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“Cultural differences should not separate us from each other, rather cultural diversity brings a collective strength that can benefit all of humanity” (Arthur, n.d.). The film Lost in Translation follows the lives of an isolated, waning movie star named Bob Harris and an emotionally confused, newly married woman named Charlotte as they visit a new country. The two strangers meet in Tokyo, Japan as Bob is there to shoot a commercial and Charlotte is there with her husband for business. As two outsiders in a foreign country, they form an unexpected and meaningful bond through their adventures together and through encountering the differences between American and Japanese culture. Throughout the film, barriers to effective communication between both the Japanese and American cultures are exhibited through ethnocentrism, stereotyping, prejudice, and culture clash.

The film Lost in Translation relates to the textbook and to the relationship between culture and communication because it incorporates almost all the barriers that go along with intercultural communication. Prejudice and stereotyping are shown in Japanese culture. Lost in Translation is a paradigm of the toil many people are often faced with when they are trying to be in communication with others from a different culture, or others who have different ways of life. From this happening, the outcome came out to be a dearth of effective communication for both the Japanese and Americans. In the film, Bob and Charlotte’s beliefs and morals of their culture in the United States conflict with the people of Japan’s beliefs and morals of their culture in Japan.

Ethnocentrism is, as stated in the textbook, “The belief that one’s own culture is superior to others” (Verderber, Verderber, Sellnow, 2018, sec. 3.4, para 5). In the film, Bob shows ethnocentrism towards the Japanese people. Bob believes that it shouldn’t be hard to distinguish what each letter sounds like from one another and that there shouldn’t be a problem when speaking them either, as Americans, like himself, have no trouble with them. A scene in the film shows Bob ridiculing the inability of the Japanese individuals to recognize the differences between L’s and R’s. As Bob is in his hotel room, he gets visited by a Japanese woman who was sent by a man. He proceeds to let her in, and she offers him a massage, which he then declines. She goes on to say that she was sent to give “premium fantasy” and goes on to show the stockings she is wearing. She then says, “Lip them” and “Lip my stockings” repeatedly until Bob says in a confused and judging voice, “Lip them? Lip them! What!” (Coppola, 2003).

The Japanese woman then tried as hard as she could to make it clear to Bob that she was meaning to say “rip them” but Bob just took it as a joke. As he said that to the lady, you could see from her facial expressions she felt embarrassed and ultimately became upset from him acting the way he did and making fun of how she was confusing the two letters. From this happening, he believes his American culture is better than the Japanese culture. He cannot fathom how hard it is to pronounce the two letters and is just baffled at how hard it is for them. This is offensive to the Japanese culture and it makes a fool of Americans who have little understanding of a world that is different from his. Bob is ethnocentric in the movie. He isn’t understanding the Japanese culture or their language and is going about helping them with the language barrier problems in the wrong way, making it more difficult to communicate.

Stereotyping is, as stated in the textbook, “Assuming all members of a group have similar knowledge levels, behaviors, or beliefs simply because they belong to that group” (Verderber, Verderber, Sellnow, 2018, sec. 11.1, para 9). Bob shows this with the way he views the Japanese people in the beginning scene of the movie. When first arriving at the hotel he is staying at during his time in Japan, he is greeted by a group of Japanese businesspeople. They are all excited to finally meet him, and they all presented him with gifts. The leading Japanese business lady, Kawasaki, went on to let him know that she will be picking him up the next morning to take him to the photo shoot and told him she would see him in the morning. Bob looked very perplexed and in awe, and responds with, “Great, short and sweet. Very Japanese I like that” (Coppola, 2003).

The Japanese businesspeople sort of brushed off what he had just said with some laughs and smiles on their faces, but you could tell they took it as offensive. Bob responds this way, he is showing that this is the way he views people in Japan. Just because Kawasaki was quick and straight to the point, he now believes all Japanese people are the same way, as if they all do what the other does. His perception of Japanese people is that they are quiet, straight-to-the-point people who do not want to bother you, which is a very stereotypical thing to say. In Lost in Translation, the Japanese people prove the stereotype incorrect. As Americans have their own traditions, cultures, and beliefs that everyone follows, so do the Japanese. They are only doing what they learned to do. They learned to be courteous, mature, and respectful. Just because they kept things short and simple it should not be shown as a stereotype to their culture. Americans have ways they act as well, which all Americans follow, but in our minds that isn’t seen as a cultural stereotypical thing, as it should not be.

