Tampopo and Whale Rider Essay

Tampopo and Whale RiderThe film Whale Rider is a story of leadership, sacrifice, family, and the role of women and the culture of the Maoris. The movie is depicted through the eyes of Paikea, a strong and intelligent female with the potentials of a leader, a view not shared by other characters in the early part of the film. The story starts with the birth of the twins and the unfortunate death of the male twin, leaving only the female who was later named Paikea. Without a male heir to the tribe, such was the disappointment of Koro, Paikea’s grandfather as his son, Paikea’s father, did not want to lead the tribe. Koro loves his granddaughter however, he dismisses Paikea as the future leader of the tribe based on her gender although the opposite is felt by Nanny Flowers, Koro’s wife and Paikea’s grandmother as she sees Paikea’s potential.

The main themes of the film include family, leadership and the role of women in a changing society which is depicted thorough the character of Paikea.            The movie features Tampopo, a Japanese widow in search of the perfect noodle recipe in order to  become successful in her business enterprise. The movie starts with the character of Goro (Yamazaki) riding into town and searching for a bowl of good noodles. After tasting Tampopo’s creation, Goro was not satisfied. However, the sweet nature of Tampopo led Goro to help the former in creating the best and tastiest noodle.

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During the film, several scenes are shown that depict food and people. Examples include a group of Japanese businessmen who orders the same meal from a French menu depicting group conformity while the assistant orders wine and other French delicacies. In another scene, women are studying the proper method of eating spaghetti in a western style without slurping. Another depicts a mother’s sacrifice to create one last meal before her death for the sake of her family. It shows the woman’s family eating and finishing the meal she created before they begin their mourning process. The movie concludes with Tampopo’s noodle shop besieged by a long line of customers and Goro driving off as his duty and promise to aid Tampopo is finished.

            In both of these movies, we are able to glean a clear understanding of the characters’ culture and way of life. From the movie “Whale Rider”, we see the trials that the Maori culture is currently experiencing and from the movie “Tampopo”, the culture of the Japanese are depicted.The film Whale Rider depicts the traditional Maori society, wherein women have several obligatory duties and restrictions.

Women play a mere secondary and supportive role to their mail counterparts, who are looked upon as stronger and the future leaders of the tribe. According to their tradition, it is only the males who can inherit the title of tribal chief. Paikea, a young Maori girl brought up by her grandparents, goes against this specific restriction and serves as a model of the woman today. Her personality and attributes casts off the stereotypes usually attributed to females such as being fragile and helpless. Her strong character as a person is continually depicted in the film, making her worthy of being the next leader of the Maori tribe, thereby rebuffing years of tradition.

            In the film Tampopo, we gain insight on the culture of the Japanese through the film’s portrayal of the relationship between food and the Japanese. The main food depicted in the film is noodles. Although noodles are secondary to rice in the Japanese staple, they are relatively popular as they are served both in stand-in bars and gourmet restaurants, thus depicting class and social standing. We also gain an insight on the Japanese business attitude of paying attention to every little detail and dedication for the improvement and success of its products or services.

We also see that the Japanese have strong family ties and relationships and the importance of the relationship between a teacher and his student.            Films depict the life of a people and individuals at a certain time. Understanding the culture of another individual is doubly hard as each culture has its own set of norms, taboos and expressions that an outsider may not fully understand. They say that the best way to learn about another culture is through first hand experience.

However, not all individuals are granted this opportunity. Thus, films are another way of learning about another culture as it allows us to experience the other culture and find common themes that may be shared.            It has been said that film is parallel to the individual’s thought and consciousness.

It is a form of virtual reality consisting of memory, affect, and intensity of thought which is transmitted to the audience. It allows mutual reflection of what is portrayed on the screen and a critical analysis of the issues presented.The use of films to gain more knowledge about a certain culture has already been utilized for the past several years in various institutions and classrooms. In comparison to a standard ethnographic account, the viewer depends on the authority and findings of the writer to understand a certain culture. Also, the ethnographic account does not cater to the audience’s sense of vision, which several studies have claimed to be an important aspect in learning. In utilizing films in order to learn about another culture, concepts that may be intangible are made known. This allows the audience to critically analyze the concept and its significance to the culture, thus resulting to a better understanding of the said culture. 


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