The film, What’s Cooking , was created and directed by Gurinder Chadha, and released in year 2000. In the movie, we see the day in the life of four culturally different families on Thanksgiving day. The families depicted in the film include a hispanic family, a jewish family, an african american family, as well as an asian, specifically from vietnam. Due to their diverse backgrounds the families experience a different form of Thanksgiving from the food, their beliefs, and relationships.
For our first concept we will be discussing homosexuality (Chapter 6, pages 155-165), specifically the accpetance of homosexualoty within the jewish community. Homosexuality is defined as, of, relating to, or characterized by a tendency to direct sexual desire toward another of the same sex. based on the Merriam-Webster definition of homozexuality. In the movie, we see two girls meeting each other at the airport, Rachel and Carla. It’s not obvious that the two are in a relationship at the beginning since Rachel quotes, I’m not exactly in a hurry, sis. after a woman at the airport assumes the two women are sisters.
As the movie progresses, you begin to see the relationship between the women grow. In one scene the women push the beds together so the two can sleep together and cuddle during the night. You can also see the struggle between the characters as they debate whether or not to be open about their relationship and if family Rachel’s family will accept them for who they are. Since Rachel’s family follows the jewish religion they struggle with the fact that their daughter is in a relationship with another woman. You can tell the parents are uncomfortable because they question where they went wrong as parents and even go so far to provide the girls with seperate beds in Rachel’s room.
In our second concept we will be discussing respect in Asian culture (Chapters 2 & 5, pages 50-52, 141-143). In most of asian culture respect is highly valued, especially respect towards older members within your family. The movie shows us a family that has moved to the United States from vietnam. The family consists of the mother (Trinh) and father (Duc), along with their four children Jimmy, Jenny, Gary, and Joey. The family also consists of extended members such as Duc’s mother and father.
Jimmy is the oldest child of the family and is currently away at college. Jimmy is highly respected by both his parents and siblings as he fulfills his role of going off to college to obtain a better education. Jimmy is praised by his mother whereas Jenny and Gary are not as praised.Tinah feels as though her children are becoming too Americanized as her children begin to act inappropriately in her eyes with Gary bringing home a gun and Jenny having a condom in her backpack. She feels some sort of disappointment and looks towards Jimmy for some sort of advice because he was the son that always did the right thing and respected his older members.
The final concept being discussed is traditional gender roles in the hispanic community (Chapter 2 & 5, pages 42-50, 136-138). Early traditional gender roles in the United States consisted of separate spheres, a man’s sphere where he worked outside of the home to provide for the family and a woman’s sphere where she mainly stayed with in the home to clean the house and care for the children. While the hispanic family in the movie didn’t stick strictly to these specific roles, you can see where the family followed similar rules during the modern times. For example, on Thanksgiving day most of the women in Lizzy’s family were in the kitchen preparing the meal while most of the men in her family were in the living room watching some sort of sports on tv. The family even teased Jimmy at bit while he was in the kitchen helping the family to prepare dinner. The women of the family also catered to Jimmy a bit. When he first arrived Lizzy had asked her family to get supplies for Jimmy so he could go and wash up before dinner
Social Institution is defined as a set of roles and rules that define a social unit of importance to society. based on the Public and Private Families: An Introduction by Cherlin (Chapter 1 page 29). A social institution provides families with their roles with in a certain institution along with the rules that help guide us to fulfilling those roles.
The social institution we’ll look further into is Education. Education is an important institution as it helps humans obtain knowledge in order for us to progress further. It teaches us both basic skill and extended skills for us to function a society. One example of a role in this institution is the Board of Education. The Board of Education is what makes our schools function. They take the laws from their state and determine the best plan of action for teaching the future generations. Using the feedback from each year, the board can determine what plans work for our students and what rules failed. Another role in the education institution are the teachers.
Teachers are the individuals that take the important information we need and communicate that information with the students, the individuals who learn the information. They are responsible for making sure each student has the knowledge to progress further into their education as well as their life. In the movie, we can see that the vietnamese family values education and it is seen as a role that needs to be fulfill. The family is obviously very proud that Jimmy is a student away at college. However, the family is disappointed to know that Jimmy would not be returning home for Thanksgiving due to having too much work to complete for his finals. While his mother, Trinh, misses Jimmy and checks on him several times during Thanksgiving she respects the fact that his education comes first as it is his role to do well in school as a student.
Through watching the film, What’s cooking, I have gained more understanding of cultures that are different from my own through a common holiday most of us practice in the United States of America. It has opened my eyes that while I may celebrate Thanksgiving through what we call the more traditional way based on traditional meals, such as the idea of turkey, mashed potatoes, and dressing, and settings, that the family down the street from me may experience the holiday in a a completely different manner.
With that understanding in mind, I can apply it to all aspects of life knowing that how I go about my day is completely different from the individuals next to me or the individual on the other side of the world. I now understand the struggle of the acceptance of homosexuality in the Jewish community portrayed by Rachel and Carla’s relationship. I gained more knowledge on why the respect for elders in asian culture is very important and the effects that go along with obeying that rule. I think I would like to expand my understanding of respect in Asian culture and to know more about why that doesn’t apply as much in most western countries. Like what keeps most western cultures from feeling the need to not follow such a rule.
Also, I understand how traditional family roles this affect families till this day. Finally, I learned more about the importance of education as a social institution as its role is to teach us the skills to be a functioning society.
Chadha, Gurinder, director. What’s Cooking? Redbus Film Distribution, BeCause Entertainment Group/Trimark Pictures, 2000.
Cherlin, A. J., (2017). Public and private families: An introduction (8th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Education.