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The Gods Must Be Crazy: A Movie Analysis

Updated on April 26, 2019
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Rhylee Suyom has hopped in three different worlds: the academe, the corporate, and the media. He enjoys being with nature and his family.

Better watch this movie before the Gods get really crazy...

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An Analysis of The Gods Must Be Crazy

Background

The story of an African individual who suddenly got a falling Coca-Cola bottle thrown out of an airplane became one of the greatest movies of all time. It was directed by a Hong Kong national who chose to name it The Gods Must Be Crazy (Encarta, 2009). The marvel of the movie does not fall in the comic that it presents rather in the diversities shown among the sudden appearance of a foreign object to a forgotten people and the intrusion of white people into their culture. Given that there are many possibilities to be understood from different points of views (character based), this paper will attempt to show the disparities in language, culture, perception, and belief.

The Conflict and How it All Began

The story revolves around a single Coca-Cola bottle dropped from an airplane landing in the possession of Xi. Upon finding this foreign and special bottle, Xi decided to bring it to his tribe, the San people. There is little verbal communication among these San people. When they do communicate, their stares, glances, and looks reveal the message. They rely much on facial expressions and hand gestures to illustrate something. The movie alighted with much English language only when the other Caucasian characters appear but for the most part, it was as if watching a silent movie. This clearly shows that the African San people portrayed in the movie have a unique understanding of bodily movements which do not rely much on oral speaking. There were instances when Xi had to shout and make a loud voice only to catch the attention. This gives us a unique perspective on language and the difference with the English language. However, it must be understood that the true message of any language relies on body language as intonation can be tricked and written texts do not possess emotions. The inability of Xi to understand English was a huge stumbling block to knowing anything in the white man’s world. Since the start, he could have understood the use and properties of a glass bottle if he knew how to read. Evidently, there is too much kinesics in the movie and enough background is necessary in order to know what the Sans and Xi were trying to say. The root of the problem may just be the lack of exposure to the white man’s culture as Xi exhibits in the entirety of the film (James, 1987).

Probing Xi and the Sans

Centered on culture and belief systems, notice how the Sans regard the bottle as something ‘heaven sent.’ By making it a foreign object, it later became the persistent root of greed and selfishness among the Sans. While the tone of the movie may be light and funny, if taken from a linguistic or even cultural perspective, one will end up feeling sorry for them. The lack of exposure to outside cultures victimized the unsuspecting African tribesmen. What is nothing in a modern man’s life turned the unity of a whole tribe upside down? The cause was plainly ignorance, yet scarcity and uniqueness coupled with the instinctive qualities of greed in man jeopardized the once peaceful environment of the Sans. They wanted to know the truth about the bottle but there was no one to task. When they finally found someone to ask, the language became the dilemma. When Xi later understood bits and pieces of the white man’s language, he was not ready for the acceptance and so were the white men with him. All in all, the uniqueness, scarcity, language barrier, human nature, culture, and events compounded the whole story creating one huge mess of panic, misunderstanding, and chaos (Ebert, 1981).

Cultural Exposition of An Aborigine

Numerous unique culture expositions where shown in the movie to indirectly show the stupidity and shallowness of language and cultural barrier. One was when Xi killed a chicken in order to pray for the gods to protect him with his quest to return the wonder bottle to the gods. Second was when he seems not to understand why the new people wear too many clothes when the weather is seemingly hot. Third was at the end when Xi thought he had reached the heavens just by seeing clouds and fog round about him (James, 1987). These three are but few of the many instances that familiarity with many cultures could have made Xi’s life a little better. Culture dictates how one must think thus Xi may be doing something extraordinarily odd, yet he knows he is accomplishing great tasks. It is culture which shapes the meanings and interpretations of symbols and language. While one may insist that one culture may be superior with the others and that a group of people may be more special than the others is solely based on culture. What may be taboo to one culture may be totally sacred or common to another or others. Xi and his people practice collectivism, yet the Coca-Cola bottle ruined their mind set. They also exhibit egalitarianism as presented in their approach towards the foreign characters portrayed in the film. The white people asserted their place and proved ethnocentrism by looking down on Xi and his nakedness, ignorance, and innocence. However, Xi and his people also think the same way with the white people as presented in Xi’s slight mock on their inability to differentiate and use an arrowhead and a hammerhead. In a sense, they are on equal footing (Arenson, 2002).

What Stands Out from the Movie?

The beauty about The Gods Must Be Crazy is the idea that there is harmony in everything; that there is in fact no language barrier since body language is enough; that change has many drawbacks: and that there is no place better than home. The power of gestures and body language shows people can understand each other by appealing to their instinctive human instructions. The need for proper schooling may work but a keen sense of willingness to observe and understand one’s culture will solve communication problems. The film shows that the Spartan way of life by the Sans gives them simplicity and happiness; the technology and scientific, electronic, and mechanical devices of modern man give him happiness too. If we are to zoom in and find the culprit of the problem, what we will find that it is not something tangible like the Coca-Cola bottle or huge crude diamonds.

Conclusion

The real cause of intercultural relationship gaps is the willing neglect of the basic understanding and respect of others’ culture and language. If only all people will adhere to the development of studying kinesics more than eloquence or the focus on egalitarianism and collectivism over individualism, there will be more mutual respect and better relationships among men and people. Today’s highly materialistic and commercialized lifestyles have eroded that which is plain and simple yet more profound and significant: mutual trust and respect.

References

Arenson Richard, (2002). "Egalitarianism", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Web: <http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/egalitarianism/>

Ebert, Roger. (1981). The Gods Must Be Crazy: A review. www.rogerebert.com. N.p. Web: < http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/the-gods-must-be-crazy-1981>

"The Gods Must Be Crazy." (2009). Encarta Encyclopedia. Microsoft Corporation.

USA. Redmond, WA: Microsoft Corporation. Vol. 3.

James, Caryn (14 July 1987). "The Gods Must Be Crazy (1981): Home Videos; Sophisticated Silliness". The New York Times (The New York Times Company). N.p. Web. < http://www.nytimes.com/movie/review?res=9B0DE6D91E3EF937A25755C0A961948260>

The Gods Must Be Crazy if you still haven't seen the movie till this day!

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