In the movie Spanglish a single Mexican mother, Flor Moreno (Paz Vega) moves to Los Angeles and becomes a housekeeper for a rich American family in hopes of being able to better provide for her daughter, Christina (Shelbie Bruce). The American family includes John (Adam Sandler) and Deborah Clasky (Tea Leoni), their kids Bernice (Sarah Steele) and Georgie (Ian Hayland), and the alcoholic grandmother, Evelyn Wright (Cloris Leachman). Flor and her daughter move in to the family’s summer home because they need Flor’s help 24/7. Deborah oversteps her boundaries with Cristina and starts paying her more attention than she does her own daughter. This upsets Flor who wants Cristina to stay in touch with her Mexican roots and working class values. It upsets Flor so much that it causes her to quit her job and leave the Clasky’s behind. Years later when Cristina is applying to Princeton University she writes about the values she has learned from this experience for her college essay. When people with different cultures interact they form a strange but strong bond. At first it is hard for them to communicate and understand one another, not only because of the language barrier but also because of the different cultures that are present. In the end they end up figuring it out and actually teaching each other different values and even languages, although the outcome of their relationship is negative.
A co-culture consists of people who are part of one culture, but live and practice their own culture in addiction to the one they live in. Collectivism is a cultural dimension where a certain culture gives the group as a whole more priority and attention rather than the actual individual in the culture. Individualistic cultures emphasize more on independence and personal achievement as well as being unique from others. In Spanglish, Flor struggles with living in a more independent Country and environment than she is used to. It is clear that she is more used to the Mexican ways of life, which is more collectivist than America. Even though Flor lives with an American family she is trying to keep her values and morals alive, especially in her daughter. She gets worried that Deborah is trying to strip her daughter of all the values she has taught her. She doesn’t want her daughter to get caught up in the rich independent American ways of life and forget how important working hard and staying in touch with her culture are. This causes a problem for Deborah too because she cannot understand why Flor is freaking out so much. She is thinking she is being harmless and showing Cristina around and showing her what America is about but Flor sees it as her stripping her culture and values away and spoiling her for no reason. It’s hard for both cultures in this movie to accept the different values and way of life they both live. Americans live a more individualistic life than Mexicans who work more towards keeping their culture alive and intact and are more family oriented.
High-context cultures are those in which the rules of communication are primarily transmitted through the use of contextual elements such as gestures, hand motions, and facial expressions. Little communication is done through words in high-context cultures. In low-context cultures people primarily communicate through language. Both Flor and the Clasky’s live and are from low-context cultures but when they are communicating with one another they have to switch to high-context communication since they do not speak the same language. When Flor talks to her daughter she communicates through language but when she is interacting with the Clasky’s she has to use more hand motions rather than actual speech, so she switches back and forth. Until of course Flor learns English and can better communicate with the American family through their language. This movie displays a perfect example of how two completely different cultures can get together and learn how to communicate even when they don’t share the same language. Flor may have never wanted or tried to learn English if it weren’t for the Clasky’s, they also helped her in learning the language because she got everyday exposure and practice to it.
People who live in a high power distance culture do not question the decisions of their leaders. They understand that there are differences in levels of power between people and do not try to challenge that idea. People who live in a low power distance culture have less power distinctions and more decentralized hierarchies. In Spanglish when Flor first meets her future employer she keeps her distance from Deborah because she is from a more high power culture and understands her position in the family is subordinate and responds to Deborah with a handshake. Deborah, who is from America, a more low power distance culture, treats Flor as an equal and a family member and asks her to call her by her first name and proceeds to give her a hug. Flor respects her employers and considers herself beneath them because they have more money and essentially own her because they pay her. The Clasky’s want Flor to do what she needs to as an employee but they also look to her as an addition to the family, especially when her and Cristina move into their house for the summer.
One scene in the movie that displays masculine and feminine rolls is the car scene when John is driving Flor to her bus stop. John is upset over a fight with his wife and starts crying. Flor refers to him as a “Mexican woman” because she isn’t used to seeing men display their emotions so vividly. Both Mexican and American cultures have masculine and feminine roles in their society but in America we have become more accepting of people straying from the norm of their roles. Another example of masculine and feminine rolls displayed in the movie is how John Clasky works to support his family on his own and his wife stays at home and works out every morning and hangs out with the kids. In America and a few other cultures it is pretty typical for the man to do most of the work and the woman to stay home and take care of the kids. They also hired a woman to be the house worker instead of a man, which implies that women are better with kids, more trustworthy with the house, and can clean well.
Spanglish displays many different cultural clashes and how they manage to work together to overcome them. The main conflict in this movie is over Cristina and the unique way in which Flor wants to raise her regardless of what country they are in. It is very hard to instill the working class motive in Cristina when they are living with a wealthy American family who has a stay at home mom. Deborah cannot understand why Flor is so strict and gets upset so easily over the little things Deborah does with Cristina, and what makes it even more hard is that Flor cannot communicate with Deborah to tell her why she is feeling this way. Eventually the family and Flor and Cristina work together to learn how to communicate and talk in the same language. Even though Deborah starts to understand some of Flor’s values and how she is overstepping her boundaries she still does not fully understand or want to stop what she is doing. Once Flor has had enough she takes herself and Cristina out of the home in hopes to find a more traditional and cultural oriented environment for her daughter to grow up and thrive in. Regardless of the outcome both families learned many different things from one another and will be forever changed.