PromotingMulticulturalism: Film, a Play and a Novel
In the modern globalized world, different cultures have had tointeract more with the implications varying widely. Increasedmovement of people around the world has created multiculturalsocieties comprising of people with different and often conflictingcultural beliefs and practices. These people can choose to retaintheir unique cultural identities, a concept known asmulticulturalism, or adopt another dominant culture (Owusu). Thus,multiculturalism as a model of integration is often compared to othermodels such as assimilation, individualist integration, andcosmopolitanism. Ideally, a multicultural society is hinged on thewillingness of different entities to coexist and the need to fightracism and also embrace differences. However, such differences havenot always been there. For California and its people, there has beena need to redefine cultural interactions as composition of peoplecontinues to change through immigration and migration. Therefore, forsuch a society to function properly, then it is necessary to developnew factors that hold the people together. Art plays this role verywell by celebrating different cultures and providing a uniqueplatform for cultural interactions and expressions among the people.In particular, the genres of film, play, and novel have played afundamental role in shaping the public’s view of culturaldifferences and even offering lessons on addressing the challengesthat face multicultural societies as this paper expounds.
First and foremost, it is important to recognize that films play oneof the greatest roles in mirroring and shaping society’s moralvalues that influence cultural interactions. Increased filmviewership as permitted by technology and social changes hasincreased their roles in promoting the public’s ability to functionas a multicultural society. One such film, the “Crash”, depictsthe interactions of people from different cultures and nationalitiessuch as whites, blacks, Latinos, Koreans and Iranians in the city ofLos Angeles as they deal with everyday events. The interactions ofthe characters in the film are likely to influence how audiencesrelate to people from different cultures. In most cases, they arelikely to copy exactly what they see and learn from the film. Again,the film explores cultural and racial stereotypes and also helps toperpetuate them (Haggis). For instance, one Iranian character in thefilm is perceived by other characters as an Arab while in the realsense Iranians are Persians. Similarly, a Mexican character isstereotyped as a gang member whilst in reality he is just a familyman. Therefore, through such depictions the audiences get to learnthe evils and benefits of stereotyping if there are any.
Other than influencing relationships at the multicultural level,depiction of politics in films affects the political climate of asociety and social interactions. In any given society, politics ofthe day influence how individuals interact and how culturaldifferences are portrayed. According to Owusu (11), cultural politicspromote segmentation with politicians using culture or ethnicity tohighlight differences between different groups. On the contrary,political culture attempts to cut through such cultural and racialsegmentation. In “Crash,” the presence of police officers and adistrict attorney illustrates the position of political institutionsin cultural relations that viewers can adopt. For instance, one whitepoliceman is perpetually angry at African Americans who cost hisfather a janitorial job through affirmative action policies. In sodoing, the film portrays the negative impact of migrants in LA, whichcan influence audiences to oppose multicultural policies bygovernments. Furthermore, the film’s director makes a deliberateattempt to stay away from political correctness and present issues asthey exist in reality. The film clearly captures racial stereotypesand the different perceptions towards to an increasinglymulticultural Californian society. The need to be politically correctcan hinder films mirroring the real cultural issues facing a societysuch as racial stereotyping. However, over political correctness canalso promote racism. Some film critics have accused Haggis of overbeing too politically correct in his film as a way of accommodatingimmigrants and minorities (Ebert 141-142). Whichever the case, thefilm presents some major racial stereotypes and works atdeconstructing them. Such an approach is likely to influenceCalifornians in major ways.
The play genre has also made its healthy contribution in enhancingthe way Californians perceive and embrace multiculturalism. In thesame way as films, the play genre allows society to learn more abouthuman beings in general and the people that they interact with on aregular basis. In spite of the film genre threatening to overshadowthe theatre, the genre of play remains relevant in the 21stcentury as it engages the audience more than films. Thus, play isbest suited to teaching Californians how best they can live andrelate with each other regardless of their cultural differences.Plays also “provide an opportunity for each member of the audienceto interact with the imaginative minds that create it, to exploreideas and beauty, and to discover new ways of looking at the world”(Becker 126). Thus, there is a need for Californians to learn newways of living with people from different cultures within the commondefining American culture of democracy and freedom. This way, allcultures are respected and cultural differences are acknowledged in agood way as opposed to being suppressed.
