Total Randomness #18: Perspectives
I’ve been thinking about this for awhile while perusing the blogosphere and social media and reading other people’s perspectives and opinions on certain things—especially how unique Asian dramas were and how they are so different from their own lives.
The interesting thing is that I’ve never really thought about that. Yes, I obviously don’t live the life like a character from an Asian drama…my life can easily resemble an American soap opera more often than not. But after thinking about it long and hard I came to the conclusion that while there is many things that are different and can be surprising in Asian dramas—it’s not all that new and something that I can’t relate to. But the whole reason comes down to cultural capital, my own heritage and personal and family values along with how I was raised. I think it also helps that while I am not Asian, I have had Asians in my immediate family for most of my life.
Another thing that really had me thinking about all of this once more after pondering on it before after certain comments I’ve read was a discussion I had with a friend. He just turned 30 and I’m 29 currently. I was kind of lamenting over the attitude of some late 90s kids and the 2000s and how different they are in regards to action and respect to adults and others. He pointed out that what I’m saying isn’t entirely true. He claims our generation was just as bad in many of the same respects. I suppose that he is right.
I come from the country in what is either called the Midwest or the Mideast if you really want to get technical. It also depends on who you’re talking to. The Midwest US is actually less set in stone than you may actually believe. By country I don’t mean the middle of nowhere with nothing around. I’m not in the middle of nowhere. I actually live in a tri-city area in which I’m only 20-30 minutes away from the nearest city and 15 minutes away from two small towns which basically have all necessities and less than 5 minutes away from a four-way stop with two bars, a gas station, and a corner store. Plus, we have a John Deere dealership. Go us!
I bring this us because I really don’t understand city living showcased in dramas with tons of public transpiration and all the things you have at your fingertips. When I was getting ready to go to college, there were girls attending an information day and were in the same group as me and my friend. They couldn’t believe how there was NOTHING to do in the city. Sure, they came from a much larger city with even more offerings, but all I could think about was how there really was so much more to do in that place than the one where I’m from, so I don’t get the boring night life they were complaining about. It probably doesn’t help that I’m a very reticent person and I hate loud music and get claustrophobic in crowds/crowded areas.
Another thing that I don’t get is how a lot of poor people in dramas who supposedly can barely afford to eat or live tend to live in relatively nice houses with nice (sometimes designer clothes and bags) and the latest electronic gadgets. But hey, you get the same thing on American TV, too, so it’s actually nothing new. Heaven forbid you actually do showcase more how a very poor family really does live. My family didn’t have a lot. We still don’t and probably never will. I do know that we are still better off than a lot of other people out there as well. I can really understand when they do have the poor families and the people who hit them up for money they don’t have in order to save themselves from some mess they created—usually involving loan sharks, being guarantors for a friend who screwed them over and ran off, or the lovely credit card debt or failed business. I understand some of those situations all too well.
In a lot of dramas of late you have two poor women tropes: the always bright and sunny person who doesn’t really care about the lack of money and works hard and the evil conniving poor person who feels being poor is akin to being dirty and goes out of their way to hide what kind of family they are from. I personally never saw why being poor was a bad thing. Heaven forbid you grow up with hand-me-downs instead of the latest fashion trends or anything like that. But you know what? This happens in the US, too. You have people who are afraid to let others know just where they really fall in the economical class spectrum. You don’t need to pretend to be wealthy, but at least middle class (I won’t get into this whole thing about how the middle class really is disappearing from the US as the gap between socioeconomic classes grows broader and broader). We grew up poor, but we had a roof over our head, sturdy clothes, and food. What more do you really need?
People also don’t get the extended family thing all the time. If we’re honest the nuclear family has seen a decline a lot in recent years in the US. Extended, multi-generational, single parent homes have become more of a norm than you think. We had three generations in my household: my grandparents, my aunt, and my sister and I. Thanks in part to this, my sister and I had a more old fashioned upbringing than if we were actually raised by our absentee parents. We were instilled with the values of two farmers who were born in the 30s. And, oddly enough, there was no women’s work or men’s work. You all did the same thing from laundry to dishes to gardening and lawn care. But I did see a lot of other families and knew their values were different and women were solely responsible for household chores while men were responsible for outdoor chores (and you have the guys who don’t lift a finger inside or outside).
There was definitely some cultural gap issues when my dad remarried a Filipino woman. And then a second one. They definitely did not do things like I was used to, but over the years I have gotten used to how both my stepmothers did things and thus when I finally got into Asian dramas after finishing college, some things that they did weren’t all too surprising since I had experienced some things already when dealing with my stepmothers.
I was watching Roommate the other day and Ryohei commented on how in coming to Korea he was amazed by how everything revolved around the community and how open and helpful people were. In Japan, the culture is more focused on individuals. Park Joon Hyung from g.o.d commented that is also the truth when talking about US culture, too. Highly focused on the individual. I thought about it, and it is true. Our values of generations past have become more warped and individualistic over the years. My grandparents talk of times when you really did know your neighbors and you did all you could to help those around you. There was a strong sense of community and family and now that has fallen more by the wayside. Before it was fine if your kids lived at your house past high school. Now it’s a horrible thing if your kids finish high school and college and still darken your door. Of course, due to economics, we are seeing more families coming together to live once more simply because it is too expensive to live on their own. So parents now have their children and grandchildren living with them.
But yeah comments get you thinking and I can’t help but think about things and for awhile not understand why others don’t get the same thing, but then I do recall college and all that I learned there and realize that it really is a sum of a whole bunch of things that make us who we are and thus why people don’t have the same perspective and can’t understand things that I can and vice versa. Being an English major and having to delve into the heart of stories and poems and narrators and characters along with the educational aspect of learning critical study of literature really helps in understanding the idea of perspectives. Like I REALLY don’t get selfies or selcas or whatever you want to call them. I just don’t. My stepmother is constantly doing these. Friends of mine are constantly doing them as well, and you see this trend so often on dramas. I just don’t get it. Nope, nope.
What I bring with me when I watch dramas is my history of growing up raised by my grandparents with little interaction from my divorced birth parents, my history of growing up in the working poor class and still living in the never secure land of paycheck-to-paycheck existence, and my experiences of having my Ina who comes from a different culture completely and my siblings who are raised with her values mixed with my father’s. Also all the experiences from colleges and my interactions with friends and coworkers from different walks of life and different upbringings.
So, yes, there’s stuff that surprises me in dramas and things that I definitely can’t relate to, but there’s actually a lot there that I can even if I don’t 100% get or understand everything regarding culture and traditions behind what I watch.
So what was the point of this long and rambling post? I think too much. Really, that’s it. It’s probably not a good thing all of the time, lol.