Socio-economic philosophical discussions
In this first post, I decided to trust the Simpsons period, which I have used for some time to describe the differences between cultures. Some research on the usefulness of using films for interculturalism has already been published, and it’s a really great way to illustrate the subject and get students to think beyond what they see.
The episode I use is called “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang Bangalore” (season 17, episode 17). I like this in particular because it also provides an opportunity to go beyond the main theme, as it describes other types of leadership situations than purely intercultural. It can also be used to initiate close philosophical discussions about economic and social development.
A final note before you start is to note that this is still a Simpsons episode that deliberately exaggerates situations, people, etc. This is sometimes to be remembered by students when working on any of the topics below to avoid misunderstandings. Nevertheless, it must be emphasized that such an exercise is a very good attempt to move beyond the plaintiff / media, interpreting its implicit (or not so indirect) meaning and asking relevant questions outside the original nature of the media (i.e. the Simpsons) fun nature, in this case asking and learning from yourself) .
FYI, the timing below corresponds to the time spent in the period after final credits after a regular banking transaction.
References to intercultural differences
The episode is full of stereotypes that are more or less close to the reality of cultural differences as well as descriptions of India (only the main images are given below). Any of the points below can start a conversation with students.
India is a wonderful mix of new and traditional buildings and lifestyles: this is at first glance strongly present that Homer gets from the plane when he gets off the plane (5 minutes 45), and the second moment of the episode when Homer is looking for Apus ’nephew – 7 minutes – when there are so many different ways to get around the city, from cars to elephants past the rich – 11 minutes). The Americans know nothing about geography: only when Homer lands in India (5 minutes 50) does he realize he has flown to another country: “This is India? Where is the University of Notre Dame? Indy 500? Wrigley Field? Dodger Dogs?”. The Indian woman replies to him (emphasizing her lack of knowledge): “You ignorant American. You have mixed Indian with Indiana, Indiana with Illinois and puppies with Dodgers.” At the same time, this contradicts the general perception that people in new countries are less educated than people in developed countries. The last point is also emphasized when we know that a female engineer in a factory has an MIT degree (10min 40).
Respecting the culture of others means you’re more responsible for getting their approval: If a cow swallows Homer’s iPod, he doesn’t care if the cow is holy or not – he has no idea. The dissatisfaction around him is a patent for the Indians, which changes his attitude when Homer finally shows respect for the cow (in his own, very personal way! – 6min 45). Another example of disrespect for traditions and culture because they are unfamiliar with them is when Burns swam in a river that is (erroneously) portrayed as the Ganges around bodies (Hindu religious ritual – 13min 40). These examples highlight the need to learn the basics of a country’s culture before going there to avoid misunderstandings or unpleasant situations (for both tourists and locals).
All the Indians look Western: when Homer sets out in search of Apus’ cousin (7 m). Americans don’t care about the environment when outsourcing abroad: the episode’s differing views of the nuclear power plant show that it was built near the temple, near the jungle, and that the plant’s water goes directly into the river (8min 45; 13min 30; 13min 55; 16min 40). American produces low-quality products: this example has nothing to do with India, but can be seen as a stereotype of the quality of American products – Moe and his gun at the bar – (9 min. 15). This series is also an example of globalization in everyday life.