Culture Shock in the Cinema

So, we arrived safe and tired in the wee hours of Friday morning and checked into the hotel room which will magically become our leased apartment early next week. On Friday night, our brains were still pretty much fried and we had missed Captain America in cinemas in Sydney, so we decided to take advantage of its last week here. As in Japan, English language movies are often screened in the original English with local subtitles, so it’s usually an activity that allows one to relax in the universal womb of the darkened cinema (oh dear – I want to delete that but I’m leaving that in to demonstrate the state of my brain, which is still recovering from the move preparation stress.)
So, what caused the culture shock? Was it the playing of the national anthem and standing to honour the King, before the show began? No, definitely not: a) we’d been told to expect that b) I was brought up with manners, so I stand for any legitimate national anthem and c) it was the first time I’d heard the Thai Anthem and it’s quite beautiful, as was the voice of the woman singing. What caused the culture shock was one of the ads before the show.

The ad came amidst the usual 30 sec soft drink and car spots and – how to put it -it didn’t exactly match the essentially shallow, “action flick” mood. Obviously, when we saw it there were no English subtitles, only Thai ones for the father’s signing (that the father is deaf is no spoiler) and when the sign for the company came up I wasn’t really watching (sniffling and trying not to sob out loud, as I was) but I hoped it was for some Deafness charity, though the logo looked more like some kind of insurance company – I assumed health.

The ad follows and is 3mins long but please do watch it – grab some tissues first, though, and be warned it’s not a tear jerker because there are ducklings and toddlers or Italian Grandmothers getting long distance phone calls.



I don’t remember any of the ads between this one and the rest, because I spent the time wondering, how far should an ad go? Does purely tugging the heart-strings work, even if it doesn’t seem to be directly relevant, or is there a point where the audience feels too manipulated (I wouldn’t buy from them – it’s just too much)? Where is “the line” in different markets – would this ad work in Australia, if it works at all? The thing is, it wasn’t till Superman found the version with the subtitles and we found out what the ad was actually advertising that I actually understood how far the ad goes – at least I think I do, because it’s pretty hard to believe – but how else does life insurance come into it? Did the hospital allow the father to die giving her his blood and so now the daughter needs his life insurance? If so, is that too far? I wonder if the companies sales went up? I wonder if it would work – or even pass the taste, or regulatory tests elsewhere.

Personally, I think it would make a great ad against bullying.

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