Report on the Movie 'Joy Luck Club'

Topics: Collectivism, Individualism, Mothers Pages: 5 (1882 words) Published: April 4, 2013
Based on the Joy Luck Club, please write a 2-3 page report which should:  
1. Address 2 ICC scenes/themes you can identify with.  Reflect on these and include examples. 2. Address the questions "Am I (or a family member) more of a June or a Waverly?”. ”How did this come about?"   

One of the major ICC themes in the movie is the conflict between individualism and collectivism. Although not explicitly expressed, it has a strong impact on the whole course of the movie. The 4 immigrant Chinese mothers, having spent their childhood in Mainland China, embodied a strong collectivistic value. This is a dominant value in Asian culture, especially that of China. In such society, the priority of a group far exceeds that of an individual, and group-oriented interdependence is greatly emphasized. The negative experiences in China have, to a large extent, shaped the mindset of the 4 mothers. This is not the case for their daughters, who were born and raised in America, and embeded with the American values. They see themselves as independent individuals and their outlooks on lives greatly reflect the individualistic nature of their generation. This gave rise to a series of conflicts between them and their mothers.

Collectivism, in its broadest sense, focuses on two key elements: priority of group goals over individual goals and cohesion within social groups. In the case of China, under influences from Confucius teachings, collectivism is regarded as a national virtue. China’s type of collectivism is specifically vertical collectivism, which is based on hierarchical structures of power and on moral and cultural conformity. As such, citizens are expected to conform to a certain standard of moral obligation; anyone who goes against it is shameful for doing so. Furthermore, the hierarchical structures of power gives an individual supreme power over those deemed as having lower ranks under the social hierarchy while requires absolute obidience to those with higher ranks. This value clearly clashes with that of individualism, where individual identity and free will is fundamental and unique to each human being. In an individual society, individual is encouraged to express their free will to the fullest, as long as it is within confined boundaries. As such, people in individualistic societies feel less obliged to carry out orders from their authority, should they feel that it goes against their own wills. This contrast of values first came about in the movie when the mother, Suyan, was imposing power over her rebellious American daughter, as portrayed in the piano scene. This scene is a perfect demonstration of conflict between collectivism and individualism, symbolised by the mother’s Chinese culture with her daughter’s American way of thinking. We shall analyse further into this particular scene.

Having left behind all the agony and despair in China, the 4 mothers came to America with all their hopes and dreams, not only for themselves, but also for their children. The inferiority and discrimination experienced in America further strengthened their determination to give their daughters a better life. This is, in some sense, a way for them to fulfill their unfinised American dream. This is one of the important values in collectivist societies, where spirits and dreams persist within families and transcend generations. However, the mothers’ dreams, in this particular case Suyan’s dream for her daughter to be the best in everything, does not necessarily reflect that of her daughter, June. Having been brought up in America, June was imbued with the American spirits of free will and strong personal identity. This is a core concept in American individualism. When her free will is threatened by an imposition of power from her mother, she reacts by a deliberate opposition, not necessarily as a result of a conflict of benefits, but more about establishing and expressing a strong personal identity of her own. The following diaglouge in...
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