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UNIVERSITY OF LANGUAGES AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES FACULTY OF ENGLISH LANGUAGE TEACHER EDUCATION
* * *
PHÓ QUỲNH ANH
THE REFLECTION OF AMERICAN VALUES IN ONE OF THE US ALL-TIME FAVORITE SITCOMS "FRIENDS”.
SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF BACHELOR OF ARTS (TEFL)
SUPERVISOR: PHAN THỊ VÂN QUYÊN, M.A.
- Ha Noi, May 2011 -
First and foremost, I would like to send my deepest gratitude to my supervisor – Ms. Phan Thi Van Quyen for her careful guidance and valuable advice. For all her sympathy and patience during the time I carry out this study, I am truly grateful. I would also take this opportunity to express my biggest thankfulness to all my classmates at E1K41, who have always been there for me, supporting me physically and mentally. I want to say a special thank to Ms. Pham Thi Thuy Linh who encouraged me to follow this subject and guided me with my first steps of doing the research; to Ms. Nguyen Thanh Thuy, Ms. Nguyen Vu Xuan Lan, Ms. Nguyen Hong Ngoc, Ms. Truong Hai Ha and Ms. Vi Dieu Thuan for their constant support as well as cooperation in my data collecting procedure. I would like to thank the informants, both Vietnamese and American, who were so generous and willing to help me with the questionnaire. Had it not been for their generosity and concerns for the subject, the study could not be accomplished. Above all, I would like to express my greatest love and gratitude to my parents and my two best friends Ms. Nguyen Hoang Khanh Minh and Ms. Dang Thi Nhu Y for their unconditional caring and thoughtfulness. Without them, I would not have the strength and the will to go to the end of this long challenging road.
I hereby state that I: Phó Quỳnh Anh from group 071E1- Fast track program, being a candidate for the degree of Bachelor of Arts (TEFL) accept the requirements of the College relating to the retention and use of Bachelor’s Graduation Paper deposited in the library. In terms of these conditions, I agree that the origin of my paper deposited in the library should be accessible for the purposes of study and research, in accordance with the normal conditions established by the librarian for the care, loan or reproduction of the paper.
Based on the theoretical background of cross-cultural communication, this study aims at investigating the American values reflected in one of the US all-time favorite sitcoms ―Friends‖, and the differences in the perception of those values between Vietnamese viewers and American viewers. The main instruments of data collection are observation and questionnaire. To succeed in doing this research, the author of the study takes informants‘ social parameters such as age, living area, and knowledge of foreign language(s) into consideration. Besides, their surveyed responses are carefully analyzed to build a general set of viewpoints of the audience on ―Friends‖. It is revealed in the study that ―Friends‖ expresses fully all American values listed in the foundation theory. Furthermore, there are noticeable differences in the perception of those values between Vietnamese viewers and American viewers due to the gap of cultural knowledge.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS ...............................................................................ii ABSTRACT ...................................................................................................... iv LIST OF FIGURES AND TABLES .............................................................. viii CHAPTER I – INTRODUCTION.................................................................. 1 I. II. Statement of Topic................................................................................. 1 Significance of the Study....................................................................... 3
III. Aims of Study and Research Questions ................................................ 3 IV. Scope of the Study ................................................................................. 4 V. Overview of the Research Paper ........................................................... 5
CHAPTER 2 – LITERATURE REVIEW ..................................................... 6 I. 1. 2. 3. II. Culture and Cultural Values .................................................................. 6 Definition of Culture .......................................................................... 6 Components of Culture ...................................................................... 8 Cultural Value .................................................................................... 9 American Cultural Values ................................................................... 10
III. The sitcom ―Friends‖ ........................................................................... 19 CHAPTER III – METHODOLOGY ........................................................... 22 v
I. II. 1. 2.
Participants .......................................................................................... 22 Data collection instruments ................................................................. 23 Observation....................................................................................... 23 Questionnaire .................................................................................... 23
III. Data collection procedure .................................................................... 24 IV. Data analysis method ........................................................................... 25 CHAPTER IV – RESULTS & ANALYSIS ................................................. 27 I. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. Realization of American values reflected in ―Friends‖ ....................... 27 Individual Freedom .......................................................................... 27 Self-reliance ...................................................................................... 33 Equality of opportunity .................................................................... 36 Competition ...................................................................................... 40 Hard work ......................................................................................... 46 Material wealth ................................................................................. 49 Directness, Openness and Honesty .................................................. 51 Practicality and Efficiency ............................................................... 54 Change orientation ........................................................................... 57 Informality ..................................................................................... 60 vi
11. 12. II.
