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The East has become a trend these days, from clothing and music to philosophy and culture. Which is all very well. But a small problem arises when the media deals with all things Eastern. It's the same problem that often exists when the Eastern media deals with Western material: cultural aspects are exoticized. It's actually an interesting social phenomenon; the East is glorified here, the West is glorified there, there's a backlash everywhere...

So what's wrong with exoticizing things? Well, misportrayal for one. It blows up selective parts of a culture and completely ignores others. It glorifies or distorts facets of a culture in order to appeal to the audience--for better or worse. Turns the people of another land into something utterly different from ourselves--or lumps together diverse facets of a culture.

That is not to say that I don't understand how India touches people in a different way than, say, Rome. I feel it myself every time I visit or so much as listen to the music. But it troubles me how age-old traditions and philosophies become fads. I understood the genuine interest of the man who started talking to me about the "om" sign written on my hand in mehendi--but at the same time, I had to explain to him that no, I hadn't read the book he was talking about, no, I'm not familiar with that ritual, and I'm Hindu, not Buddhist.

Now, I understand that it's difficult to be 100% accurate in fiction, and I don't have a problem with people taking liberties to better a story. At the same time, people get ideas from the media, and when a culture is misportrayed in a movie or a novel, people wind up believing erronous information.

I've come to the conclusion that the mainstream media will always exoticize and ignore accuracy for the sake of sensationalism. And honestly, I can't say that I don't enjoy many creative efforts despite certain innacuracies I could point out. Since cultural sensitivity is popular these days, the people of other lands are generally portrayed in a respectful light, which is good. But that doesn't mean I don't groan when Denmark is called Italy, or when a sacred Native American ritual becomes an elitist trend.


the subversive pomegranate
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Xena: Warrior Princess is MCA/Universal and whoever else legally owns it. This page is 1999 shilpa.