Face to Face

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    Auto-Scroll: ONOFF 
    • 00:00

      WOMAN: I've got a meeting in 10 minutes.[CHATTER]

    • 00:31

      TINA KIM: I've been all over the world,and everywhere I go, guys always come up to me.And men are always like, you're Korean?I've dated a Korean girl before.What a coincidence.I've talked to an ugly white guy before.Because it's always the ugly ones.For once if he looked like Brad Pitt, I'd go, yes, I'm Korean.

    • 00:53

      TINA KIM [continued]: Ooh, talk to me.Throughout my whole childhood, I always want to be white.And I'm sure a lot of other people who aren't whitefelt the same way I did.At lunch time, I would be embarrassed to open my lunchbox. [Tina Kim, Standup Comedienne]While other people have sandwiches and apples,I'd have like seaweed soup and fish eyes.And I'd be all embarrassed, going, man, I wish I was white.

    • 01:16

      TINA KIM [continued]: Growing up in America, I came whenI was four years old and as an Asian, and always thoughtthat if you're Chinese, life is so much easier, because whenyou're Chinese, the first thing people will ask you is, hey,are you Chinese?Yes, I am.Then you just walk away and never talk to that personagain.Yeah, for me, people would stop me and go, are you Chinese?Um, no.

    • 01:37

      TINA KIM [continued]: Well, wait.Are you Japanese?Um, no.Well, wait.Are you Vietnamese.If only I was Chinese, I could get this [BLEEP] over with.Eventually, nowadays, people get to the Korean part.It just makes me feel sorry for the people who are Laotian.

    • 01:58

      TINA KIM [continued]: Think-- they'll never get there, and they'll be like, look.I'm Laotian.Huh?You from the ocean?We all need humor in our lives I thinkit's very important, because every day we alldeal with struggles and different issues.I don't know what your issues are, but everybody has them.And if you're not laughing, what's the point of living?

    • 02:18

      TINA KIM [continued]: And growing up, I've dealt with a lot of racial issues, thingslike that, which made me angry.But I remember even back then, in the back of my mind,I would laugh, thinking, one day I'm going to show you all.And I think that's the drive thatcame with me to make me want to be a standup comic.And it's so much fun to just laugh about.

    • 02:38

      TINA KIM [continued]: It's the best way to deal with anything.

    • 02:42

      RUDY MORENO: Anybody celebrating anything-- a birthday,divorce, something?No?OK, what's your name, man?

    • 02:49

      LIZ: Liz.

    • 02:50

      RUDY MORENO: Oh, Liz.Look at that homeboy back there.Your name ain't Liz, bro.Well, happy birthday, Liz.Give Liz a round of applause, you guys, on her birthday.Now, they're just too cute, man, because they're engaged.How long have you been engaged?May I ask that?

    • 03:08

      LIZ: Um, a month.

    • 03:10

      RUDY MORENO: A month?And she's already answering everything. .He hasn't said a word, man.Have you been together for a long time?

    • 03:26

      LIZ: Long enough.

    • 03:29

      RUDY MORENO: Oh, good luck.Long enough.Do you have children?

    • 03:34

      LIZ: No.

    • 03:35

      RUDY MORENO: Are you Mexicans?You're Mexican, sir?Somebody's got some kids.White folks get married first and then have children. . .You can make a joke out of almost anything.And we find humor in every ethnic background I thinkit's absolutely necessary, because without it,we'd be a really boring society. . .

    • 03:57

      RUDY MORENO [continued]: We'd be upset all the time.And we wouldn't like each other very much.[Rudy Moreno, Comedian/Actor] So I think laughter just generatesall this positive things to one another.And you know, it doesn't have to be in a comedy club.It could be at home.It could be with your children.It could be with your wife or friends.Weird, isn't it?Ask a white guy, how long you been married?

    • 04:17

      RUDY MORENO [continued]: We've been married 20 years.Kevin is 17.Deanna is 12.You ask us or a black family or something, it's different math.Julio, how long you been married?Five years.How old's your oldest?22. .

