Monday, February 12, 2007
Are you black?
Was watching "Friends" yesterday...usually not the most thought provoking show, but Ming manages to make things interesting by asking me questions. Although "Friends" doesn't exactly reflect the realities of American culture and society (let's not even get started on how nice their apartments are. And have you ever met anyone as flaky as Phoebe?), it does bring up some differences between China and America. The first thing that shocked Ming when he first started watching the show was how much the characters talk about sex. The topic of sex is forbidden on Chinese television and naturally mention of menage-a-tois, masturbation, girl-on-girl action and the like is not allowed. Imagine America TV without these things. . . .
While this is all shocking enough, there's more. So let us rewind to what particular episode we were watching last night. It was the one in which Rachel and Ross bring little baby Emma home from the hospital. They aren't married, of course, which to the average American isn't all that scandalous. Ming was quite taken aback by all this though. He asked me if the baby was "Black." Excuse me? Black? You mean, like, African American?
But he didn't mean that Black. He meant the "Black List" kinda black. The kind of black that means scorned, sneered at, and kicked to the curb. In China, if you are born to unwedded parents you are considered an illegitimate "Black." You aren't allowed any legal identification which means you cannot attend school, cannot work, cannot marry, cannot do anything. In China, poor little baby Emma would be a Black. And guess what-so would I. Or maybe not. Maybe my parents would have married for my sake. In China a lot of unhappy marriage must begin this way and later end inevitably in divorce.
The level of conservativeness here is a bit mind-blowing at times. I was really upset recently when I read an article about the regulations changing for adopting Chinese babies. People who are not married, people who are obese, and people who are taking anti-depressents will no longer be able to adopt a baby from China. This is quite a blow to gay and lesbian couples. It's no good news for neither those with extra poundage nor those who are TREATING a common disorder. I can sometimes overcome my frustration with a simple, "Not my country, not my problem." That's not a great stance to take, of course, but I also see how China is developing which gives me some hope that human rights will improve. But really, who would have guessed that all of this would have come from watching "Friends?"