The Last Samurai

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The Last Samurai
Think about your friends, family, and your loved ones for a second. Think about what luxuries you have and how you have come to love them. Doesn’t it make you feel blessed and lucky to be who you are? Now imagine being thrown onto enemy territory, a lonely and dangerous place with nothing. In order to survive you must communicate with the enemy and learn to live their way—the total opposite culture you hate. In the movie, The Last Samurai, the author portrays a Civil War veteran, Captain Algren, commander and trainer of Japan’s new technology-efficient military. His task is to defeat a rebellion of the remaining Samurai in Japan. After Algren is captured, he is taken into their village as an information tool. He begins to learn their way of life and finds himself caught up in two situations. As Algren misses his old way of life, he tends to love the way of the Samurai, along with a woman. The captain has now become the enemy he initially wanted to kill. This story presents the finest meaning of finding true identity and communication, through verbal and nonverbal expression. It shows the way a person’s identity and self-concept can be influenced through culture, gender, age, and even by stereotype.

Since the world was changing drastically in the 19th century, technology was new and indeed new for warfare. Captain Algren was asked by his commander and personnel from the Japanese consulate to train the Japanese military. The new technology will destroy the Samurai and make the Samurai way obsolete. He simply agrees to do this with money as his only purpose. Initially, he has no care about the Samurai, the Japanese, or his commander’s intent. In that scene, Algren shows disrespect to his commander and Japanese consulate through his nonverbal communication. His looks, the sucking of his teeth, drinking superfluously and dry sarcasm are the body orientations that show his disinterest (226). The consulate speaks Japanese to his secretary about how rude the Americans can be, which speaks on behalf of the entire country. The stereotype they develop is based upon the first impression of Algren—they have exaggerated overgeneralizations which associate with a categorizing system; the Americans (96). A scholarly journal shows that in a test of six studies, acceptance in stereotyping was more associated with implicit and explicit stereotyping of peculiar groups (Carter 1103). Groups such as “less liberal gender-role values, more authoritarian attitudes, preference for hierarchies, higher social dominance orientation, less universal outlook, less complexity in describing others’ emotions, less utilization of emotional information, and more utilization of social categories” emphasize the associations with stereotyping (1106).

As well in that scene, we learn the conflict styles according to culture. The most important cultural factor in shaping attitudes toward conflict is an orientation toward individualism or collectivism (Alden 390). The book illustrates that in Latin American and Asian cultures, the kind of assertive behavior that might seem perfectly appropriate to a North American would be regarded as rude and intensive (391). In addition, American people tend to usually think more about themselves, where the concern in the Japanese culture is the entire group. Algren is more worried about the money, while the Japanese are anxious about the economy and their Army being trained. This also leads to the straightforward stereotype that Americans are a greedy society who only “does this for that”.

The transactional model of communication depicts the way communicators communicate with each other (11). There is a scene with Captain Algren and Katsumoto first meeting each other in which they perfectly display a transactional model gone wrong. Algren argues and asks furiously why he is captured in his village. Keep in mind that he is also stuck a place unknown to him—creating his communication environment a big...
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