Posted by: kcgadiyar | April 29, 2009

Culture Shock – A guest post by Rahul

I seem to have fallen behind on posting stuff, but there are posts in the pipeline. In the meantime, this is a brilliant article on Culture shock written by my friend Rahul, his site www.rahulgaitonde.org is not exactly the place where he would post timepass stuff like this. So, I asked for it to be a guest post on mine. Enjoy

Confession – I made half-a-dozen goes at the culture shock assignment this week, from the peppy to the maudlin, from the deeply personal to the sweepingly generalized. But a movie outing (of all things) Saturday night brushed aside all those drafts and made a strong case for being the should-write, must-read, just-right contemporary example of culture shock.

Though none of my friends from my undergrad days would characterize me a movie buff, they’d grant that I gamely trotted along with them for all their trips to the innumerable cinema halls back in Bombay. It is also no secret that the male mind is exceedingly simple, and if anything, the plots in their choice of movies confirmed that. So it was either a Michael Bay rat-a-tat-rat-a-tat-ka-boom-USA!-USA! action drama, a disaster movie or a fast-and-the-furious racecar flick. In any case, it involved barrelfuls of adrenalin, kilotons of TNT and vivid, unrestrained displays of machismo.

Of course, that was back in 2004. Five years later, I find myself in a different city, older, married, and driving to a multiplex with excited wife having booked two tickets to Confessions of a Shopaholic. I know nothing whatsoever about the movie, but the title suggests that it doesn’t quite fit into the sorts of movies I’d been subject to in the days past. From this point onwards it becomes clear why this episode became the number one contender for the assignment:

Shock One is the crowd milling around – well-dressed, well-to-do twenty-somethings, mostly women, a few with submissive-looking boyfriends in tow (the last making me rather uncomfortably self-conscious). Totally unlike the rambunctious, huge-cell-phone-toting all-guy crowd I thrive in. Also puzzling is how they seem to purr to each other, instead of the loud back-thumping conversations I know. Subsequently, I remain nonplussed throughout the movie, unprepared for the film’s background score (the gentle beep of a Morris Minor compared to bellowing of a cross-country truck, if you appreciate the simile), for men who use disarming smiles without being armed to the teeth, for the business-and-pleasure trips to Florida instead of combat missions in Vietnam, for the unfathomable amount of female hugging in place of male wrestling.

At the very least, I thought the one saving grace would be the audience’s reaction to the only common element in every movie that Hollywood churns out: the obligatory last scene when the male and female protagonists unfailingly envelope each other in a passionate kiss as the screen fades. In GuyMovieLand, a necessary prelude to such a scene is an ear-piercing whistle from the dark depths of the cinema hall, followed by a lewd, sexist, opprobrious but altogether witty remark, resulting in uproarious laughter all around. That night, as ‘Luke’ and ‘Becky’ embrace on the sidewalk, I instinctively grin as I brace for the whistle, only to see – horror of horrors, everyone around tilt their heads and chorus “Awww!” and applaud! Numb and disoriented, I allow happy and content wife to lead me out the exit towards the car park.

Yessir, culture shock is a merciless creature; it gives no quarter at all. You have been warned.

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Responses

  1. I blame the canned laughter…the rip roar of laughter one is so accustomed to hear after every punch line, the ‘awwww!’ you hear after a particularly sappy moment, the’oooh’ after a perceived insult etc.

    These ‘Canned emotions’ are constantly telling us when to laugh, when to cry, when to smirk,when to fawn, as if they do not believe in their script alone to drive the emotions in,(or maybe the networks think that the audience is not sophisticated enough to grasp at subtlety)

    I know I seem to be concentrating heavily on sitcoms, but I do get irritated when my 12 year old cousin who hasn’t even traveled out of the state uses ‘Jerk’ ‘Doofus’
    and other such american slang.

    What the author faced was not culture shock, it was more of a shattering of his gender stereotypes.

    Universal exposure and relentless repetition of these so called ‘canned emotions’ and the rise in demand for the ‘new age’ sensitive male is what caused it.


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