May 18, 2010

Friends: Paving the Way for Foreigners

I never really claimed to love the TV show Friends before we came to China, but I have to admit that the show has found a special place in my heart since being here.  A special place of irritation!

Friends practically has a cult here in China.  Every single episode has been translated into Chinese subtitles.  As such, anyone who wants to, can dive into American pop culture and assume that it is a reliable source of information for North American morals and traditions.  Christmas, Thanksgiving etc.  I can't even count the number of times that I have been in the middle of explaining something of my culture to someone when they interrupt me and say "Hey its like Friends!".  Then they go on to describe some ridiculous thing that Joey did once upon a time or a horrible song that Pheobe sang, and it usually ends with a direct quote (or song).  It makes me feel like I am back in high school and all the boys in my class are quoting scene after scene of Monty Python and the Holy Grail (usually competing to see who has the silliest accent).  If I mention that my sister is named Rachel, there is an instant spark and I hear "Rachel Green!".

From Friends has come a plethora of information about a wide variety of topics.  Jewish religious practices, North America office relationships, food, dating practices and much much more etc.

Of course we all know that it is also very popular in North America.  If you mention a particular episode of Friends to any random North American person, chances are they have seen it.  Everyone (including me) knows that Ross' first wife was a lesbian, his second marriage lasted a few days and he and Rachel got married when they were drunk.  

The irritation of course comes when people assume that Friends is an accurate representation of all North Americans.  Because Friends jokes casually and opening about having a threesome, I have had people assume that I talk about threesomes like I would talk about the weather.  People have also assumed that I would probably have a special appreciation for extremely crude jokes (and justify having heard that joke on Friends).  While North Americans do tell jokes like this, there still are rules about who, what, and where those types of jokes are told.  For example, it makes me a little uncomfortable when the male teacher that I have been assigned tells those jokes during a one-on-one class.  Telling a sexual joke to a married woman when you are alone with her in a small room would be a faux pas in our culture (and certainly also in Chinese culture), but that part is not shown on Friends.

Friends also promotes this attitude that stupidity is funny (which pretty much sums up Pheobe and Joey's characters). 

Anyway, the Friends cult has grown to such an extent that a cafe, built to exactly resemble the one on the show, has recently been opened here in Beijing.  I've seen people get so excited about it that they jump up and down with little shrieks. Apparently it is packed at all times.  

I'm not annoyed at any one person or thing in particle.  I'm not trying to lambast the show itself.  I don't care the the TV show exists.  Like most shows, I can choose not to watch it if I don't like it.  I also don't care that Chinese people like it.  I'm quite ready to admit that it can be very funny at times.  What I don't like is that I am instantly associated with it and that there are many assumptions made about me based upon it.  

So there's my little rant, up where everyone can see it.

Here is a little humor for you before I sign off.  The other day I was in a touchy mood and found myself continuously pouring instructions upon Ari's head (not unlike the woman in the book of Proverbs that is referred to as a continual drip!).  He became less and less responsive to me as the day went by.  Later on when I went to apologize to him, his response was,  "Yeah Mommy, you know, if you didn't tell me so many things, my ears wouldn't want to stop listening to you."  I had to chuckle at that.


Kris and Char said...

That is pretty darn cute.

Wow...adventures continue to abound for you guys, huh? Poor Jude with his head gash. As for Ari, I would absolutely love to see him play his accordian. You guys should do a short video recording and put it up on the blog!

We miss you!

珮瑜 said...

Tomorrow will be better~.................................................................