In the recent years representation of East Asian culture has altered greatly. East Asians were previously inferred to be barbaric, admirers of violence and were deemed lower-grade to White Europeans. A current poster produced to advertise a production of Shakespeare’s Cymbeline displays culture as it was seen in medieval times and portrays this White European thought. Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon (CTHD) however, is an up to date film by an East Asian director and featuring an exclusively East Asian cast. Subsequently, it symbolises the East Asian culture in an extremely different way, defying such pre-conceived notions of the past. The chief discrepancies in the depiction of the East Asian culture between the two media genres are involving the hero figure, the representation of women and the function and implication of violence.
The hero in the Cymbeline poster is clothed in gold, but is a white male and this connotes his value; gold signifies importance and that he is highly valued. He has a fair and tranquil face and is entwined in a clasp with a white European woman. The hero and his partner are greater in size than others in the Cymbeline poster, particularly the indigenous East Asians. Altogether, these aspects compose the code of the hero; this is portrayed by his vast distinction and intense degree of contemplation.
On the other hand, the representation of the hero in CTHD is much more complicated and in contrast to the Cymbeline poster because of its celebration of the East Asians. In CTHD the hero is also male and is positioned with two females. The hero in this case is not European but East Asian. Though the hero is placed with two women, he is not in a romantic state or setting and has a thoughtful and calm facial expression. The hero in the CTHD media text is clothed in white and immersed in a golden light, which connotes his importance. The hero is also more spiritually aware and thoughtful, which signifies his determination. He is showed to be good and pure by the colours he is clothed in and surrounded by. Therefore, the hero in CTHD is thought of as a rather focussed hero with such qualities as spiritual depth and insight, the code for the hero in CTHD also suggests that he is of greater significance compared to the hero in the Cymbeline poster.
The way in which women are portrayed is another difference between the representations of cultures in the two media texts. There is only one woman of White European ethnicity in the Cymbeline poster and is wrapped in the hero’s arms. She has blue eyes and blonde hair. She is clothes in a white robe which denotes purity and has a delicate appearance due to the fact that she has slim white fingers. East Asian women are not in the poster. The code which is built by all these signifiers is that within a romantic context a white European female discovers her status in a relationship with a male. The white European woman is portrayed in a way in which she seems pure and fragile. The value of the white European female does not go further than her relationship with the hero and this is shown by her size in the Cymbeline media text. The absence of East Asian women in the Cymbeline poster only suggests one thing, which is that they have no importance whatsoever.
In CTHD the portrayal of women is greatly diverse to the way they are portrayed in the Cymbeline poster. The heroic status is also shared by the two women placed alongside the hero on the front cover of the CTHD video. The two women are shown brandishing swords with clear determination and skills and are placed above the hero in shots of poised action. There size, which is a tiny bit smaller than the man’s, suggests that he is actually the main hero figure. The man however shares some of the features that we would expect a hero of any culture to have. The women in the CTHD media text are being portrayed as strong, determined, warrior type women; which is quite the opposite of what was shown in the Cymbeline media text. The warriors in the Cymbeline poster were not just male dominated but their actions had no thought applied to them whatsoever, also East Asian women were not present in the poster at all. The women in the CTHD video cover are shown on almost an even scale to the hero by the way they are clothes and the colours they are surrounded in, denoting their value and importance. The greater reasons of thought and battle and sharing of clothes and colour help to build the code of equality amongst the two sexes in the East Asian culture.
The portrayal of different cultures is viewed easily through the differences of the role of violence in the two media texts. The strongest signifier of the East Asian culture in the Cymbeline poster is violence. The East Asian men are placed in the centre of complete destruction portraying that they are violent. The East Asian men are shown holding up the cut-off heads of their victims with expressions of victory on their faces, with their swords held as if to show triumph; they are being portrayed as barbaric and inhumane. They are surrounded by bloody scenes and are clothes in earthy-type colours. So the aim of the role of violence in the Cymbeline media text is basically to show East Asians as inhumane and evil and to portray that they do not have any other levels of thought or feeling. Their size in the poster dramatically separates them from the calm white Europeans. There small size also signifies that they are substantially less important than the white Europeans; this also implies that they are valued as less than human as they are not even given an adequate size on the poster.
The role of violence is portrayed in a completely different manner by the East Asian culture in the CTHD media text. Controlled violence is like the East Asian cultures identity and is always restrained. It is not like what is shown in the Cymbeline poster with the blood and destruction. Violence in CTHD is mainly performed by women and rarely by men. Also, the role of violence is represented as being controlled by the caption “stunning martial arts choreographed” and the fact that no-one’s life is at risk. The role of violence in the East Asian culture is therefore part of an important signifier that the culture is one of poise. The women in the East Asian culture are not just associated with beauty and delicacy but with strength and a slight amount of controlled violence because of the difference of the role of violence in the cultures. The movements and holding of the swords are completely controlled. The words “art” and “choreographed” both anchor the fact that the violence is not jus plain fighting but pre-planned and has spiritual meaning.
I conclude that the two cultures are represented completely differently in the two media texts. In the Cymbeline media text East Asians are shown as wild and barbaric, whereas CTHD portrays the East Asian culture as beautiful, spiritual and skilled. CTHD shows more of the real identity of the culture rather than the misunderstood culture by an old English generation.