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On Culture, Stereotypes, and the "French"

One of the simplest yet wisest statements I heard this year in Paris came from a professor in a course I took on literature and globalization. He said, "Je ne suis pas capable de vous dire ce que font les Français" (Translation: I am not capable of telling you what the French do). In other words, he didn't want to generalize and say "the French are like so," or "the French do so-and-so."

In fact, about all we can say generally of the French or the Serbs or Cubans or Americans and still speak the truth is that they are 1) human and 2) French, Serbs, Cubans, or Americans. That does not belittle the usefulness and place of generalizations and stereotypes in cultural studies, but it does remind us of how easily they can introduce intercultural misunderstanding.


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In the movie, neither the undocumented immigrants (representative of all the undocumented, but particularly those with upright motives) nor the police (representative of the legal system, including courts, prisons, and immigration) is entirely at fault. Both are stuck in an imperfect, human system.

The viewer is led to sympathize with the undocumented man, an honest landscaper who wants nothing but to work hard so that his one son can have a better life. He’s away from home; his wife left him when his son was little; he has next to nothing; when he does acquire something (a lawn business and pickup with equipment) it gets stolen from him. And yet, the movie does not excuse what he does wrong nor does it try to show him as a man victimized and ruined by the consequences of his actions.

Apart fr…


Read this in English.





今週初めて黒澤明の『隠し砦の三悪人』という映画を見ました。この三悪人とは、だれですか? 三船敏郎が演じる真壁六郎太(まかべろくたろう)と二人の百姓です。この3人の登場人物の関係はとても面白くて、全ての人間の弱さも愛される性質も示します。