Posts tagged Meryl Streep

Power Distance in China between Males and Females

My husband and I just watched “Hope Springs” at the movie theater last night, it was rated as PG-13. I thought it should have been rated a bit more critically. I certainly wouldn’t want my former Chinese students to see it. They probably wouldn’t have understood the subtle humor in it.  However, it had great actors with Tommy Lee Jones and Meryl Streep but the content was rather graphic.  The “power distance” created in this 31 year marriage was something to witness.

This next essay written by a young Chinese man shows his passion for all things Japanese.  He amazed me with his acumen, his attention to detail and he is only 15 years old!!!  I think he is fascinated with Japan because that is a topic left out of the Chinese history books.  So close to the war crimes of WWII and even earlier, China does not want to know much about Japan.  Yet, this student points out over and over again how much Japan has borrowed and used things from China.  Strange “power distance” going on between these two countries.

“In some TV programs, movies and dramas, Chinese females are always regarded as weak and obedient people who hardly have power to even disobey males or decide own fate. Chinese women have little power when they are communicating with males. This opinion is easy to be accepted since it’s believed that ‘Males have more power than females’ according to “Experiencing Intercultural Communication: A Introduction,” Fourth Edition by Martin, Nakayama in 2011(P.53). However, this is actually wrong thinking not only regarding recent China but also to ancient China. In fact, it’s very common for Chinese females to get many kinds of power as males. Females’ rights are always protected by laws or moral habit. For these reasons, when females communicate with males, there is little power distance between them in China. Because culture in East Asia is similar to each other such as China and Korea and Japan, I will also put forward some examples in Korea or Japan to prove my thesis.

It’s common for females to get as much power as males. In recent China, according to “Culture Shock! : A Survival Guide to Customs and Etiquette China” by Angie Eagan & Rebecca Weiner in 2011(P.69), ‘There is a lovely Chinese expression that says that women hold up half the sky’. This metaphor is quite good for it describes the truth correctly. Among people who I know, females usually are not only important money contributers to families but also money managers in families because many husbands must hand over their money to their wives. It’s not a social habit just appearing in recent years. In ancient China, wives had a nickname as ‘General Manager’(In Chinese it’s written as ‘掌柜’) which means wives are the economic manager of the whole family and the deep reason is that in ancient China silk or cotton textile made by females was always an important part of family income.

For these reasons, in traditional Chinese stories, we can often see a wife saying, ‘Think of how you will live without me!’ to her husband and even now we can also see such a communication situation. In such cases, most husbands will choose to be silent. The little economic power distance between males and females also leads to little power distance between males and females in communication situations.

Females’ rights are always protected by laws or habits. In recent years, it’s undoubted that there will be well-done law in East Asia countries which protects females’ rights. However, it’s hard to imagine that females’ rights are also protected well in ancient East Asia. As a matter of fact, in Ming Dynasty(1368-1644), according to the law, if a husband married two wives, he would be “exiled to places where is over 500 kilometers to his hometown” (In Chinese it’written as “流一千里”).

Females’ rights is also be of importance in Japan. According to Wuxuezuyuan (In Japanese it’s written as “無学祖元”)’s Buddhism education to females and views about females’ rebirths by Saku Wanatabe in 2011, “On the contrary of denying females’ rebirth in old times, Wuxuezuyuan admitted posibilities of females’ rebirth.” It means in Japanese monks’ points of view, females are equal to males. And according to one Japanese laws in Kamakura, (In Japanese it’s written as “鎌倉”) period (1189-1333) which named Joei Shikimoku (In Japanese it’s written as “貞永式目”), “When a wife divorces with her husband, if she make crimes, she shall not get her husband’s property. However, if she has no mistakes, her husband shall not regret to give her some of his property.” This law admits that husband’s property is not equal with wife’s property.  In addition, another law in this code was that “The right of inheritance of females is equal with males. Moreover, if one daughter doesn’t make serious crimes, parent cannot disinherit her. This law admits that rights of inheritance of daughters is equal with sons. These are both laws protecting females’ rights in property.

Females’ rights are also protected by moral habits. For example, widows and young girls are always regarded as people who need protection most especially widows, and people violating their rights usually will be punished promptly. It’s the same in Japan. For example, in an ancient Japanese historical book named Heika>(In Japanese it’s written as “平家物語”),there is a female samurai named Tomoe(In Japanese it’s written as “巴”). According to The Tales of Heika, “Tomoe was especially beautiful, with white skin, long hair, and charming features. She was also a remarkably strong archer, and as a swordswoman she was a warrior worth a thousand men.”(In Japanese it’s written as “巴は色白く髪長く、容顔まことに優れたり。強弓精兵、一人当千の兵者なり”). It’s not something imaginary. As a matter of fact, in ancient Japan, females usually received martial arts training because they were supposed to protect family with their husbands or brothers.