    • 04:31

      JOHN J. MACIONIS: Humor is an important partof social interaction, because it'sthe way we engage in what I would call reality play, beingable to laugh at ourselves or at the situation we are in[John J. Macionis, PhD, Author, Sociology]is evidence that we're not bound up by that situation,but that we're actually able to transcend it.

    • 04:50

      MYRON ORLEANS: What I'm astounded with is[Myron Orleans, PhD, Chapman University]that people on Death Row are cracking jokes,that surgeons who are saving lives or dealingwith the failures that they experienceare exchanging jokes, that humor is necessary into the worstcircumstances.At funerals, people expect to laugh

    • 05:12

      MYRON ORLEANS [continued]: at their deceased, beloved person.

    • 05:14

      RUDY MORENO: Holidays are over.Summer is about over.Is that Ronald Reagan funeral over yet?That was the longest funeral in the world, man.You know what I mean?I mean, I've been to Mexican funerals.Those things are long.Mexican funerals, man, you just got to go eat.That's the whole thing.That's my favorite part.And then you go eat the same stuffthat just killed that guy.

    • 05:35

      RUDY MORENO [continued]: Ronald Reagan's funeral was forever, man.And you know what the funny part about that thing is?They had snipers on the roof tops when he was going through.For what?To protect the president.He's dead!

    • 05:51

      MYRON ORLEANS: There is no contextin which humor is entirely inappropriate that I couldthink of offhand, although I'm sure some people would identifyparticular areas where they don't want things to break up,but what is important is humor as the means through which wecan humanize very difficult situations,

    • 06:12

      MYRON ORLEANS [continued]: survive very difficult situations, make sense of itin ways that make life more palatable to us.

    • 06:22

      NARRATOR: Humor plays an important, if sometimesunder appreciated, role in all cultures.However, as with most aspects of social interaction,humor varies from one society to another,according to cultural norms and expectations.

    • 06:37

      MYRON ORLEANS: It's a universal factor of human life.[LAUGHING]At the same time, what is funny and when people are funnyis something that varies quite a bit.When you travel from one place to another,you are generally well-advised to becareful about how you joke.For one thing, you can easily offend somebody.

    • 06:59

      MYRON ORLEANS [continued]: We might joke about something that other peopletake very seriously.And at the same time, you should expectthat people won't get the jokes that we would find funny,because we're simply dealing with different realitiesand therefore different understandings of the world.

    • 07:16

      NARRATOR: Cultural variations and social interactiongo beyond the vagaries of comedy.They also affect many other aspects of behavior,like, for example, how people defineand make use of personal space.

    • 07:30

      JOHN J. MACIONIS: Personal space refers to the area around youover which you make some claim of ownership. .When you violate my personal spaceis when, for example, you get too close to meto where I think you are quote "getting in my face."How big that space is depends partlyon the culture in which one lives.

    • 07:51

      MYRON ORLEANS: One of the things that I reallyfound very fascinating is how people sitin cars in different cultures.And we see that in the United States,we like to sit quite far apart from each otherand give ourselves a big speaking distanceand a big get together distance.Whereas in other cultures, peoplelike to sit closer together and feel more comfortable close

    • 08:13

      MYRON ORLEANS [continued]: together.

    • 08:14

      JOHN J. MACIONIS: In our culture,we typically say that three or four feetis our personal space.And if you move closer to someone than that,watch how the person will react as if you'reinvading that person's space, as if you'resort of forcing some kind of intimacy that may notbe expected or appreciated.

    • 08:34

      JOHN J. MACIONIS [continued]: In other cultures, for example many Middle Eastern cultures,where street life is more active,and where there's higher densities of people, movingwithin a foot or two is considered normal.