Future orientation .......................................................................... 62 Time and its control....................................................................... 64
Vietnamese and American viewers‘ perception of the American values
reflected in ―Friends‖. .................................................................................. 65 Question 1: Do you find ―Friends‖: Extremely funny/Funny/Not funny? .................................................................................................................. 66 Question 2: Do you have any difficulties while watching ―Friends‖? Language/Background knowledge/None? ............................................... 67 Question 3: Among these listed American values, which one is reflected in ―Friends‖ according to your observation? ........................................... 70 Question 4: Among the values you recognize, which one is the most obviously seen? Which one is the least obviously seen? ......................... 77 CHAPTER V – CONCLUSION ................................................................... 80 I. II. Summary .............................................................................................. 80 Implication ........................................................................................... 81
III. Limitation of the study ........................................................................ 82 IV. Suggestion for further research ........................................................... 83 REFERENCE ................................................................................................. 84 APPENDICES ................................................................................................ 86
LIST OF FIGURES AND TABLES
Figure 1& 2: The level of hilarity of ―Friends‖ in the view of Vietnamese and American audience Figure 3: Difficulties of Vietnamese and American viewers while watching ―Friends‖ Figure 4: American values reflected in ―Friends‖ according to Vietnamese and American viewers Figure 5: The most obviously seen American value according to Vietnamese and American viewers Figure 6: The least obviously seen American value according to Vietnamese and American viewers 85 77 84 74
CHAPTER I – INTRODUCTION
I. Statement of Topic
[The gang is hanging out in the coffee shop] Phoebe: I'm going to get a coffee. Anybody want anything? Monica: I'll have a latte. Ross: I'll have a blueberry muffin, with a decaf. Chandler: I'll have a bagel with a little... [Interrupted by Phoebe] Phoebe: You know, I was just being polite.
I am not giving you just a random funny story; it is one of the daily conversations among friends in the all-time favorite sitcom series ―Friends‖. If you watch the scene, it will be more vivid and hilarious. In the series, there are tons of situations where you can laugh at, have some fun and enjoy your time; many people agree with that. But there are more than jokes and laughter in the series. Viewers can see friendship being honored; learn lessons about dealing with situations in life, etc. And in the eyes of a young researcher, there are American values reflected in the series. As for the example above, we can see not only politeness (the reason for Phoebe asking if anyone needs anything), but also directness (Phoebe directly says that she was just being polite to her friends) and the self-help spirit (Phoebe expects that her friends should get their own drinks and cake). Many people I know watch ―Friends‖ and conclude: ―Yes, it‘s funny. Then what?‖ or ―The series is just about six people in New York, 1
what‘s the big deal?‖ It seems to me that the sitcom has been seriously misunderstood as some cheap normal sitcom, in which there are some silly situations and jokes. There must be a reason why ―Friends‖ is a huge success of American sitcom industry, is warmly welcomed and eagerly expected for ten years of its broadcast, from 1994-2004, besides the jokes and funny situations. The Los Angeles Times called it "flat-out the best comedy series of the new season", even a British website http://www.televisionheaven.co.uk/friends.htm assured that ―Friends‖ is ―one of the last great television phenomenon‘s of the last century‖ and ―has become the "Must" in "Must-See TV" for the NBC network in the USA‖. ―Friends‖ is a sitcom series about six friends in their twenties, with their own troubles, living in New York, where the daily situations in life bring about the lessons and gradually transform them into grownups. Each character carries in themselves the characters of New Yorkers and lives up to their principles which are the manifestations of the American values. In the period of 10 years, the sitcom reflects closely the New York society and its changes over time: jobs are being more important, single life is popular, sexuality is openly discussed, etc. To some extent, ―Friends‖ is one of the valuable sources to study New Yorkers‘ behavior, hence the values they live by. Therefore, ―Friends‖ is the target of my research not for its being funny, but because of its richness in American values that viewers can find in each conversation or action of every episode.
Significance of the Study Someone may think that the study is not worth doing since it is
about funny stories and practical jokes. I see it differently and take the sitcom seriously. First and foremost, the research will give readers an insightful view of the sitcom, which is the hidden value beyond words and jokes. Readers will know about New Yorkers‘ life, their beliefs and values reflected in their words and actions, their favorite topics, their lifestyles, etc. As a result, it would be of great help for American language and culture teachers and learners. The sitcom will enable learners to withdraw lessons from a less academic and head-aching source, yet authentic and useful. The casual and friendly atmosphere of watching this sitcom will make learners feel relaxed and more willing to study American culture. Besides, there have been not many researches on this particular subject; hence mine would be a contribution to the category, and also a reference for those who want to carry out a research in the same field, on the same subject. III. Aims of Study and Research Questions This study aims at finding out the values of Americans in general reflected in the sitcom ―Friends‖, and investigating the perceptions of Vietnamese viewers of the American values reflected in the sitcom. The answers to these questions will help the researcher see the cultural gap between American and Vietnamese. From that, the researcher can suggest the implications for Vietnamese viewers to watch the sitcom effectively and meaningfully, as well as for the use of ―Friends‖ in
teaching and learning American and Vietnamese Cross-cultural Communication. In a nutshell, the research is going to find the answers to these questions: What are the American values reflected in the sitcom “Friends”? What are Vietnamese and American viewers’ perceptions of the American values reflected in the sitcom “Friends”? IV. Scope of the Study In this study, generally, the researcher aims at the values of the American even though the setting of the sitcom is in New York and the main characters are New Yorkers. Therefore, only the American values mentioned in the literature review are taken into account. Participants are both American and Vietnamese people who have watched fully 10 seasons of the sitcom ―Friends‖. Moreover, because ―Friends‖ was broadcast from 1994 to 2004, about the lives of six New Yorkers from their mid twenties to thirties; therefore, the age of the audience is also in the same range. Consequently, the questionnaires would be delivered to those from the age of 20 to 40 in order to match the age range of the targeted audience of the sitcom. As for Vietnamese viewers, since the language barrier somehow limits their understanding of the sitcom as well as the values in it, the researcher does not have high expectation of them absorbing fully what is hidden underneath the words. The paper will record Vietnamese viewers‘ thoughts of American values as far as they are perceived. 4
Overview of the Research Paper The Research Paper consists of chapters: Chapter I: Introduction – an overview of the research paper
which contains the research‘s rationale, the aim, the significance and the scope of the study. Chapter II: Literature review – the theoretical foundation for the research. Chapter III: Methodology – detailed methods that have been used and the procedures that have been followed by the researcher. Chapter IV: Findings – the answers to the research questions. Chapter V: Summary – the conclusion for the research and suggestions for the use of ―Friends‖ in studying American studies and Cross-cultural communication.
