24. Western cultural contexts


Key terms introduced in this chapter:

  • no new terms are introduced in this chapter

Key terms mentioned in this chapter that should now be familiar:

  • context-to-ToM distance
  • cultural contexts
  • East Asia
  • love
  • values
  • worldviews

The history of romantic love in Western Europe is rich, fascinating, and powerful. It colors perceptions of *love for anyone who has grown up in most areas of Western European countries or in the United States, or has grown up consuming a large volume of narratives written by and for those within these cultures, or is in highly “Westernized” cultural milieu in *East Asia. This poses some problems for interpretive projects because these Greek and Judeo-Christian *worldviews and *values are so pervasive we are unaware that they are at work shaping our interpretations. In the several chapters we will consider a variety of Western worldviews and values to bring into the open some of these influences. Of these, early Greek and the religions coming out of Mesopotamia (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) are the oldest and so in ways the most difficult to separate from “commonsense” or “natural” ways of thinking. That being said, some pagan values deserve our attention, as do powerful new ways of thinking. If your cultural roots are in the West, I hope the following discussions help you identify some *worldviews and *values that you might be unknowingly, or willingly, embracing.

But there is indeed a second layer to the challenge. The *worldviews and *values we are about to discuss have, indeed, found their way into the *East Asian cultures we are considering, but the presence is uneven. Determining whether or not we should include these as *cultural contexts (deciding *context-to-ToM distance) is no easy task. Complicating that work is that directors and actors, and others involved with film-making, are, on the whole, relatively global citizens who have traveled extensively, lived in the West, or even received film training in Western *cultural contexts. The history of film is powerfully embedded in Western values and any major film director is well versed in this history. Further, for marketing reasons, East Asian directors may find it profitable to play to Western values to expand their audiences and take advantage of overseas markets. Funding can have international sources, too, and those who provide the financial foundation of a film may have ideas about its content, too. We encounter complicated cultural situations such as the director of Norwegian Wood (Tokyo, 2010), which is a Japanese film based on a Japanese novel and with a Japanese script but directed by a Vietnamese who cannot speak Japanese.


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Interpreting Love Narratives in East Asian Literature and Film Copyright © 2019 by John R Wallace is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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