December 3, 2012

Looking at Representation

While watching the movie "Up the Yangtze" I found that there were many levels of representation at play. The movie was of course heavily biased and we can see that by the particular groups represented, yet the people in the documentary themselves seemed very aware of the situation and we can observe them trying to control how we they were viewed. We see this the most on the cruise, where the employees were being told how to act and what kinds of things they were allowed to say, but more than that we see them adhering to old traditions and acting in a way that is not Western or Chinese but is rather the Western idea of the Chinese.

Despite this misrepresentation of who they really are the employees know that they can get the most money this way and so they allow this caricature of the Chinese people to play out. Where I find this representation the most interesting though is in Cindy Shui Yu's family, her father especially. While watching the film we see the family going through their daily lives and they are believed to be acting normal, yet who is completely themselves in front of a camera? An awareness of what you are saying and how you say it becomes a part of your actions because the intimacy of just family that appears to be there is not actually true. Thus how well the family is actually represented and how they really feel about things can only be revealed so much through the movie. My point in this is to look at the many layers of representation and acknowledge that the group being represented  is as aware of the situation as those that are trying to make this representation, or even stereotype of them. I could make the argument that the ones being represented are even more aware of it in reality, for they work to make themselves and the other components of their lives and culture appear a certain way to us, things we associate with them without even thinking about it.

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