December 3, 2012

Privilege: Up the Yangtze

I liked when we were discussing Up the Yangtze in class the other day and we arrived at the concept of privilege.  We spoke earlier in the year about understanding the world around us through metaphors, in terms of other things we can relate or identify with.  I believe that privilege functions as a barrier to identification or understanding between different groups created by class.  The dominant or privileged class establishes the norm or standard upon which all else is compared, their own database of metaphors/comparisons to draw from.  If they don't have to worry about a certain issue, they are blind and un-empathetic to it because it is not something they are familiar or accustomed to dealing with.  For example when Cindy's coworkers we talking about her on the boat they were saying she should just work harder to fit in and earn more money to send to her parents.  Her coworkers don't have to send money back home to support their families, they were raised differently and accustomed to a different lifestyle.  They can't relate to the struggles Cindy has to face, the worry about her families home being flooded, the fact they may starve without her help, why she can't buy nice clothes like the rest of them, etc.  These barriers to communication and identification are a direct result of the class system set up by the concept of privilege.


Nicole Lynn said...

I agree with this bias on privilege and I want to mention something I noted in the movie on just how much these differences affected Cindy. For the most part we don't see her get to upset by how different she is from the others (minus when she was crying over the dishes but I feel that was from the loss of the chance to continue school and being stuck with a job). Yet when she is talking to her parents about her life on the ship she mentions her friend that calls her a gray rabbit (or something similar I can't remember the exact name) and this was alluding to her darker skin. Cindy expressed her feelings over this name by saying "I don't know whether to laugh or cry" and it shows you just how much her darker skin-portraying that she is lower class-bothers her. The hegemony in place by the upper class automatically stereotypes Cindy as low class by being tan because that means she has to work outside, and the other girls, though they are nice to her, clearly have a bias about her situation and seem to think it just means she needs to work harder and due to her situation she should know that. I find the way hegemony works in the privileged class really interesting to look at and think this scene that was mostly looked over by our class is a good example of how hegemony works in smaller ways that may be less noticed.

Karlyn Mckell said...

I also agree with this idea of privilege. In class we discussed how race is not the only defining factor, because of privilege, and I think Up the Yangtze showed us just that. Everyone she worked with was of the same race and yet many of them still did not empathize with her. They came from a different background entirely. I feel like the reason most people try to define by race is because different races come from different backgrounds, but people fail to understand that people in the same race come from very different backgrounds. Privilege came in many different forms in this movie. Sometimes its not about your economic status or where you were born. Some people were more privileged in the film simply because they had been working on the ship longer. I agree that there are barriers to communication because of these differences in privilege. I thought it was very interesting how the director detailed "others" in the film, and revealed how its not only the white tourists who are in a completely different situation than Cindy.

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