Burgushi & Let it Go

I found Chapter 20 particularly captivating in Wednesday’s reading, “Wednesday/Cultural Diversity.” Emi’s disbelief of cultural diversity seems unrealistic, absurd even, but perhaps such a thing doesn’t exist. Maybe it’s bullshit after all (128). At times Theory Toolbox reflects a similar idea, suggesting that culture is becoming an “old-fashioned notion” for a “new world order” (53). The concern of local culture being erased by a rapidly growing globalized dominant culture is certainly a conversation happening today. The discussion between Emi and Gabriel on page 126 reveals to us that Emi believes the driving force behind the world is money. In her eyes, selling things/labels (Reebok, Pepsi, Chevrolet, AllState, etc.) is all that matters because “hey, we’re all on board to buy.” Emi certainly thinks that multiculturalism is nothing but an attempt to bring people together under a big homogeneous culture, what she describes as consumerism.

With a movement towards globalization we have increased the expansion of cultural flows. Although Emi seems to think we are constructing a culture that diminishes diversity, I think we are doing what Theory Toolbox might describe as reconstructing a new cultural meaning within new contexts. Sociologist Manfred Steger calls this “globalization”- the complex interaction of the global and local, characterized by cultural borrowing. Rather than one culture dominating all others, this idea captures how local cultures are creating new forms of cultural expression.

Emi doesn’t believe there is anything special or culturally significant about sushi and Hiro-San. “It’s just tea, ginger, raw fish, and a credit card.” she says (128). Over winter break I tired this restaurant that recently opened in downtown Charlotte, NC called Cowfish. Their menu has separate sushi and burger selections, but they’re famous for their sushi burger fusions (known as Burgushi). If Emi were here today she would probably roll her eyes, much like she did to Gabriel’s idea of sport sushi footballs. Burgushi is an example of a cultural reconstruction of meaning, combining American and Asian cuisines.

However, I do think it’s possible for globalization to create a dominant culture, by situating itself neatly into local contexts. Let me explain. Almost everyone knows of the song “Let it Go” from the Disney movie Frozen, released in 2013. How, you might ask, was this song able to sweep across so many nations? Well, it was written first in the English language, using words that would be easily translatable to other languages. It was then sung in 41 different languages. Here is a perfect example of how a company used globalization to implement a dominant, widespread culture through local interpretations of the film. I think this modern example aligns more with how Emi views the role of media.

2 Responses to Burgushi & Let it Go

  1. garruzzoae February 9, 2016 at 10:08 pm #

    That’s interesting that you think Emi’s view of multiculturalism is that it is a fake diversity really consisting of the merging of cultures into a “homogenous” nothingness. This didn’t seem her point to me as I read her tirades against multiculturalism, though I do agree that her critique did consider the trend of consumerism to be a central engine in the problem. As I was reading her, I got the sense that her reservations about multiculturalism were based in the worry that it reduces foreign cultures to little trinkets to be sold on the market, as opposed to the robust prescription of a way of life that they really are. So if my original interpretation is right, “multiculturalism” is bad according to Emi not because it turns all cultures into a single homogenous one, but rather because it is not a genuine engagement between cultures and is instead a disguise for the commodification of misappropriated emblems of other cultures. On second thought though, your reading seems equally plausible. Hopefully she clarifies her concerns about it more later in the book.

  2. Prof VZ March 13, 2016 at 10:53 am #

    Great discussion about Emi’s critique of multiculturalism in that charged Sushi scene. I would say that because Emi doesn’t offer a positive account–she seems only to value and critique a surface level multiculturalism (her pining after Gabe’s embodiment of Chicana manliness, her critique of the lady in the sushi restaurant). Her critique suggests a deeper valuation, but nowhere is it evident in the book aside from Gabe’s protestations that there’s a real person there–a caring person. Rachel, I like how you use the tranlatability of Let It Go as an emblem for a certain global circulation of media driven by corporate ends.

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