Cultural Background

November 16th, 2006

My mom is Spanish. When I was a kid, she’d sometimes mention some TV show, or musician, or festival, or food, or something else from her culture, in her youth, which she remembered nostalgically. I always got an undercurrent of sadness that this was some aspect of her identity which I hadn’t experienced, not only because of the generational gap, but also the cultural gap.

Now I’m feeling the same thing, not with my kid, but with my wife, where there is no generational gap. Sure, she knows some things from American 80’s culture (Madonna, New Kids on the Block, the A-Team), but there so many others that she doesn’t. Some, she can have a bit of a taste of, though as an adult in another culture it would make much less of an impression (for example, she’s never seen any of the Star Wars films. That could be fixed, but she wouldn’t understand what it felt like to be a kid in the 80’s, when Star Wars was the absolute peak of special effects wonder, gazing in admiration at minor characters like Boba Fett.)

But there are others that aren’t on media, but an experience which no longer exists. Case in point: 1980’s new wave Vietnamese gangsters. I don’t know why, but I love them. Not in the sense that I’d want to be one, or be friends with one, or for them to take over my town or anything. But that particular style of dress, of behaviour, how they walked, how they talked.

But there aren’t any more 1980’s new wave Vietnamese gangsters. I can’t even show her what one looked like, let alone the experience of sitting down for some phở and seeing some Vietnamese gangster wannabe’s talking with their girlfriends at the next table.

I suppose the closest I could get would be to show her the 21 Jump Street episode where officer Ioki goes undercover in a Vietnamese gang. But since she’s never heard of 21 Jump Street, I suspect I’d just be trying to teach someone ancient Sumerian by translating it into ancient Sanskrit.

2 Responses to “Cultural Background”

  1. Mia Says:

    If you’ll allow me to comment on a month-old entry (again)… I can sort of relate to this. Just the other day I was watching “Adomachikku Tengoku” on channel 12 with my husband and they used the theme from C.H.I.P.S. (you know, Eric Estrada… yes, I used to watch it, I was a kid, what can I say?) in the background. As soon as I recognized it I wanted to TELL somebody about it, but my husband’s Japanese born and bred and has never heard of the show! It’s nothing, I know, but sometimes I miss having someone to share these silly memories with!

  2. bugbread Says:

    The Simpsons is another hopeless entertainment venue. I tried watching it once with my wife, and practically every other joke is either a line, or a musical stab, or a visual composition taken from another show. That’s probably why the show never did very well in Japan.

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