A new story from History Unplugged Podcast


Appear in the play at all. It's just a theme of the participants in the plays how the participants view their lives for the gods don't actually appear. And then I think the sense of general weirdness in Thebes, which is something that would be apparent to an Athenian audience of the plays that Thebes would be like some other backwards like Appalachia for us where family relations are chaos. Anything can emerge from this. You'll be like going to Thebes to submit like the novel of the movie deliverance. You're going down into the depths into someplace. You don't know how people relate to you. You don't know what people are. Their primal. And so that I think is both off the times, but also perennial. So Thebes just place that you feel where things got mixed up. And there are depths that come out in Thebes. When trying to explore universal themes like this, it helps to look at radically different times and places to help gauge what's similar and what's different. And the example that you offered in the series was a film by yasujiro ozu, a Japanese director. The film, in particular, he talked about was late spring. So first of all, do you see differences broadly speaking in eastern culture on these types of family drama and family dynamics and then could you also talk specifically about this film? Yeah. There were big differences. In general, the Confucian societies which are most East Asian societies tend to be societies that subordinate the individual to the family unit, even subordinate children to parents. So filiality is a huge thing, maybe the most important aspect of East Asian culture. So there's a kind of reverse from what we've seen in the west. Those cultures have gone a different way. And this hasn't always been the case. I mean, you see this in ancient Chinese history when you read you probably familiar with as so much the records of the historian first century VC masterwork kind of vast must work one of the great historical works in the world, where you see in that as he gives a description of emperors of the different rings from the beginning, and of the different dynasties from the beginning you see how filiality emerges as the central thread of what became Chinese culture. You know, it wasn't there from the beginning. You know, it was something that was created as being ethically the most important shaping influence in human life. And that lodged politely. And so the struggle for individuation in East Asian cultures is somewhat different from what we see in the west. And of course, you know, in modern times, especially in Japan and the films of orzu where after World War II, the U.S. has taken charge of the country and even before World War II you have from 1900 on also you have a lot of western insurance in Japan and China, then you start seeing the modern Asian wrestling with an alternative. Like is there an alternative to filiality? And they're attracted by the individualism of the west. So in modern Asian culture, you start seeing a conflict between filiality and individualism. And it's a difficult conflict. It's not just a philosophical conflict, because I think what many westerners don't understand about East Asian is that full reality is as much a feeling or an aesthetic as it is an ethical virtue. So children in East Asian societies actually feel different towards their parents than children in the west too. There's a sweetness to it. There's a fondness that you don't really get here. And it's partly because in the East Asian society is kind of the traditional relationship of parents to children doesn't involve a kind of competition that you see between individuals when you get individualistic societies. So parents have to prove themselves to the children, children have to prove themselves to the parents. Children of the parents that they respect them as individuals, as human beings, you don't have that in traditional East Asian societies. Parents give children affection, they take care of them, and children respect parents as their parents, there's no kind of egalitarian demand for universal respect. So I've often thought about this because I want to buy with my friends in China, you know, I taught in China 30 years ago and many of my friends are now my students and almost my age, but they're living three generations under the same roof even in the same smaller apartment and seemingly harmoniously, and I know looking at my western Friends that if we tried that, you know, somebody would die within two weeks. So there isn't that Internet conflict. And it's an interesting, it's a wonderfully fascinating mystery to me. And it's not that, you know, in the east, they don't know bad parents or that in the east, they don't know abuse or humiliation, but they found a different way of dealing with it. So in particular, the movie late spring, how do you see these scenes play out that you described? Late spring is the story of a widowed father played by tissue Rio great Japanese actor, and his grown-up daughter was about 30, I guess, played by the great actress sets kohara. And they live together. And they've lived together since the war. I think it's suggested that the mother died during the war. But it's a father and daughter team that is extremely harmonious, extremely sweet, and this father then gets pleasure from family members that he needs to marry off his daughter because what's going to happen when he gets too old and she's going to be too old to marry and she won't have her own life she won't have her own family. So isn't it incumbent on him to find her husband and she is then also pressured to take on her husband. So the story of the film is basically I mean it's very simple is that the husband is bound for her and by the end of the film she's married and the father is left alone. That's the storyline of the film. The film is set in late 1940s Japan, a Japan under American occupation. This is hinted at in the film but never explicit. And I said, Japan where the U.S. has written the constitution. And the constitution has incorporated democratic principles like gender equality, and so now divorce is possible. And women can divorce their husbands. And so some new ideas have crept into a very traditional society. And the young woman's young daughter's best friend is a divorced woman with a job with a career and a strong personality of her own. So you have that element of modern society that is a main thread in this film too. Marriages and everything that families and everything. So there's the sense that things are changing. Nonetheless, the daughter gets married off in a traditional Japanese wedding. And or fusion of traditional Japanese wedding and western marriage, and the last shots of the film are of the father alone at home. It's very sad movie. It's a profoundly sad movie. Have you seen it? I have not. So this is an area where I really can't contribute a whole lot to the conversation. That happens quite a bit, and this is one of those moments. Yeah, you should see it. Everybody should see it. I think ozu maybe is one of the greatest 5 directors of the world. In fact, his film Tokyo story is the one that is best known in the western is also of intergenerational issues and Tokyo story regularly comes up as the greatest film of all time. So I think that also just one of the great directors. So if you have the time, he's really got his son or family dynamics

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