Before leaving the US for my move here, I was somewhat unaware of how mentalities differed between the two countries. Granted that Asian countries have become more Westernized, I came to Japan with no expectations of it being that way. Unfortunately, some of these Western influences (both good and bad) have somehow made its way over here. Today I wanted to discuss several impacts I have witnessed of Western pop culture on Japanese and American society.
Pop culture references from the US, such as "Sex and the City," "The OC," and "The Desperate House Wives" have all found some kind of popularity here in Japan. An abundance of females watch these television shows, possibly thinking that these are representative of the modern American woman. Strong, liberated, opinionated, and independent are probably some of the words that come to mind from viewers in America. There is a bit of glamor and envy in many women who aspire to be as "strong" as the characters of Sex and the City. To my surprise, however, some of the Japanese viewers have described the women as "selfish," "superficial," "inconsiderate," and "not willing to cooperate." Keep in mind, that not all Japanese saw it this way, as many actually fancied the idea of being just like the portrayed "modern woman."
My very brief experience of watching Sex and the City before coming to Japan did not phase me, but it has been quite eye-opening as of late. I used to think that the empowerment of women was just part of the evolution of American society. Now looking back, I have realized that a lot of this may be working to destroy what were originally good core values for marriage and relationships. The ones that work most against these traditional/core values are the characters "Carrie" and "Samantha" (save for the character "Charlotte," the only one who maintains these values). They appear strong and independent, but seem to control things on their own terms, at times with complete disregard for their male counterparts. At some points during the show, the main character is so self-absorbed and concerned with her own issues, that she doesn't even bother listening to her close friends. They seek some kind of love or affection, but like to remain emotionally-detached enough to prevent themselves from becoming too hurt or vulnerable. Throughout the story, they are getting involved in on and off relationships and are consumed by the plethora of material goods and brand-name fashion items around them. I heard these characters eventually realize that they need "grow up" and let go of their independence, selfishness and greed in order to find marriage, but literally years after the series began. Could this idea of being "strong" just be a cover up for them actually being "weak?"
In my opinion, a fully-engaged relationship is lowering your barriers, opening yourself up, and always thinking of your partner's happiness before your own. Unfortunately, with the onset of this post-feminism movement, new phrases such as "co-dependency" diagnose this type of behavior as very bad. It defines attachment, your partner's happiness being tied to your own, and dependence on one another as a major factor for disappointment. It reinforces that you maintain your own ground and keep your feelings independent of one another. If you are in an abusive relationship, I see this as being true, but can this behavior be applied to all relationships? Is this cold and distant view of relationships a healthy outlook?
The major difference between both cultures likely has to do with the definition of "strength." While the Japanese association of strength is more "patience" and "understanding," the Western association of strength has more to do with being vocal and "taking control of the situation." While Japanese women have become more vocal than men as of late, it is largely still a male dominated society. Sure, there is a need for equality, but when one starts to feel entitled to being selfish or greedy, where should the line be drawn? With "post-feminism" movements abound, the desire for women to be able to handle things on their own has gained huge momentum. Could this face an extreme and be potentially destructive of Western traditional marriage and its core values?