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Media Analysis - Eat Drink Man Woman

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Eat Drink Man Woman

Anthony Bourdain, an American chef and author of the book Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly, displays that food is a way of ceasing haggard and pessimistic feelings, and bringing forth true and real emotions through his following quote; “For a moment, or a second, the pinched expressions of the cynical, world-weary, throat-cutting, miserable bastards we've all had to become disappears, when we're confronted with something as simple as a plate of food” (Bourdain, A, 2000). From the viewpoint of communication studies, food has been, and remains to be, a significant representation in our foundation of meaning. Food, as an everyday necessity of social life, is an important aspect to study as it expresses current social studies through distinct relationships of class, education, gender, and sexuality. In addition, the customs of sharing foods and meals have been key in communicative practices in cultures all over the world. In the following paragraphs, the Taiwanese feature film Eat Drink Man Woman, managed and written by well-known director Ang Lee, who also successfully directed movies such as Brokeback Mountain and Hulk, will be analyzed to see how food is constructed and represented in the movie. In the film it is stated by character Jia-Chien that they “communicate by eating” (Lee, A, 1994). This is important because it displays that food is a form of expression and communication, a form that is commonly misunderstood or avoided. The film Eat Drink Man Woman, articulates communication family and loved ones by representing food as a symbol of the presented themes of relationships, displayed through illustrations of love and admiration.

According to PBS, “There is no closer relationship than kin, and food plays a large part in defining family roles, rules, and traditions” (PBS, 2005). The text Eat Drink Man Woman exemplifies relationships, regarding Master Chu’s family, through the illustrations of, affection and admiration. Chu, the father of three daughters Jia-Ning, Jia-Chien, and Jia-Jen, creates a tradition of Sunday evening dinners, in which all members of the family have learned to attend, yet secretly believe the dinner as being torture. However, throughout the movie, the Sunday dinners prove to be a method of expression, as it is truly the only time where the family is together to communicate. Despite the anger revolving around the house and the lives of the family members, the dinners are a way of relating with each other and used to display the intensely deep love shared between family members and peers, developing a strong relationship between those individuals. This can be demonstrated through the example of the film when Chu, the father and famous Taipei chef, directs all of his life’s cooking experiences and compassion into delivering big delicious Sunday meals for his family. This shows the idea of relationships as the dinners are used to keep the family together. Relating back to Chu’s expertise in cooking and dining, the middle daughter Jia-Chien displays the idea of relationships, by illustrating memories when she cooks for her ex-lover in one of the scenes. Through her food, she begins to get different emotions and memories of family, specifically her father when she was a child. These memories relate to relationships as it displays the bond of father and daughter of her past, one of the few scenes where Jia-Chien displays affection for her father, since they do not have a strong relationship together at the time presented in the film. In addition, the scene when Chu and Jia-Chien, the father and the middle sister, sit down together to eat a meal prepared by Jia-Chien and end off by sharing two simple words, “Daughter” … “Father” (Lee, A, 1994), displays affection as a brief bridge of love was formed, also resulting in the idea and creation of a stronger relationship and familial bonds between father and daughter. Furthermore, food portrayed the theme of relationships via love and affection, through Jia-Chien’s cooking that she does affectionately just like her father Chu, which she accomplishes twice, once for an ex-lover and once for her father throughout the film. In support of the previous statement, Jia-Chien states they “communicate by eating” (Lee, A, 1994), which shows that through her cooking, she communicates her love and affection for individuals in her life, creating a greater relationship. The representation of relationships has been exemplified by food, by way of displaying love and affection, through the concern and appreciation of other’s, Jia-Chien’s affectionate cooking for loved ones, as well as through Chu’s life long dedication and adoration for food that he prepares for his family.

In brief, from the perspective of communication studies, food has been and continues to be a crucial part of our understanding of values. The traditions of dinners have been historically significant in communicative practices in societies everywhere. In the Taiwanese feature film Eat Drink Man Woman, directed and written by Ang Lee, the analysis of how food is represented and symbolized in the movie was performed to display communication regarding family, by characterizing food as a symbol of relationships, articulated through images of love and admiration. In the film it is stated by character Jia-Chien that they “communicate by eating” (Lee, A, 1994), which is true, as it displays that food is a form of expression and communication of their feelings, shown through the familial bonds at Chu’s dinner table, as well as the creation of stronger relationships regarding family.

References

Bourdain, A. (2000). Kitchen Confidential. Bloomsbury, UK: Bloomsbury Publishing.
Kong, H. (Producer), & Lee, A. (Director). (1994). Eat Drink Man Woman. [Motion Picture]. Taiwan: 20th Century Fox.
Oxford Dictionaries (2012). Definition of family. Oxford Dictionaries Online. Retrieved December 1, 2012, from http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/family
PBS (2005). The Meaning of Food | Food & Family | PBS. PBS: Public Broadcasting Service. Retrieved December 1, 2012, from http://www.pbs.org/opb/meaningoffood/food_and_family/

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