When females communicate with males, there is little power distance between them in China. For example, my father has told me some stories about his grandmother. When she talked with her husband, brothers, children or grandchildren, she was very serious and no on dared disobey her. It’s because she was the actual manager of a large family and she had her own property so she could influence the economics in the large family . In recent China, however, there are few large families now. However, females are still important managers in Chinese families. When my mother communicates with my father, she is at an equal situation to my father. And when my mother talks with other less powerful male family numbers such as her brother, he can only do nodding and saying yes. It’s the same situation among my classmates in China, a girl usually can control her boyfriend in communication well rather than always obey her boyfriend.

In conclusion, it’s very common for Chinese females to get many kinds of power as males and females’ rights are always protected by laws or moral habits. More importantly, it’s sure that there is little power distance between males and females in China. China is a lawful country not only in past but also in recent times. However, it doesn’t mean that China is a highly-hierachical society. Females communicate with males without any power distance is very common in China and East Asia.”

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“Iron Lady” and Meryl Streep’s Performance

I know this has nothing to do with Kazakhstan but in a sense it does.  Asians are much more tolerant of older people, they give them the respect that is due them.  “Getting old is not for sissies,” my 96 year old grandma used to quote.  I don’t understand why women, such as Meryl Streep, who pride themselves on being liberal and emancipated tear down other successful women. I don’t get it.  Meryl Streep did a huge disservice to the legacy of Margaret Thatcher in the latest movie “Iron Lady.”

Streep was very talented on imitating Julia Child and her walk, talk and mannerisms (think “Julie and Julia” movie), Streep did the same with the honorable Thatcher’s accent and movements.  However, what I find remiss is that Streep was ready and willing to play the role of an aging woman with dementia. There’s nothing attractive about witnessing the fragile years of a deteriorated mind especially of one who used to be a world powerhouse such as Margaret Thatcher.

The following are Meryl Streep’s thoughts on her performance in “Iron Lady” from Internet Movie Database imdb.com:

“It took a lot out of me, but it was a privilege to play Margaret Thatcher, it really was. I still don’t agree with a lot of her policies. But I feel she believed in them and that they came from an honest conviction, and that she wasn’t a cosmetic politician just changing make-up to suit the times.

We on the Left didn’t like her policies but secretly we were thrilled that a woman had made it, and we thought, “Wow, if it can happen there in England, it could happen here.” But we’re still waiting in America.

She’s still an incredibly divisive figure, but you miss her clarity today. It was all very clear and up front, and I loved that eagerness to mix it up and to make it about ideas. Today it’s all about feelings. You know, “How do I come off?” and, “Does this seem OK?” You want people who are willing to find a solution. I admire the fact that she was a “love-me-or-hate-me” kind of leader who said: “This is what I stand for.” It’s a hard thing to do and no one’s doing that now.

[on what appealed to Meryl Streep about playing Margaret Thatcher] Women and power, and diminishment of power, and loss of power. And reconciliation with your life where you come to a point where you’ve lived most of it, and it’s behind you. I have always liked and been intrigued by older people and the idea that behind them lives every human trauma, drama, glory, jokes, love.

I consider all the roles I play a privilege but this one was special because there are such vehement opinions about her. People seemed to look at her as an icon or a monster and I just wanted to locate the human being inside those caricatures that we’ve seen over so many years. And to investigate myself what it must have been like for her.

[Streep responding to those who have criticized the emphasis placed on Margaret Thatcher’s frail and confused old age] Some people have said it’s shameful to portray this part of a life. But the corollary of that is that, if you think that debility, delicacy, dementia are shameful, if you think that the ebbing of a life is something that should be shut away, if you think that people need to be defended from these images then – yes – then you’ll think it’s a shameful thing.”

Apparently, whoever wrote the “Iron Lady” script wanted the audience to be confused about Thatcher’s husband, Denis, appearing in her other world of delusion or reappearing in mere flashbacks in time.  Denis provides the comic relief necessary for this film and is entertaining when he tries to get Margaret to lighten up.  Endearing are their two children who wanted their mother to stay home and not follow her vision and passion to lead the country. Did Meryl Streep’s three daughters and one son have the same desire to have their mother home with them?  Seems she has racked up many movies in her acting career since the mid-1970s, same drive to follow one’s passion. Will someone play Meryl Streep’s tottering years when she goes senile?  I wonder.

What I liked best about the movie was the quote that Margaret Thatcher used.  If only Meryl Streep heeded these words and was not on the liberal left so ready to take an icon of freedom and democracy down.  A movie built around “selective memories” should instead showcase “Iron Lady” as having character of the right sort.

“Watch your thoughts for they become words,

Watch your words for they become actions,

Watch your actions for they become…habits,

Watch your habits, for they become your character,

And watch your character, for it becomes your destiny!

What we think, we become.”