Prejudice is, as noted from the textbook, “Judging a person based on characteristics of a group to which the person belongs without regard to how the person may vary from the group characteristic” (Verderber, Verderber, Sellnow, 2018, sec. 2.4, para 11). This concept can make others judge and dislike someone before even getting to know them. In a specific scene in the film at a Japanese restaurant, Bob exploits the way that the Japanese chef cannot comprehend English. He not only encourages Charlotte to take off her shoe in the restaurant to show him her messed up toe, yet in addition speaks patronizingly at the chef saying, “This country loves black toe, should we hang around until someone orders it” and “Hey what’s with that straight face?” (Coppola, 2003). Both Bob and Charlotte laughed at what Bob had said while looking at the chef, showing no remorse for what was just said, or the fact that they thought it was funny.

Since the chef could not understand English, he took that to his advantage to make fun of the chef and his culture, saying irrelevant things and making fun of the fact he cannot understand them, making him feel superior. Neither Charlotte nor Bob thought of what the chef might have been feeling or thinking as they were laughing at him and putting down his culture, and they didn’t think of the impact it caused. From this happening, the prejudice could have made the Japanese people not like the Americans since they showed they didn’t care about anyone’s feelings or cultures but their own, which just showed that the people of the United States were not caring and were selfish. The film does portray prejudice quite often. As seen in the film, there is a lot of judging towards the way the Japanese speak, the way they act, and the way they interpret the Americans. Bob and Charlotte tend to show prejudice quite often in the beginning of the film, but towards the end, they begin to look to a new light and a new perspective of Japan, and the people and culture that goes along with it.

Culture clash is when, as described in the textbook, “Two cultures’ values and beliefs clash with one another” (Verderber, Verderber, Sellnow, 2018, sec. ). What this means is that a person or group of people may have a struggle with functioning or working with someone or others of a different culture other than their own. As shown in both society and in the film, this leads to fighting, bickering, misunderstanding, and hatred toward the cultures. When this happens, we see discord which develops into much bigger problems than it should have. In the film Lost in Translation, cultural clashes between the Americans and the Japanese are seen.

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There was a scene from the film where Bob and Charlotte go to a party with Charlotte’s friend Charlie and a few of his Japanese friends. Bob becomes introduced to everyone, and then afterward Charlotte tells him she will be right back, and she leaves to go hang out with other Japanese people. Throughout the party, everyone is speaking Japanese. Bob is seen a few times hanging by himself, and not conversing with anyone while Charlotte is making friends and exploring. After a while of watching behind the scenes, Bob is shown talking with a Japanese man who is only speaking Japanese to Bob. Bob was just looking awkwardly, not knowing what was being said but went on to pretend he did and starts speaking nonsense. After a while of talking with the man, Charlotte comes back and Bob says, “Hey, you’re back. My Japanese is getting a little better because we started speaking American” (Coppola, 2013). Bob gives her a look as if he was annoyed with having to talk to the Japanese because he wasn’t understanding what was being said, and he looked as though he did not want to be there any longer. Charlotte proceeded to laugh, and Bob looked around at everyone as though he was finished hanging around them.

Charlotte was trying to get Bob to explore and meet other Japanese people like her friend Charlie, whom Bob seemed to like, but it did not turn out that way. This scene is important because it shows the misapprehension the American people have of the Japanese people. As shown by Bob, the Americans do not see how the Japanese, there is no clash between the cultures when it comes to the language and culture of one another. No matter if they did not have the same language, the Japanese people, like the man who was trying to talk with Bob, tried their best to start up a conversation and interact with him, but Bob was just doing it in a joking matter and created a misunderstanding between the two. I feel that even if you do not know what is being said to you, you should still be respectful about listening. Be sincere and try to see yourself in their place. I can relate to the character of the Japanese man who was talking with Bob. I have been in a similar situation with a person whose language was Spanish, where I tried to start a meaningful conversation with them as they were all by themselves. As I was doing so, they were saying things back to me, so I thought they were understanding what was being said. Later, though, I found out that what they were saying was just random gibberish that did not pertain at all to what I was saying. I understand that they weren’t recognizing what was being said, but they could have stopped me and let me know they did not know English or something of that nature instead of me talking and thinking they are, in fact, understanding their language, or being made a fool of.

