The Inscrutable Asian Smile

April 7th, 2013

So back in the day a lot was written about the “inscrutable Asian smile”, and how in some Asian countries, people would smile when they felt uncomfortable, and how utterly strange and foreign that was.

So, anyway, I’m watching American Idol the other day, and two very white very southern country singers do a duet. When they finish, the judges give them feedback on their performance. All the judges agree that the performance was good, and both did a good job, but one was absolutely excellent, while the other one was off pitch a few times, and wasn’t up to their usual standard, and needed to step up their game, etc. Every once in a while the camera switches over to show the women’s reactions, and they’re about straightforward as can be: one is beaming and smiling, and the other looked nervous and scared, with no hint of a smile.

Except (and I’m sure, dear reader, you could see this coming from a mile away), the person who was being praised so unilaterally was the one who wasn’t smiling, and the one whom the judges were saying put in a poor performance was the one with the beaming countenance.

Oh, the inscrutable caucasian smile.

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