CHAPTER 2 – LITERATURE REVIEW
I. Culture and Cultural Values
1. Definition of Culture Many definitions of the term ―culture‖ have been proposed since people started to realize the existence of culture in daily life. In their book Culture: A Critical Review of Concepts and Definitions, Alfred Kroeber and Clyde Kluckhohn compiled a list of 164 definitions of the word ―culture‖, and grouped them into three basic senses: Excellence of taste in the fine art and humanities, also known as ―high culture‖. An integrated pattern of human knowledge, belief, and behavior that depends upon the capacity for symbolic thought and social learning. The set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution, organization or group. In this research, we do not mention ―culture‖ as ―high culture‖, but in the other two senses of meaning. In these senses, there have been many ways of understanding the term ―culture‖ also. Ronald Wardhaugh (1993) shortly and simply defines culture in his book as ―the ‗know-how‘ that a person must possess to get through the task of daily living.‖ This definition is simple but hasn‘t shown the
source of culture; it is just the function or the role of culture in a person‘s life. Meanwhile, Kluckhohn (1951) thinks that:
Culture is the patterned ways of thinking, feeling and reacting, required and transmitted mainly by symbols, constituting the distinctive achievements of human groups, including their embodiments of artifacts, the essential core of culture consists of traditional (i.e. historically derived and selected) ideas and especially their attached values.
He adds the mutual influence between culture and the people. It is true that culture is formed by the people, but it also constitutes the achievements of human groups, decides their actions, thoughts and feelings. Hofstede (1991) extends Kluckhohn‘s definition by purporting that culture is learned from one's social environment and is not genetic. Therefore, Nguyen Quang (1998) introduces that culture is non-natural. It has been created through ―the history of human development‖; hence it ―is not static and is always changing‖. The beliefs and values people have and practice right now is different from the one our ancestors had and did. Overall, the researcher finds the definition by Levin and Adelman (1993) the most informative and precise about the subject: ―Culture is a shared background (for example, national, ethnic, religious) resulting
from a common language and communication style, customs, beliefs, attitudes and values.‖ From this definition, we can conclude that different nations or religions in the world have different cultures; and the people‘s behaviors, attitudes and feelings are decided by the culture they are living in. 2. Components of Culture Stephen Moore (1985) claims the components of culture as the followings: Beliefs: these are general and vague opinions about the world and about the nature of society. For example Christians believe in God and heaven without the need to find evidence of their existence. Values: these are vague beliefs about what is right and correct in the world, meaning there are certain appropriate forms of action which ought to be taken. For example killing is wrong since every life is precious. Norms: these are socially expected patterns of behavior. For example when a Japanese bows as a gesture of greeting, the opposite person is supposed to bow back; or an American gestures a handshake, the opposite person is expected to gives out his/her hand to make a handshake too. Roles: social roles are patterns of behavior expected of a certain person according to his/her occupation or position 8
he/she holds in the society. For instance the role of a chef is to cook well, to know food, to be creative and sensitive with food; therefore, if a chef does not cook well or not have sensitivity with food, other people would be surprised and do not regard him a chef. Role conflict: A person living in this world holds many different roles in a society. Mr. A can be in the role of a father to his daughter, a managing director in his company, a friend to his friend, etc. These roles are quite separate and complementary but sometimes, they may conflict. For instance a friend of his also works in his department but as a managing director, Mr. A has to fire the friend for low performance at work. If Mr. A fires his friend, he violates the role of a friend which is being supportive and helpful. But if he does not, he violates the role of a managing director which is keeping the good performance of the company. Status: This refers to the position of a person or social role in the society according to the amount of prestige received from others. In different societies or cultures, the status varies. In Vietnam, they used to love girls with black teeth and honored them more than those with white teeth. In Japan, Samurai warriors received the greatest prestige, only after the Emperor. 3. Cultural Value As stated above, value is one of the components of culture. Here, the word ―value‖ is not understood as the price, money or worth of something, but as in the word ―cultural value‖. 9
In Cambridge Advanced Leaner‘s Dictionary, value is defined as ―the beliefs people have about what is right and wrong and what is most important in life, which control their behavior.‖ As Wikipedia puts it, simply values ―identify those objects, conditions or characteristics that members of the society consider important; that is, valuable.‖ This definition is quite easy to understand, especially when they use the adjective ―valuable‖ to define ―value‖. But I am not quite contented with this circle-definition. Milton Rokeach and socialist Robin William, on the other hand, agree on a more complicated way of understanding the term. To them, ―values are core conceptions of the desirable within every individual and society.‖ They are the ―standards or criteria‖ that orient and determine human‘s behavior such as action, judgment, choice, attitude, and rationalization. The cultural values are something like ―pre-codings‖ which control the individual‘s behaviors in that society. The researcher finds herself in agreement with these authors. Values are shared beliefs among people in one society of the world outside, what is right and wrong. They form the straits of people and guide them to react to each situation in life. II. American Cultural Values Now we know what values are, we would come to the question: What are the American values? This simple-five-word-question is never easy to answer for the fact that American itself is a ―nation of nations‖. From birth, American was known as a multi-cultural country, with a little bit of this and that all over the world. Immigrants came there because of the belief called ―American Dream‖. It was the hope to rise from poverty or modest wealth to great wealth, to live in freedom and 10
