda: Secrets of the Furious Five." YouTube. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Aug. 2014. <>.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Game of Thrones - My Contribution to the Presentation

For my group, we presented a power point presentation on Game of Thrones.  I watched several episodes of the show in order to understand what it was about. Just the first few minutes of the very first episode were very enlightening to me. After I had watched enough episodes to have a grip on the show, I emailed both my group members for their thoughts and feelings on the show and what we would be doing for our presentation. We had previously verbally communicated that we would try to discuss our project via email. One of my fellow group members, Tyler, had watched the entire series while Sergio and I were new to it. Sergio emailed the first rough draft of his portion of the power point. He said he would discuss the character analysis and I emailed my group members back that I would add slides that related Game of Thrones to the textbook, “Cultural Studies”. I scoured chapter 10, Television, Texts, and Audiences for important information that I could relate to Game of Thrones. I also offered that we could play any key episodes or scenes from the downloaded content on my external hard drive. We felt that the beginning scene could be played with my copies while Sergio decided to use links from YouTube. I emailed them asking if we should just do a Question and Answer for our group activity and they agreed. I agreed to meet up with my classmates in front of the classroom before class in order to make sure all of our work would combine smoothly. I asked Tyler to use the Themes slide I created to give the class a greater explanation; because of his knowledge of the show, he would be much more familiar with the nuances of the themes. Not only that, Tyler would be able to provide more examples from later episodes that Sergio and I hadn’t had the chance to watch yet. My contribution to the group project was research on the textbook and linking it with the show. I wrote about half the power point slides and brought a copy of the entire show in case we played scenes. I also brought a copy of the book version of the show.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

From the Real World down to our Level

In David Harvey. A Brief History of Neoliberalism, he states that: "According to theory, the neoliberal state should favour strong individual private property rights, the rule of law, and the institutions of freely functioning markets and free trade." The rights of the people to obtain their share of the wealth in the economy are something they shouldn’t have to fight for. In the pyramid of capitalism, it’s supposed to have a large group of individuals who are owners and there is a small amount of labor. While it sounds nice in theory, the possibility of that happening in real life is nearly impossible.
There are too many ins and outs for companies to make money rather than bring it back to the masses. The jobs are sent to outside of the country and foreigners do the labor for a much lower cost. This allows companies to make a bigger profit but at the same time, there are fewer jobs for individuals in their country.
It doesn’t even need to be outside the country. When migrants enter the country, they are often willing to work for much less than what others will. Companies exploit their weakness and need to money. The “Trickle down theory” isn’t going to happen.
In our current culture, there is a great emphasis on owning your own property. “Be a man and own things!” Nevermind that being a “male” has nothing to do with anything. There is an assumption that you aren’t independent if you don’t have your own home. With America being the country of the “free”, the pressure to be “all that you can be is heavy upon people’s shoulders. This sort of thought process is engrained in the minds of the people. It’s even seen in games that their children play.
The popular game “Animal Crossing: New Leaf” is a Nintendo 3DS game where the player assumes position of being the mayor of a town. When he moves in, he or she is to find a location to build their home. Now this sounds cute but as you continue, you realize there are many very adult aspects.
The very first home you get is a tent. For the low price of 10,000 bells (the currency), you get this humble abode.  It’s literally just a room with a lamp (which you receive as a present). If you want to actually have a real house, you have to go to the mall center and Nook Homes building to pay off a down payment of 39,800 bells.

The play must balance the responsibilities of the upkeep of the town while slowly making money through selling items (which can be found randomly or in events) in order to expand their home. With each expansion, either the rooms become larger or there are added rooms to the house.
 The first expansion after having Nook build your home is 98,000 bells. The rooms are bigger and the exterior has changed.

The second expansion is 198,000 bells. The price is rising and the player is looking to make aesthetic changes as well. What follows is the second floor expansion of 298,000 bells. There isn't any exterior change to the house. However, once the player has reached this level, Nook offers the player the possibility of building side rooms for the floors and a basement. Each room can be expanded as well. Along with the expansions, players are allowed to decorate their houses with furniture, wallpapers, floorings, roofing, outside wall designs, and many other superficial designs.

The player is given an incentive of making their house look nice; the Happy Homes Academy investigates the home (in the wee morning hours) and gives it points and a rating. With better ratings, more designs are made available and they also give awards for reaching certain levels.