Early Japanese culture was intensely impacted by China. During the Edo time, Japan practiced a severe independent strategy, shutting its way to all associations with the outside world. This developed a Japanese culture (Tsutsumi, 2017). From 794 to 1185, throughout the Heian era, Japan’s one-of-a-kind culture grew quickly. The supreme court turned out suffering workmanship, verse, and exposition. The samurai warrior class was created during this era as well. Samurai masters, called “shogun”, assumed control over the legislature in 1185, and ruled Japan for the sake of the ruler until 1868 (Szczepanski, 2019). After the fall of that time in 1868, Japan turned around this implementation, embracing social practices from everywhere throughout the world and blending them with what was built up during the Edo period. Throughout the years, Western culture has affected all parts of Japanese culture including workmanship, way of life, and nourishment (Tsutsumi, 2017). Japanese values are completely established in all parts of life, and will consistently affect family, work, and social collaborations. Core values of the Japanese culture include doing your best, knowing your role, not giving up, respecting your elders, thinking of others, and working in a group. These values are reflected in the expressions utilized in everyday associations, which smooth connections and recognize the nearness of others (Kanagy, 2019).

Overall, I found that I did enjoy watching the film. There are different characteristics of the film that I both liked and disliked, but I still felt the film was well-done. I believe the cast was chosen perfectly. Casting Bill Murray to play Bob Harris to me made it feel as if Bill was, in a way, truly Bill in real life, just as casting Scarlett Johansson to play Charlotte. At the end of the film, I really enjoyed seeing a shift in both Bob and Charlotte’s outlook on both the Japanese culture and their country. They put their beliefs aside and stopped judging what they thought was not normal in their culture. Instead, they became understanding and started cherishing the time they spent in Japan and cherishing the memories they made with one another, and finally learned something new from their journey. Their personalities meshed with the characters superbly.

I found the film to be both accurate and inaccurate. There were times when the film showed the correct appeal of the Japanese towards the Americans, and when it did show the true relationships between people of different cultures. I feel that, as shown in this film, all cultures treat other cultures they are unfamiliar with in the way that the Americans treated the Japanese. However, my main disliking of the film was how it showed the Japanese people. In a way, the movie made them out to be very goofy, especially when it came to the scene of the game show. I did not like how they made the Japanese seem, at times, incompetent of what the Americans were speaking about, and made it as though they were not smart in a sense. I feel that when they first portrayed the Americans it made it seem as those all Americans would act the same way as Bob did when he wasn’t interested in the sights of Japan, or how he immediately jumped to conclusions about why the Japanese people acted the way they did was because it’s just a Japanese thing.

After watching this film, I believe that in today’s time period, the film would not be culturally or politically correct. Bob would be seen as prejudiced, and ultimately racist for requesting the Japanese chef make black-toe because their country loves it as stated by Bob, and for judging the chef because of his facial expression. I do believe this is an effective film on intercultural communication. It exhibits many concepts of intercultural communication that are most important to know in our world and provides a very good understanding of how each concept works in the real world as well. This film shows how we need to not judge a book by its cover, or in the film’s case their culture, and that we need to have more intercultural empathy. If we do this, not only will we have a broadened aspect of other cultures, but we will think before we speak or act and just embrace others more.

The most significant thing I learned about culture and communication in this film is that everyone single person in the world is different, but together we are the same. Just because we come from different countries, different cultures, and different ways of living, it doesn’t make any difference. People need to understand that not everyone has the same way of communicating as us, and that’s ok. There is no reason we should try to conform others to speak like us, or to judge others for being different. There is a reason why there are different cultures and languages in the world, and it is not to find a way to get rid of them; it is to learn from them and understand them. A film I would recommend watching when studying intercultural communication would be Slumdog Millionaire.

The relationship between Japanese and American culture in the film exemplifies ethnocentrism, stereotyping, prejudice, and culture clash. From the film, Lost in Translation, I learned that by establishing the belief that intimate human connection is sometimes the only thing that can help us, it will find our way when we become lost in both a physical and emotional way. Although the portrayal of Japan and the Japanese people wasn’t the greatest, their culture symbolically brought together the two and changed their lives for the better, and even helped change their cultural views of Japan too.

From feeling separated when around other cultures we are not used to, to finding that person or thing that allows us to start accepting that diversity and embrace it is what will allow us to truly feel one again. Open your eyes and become one with intercultural communication. When doing this, will be the greatest guarantee of a more tranquil, sustainable world, and life

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