democracy, to enjoy the liberty and pursuit of happiness. There were four major waves of immigration to the United States. The first immigration took place between the 1550s and 1770s, and the first settlers came from England, Spanish and France. Between 1619 and 1808, about 500,000 Africans were brought to the new land for slavery. The second immigration was between 1820 and 1860. Peasants displaced from agriculture in Europe and artisans made redundant by the industrial revolution were eager to move to the new land. The third wave began in 1880 and ended in 1914. People moved to the States to find opportunity and stay away from World War I. Several hundred thousand Chinese, Japanese and other Asian also came here to settle down. The fourth wave arrived in the United State after 1965. A change in the preference system encourages people originated from Latin, Asia come to America. Each race of immigrants coming to the land of liberty brought along its own values. As they lived together, tried to blend in in the new land, their values partly dissolved and formed the so-called common values in the society they were living in and created a ―melting pot‖ America. ―America is God‘s crucible, the great melting-pot where all races of Europe are melting and reforming!... Germans and French, Irishmen and Englishmen, Jew and Russian - into Crucible with you all! God is making the America”( Gerstle. G, 2001) On the other hand, America is also considered a ―salad bowl‖ in which all the ingredients 11
still keep their own tastes and values but together, they make a whole united dish. Therefore, there are no clear-cut American values in the States. Each region will give you a different answer on this topic. And L. Robert Kohls (1984) has a very humorous yet logical way of explaining this ―lukewarm‖ situation is that ―The reason for this decision is itself one very American value—their belief that every individual is so unique that the same list of values could never be applied to all, or even most, of their fellow citizens.‖ Should I have to give a general portrait of a typical American, the six traditional core values would be appropriate to draw that picture. They are: 1. Individual Freedom It originated from the foundation of the country. The earliest settlers came to the North American continent in 1607 to establish colonies that were free from the controls that existed in European societies. By the 1770s, the first 13 colonies were established and they developed their own political and legal systems. A war broke out between the new states and the British government in 1775. With much effort and sacrifice, the British colonial settlers won and declare their independence from England in 1776, and established a new nation – the United States of America. And so, in the Constitution written in 1789, the founders limited the power of the government, emphasized on the individual. The United States came to be associated in their minds with the concept of individual freedom. Scholars and outside observers often call this value
individualism, but many Americans use the word freedom instead. 12
Freedom here means the desire and the ability of all individuals to control their own destiny without outside interference from the government, a ruling noble class, the church, etc. People can do anything according to their own wills, as long as their actions do not violate the law or others‘ freedom. The manifestation of freedom in daily life can be recognized by the way people choose to dress, their decision of which school to go, where to settle down, what job to takes, what to say…And their privacy – the ―ultimate result of individualism‖ (Kohls, 1984) is one precious property. Privacy invasion could be taken as a crime in some cases. 2. Self-reliance Self-reliance is the price that Americans have to pay for individual freedom. You ask for freedom, you have it and no other people will interfere in your life including help or assistance. You have to do everything on your own. ―In the United States, a person can take credit only for what he or she has accomplished by himself or herself‖ (Kohls, 1984). They even take pride on being successful despite the poor background. They try to do things on their own, try to ―stand on their own feet and one is never supposed to be dependent on a group‖ (Hofstede, 1991) The American also embraces this value. When a youngster reaches a certain age, he/she is expected to move out and starts his/her own life: find a job, afford a house, solves crisis and conflicts on their own…Even if some Americans are not truly self-reliant, they believe that they must at least appear to be so in order not to lose respect from their peers. Although receiving financial support from family, charity, 13