    • 08:47

      MYRON ORLEANS: Imagine going into a public conveyance,and it's relatively empty.Where do you sit?In the United States, we sit quite far apart.In some other places, we might sit kind of closeto each other.Even in restaurants that are not so fully occupied,in the United States, we might find our own separate zone.And in other cultures, we might end up

    • 09:08

      MYRON ORLEANS [continued]: sitting next to strangers and looking to converse.

    • 09:12

      NARRATOR: As striking as they may be,cultural differences are not the only source of variationin the use of personal space.

    • 09:20

      JOHN J. MACIONIS: In general, in the United States,men and women have somewhat different definitionsof personal space.Because men tend to have somewhat more powerin most social situations, they will typicallyclaim more space.It's what I might call the principle of turf. .If you look at men in public, if they are eating lunch

    • 09:41

      JOHN J. MACIONIS [continued]: on the job during the day, they are likely to sprawl outon steps to take up as much space,as possible as if to say, the more space I take up,the more important I am. .Women, who generally have less power in most situations,follow a rather different rule, whatI might call the rule of daintiness,that is, a woman should take up as little space as possible.

    • 10:05

      NARRATOR: The use of personal spaceis one way people everywhere relateto one another physically.But there are many others.

    • 10:12

      JONATHAN TURNER: It's about peoplein face-to-face encounters wiggling back and forthwith a wide variety of gestures, thatinclude gesturings of emotions and face and bodyand countenance and inflections of voice.All these gestures say something.They are symbols.They communicate meanings to other people.And we orchestrate our gestures so asto [Jonathan Turner, PhD, University of California,Riverside] manage the impression we give to others in order

    • 10:34

      JONATHAN TURNER [continued]: to confirm our self-conception.And others are doing the same thing.And it's out of this process, ultimately,that all social structures are built.

    • 10:42

      NARRATOR: Gestures, facial expressions,and other variations in body languagecan certainly play a significant role in social interaction.But it's the actual words and languagethat people use that often determinesnot only how they relate to one another,but how they view the world around them.

    • 10:60

      JOHN J. MACIONIS: Edward Sapir and Benjamin Whorfput forward a thesis that language is our reality,that we can only understand the world in terms of the symbolsthat language provides us.

    • 11:13

      MYRON ORLEANS: All sorts of scholarsare scrutinizing language to see the directivepower of language, the structuring power of language,the creative power of language, that language isn'tjust a neutral device, that language influencesour way of thinking, that different languages encouragedifferent kinds of thought patterns, that

    • 11:33

      MYRON ORLEANS [continued]: different languages encourage different stylesof interaction.

    • 11:36

      JOHN J. MACIONIS: It would just be fair to say that we tendto understand the world in terms of our language,so that people who use two different languages might verywell have a somewhat different experience of the same thing. .[SINGING]

    • 11:51

      JONATHAN TURNER: For example, in Hopi, time is a verb.And so it flows, and it moves, and it can't be altered.In English, time is a noun.You can cut it.You can save it.You can spend it.You can waste it.You can manipulate time in a way that a Hopi would never see.And that affects, dramatically, how you see the worldand how you act in the world.

    • 12:10

      NARRATOR: Along with its impact on how people view the world,language also has a direct influenceon feelings and emotions.

    • 12:18

      MYRON ORLEANS: The words that we use create the feelingsthat we feel.We tend to think that our feelings generatethe words that we use.On the other hand, the words that we usemay affect our feelings very welland affect the feelings of others.

    • 12:37

      NARRATOR: As with other aspects of social interaction,feelings and emotion are culturallydriven factors that often play out very differentlyfrom one society to the next.

    • 12:47

      ARLIE HOCHSCHILD: I think culture influences our feelingsenormously.I think feelings and emotions arelike this huge rock in the field that people are ignoring.[Arlie Hochschild, PhD, Author, The Time Bind]I think we are what we feel, in essence.And social and cultural things make us feel what we do feel.