Plays also allow the modern society to learn from ancient societieson ways of embracing cultural differences. This is best indicated bythe adaptations of classic plays by classic playwrights such asWilliam Shakespeare and Euripides. Luis Alfaro, a modern playwrightwrote the play, “Mojada: A Medea in Los Angeles” as an adaptationof Euripides’ “Medea”. The play, which was directed by JessicaKubzansky, was staged at the Outdoor Theatre at the Getty Villa. Theoriginal play by Euripides examines the issue of cross-culturalintermarriages and the interactions of difference cultures in ancientGreece. The adaptation by Alfaro examines the plight of Mojada, afemale immigrant from Mexico who is living in Boyle Heights. The playadvocates for a multicultural integration process by clearlydepicting assimilation as a negative approach to integration. Hason,Mojada’s husband, is forced to selectively erase and deny hisMexican cultural heritage in order to fit in. For instance, he wantsto raise his son in the American way and demands that the son wearsan American soccer shirt. He also instructs his son to call him dadas opposed to Papi. The play also captures the idea that immigrantswork in poorly paid menial jobs that not only pose a threat to familyunity but also denies them human dignity (McNulty). Thus, the playteaches audiences the need to relearn ways that they relate withminority groups and immigrants. The play also challenges immigrantsto accept their cultures and recognize the fact that no culture issuperior to the other as espoused by multiculturalism as anintegration model.
Although films and plays are assumed to be more influential inshaping social behavior, novels also have a great role to play. Thisassumption is best captured by the greater popularity of novel-basedfilms and TVseries than the novels themselves. Two good examples ofsuch novels are George R.R Martins’ “A Games of Thrones” andAllan Folsom’s “The Day After Tomorrow”, which were greatlyovershadowed by screen adaptations of the same. Nevertheless, thereare some novels that have largely impressed in the manner that theyreflect and seek to shape social behavior especially in terms ofmulti-racial and multicultural relationships. Such books includeBrian Ascalon’s “American Son” and Culture Clash’s“Bordertown.” In the “American son”, the author narrates thestory of two Filipino brothers in California. The novel captures theculture shock that immigrants are subjected to and the traps thatthey might fall into in America. In “Bordertown” the performancetroupe Culture Clash samples several interviews from a wide range ofpeople including immigrants from all over the world living in theborder towns of San-Diego and Tijuana. Both novels highlight theexperiences of immigrants with the main difference being thatBordertown captures the actual experiences of real people whereasAscalon’s book is fictional.
In Ascalon’s novel, one of the most conspicuous issues relates tointerracial marriages as a product of multicultural societies. Thetwo main characters, Tomas and Gabe, have a white American father anda Filipino mother. The marriage of their parents thus shows that lovecan overcome cultural differences. Nonetheless, such marriages poseunique challenges to children as the case of Tomas who suffers fromidentity crisis. In spite of having a white-Filipino background, heprefers a Mexican identity. He dons Mexican tattoos and also joins aMexican gang. Thus, the novel rightly confronts the issue ofmultiracial individuals and enlightens society on some of thechallenges confronting children from interracial marriages in amulticultural society. The novel also raises the question of culturalidentity in regards to one’s ancestry. For instance, is it rightfor Tomas to choose a Mexican cultural identity yet he does not haveMexican heritage? Is it possible to fully assimilate into a newculture? and how does the same affect one’s relationship withothers? These are some of the pertinent questions that the novel slikely to evoke among readers as they seek to learn more about livingin a multicultural society.
The second novel, “Bordertown”, uses humor to highlight theplight of immigrants in San Diego and Tijuana. One thing that emergesfrom the novel is the cultural and racial hostilities that differentgroups have towards outsiders. For instance, the authors wereconfronted by a Mexican militia man who accused them of beingMexicans seeking to cross over to America. The militiaman clearlydoes not appreciate the minor racial variations among Mexicans.Again, one of the women interviewed, the Lajolla woman, jokinglytalks of how Jews were not allowed to settle in one area simplybecause of their race (Culture Clash 19). Therefore, through thenovel, it becomes clear to the audiences that racial hostilities andracism are real despite the fact discrimination based on race isoutlawed. Thus, the novel reminds the audiences about the issues ofrace and exposes audiences to the fact that they can also be victimsof racism in new lands and thus they need to actively fight racism.
From the discussion above, it is evident that the genres of film,play, and novel continue to influence how people in Californiafunction as a multicultural society. The genres have enabledindividuals in society to cope well with the challenges arising outof living in a multicultural society as well as encouraging behaviorsdetrimental to multiculturalism. Again, by highlighting thechallenges that come along with a multicultural society and itsconsequences such as identity crisis, the different genres createpublic awareness that is a starting point to developing appropriateresponsive behaviors. Moreover, a multicultural society here inCalifornia has encouraged a new approach in literature, film, andplay. This allows for richer artistic ideas and development of artcontent that appeals to culturally diverse audiences.
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