Last week I went to Living Room Theater to see a good movie and enjoy my evening in a well-decorated cinema saloon. I did not know anything about the movie. I have never heard of the director, nor about the subject. It was a Swedish movie called “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo”. It is directed by Niels Arden Oplev and based on the trilogy of books by Stieg Larsson. To my surprise it was a very good thriller. I end up reading all three books after watching the movie, even though I had no interest thriller genre. The Millennium trilogy consist of “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo”, “The Girl Who Played With Fire”, and “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest”. I personally liked the third book the most.
One of the main character ‘Lisbeth Salander’ in the movie looked like a loser that I see everyday in downtown Portland. I immediately disliked her. I was tired of dealing with these weirdos which happen to hanging around downtown. She was young and had quite big dragon tattoo on her back, many piercing on her face. Usually bad guys on the movies have these type appearances. They do not work in “normal jobs”, they always have criminal backgrounds. Was I supposed to feel sorry for this chick? Why was Lisbeth the main character anyway?
For a while I had trouble engaging with the story. Just because she had this grotesque appearance. Then the story captured me, I was feeling more and more close to her. When she was taking her revenge from the bad guy who was neatly dressed, well groomed, had a respectable job, but indeed he was “the bad guy”, I was even mumbling “kill the bastard”! So what happened to my disliking her bizarre outfit? Lisbeth became my hero.
I was wrong to judge the character just because of her appearance. Most of the bad guys in the movie were good looking, rich, powerful, well dressed and had good professions. I was not expecting this.
The movie was playing with my world view somehow.
I started to think about more stereotyping and view of the world view. Was I wrong stereotyping? First I said myself ‘surely everyone does it’. Although that did not stopped me wondering. How much of stereotyping is necessary in our life and when that leads to dangerously ‘afraid of other’ therefore xenophobia or racism.
I remember seeing this young man who lives the building that across mine, early in the morning watering his plants on the balcony. Often I thought he must be gay. Why on the earth a straight guy would water his plant about 6am every day? He would not, right? I smiled at my conclusion. Not that I am against the gays. I am perfectly fine with gay people. As a matter of fact one of my close friend is gay. We have been friends more than 20 years. He lives in Germany and I live in US, still now and then we meet somewhere in Europe, travel together. I have no problem accepting people’s sexual choices. As long as there is mutual agreement between the partners.
So why every time I see this guy on the balcony assuming he is gay? Straight man do not water plants early in the morning? My dad does. Wait a minute, he is 74 years old, retired soldier. He is not gay. He just gets up early, water the plants in his summer house’s garden. So what? I never think about his behavior “as gay”. Why this young man then? Oh because my dad is Turkish and old, so he cannot be gay.That silly argument can go on like this; so there is not Turkish gay? Of course there are. Old people cannot be gay. But we do know gay people get older too. I guess Aristotelian logic does not work with stereotyping much.
Americans are more open about their sexual choices. Gays are not hiding themselves in the closest like in many traditional societies.
So when I see this young man every morning watering his plants, dressing neatly, I assumed without thinking much, he could be ‘gay’. Although he could be as just be well-organized, tidy person, before going to his work waters his plants. But I did not think that way until I made ‘an effort’ to think carefully. I was easily labeling him. Why? Because it is convenient, suits well to judgments, the common sense..
It is true everyone use more less generalization and common sense. The problem is how much of stereotyping is necessary? To certain extent we all need generalization in daily life, it makes easier to handle most of the situation. But if we replace our common sense with stereotyping then we have a serious problem.
Suddenly our map of the world can be wrong.
People develop their world view within their cultures. They learn the customs, religious behavior, social acceptances within their environments. First it starts within the family, then school life and/or working life that shapes their mental map of the world.
A person who travels to other places, countries or does business with other cultures people usually adapts the norms easier. It is rather common to see closed society (traditional) people‘s acceptance towards ‘others’ are an unwelcoming. So minorities gets pushed over the corner within the society. Such as Islamist people in the Christian countries. Since they are the minority, they can not easily adapt the norms which are foreign to them. So they seek people just like themselves.
Both sides grow their disliking feelings each other by feeding their wrong stereotyping. When moral values are in conflict different behavior can seem
disgracefully . In a secular modern society ‘acceptance of others‘ is underlying carefully. However in traditional society enforce their moral value to everybody.
For instance in a secular society a vegetarian person goes to a restaurant with a person who prefers eating pork chop as main course does not create a big problem. The vegetarian choose some veggie food, the other person eats the meat. If this is a Muslim country same event might look totally disgraceful. Tolerance might vanish into thin air in a split of a second.
It is about how much we accept other people’s norm. At least trying to understand. Labeling somebody is easy, using a plain simple common sense is harder most the time. It requires thinking about the subject.
Unfortunately people choose easy way first. Even though eventually it creates distorted reality.
Traditional societies try to control people’s choices. For them individualism is not something valuable. The group is more important. They enforce the moral values on them. Versus to modern societies emphasis individual freedom and personal autonomy.
In my opinion, as long as people look at “others” within their common sense and try to understand them, they can live without serious problems.
Traditional society refuses the accept other people’s right. They force them to obey their rules. On the other hand modern society struggle all the time with being on the border line of enforcing the rules.
For example Islamic dress controversy in Europe. Muslim women dressing in burqa, covering the face with veil became political issue. Tolerance and freedom of choice in religion seems like against each other.
The problem is ‘how much we want to learn and accept”. It is a choice. We can choose to understand the world, our environment, and behave accordingly. Or we use wrong map of the world. Just because our map view is wrong that does not mean the world is wrong.
If we spend time and effort to correct our world view, we can achieve better understanding.
Written by NUR KARLICA ROY