    • 13:08

      JOHN J. MACIONIS: Research suggeststhat emotional life is similar around the world, in thatpeople have the same six basic emotions-- fear, anger,disgust, happiness, sadness, and surprise.At the same time, when people display

    • 13:28

      JOHN J. MACIONIS [continued]: an emotion, to whom they display an emotion, and what triggersthat emotion are all factors that vary from place to place.

    • 13:38

      NARRATOR: Perhaps nowhere is the fusion of languageand emotion visible and more explosive than in the worldof politics.conservative used to be a dirty word.By the 1964 election, when Goldwater lost,a conservative was not something you wanted to be.Conservative meant you want to go to nuclear war,

    • 13:59

      NARRATOR [continued]: that you didn't care about anybody, that youwere a racist.I mean, it was not a nice thing to be called.

    • 14:05

      GEORGE LAKOFF: The think tanks changed that over the years.And they rebranded conservatives.At the same time, they started whatis called branding in the marketing business, liberal.[George Lakoff, PhD, University of California, Berkeley]And the Democrats and the liberalsthemselves didn't take any action to stop it.

    • 14:25

      JAMES ELIAS: Labels have been a way that we'veused throughout history. [James Elias, PhD, California StateUniversity, Northridge] To identify people,to put them in their position, their place,labels are tremendously powerful.

    • 14:37

      GEORGE LAKOFF: So you get, now, the tax and spend liberals,the latte liberals, et cetera.And liberal becomes a word that means someonewho's an elitist, who wants to spend other people's money, whois weak and on defense, and so on.

    • 14:56

      NARRATOR: The liberal versus conservative battlegroundextends beyond those labels themselves.Words used to define the issues being contestedare also highly charged.

    • 15:07

      GEORGE LAKOFF: On the day that George Bush took occupancyof the White House, a new word came out of the White House--a new expression-- it was the expression tax relief.And it came out going to all newspapers, all TV stations,radio stations, every day.In order for there to be relief, theremust be some affliction and an afflicted party

    • 15:29

      GEORGE LAKOFF [continued]: that is being harmed.And then there must be a relieverwho relieves the affliction-- takes the arm away.And that reliever is a hero.If there is someone who tries to stop him, he's a bad guy.

    • 15:43

      NARRATOR: Conservatives in recent yearshave often advanced their agenda by makingsavvy use of words and language tap into voters' emotions.

    • 15:51

      GEORGE BUSH: The security and prosperity of Americaare at stake.

    • 15:55

      ARLIE HOCHSCHILD: Recently I analyzed a Gallup poll,looking at who supported George Bush.And I discovered something very interesting,that if you looked at the income levels, the bottom third,especially among men, tended to be more for Bush.

    • 16:19

      ARLIE HOCHSCHILD [continued]: And the top third less, if you did it by education.Again, the bottom third more likely to vote for GeorgeBush, the top third less.And if you did it by occupational station,blue collar, more likely for, white collar, more likely not..So that raises the really interesting question

    • 16:42

      ARLIE HOCHSCHILD [continued]: of why blue collar men, who you might think have the mostto lose from a pro-business president,are his most ardent supporters?This is a matter, really, of the sociology of emotions.

    • 16:58

      BOSS: Now, if this company is going to remain competitive,we're going to have to cut costs.

    • 17:03

      ARLIE HOCHSCHILD: This blue collar guyhas lost a lot in the last 30 years.And he feel like women are getting ahead.He feels like gays have gotten ahead,that immigrants and blacks, and even the spotted owl, he thinkshas gotten ahead, because somebody'sputting the welfare of animals over his job.

    • 17:25

      ARLIE HOCHSCHILD [continued]: And so he's suffering kind of a downward mobility that makeshim feel frightened and angry.And then politicians can appeal to that fear and that anger.

    • 17:37

      CONGRESSWOMAN: These riders, I think,really are an affront to the legislative process.

    • 17:41

      NARRATOR: Social interactions played outon the often bruising battlefield of politicsis a subject of ongoing fascination,both for the general public and the media alike.But human interaction within the more ordinary contextof everyday life, or as sociologists sometimesrefer to it, the mundane, can be just as significant.

