Casual Conversation

In the United States, there has been a pattern in popular culture of misrepresenting Eastern cultures. The classic examples are the cannibals in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, and the representations of people in Mulan and Aladdin. While outside the scope of Eastern cultures, there is also the film trope of the dry, barren, gang-ridden Mexican desert. The proper term for this is Orientalism, and I think it affects people to such a degree because they are exposed to Americanizations of those cultures at a young age, which they then take to adulthood. They are then rarely, if ever, exposed to the actual cultures. The solution to this? Casual conversation.

The world lost it for the past two years, but I believe the best way to interact with someone else is face to face. When two people are standing in front of each other, there is no computer-generated filter, no screen, and no director to tell them what to say. There are no assumptions, because there is another person to explain things. There is no shield of anonymity to hide behind, because that other person is 5 feet away from you and not halfway across the globe connected to you via social media. All that is left is two people, their looks, gestures, actions, thoughts, feelings, and voices. When these two people are in front of each other, orientalist ideals fall away completely, because they are founded on obviously false assumptions about the other person standing in front of you.

Casual conversation is something every American should try, at least a few times per year. Everybody should find someone different from them, as different as possible, and just talk to them. It doesn’t have to be about anything specific, but everybody should walk away having learned something.

3 thoughts on “Casual Conversation

  1. Nicholas P.

    I find your argument really interesting. I agree that orientalism is definitely in such movies as Aladdin. I also think you’re right, we should be having conversations about this topic, rather than talking over a screen/the internet, but in person about this topic and how it can be changed to thus not create the stereotypes as movies and shows sometimes portray races and cultures.

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  2. Tim M

    I love that instead of just pointing out a problem with western culture, but proposing a solution. Orientalism is such a widely-held bias across the United States and other western nations that finding a solution can be very difficult, but I really like the simplicity and easiness of your proposal to just talk with people who are different. I can imagine there are a few things that could prevent casual conversation from being an absolute solution — namely language and location barriers that prevent easy communication — but any solution is a step in the right direction, and with the advancement of technology, these language and location barriers will only become less significant over time.

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  3. Alex G.

    Completely agree, I think that social media has made it more difficult for people, especially people of different backgrounds than one another, to have heart-to-heart conversations with one another without making some sort of assumption. We kind of forget that we’re talking to real people, and the only way social media helps us fix this is by providing an easy way for people to make plans together and have, as you say, casual conversation.

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