or the government is allowed but is never admired. People think that those help should be short-lived. Their language also shows this value when there is the prefix ―self‖ for words which already have a complete meaning, for example self-help, self-control, self-criticism, and selfreliance. And the Americans often say ―I got it‖, ―I can handle it‖, ―I can take it‖, ―I‘m ok‖, etc to show their independence. 3. Equality of opportunity This value is also the reason why so many immigrants are drawn to this country. They believe that everyone has a chance to succeed here since they have their freedom, hence are not bound in the strict rules of controllers from their hometowns. There is no class system in the United States so people living in America may come from different places with different backgrounds, but they are all equal. However, it is important to understand that equality of opportunity is different from egalitarianism. Americans believe that each individual should have an equal chance to be successful, to enter the race to success, compete against each other and win. The American tends to give equal opportunity to everyone regardless of their backgrounds. To get into a university, you have to take test or an exam whoever you are; to get a job, you have to take an interview like everybody else, etc. 4. Competition Competition and Equality of opportunity make a pair. It is true that Americans have the equality but only in opportunity. Whether they succeed or not is another matter. It‘s competition. To Americans, living is like competing in a race to success. From the same starting point, 14
people have to compete with each other to get what they want, in a fair and square way. “The pressures of competition in the life of an American begin in the childhood and continue until retirement from work.”(Vu, 2009) The people who are competitive and are successful are called winners; those who are not competitive and are less successful are called losers. Old people in the US do not have as much honor and respect as they have in other less competitive societies because they can no longer compete, hence become unfit in the mainstream of American life. This value also explains why Americans are competitive in many aspects of their lives. Companies compete with one another to get the most customers and benefits. In office, staffs compete with one another to get promotion. In school, students compete with one another in sports to be popular. They find any opportunity to show that they are the best in something. Moreover, America is one of the countries with the most competitions. They have dancing competitions; singing competitions, spelling competitions, cooking competitions, intellectual competitions, beauty competitions, etc. It is simply because the Americans want to compete and show off their talents. They want to show that they can be someone, do something significant. 5. Hard work The Americans believe that hard work is the key to success, that only through hard work can human earn status in life and be respected. It is probably resulted from the second value which is self-reliance. People depend on themselves to be successful; therefore, there is no
other way than working by their own hands and pouring their hearts into their work. The Americans focus on their work more as time goes by. There is a new word invented to describe those who are addicted to work: workaholic. They put their work in front of anything, always on the move to solve something. In language, people start to ask ―Where do you work?‖ or ―What do you do‖ more when meeting new people. 6. Material wealth Another reason why immigrants come to the USA is ―to have a better life – that is to raise their standard of living.‖ In their old countries, people are judged by their social status. As a result, they come to America, set up new criteria for social acknowledgement and respect – that is property or material wealth. Moreover, the material wealth is also the reflection of being hard work – the fifth value. They consider that there richer you are, or the more properties you own, the harder you work, hence the more respectable you become. Those are six basic traditional American values which are formed based on the foundation of the country and some manifestations of them in daily life of the American. Besides the six traditional ones, in his study ―The Values Americans live by‖ (1984), L. Robert Kohls, Executive Director of The Washington International Center adds six values more which are: Directness, openness and honesty Practicality and efficiency Change orientation 16
Informality Future orientation Time and its control 7. Directness, openness and honesty In the book ―American ways: a guide for foreigners in the United States‖ (2003, p.27) the authors Gary Althen, Amanda R. Doran and Susan J. Szmania emphasize that ―Americans generally consider themselves as to be frank, open and direct in their dealings with other people‖. They prefer to ―explicitly state what they think and what they want from other people.‖ So a straight-forward comment, a blunt refusal, a daring requirement are not something the American do to make the other lose face, but it is just the way they are 8. Practicality and efficiency Practicality is one of the distinctive values of the American. They need something that can yield good result, that is productive, that is beneficial to their lives. Companies want to hire someone who is practical and efficient so that they can ―save time‖ and be productive. People want to be with those who are down-to-earth and not dreamy. Sometimes, this value is not so appreciated in other countries because it appears to lack emotion. 9. Change orientation ―In the American mind, change is seen as an indisputably good condition‖, said Kohls. Change means improvement, progress, growth. The Americans believe in changes. Isn‘t that the reason why Barack Obama, the president of the United States came up with his famous 17
slogan: ―The change we need‖? Moreover, it is also related to the fact that American people are immigrants, they are mobile. So the change in living places, lifestyle, etc is essential to people with mobility. 10. Informality Informality does not mean rude or disrespect to the American. They just want to create a friendly atmosphere to people around them. They can call their boss by his/her first name. The once popular greeting ―How are you‖ is replaced by just ―Hi‖ – short and to the point which is merely greeting. Kohls also reveals ―the American would consider such informality as a compliment.‖ You only use informal forms of communication with people close to you or those you feel comfortable with. Therefore, informality is considered a compliment from the speaker to the hearer with the meaning that you are close to me, or I am comfortable when talking to you. 11. Future orientation They tend to look forward and do not take much consideration about the past. The saying ―Let bygones be bygones‖ clearly illustrates their viewpoint on the past. They often think that the past is something you cannot change, but you can change the future. And as change is one of their values, future-the thing they can change is also valuable. This value can be seen in their language. They often ask people about their plan or their intention likes ―What are you going to do when you graduate/turn 30/get married…?‖ 12. Time and its control
