Cross cultural communication catastrophe clips?
October 17, 2013 8:19 PM   Subscribe

I am looking for video clips of a specific kind of cross cultural communication gone bad: ones where a cultural outsider participates in a ceremony or ritual not understanding its full significance.

For example, I am sure I have seen old comedies where a hapless American man is visiting a tribal cultural and winds up inadvertently engaged to the chief's daughter because he didn't realize that by eating at the place of honor he was accepting a proposal of marriage. If you know of any movie or TV scenes like that, it would be very helpful. Accurate portrayals of real cultures are a plus, but anything would be useful, even fictional cultures, as long as there is a depiction of an outsider who doesn't understand what is going on. Examples of outsiders to American/Western culture who misinterpret things would also fit.
posted by Pater Aletheias to Media & Arts (12 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
100% fictional, but episode six of Firefly, "Our Mrs. Reynolds," is pretty much a quintessential example of this.
posted by librarina at 8:37 PM on October 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

This must be a pretty frequent Star Trek plot. The Futurama episode "My Three Suns."
posted by grobstein at 8:49 PM on October 17, 2013 [3 favorites]

That happens in episode 9 of the anime Ichiban Ushiro no Daimaou (which was released in the US under the name "Demon Lord Daimaou").

Bonus points because the girl in question is the daughter of the leader of a powerful ninja clan, and when the confusion becomes clear Akuto gets chased through a forest by a swarm of angry ninjas.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 8:55 PM on October 17, 2013

A scenario similar to your example occurs in the movie "Stargate" (between Daniel and Sha'uri).
posted by paperback version at 8:55 PM on October 17, 2013

Accidental Marriage has its own page at TVTropes. It's linked from Culture Clash which suggests a number of other starting points.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 9:01 PM on October 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

This is a still image, rather than video, but may be helpful.
posted by sebastienbailard at 9:43 PM on October 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

What stood out for me was the movie "Namesake". How the white chick went to the Indian funeral all dressed in black and when her Indian boyf talks about going to India for stuff, she tried to make it a holiday.

posted by hal_c_on at 1:00 AM on October 18, 2013

What was that Michael Keaton movie about the American auto plant bought by a Japanese company? Was it "Gung Ho"? It may be a bit heavy-handed, but there should be some stuff there.

Also, Keaton's nervous "Yeah, 220, 221 -- whatever it takes" from "Mr. Mom" is a parallel example: a man trying to pretend he is part of a different cultural role.
posted by wenestvedt at 6:32 AM on October 18, 2013

I don't have a clip of it, but there is a scene in the movie The Searchers where the character Martin accidentally buys a Comanche wife. There's a fairly detailed description of the various misunderstandings related to her, including the marriage, here. (The race relations in this movie are pretty painful, it should be noted.)

If I'm remembering correctly, Jackie Chan also accidentally becomes engaged to a Native American woman in Shanghai Noon. That movie plays around with various tropes from Westerns, and the cultural misunderstandings of Jackie as an outsider to American culture.
posted by gudrun at 6:55 AM on October 18, 2013

In the Russian dancers scene in The Man Who Knew Too Little, Bill Murrary doesn't know what's going on, in all sorts of ways. Go figure!
posted by Rykey at 9:54 AM on October 18, 2013

The "Diwali" episode of The Office!
posted by Room 641-A at 2:26 PM on October 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

The "Tundra" episode of The Mighty Boosh has an amazing moment like this.
posted by the_bone at 4:03 PM on October 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

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