This whole situation can be related to real life. How people are expected to make money to obtain their own home. Then there's the aspect of maintaining their home and even expanding it.

Monday, August 4, 2014

The public can be like sheep

What society wants

In the world we live in, society is very critical and judgmental. There are certain expectations that must be met or else issues arise. In simpler terms, what society wants is what it gets - or else. Sometimes the consequences of not getting what society wants is a loss of consumer interest.

People in society have expectations. What kind of expectations? Well, if the average John Smith or Jane Doe walked into a Chinese McDonald they wouldn't just see the normal burgers you'd find in America.

That's right, a rice terriyaki bowl. In McDonalds. 'How could they have that?' he might ask. Well, considering the types of foods the Asian culture tends to eat, why wouldn't the fast food company not cater to their tastes? Rice is a staple food in China, much like how bread is in America. It really isn't surprising that they would offer things that are both familiar and a "fast food" to that society.

The younger generation has adapted to the new foreign tastes of "the Big Mac" and delight in the differences. For the older generations or just people who want their food quick, people might order the more familiar rice bowl.

But besides the types of foods, even the flavors are affected by the societal expectations and wants. In America, the traditional flavors one might see for ice cream are Chocolate, Vanilla, and Strawberry. The Chinese McDonalds have that flavor plus one: Melon. This fruit is much more commonly eaten in Asian cultures and remains a very popular flavor for them. Thus, it's being offered by the chain fast food company in order to gain a larger following of customers.

As a result of this cultural exchange, something new was created. Something pretty delicious and unique.

Recently, I participated in taste-testing different wafers and cookies for a "New" Oreo in China. The forms and papers took nearly an hour to complete and by the end, I was about to give up from the sheer annoyance of trying to fill them all out. It was only because I was curious that I persisted and got through them.

The actual cookie taste-testing wasn't very exciting. The little cookies didn't taste like the Oreos in America. I couldn't help but wonder why that was. Was there a secret recipe the China factories lacked? Was there something strange going on in the production that didn't happen in America? Did they substitute ingredients?

They trying to find a flavor to appeal to the Chinese public. What might taste great to someone in America, someone in China might find appalling. An example of this is cheese and mayonnaise. Just high dairy products are much more expensive in China due to the lack of dairy in their normal diet. Both are products that were introduced to them and thus are quite foreign. I don't think I've ever seen mayonnaise when I was in China and cheese was very rare. Due to the lack of interaction with these products, many people in China do not find their taste very appealing; preferring to stick to traditional foods they know and like. This might be another reason why the rice bowl was introduced.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Romantic Comedy

The presentations and discussions on Romantic Comedy was something of an eye-opener for me. While I've seen movies with this genre I never really considered the mechanics or formula behind it all. Traditional comedy, sex comedy, radical comedy, neotraditional comedy - all were terms that were new to me.
I knew that in most romantic comedies, men and women were in conflict with one another. This is often because of their values and goals in life. This could be attributed to how they are products of what society made them out to be. It's like everyone expects in the movie for the man to make a mistake, lose the girl, and then the rest of the movie is spent trying to win her back. While this might be true in the first traditional romantic comedies, this no longer is the rule.
In a sex comedy, as the name implies, the goal of the story is no longer to reach the end of the romance - the "marriage" and "sex". With the more excepted decision to have sex before marriage in the newer generations, there's more and more movies that have the characters reach a climax before the end. (Pun intended.)
I can't help but feel this is a result of the attitude change of the generation. With their differing values, its quite likely that producers and script writers are catering to appeal with the audience. However, it could be equally true that its because of audiences watching how acceptable sex is now, they are being wooed into making that their own beliefs. It's another case of the chicken before the egg conundrum.
Also, I was introduced to the movie "10." The scenes from the movie were quite interesting. I have not seen the entirety of the movie but I do know the general ending of it now. I still feel it fits more into the radical comedy with hints of neotraditional comedy. The way the man never married (even at the end of the story) and pursued the bride of a newlywed seems quite shocking for any other genres. Although he tries to have sex with the bride, he becomes disillusioned by her true nature. His imaginary ideal of her is shattered and his values seem to dip back into traditional ones. I'm not completely sure of what to categorize it as. Maybe it could be both.
Romantic comedies often are comprised of things that are shared with other rom-coms. Below is a chart that amused me when I went to look up "Romantic comedy" on google.