The American prefers to be on time, lateness is something unacceptable. Time is precious, like gold or money, which needs to be ―kept‖, ―saved‖, ―used wisely‖, ―spent‖ and it would be terrible if you ―lose‖, ―waste‖ time. III. The sitcom “Friends” The sitcom is set in New York and the stories are about the lives of six New Yorkers, 3 ladies and 3 gentlemen, in their mid-twenties, with different characteristics as well as beliefs and values. Each character portrays a side of an average American and the six of them together draw a picture of typical Americans. Rachel Greene: is a spoilt rich girl who left her rich fiancé to come to New York for a carefree life. She is very practical and witty. Monica Geller: is a chef. Since her brother was favored over her when they were small, Monica grew up to be very competitive and controlling. Phoebe Buffay: is a freelancer. She is free-spirited and also spiritual. She always does weird things and appears to be very laid-off. Ross Geller: is Monica‘s older brother. He is a paleontologist. Ross is the nerd in the group and always plays safe. He can be competitive sometimes. He is also a little girly compared to the other two guys. Joey Tribbiani: is an Italian-American. He is an actor in searching for a role. He is goofy but is popular with the ladies. Joey‘s life is really simple: food, the Knicks and sex. 19
Chandler Bing: is a business man. He had a hard time being a kid of a mother who is quite ―slutty‖ and a father who is gay. He always tells jokes to cheer people up and also to defense him from awkward situations. There are totally 236 episodes in 10 seasons of the sitcom, broadcast from 1994 – 2004. Each episode puts the gang in some situations in daily life and their solutions to them. The situations, mimicking those in the real life, are mainly about their love life, their jobs, and their relationship with families, relatives, colleagues and even strangers. After many difficulties in life, they always find all the other five people being by their sides, supporting them, sharing with them the good and the bad. Although full of laughter and jokes, the sitcom shines with the loyalty and the sincerity of friendship among six young adults managing to enjoy their lives in New York City. Scholarly works on ―Friends‖ are scant but analysis and response are quite abundant. Daniella Antelo, journalist from http://www.helium.com said ―the dialogue is inventive and smart and honest. The show stays true to how people/friends live and interact with one another in everyday life.” An article on Chicago Tribune by Johnson in 2004 said ―Friends‖ was the ―voice of a generation‖, a spoke of lifestyle on an emotional and comedic level. Sharing the same opinion, the Baltimore Sun also paid a tribute to the close of the sitcom by acclaiming ―Friends‖ as the ―popular show that captured a generation and changed the message of prime time” The ―Friends‖ generation is called ―generation X‖ when a lot of changes in lifestyle took place: women and men are becoming equal in social role, being 20
single and independent is appreciated, lesbians and gays are accepted in the society, etc. In 10 years of its broadcast, ―Friends‖ was nominated many times for different renowned awards, and won quite a few such as The Golden Globe 2003 – ―Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series Musical or Comedy‖ goes to Jennifer Aniston; Emmy Award 2002 – ―Outstanding Comedy Series‖; Emmy Award 1998 – ―Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series‖ goes to Lisa Kudrow, etc. With all the awards and critics, ―Friends‖ proves itself to be not only one of the US all-time favorite sitcoms but also a worth-studying culture-mirror for its capture of the American values, which will be revealed more clearly in chapter IV.
CHAPTER III – METHODOLOGY
With the aim of finding out the American values reflected in the sitcom ―Friends‖ and the actual values perceived by Vietnamese viewers, the researcher uses observation and questionnaire as the tools to collect data for this study. I. Participants Participants are both American and Vietnamese people who have watched fully 10 seasons of the sitcom ―Friends‖. Moreover, because ―Friends‖ was broadcast from 1994 to 2004, about the lives of six New Yorkers from their mid twenties to thirties; therefore, the age of the targeted audience is also in the same range. Consequently, the questionnaires would be delivered to those from the age of 20 to 40 in order to match the age range of the audience of the sitcom. As for Vietnamese viewers, since the language barrier somehow limits their understanding of the content of the sitcom as well as the values expressed in it, the researcher does not have high expectation of them absorbing fully what is hidden underneath the words. However, only the answer from participants whose language proficiency is advanced is taken. The people, whose language level is intermediate but they express intriguing ideas, are also taken into consideration. The paper records Vietnamese viewers‘ thoughts of American values as far as they are perceived. 22
Data collection instruments