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Watched Six Movies in 24 hours

I landed safely in Minneapolis after two long and uneventful flights and a long wait in Amsterdam in the span of 24 hours.  To pass my time on planes I usually can’t sleep and I like to catch up on movies.  The following are the six movies I watched in the span of 24 hours.  Lots to sort through!   

Slumdog Millionaire – set in India using the popular game show “So you want to be a millionaire.”  Heard so much about this movie because of the academy awards, I just HAD to see it.  They used a kid named Jamal who grew up on the streets who ultimately won a lot of rupees from the game show Indian style.  How did he do it? *Spoiler*  Shows torture of Jamal at first like water boarding, electrocution and slapping around to get to the bottom of that answer.  The “truth” was even more riveting to Jamal’s accusers than what they thought was some kind of electronic scam.  Many improbable scenes happen so it seemed surreal throughout in that sense and had a typical Hollywood happy ending.  I liked the last dancing scene at the train station when they rolled the credits.  Very creative.

 

Changeling – The next sobering movie I watched was directed by Clint Eastwood.  He is a master at creating films that have an “edginess” to them with current social issues, this one was no exception set in the late 1920s in L.A. starring Angelina Jolie.  She did a superb job of acting, convincing the viewers that she was a single mom who simply wanted her son back alive.  Her son had been missing for five months and then things got really rough for her.  True story but the supporting role goes to the Presbyterian minister who was backing this mother to find out just how corrupt and devious the L.A. police department could be.  Never seemed that she thanked the minister for pulling her out of a psycho ward and the courtroom cases they went through while she was very motherly about correcting the boy on his manners when he came to live in her house who wasn’t her true son.  Seems when Hollywood directors use any period piece, they may discover that a lot of prayer went into the actually living out of the real life tragedy. I believe Hollywood does all they can to dilute how much faith happened back in our earlier days.  This has a mixed ending, similar to Eastwoods “Million Dollar Baby.”  I want to see his latest film “Grand Torino.”

 

First Daughter – After two sad and serious movies, I had to watch a comedy and this felt like I was watching Chelsea Clinton leave Wash. D.C. to go to Stanford for her university education.  Probably this movie script had all sorts of things that happened in real life for the Clinton family or for the Bush twins but it was made to look fictional.  I would have liked to have seen Anne Hathaway do this movie but she no longer is convincing as a college coed, another young actress did a very good job.  Her “boyfriend” looked a little older for the college scene but that was part of the plot too.  Watch it for some funny scenes that will make you LOL.

 

Doubt – Meryl Streep never disappoints in her acting roles, though I’m disappointed in her politics as with most all Hollywood actors.  This movie is set in 1960s in some Catholic Church and school and Streep is the battleaxe principal who does not like the warm, charismatic priest. (Think “Devil Wears Prada” but the opposite in fashion design with her nun’s habit)  The plot is rich with meaning about intolerance, discrimination and struggles with the Catholic faith as it tries to lighten up a bit from the Old School.  It reminded me of the Soviet teachers I am surrounded by who are stuck in the old ways and can’t get out.  Meryl Streep has an abrupt and surprise ending and it leaves you with DOUBT!!!  I recommend watching it to see what issues they are really dealing with.

 

Get Smart – Anne Hathaway and the other male actor (I forget his name) but he does a great job playing the Max character from the Get Smart TV series.  Lots of funny scenes that are set in U.S. then in Russia then in L.A. but my KLM airline pilot had to land so I couldn’t find out what really happened.  I believe the president of the US was saved from a certain nuclear attack in L.A. thanks to Max and his agent 99 (Anne) and they predictably got together in the end.  Agent 23 turns out to be the double agent but then I’m giving the whole plot away, right?

 

Australia – Nicole Kidman and cattle driving don’t seem to go together but she does a great job riding horses and being the prim and proper British woman at first who eventually fits into the Wild West cowboy scenes in Australia.  What was odd about this film was that the director’s made Nicole seem so cartoon-ish at first.  From being totally aghast at kangaroo hunts, shocked at the decay to their Down Under residence her late husband had built and then trying to be a mother to a little half Aboriginal child.  Then the second half of the movie Kidman suddenly becomes ultimately absorbed by Australia’s toughened charm. It was as if the directors forced Kidman to do a fast forward in her caricature and then she seemed more relaxed and likeable as a person once she started to fight the big fight in Australia against an adversary in the cattle drive business.  This movie is set in the late 1930s and continues into the war with Japan in the 1940s and how it changed many Australians lives as a result.  The scenery is beautiful; the history bits are good just to see how Australia was affected by WWII. I always knew from my Philippine days that the Australians were very involved in the Pacific conquest but have not known much in how they suffered.   This film also deals with the issues of the discrimination against the aboriginal peoples.  On the whole a good movie, though it seems long but is worth the watch. 

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