    • 18:02

      MYRON ORLEANS: There are two arenas of human interest.One is the interest that people havein the bizarre and the exotic and the strange,and that compels them for its otherness.And then there is the interest that we have in ourselves,in our daily lives, in what makes us tick,in what makes us interact.The question that is most interesting

    • 18:23

      MYRON ORLEANS [continued]: for the sociologists of the mundaneis, why would anybody other than a sociologistwant to know what's going on in social life?Well, I think there's an art to social life.There's an art to everyday interaction.

    • 18:35

      NARRATOR: There is also a sense of familiaritythat comes with ordinary, everyday interaction thatmake it somehow comforting.

    • 18:43

      MYRON ORLEANS: I see the mundane as a kind of home base for us.When we were kids, and we played tag, mundane is the home.This is where we touch.This is where we're safe.This is where we're comfortable.The mundane is when we engage in the ritualistic behavior.It doesn't mean much in many ways,but it's just very comforting, very supportive.We can venture away from home, but we

    • 19:04

      MYRON ORLEANS [continued]: have to have a home base to return to.So people require predictability.People require calculability in their lives.

    • 19:13

      WOMAN: Good.[CHEERING]

    • 19:15

      NARRATOR: For most people, the appeal of the mundaneis greatest when it's disturbed or, in some cases,absent altogether.

    • 19:23

      MYRON ORLEANS: The greatest catastrophescreate the greatest yearning for the return home,to the return to mundane.I could imagine that during earthquakes,during natural catastrophes of all sorts,floods, extreme conditions, mundane seems so warm, solovely, so desirable.

    • 19:45

      MYRON ORLEANS [continued]: And then when things go on for long periods of timewithout much challenge to the everyday, people forget it,yearn for something different, yearnfor something alternating.

    • 19:56

      NARRATOR: As with most other aspects of social interaction,the way people conduct their ordinary, everyday lives variestremendously by culture.

    • 20:05

      MYRON ORLEANS: So for example, one areathat we might look at comparativelyis the use of cell phones in public placesin different countries.Some places, the people are walking aroundand screaming into their cell phones and oblivious.In the United States, there is less of a willingnessto discuss private matters on the cellphonewhen other people can be overhearing.

    • 20:27

      MYRON ORLEANS [continued]: We just think of the cell as a different kind of device.We use it more to communicate factualities,whereas perhaps in other countries,the cell phone is used more to establish bonds,to maintain connection while people are separate.

    • 20:44

      NARRATOR: Cell phones are just one exampleof the major impact technology has had on social interaction.

    • 20:51

      CRAIG CALHOUN: So if you think of microelectronicsand new computer technologies that began to appear,[Craig Calhoun, PhD, New York University]especially in the 1980s and have continuedto appear in huge numbers ever since,they've changed all sorts of things, with email,with websites, with the rise of intranets and internets.

    • 21:12

      CRAIG CALHOUN [continued]: The changes would take a massive library to document.But they start from some fairly specific technological roots--the transistor, and then later the silicon chip, and so forth.They intersect quickly with uses people want to make of them.So businesses need better communications,or students want to share music with each other.

    • 21:34

      JERALD SCHUTTE: As we move from tangible thingsto electronic things, [Jerald Schutte, PhD, California StateUniversity, Northridge] suddenly the production,the distribution, and for that matter,the consumption of all of the issues of social structurebecome instantaneous.We now, in a matter of a few years have online trading.We have them online churches.

    • 21:55

      JERALD SCHUTTE [continued]: We have online counseling.And some have argued we'll have online voting as a kindof immediacy of response.It becomes very difficult, I believe,to socialize, for example, children in educationwith a book, when they're used to sound bites on televisionthat are 20 seconds long, that have a multimedia

    • 22:18

      JERALD SCHUTTE [continued]: component to it, that have a lot of visual activity.