1. Observation To answer the first question, the researcher watches all 10 seasons of the sitcom. This step is considered as observation. Before that, a checklist of all American values and their manifestations as mentioned in the literature review is created. Then the researcher takes note of all the lines, the situations; and records the actions and reactions of the characters which show and match the American values in the checklist. 2. Questionnaire To answer the second question of the research, the researcher uses questionnaire. The strong point of questionnaire is its ability to collect data from a wide range of participants (Mackey & Gass, 2005) and to the ability to generalize the common ideas. The questionnaire for this research consists of two types of questions: close-ended questions and open-ended questions. The first part – About informant – is to not only get some specific information about the informants, but also to categorize them, whether they are the right target for the study or not. The second part – Questions – consists of closed-ended and openended questions related to the sitcom. The close-ended questions help the researcher probe the perception of viewers about the sitcom: if it 23
collides with the intention of the moviemakers or not; if it matches the researcher‘s hypothesis of the reflected American values or not; if the Vietnamese viewers‘ opinion is different from the Americans‘. Additionally, by using open-ended questions, the researchers can have specific examples and personal viewpoints of the watchers. After retrieving the questionnaire, the researcher sort out the participants who stand out with interesting or ambiguous viewpoints, and carry out in-depth interviews with them to get more and clearer information for the study. By talking face to face, the researcher believes that participants will have a chance to fully express their own opinions about the sitcom, which gives a more realistic and specific view of how movie-watchers perceive it. III. Data collection procedure The data collection procedure consists of four main steps, each of which is taken according to a designed timeline. The four steps are listed as followed: Step 1: Preparation Basing on the literature review and the content of the sitcom, the researcher designs questionnaire and interview questions which can help research get the needed information. Step 2: Questionnaire distribution The questionnaire is distributed to selected subjects. There are 100 questionnaires given out and 100% of them are retrieved. Only 80% of them are qualified. 24
Step 3: Interviewee invitation After analyzing the retrieved questionnaires, researcher narrows down the 2 potential interviewees – 1 Vietnamese, 1 American who have great interest in this research and suitable features to the researcher‘s concerns. Researcher contacts them to make appointments for interviewing schedule. Step 4: Interview The researcher implements separate interviews with the selected subjects using the same set of designed questions. Interviewees have a chance to choose Vietnamese or English for the sake of expressing their opinions naturally and comfortably. Note-taking is also exploited to note down every changes in the interviewees‘ gestures, facial expressions or intonation so that a thorough and precise interpretation of the participants‘ feeling would be examined carefully during the procedure of analysis. IV. Data analysis method In this research, both qualitative and quantitative methods are applied to process the collected date. Observation notes, questionnaires, and interview recordings are the primary sources of data. They go through an analysis process as followed: Step 1: Categorize collected data Provided information is grouped in different categories based on different issues namely (i) what are the American values reflected in the sitcom ―Friends‖, (ii) what are the Vietnamese and American viewers‘ perceptions of the American values reflected in ―Friends‖. 25
Step 2: Present categorized data Firstly, the questionnaires are processed by statistical method. Specifically, the researcher counts, synthesizes and then puts the statistics into charts and tables so that these tools would serve effectively in illustrating and explaining the data. Secondly, qualitative method is of great help for the researcher to analyze data from the interviews. The information provided by the interviewees is analyzed carefully to contribute more intensive and detailed examples as well as explanation.
CHAPTER IV – RESULTS & ANALYSIS
I. Realization of American values reflected in “Friends” With the foundation theory about American values and their manifestations in real life written in chapter I, the researcher watched the whole ten seasons of ―Friends‖ and took note of all the situations, the reactions of characters which reflect the values. After 3 months of observation, the research found out that there are 12 out of 12 values listed in the literature review that appear in the sitcom. The 12 values all exist in the characteristics and reactions of six main characters. In each character, some values are more noticeable than the others. Thus, the six of them together paint a quite detailed, specific and typical picture of Americans in general. 1. Individual Freedom This value is the most obviously seen throughout 10 seasons of the sitcom. Each character is a unique individual with his or her own traits and ways of living. They handle problems in their lives in their own ways and make themselves free from judgment of the society. The character who represents this value of most is Phoebe Buffay. She is unconventional, awkward and often comes up with weird ideas. She has a rough childhood when her adoptive mother committed suicide and she had to live on the street, mugging teenagers to live by. 27
Growing up, she moves to New York and meets the other five characters. She works as a musician at their favorite coffee house Central Perk. Later, she enjoys working as a masseur even though at that time, the idea of working by ―touching people‖ is not quite appreciated. For what she has been through, people expect her to be sad and autistic but she is the opposite of that. She is ―upbeat‖, carefree and a vegetarian. She has a unique running style which can be found in season 6 episode 7, where her hands flap like bird wings while running. Rachel is her running buddy but she tries to sneak out and run alone due to embarrassment caused by the eyes of all the passer-bys. While Rachel cares about that, Phoebe does not:
Phoebe: Why do you care? Rachel: Because they're people. Phoebe: But people that you don't know and will never see again!
