Monday, October 25, 2010

Cannibal Tours

This was a very interesting film to watch. I found it fascinating to see how the Western culture has framed third and fourth world countries and their culture in such a foreign way that we see them as a unique entity in which we crave to get more of. Because these cultures are presented as different, exotic and primitive within our own society, not only are we classifying them as others, but we objectify them. As a result, whenever tourists visit these countries, they come with this mindset already in place and feel the need to somehow capture the differences between that place and home (Collins and Lutz 89). This is especially apparent when the tourists visited New Guinea specifically to see the ‘primitives’.

    Throughout the film, the New Guineans were treated like commodities. Right from the beginning we could see tourists taking photos or filming everything and every person they see. These tourists appeared to think that because they were of a civilized country they could objectify the New Guineans. They (the tourists) had the right to do as they pleased, for example, without even asking the children if they minded having a photo taken of them, a tourist walked up next to them and instructed her fellow tourist to take a picture of her with the kids.
'Primitive' rituals captured

Furthermore, these tourists appeared to have an obsession with capturing the New Guineans as “unchanging and as more primitive than civilized” (Collins and Lutz 108). Due to the way New Guineans and their primitive culture was perceived, tourists appeared to have this idealization of the New Guineans as exotic beings who acted in a specific manner, wore certain clothing and vegetated on natural untouched land. Unfortunately, upon arrival these tourists found that these ‘primitives’ were, in fact, living between modern and traditional lifestyles. While they still hunted, performed ancient customs and rituals and carried out other primitive activities, a good portion of them wore regular clothing, were, to some degree, familiar with the Western culture, and exploited their culture and themselves to earn money so that they could buy their basic necessities. As a result the tourists staged most of their shots by insisting that the New Guineans must pose a certain way or chased those who still carry out traditional customs. For example, as the tourists were exploring some of the areas, a women walking while carrying her child in a sling became the target and was followed by tourists snapping away.
The tourists constantly photographing the 'primitives'

Obsession with watching them to capture a 'primitive' act
Watching the tourist with their cameras and video recorders constantly attempting to capture everything they see and hearing their cameras click away was almost like watching the paparazzi chase after celebrities. These people have become fixated on watching and capturing their every move, almost like a magnifying glass. However, unlike the paparazzi asking absurd questions or criticizing the celebrities, the tourist, I think, took it a step further by not only invading the New Guineans’ personal space, but by instructing them to pose a certain way, such as when a tourist told the children she was taking photos of to smile. By doing so she was able to achieve her idealized version of the other (Collins and Lutz 96) thus perpetuating the stereotype of ‘primitive’ people and objectifying these children.

Work Cited List:
Collins, Jane, and Catherine Lutz. Reading National geographic. 1st ed. Chicago: University of
Chicago Press, 1993. 89-108. Print.

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