    • 22:22

      NARRATOR: But despite the drawbacks,some believe that technology in generaland the internet in particular have a mostly positive impacton social interaction.The notion that internet destroys or underminesyour social life is simply not compatible[Amitai Etzioni, PhD, Author, The Monochrome Society]with empirical evidence.Two things happen.First of all, imagine for a moment

    • 22:44

      NARRATOR [continued]: you are in a wheelchair or a single motherwith two children or just ill.And you're in Boston in the winter, and you're lonely.And you can't go to the neighborhood barwhere you may have gone when you were younger or more vigorousless encumbered to just meet with friends and chat.So what do you do?You dial up the internet, and any day or night you

    • 23:05

      NARRATOR [continued]: can find like-minded people, maybe peoplewho share your illness, people whoshare your age, people who share your religionand have a good visit.And second, if you look at the timewe save by buying things on the internet,by not having to go to the bank to stand in line and such,if you look at it simply in terms of the hours of the day,I would say that you save about an hour or two every day,

    • 23:28

      NARRATOR [continued]: if you do much of this, as so many people do on the internet,and as a result have more time for other pursuits.

    • 23:35

      NARRATOR: Ultimately, it's probablynot technology or the internet that most inhibits or impedessocial interaction.Rather, it is the sometimes conflicting seriesof roles each of us generally playsthat defines and often limits our social options.

    • 23:50

      WILLIAM V. D'ANTONIO: What society mostlyrequires is that we play the role.Whether it's a parent, or a child in a family, or a CEO,or one of the managers, or simply one of the workersat the bottom, the roles constrain our thought[William V. D'Antonio, PhD, The Catholic University of America]and dictate how we're going to play.Some roles are more constraining than others.

    • 24:08

      JONATHAN TURNER: So as long as wego by the scripts that are generated by culture,and as long as we play our roles and positionsand social structures the way they're supposed to be played,we don't notice the power of social structure.

    • 24:22

      RUTHIE: Jim if there is a fault anywhere,whose fault would you say it was?

    • 24:28

      JIM: It's the system, I guess.I know it isn't just me, Ruthie.

    • 24:34

      JONATHAN TURNER: But should we ever deviateor violate a cultural norm or value or belief or ideology,you'll immediately feel the power,because people will sanction you.You will feel guilt and shame, and suddenly yourealize you're not the rugged individualist that you oncethought.

    • 24:50

      NARRATOR: And so it goes-- people everywherestruggling to navigate through the frequently perplexingsocial labyrinth of modern life, and often confusingwelter of choices in the form of words and gestures, rolesand feelings.Little wonder, then, that at the end of the day,Laughter often is the best medicine.

    • 25:10

      RUDY MORENO: I missed some good people last week, man.I did a show for the homeless.Yeah, yeah, and it was cool, because theyhad homeless poetry that night.I don't know if you guys ever heard homeless poetry,but it's a little off.My favorite poet of the night was this guy named Osso.Was from Soledad Prison, man.

    • 25:32

      RUDY MORENO [continued]: And he just got up, and he had the shakes.W-w-w-w-what's up?M-m-m-m-my name is Osso.You got to forgive the way I talk.Back in the day, I did a lot of PCP.Don't ask me how to spell it.[INAUDIBLE]

    • 26:26

      RUDY MORENO [continued]: "The Way We Live" is a 22-part series about sociology.For information on these programs and accompanyingmaterials call 1-800-576-2988 visit us online.

Face to Face

View Segments Segment :


This episode of The Way We Live examines cultural differences in face-to-face interactions. Social interactions vary widely depending on culture, with particular differences in humor, language, and personal space. Also discussed are body language, language in politics, and technology.

Face to Face

This episode of The Way We Live examines cultural differences in face-to-face interactions. Social interactions vary widely depending on culture, with particular differences in humor, language, and personal space. Also discussed are body language, language in politics, and technology.

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