After the confrontation, Rachel realizes she does not have to act like the mainstream just to please some strangers in the park. The two friends then have a lot of fun running together in their crazy styles: flapping hands and loud panting. In season 4 episode 11, Phoebe chooses to give birth to a triplet for her half-blood brother since his wife cannot carry a baby due to old age. This decision is the most shocking out of many crazy things she has ever done. People keep giving her faces when they hear about this. Strangers think she commits incest with her brother. Her friends, knowing the reason, still show disapproval of her growing her brother‘s baby in her uterus. They actually care about her a lot to disagree with such decision. They warn her of morning sicknesses, painful labor, and the worst scenario is that she cannot keep the baby 28
who stays in her for nine months and may creates a bond. Despite all that, she still decides to be the surrogate to carry the baby for her brother out of brother-sisterhood. In the end, she is in total bliss with her choice because everybody clearly sees what a huge happiness she brings to her brother‘s family by giving birth to three cute little babies. Many things happen in her life, intentionally or accidentally; but all decisions are made by her. Phoebe does not care about what other people say or think, as long as she stays happy and be true to herself. She is truly an outstanding individual who frees herself from all the boundaries built up by the society. Ross Geller is a guy who is into dinosaurs, puzzles and science, which bores the other friends in the group and is often made fun of. Each time he talks about his lectures on paleontology, the others pretend to fall asleep and snore. But that does not stop him from pursuing his dream. From a staff at the natural history museum, Ross works his way up to a lecturer at New York University, teaching paleontology. That is an example of individual freedom in choosing your own career path. Ross is also the one who gets married the most among the six – three marriages in his life. His first marriage fails because his wife Susan, after years of living together, finds out she is gay. Susan, then, gets married to her girlfriend Carol despite the disapproval of her parents. No matter how painful he is, Ross respects Susan‘s choice and agrees to give her away at the wedding instead of her father. We can clearly see that individual freedom is something to be respected in the American society.
In season 1 episode 3, the gang is hanging out as usual at Central Perk the coffee shop, and Chandler is smoking. People try to convince him to quit because it is a bad habit, but Chandler backfires by saying:
So I have a flaw! Big deal! Like Joey's constant knuckle-cracking isn't annoying? And Ross, with his over-pronouncing every single word? And Monica, with that snort when she laughs? I mean, what the hell is that thing? ...I accept all those flaws, why can't you accept me for this?
Then the gang starts to quarrel over each other‘s flaws. In the end, they learn to accept each other for who they are and friends‘ comments are only constructive suggestions. The choice to change or remain the same is still in the hands of each individual. Individual freedom is not only depicted in the characteristics of the people in the sitcom but also in the situations. Ross and Phoebe argue over evolution in season 2 episode 3. Being a scientist, Ross strongly believes in evolution and scientific evidences like fossils. On the contrary, Phoebe is a spiritual woman; hence she is inclined to believe in God and the Creator. Ross feels offended when Phoebe looks down on the theory and all the famous scientists, so he brings all the fossils – the ―living dead evidences‖ to show Phoebe the trace of evolution. Phoebe also makes her point when stating the fact that there have been many things people believed to be true like the Earth was flat but years later, they realize it is not. So there is a possibility that people might be wrong about evolution also. In this case, each character has such a high value on their individualism that no one wants to cave in. However, in the end, Ross agrees to admit that 30
there‘s a ―teeny tiny possibility‖ that he is wrong and Phoebe wins the argument. Again, individual freedom is reflected in the way of thinking. Each person is free to choose a religion, a belief, etc; and even though their belief may be contrast with others‘, they still keep their opinion instead of leaning toward the majority. Another guy is Joey Tribbiani. In Season 5 episode 13, Rachel hooks him up with some new clothes for his audition. One of which is a unisex bag, which looks more like a ―women‘s purse‖. At first he does not like it, but when he wears it on, the look starts to grow on him. He figures not only does it look good but it is also very practical. ―It's got compartments for all your stuff! Your wallet! Your keys! Your address book!‖ he says. ―And your make-up!‖ mocks Ross immediately. Chandler adds ―And a date with a man!‖ His friends, except Rachel who works in fashion, all think that the bag is too girly for a man and suggest him get rid of it. Ignoring his friends‘ mocking, Joey still loves the bag and carries it all around, even to his audition.
Make fun all you want. Now, just because you don't understand something, doesn't make it wrong. All right? So from now on you guys are gonna have to get used to the fact that Joey comes with a bag!
Joey stands up for his own opinion on clothes and sex, and carries on with his life the way he wants it. However, the auditioning committee is not a fan of unisex accessories while Joey insists on wearing the bag, acting; so he does not get the part. Normally, viewers may predict that Joey would get mad of the bag for failing him in the audition. Surprisingly, he does not. Instead he says ―It was a stupid play anyway‖ 31
and still is happy with the ―man‘s bag‖. It is his life and what he does to it and how he thinks of it is what counts. Privacy – ―the ultimate result of individualism‖ is also mentioned in ―Friends‖. In each household, there is always a closet where people ―hide‖ their private belongings: a handcuff, a porn book, millions of unused furniture, etc. When someone in the group finds out about these secret belongs, the owners often get angry and embarrassed because their privacy is invaded and their secret is out. Privacy is often seen in conversation when people use the phrases: ―Can I talk to you in private‖, ―Would you mind giving us some privacy?‖ To these friends in particular and Americans in general, privacy is valuable and needs to be strictly respected. Besides its reflection in the traits of the main characters, individual freedom is dense in the air of the whole sitcom. The characters have the right to love, date and get married to whomever they want with or without their parent‘s permission. Rachel and Ross have a baby together but they do not get married just because they have to. They are free to choose their career paths: an actor, a chef, a fashionista, a masseur and there is even a male nanny – a ―many‖. They choose the person they want to become: Chandler‘s father is a transsexual singer at a bar in Las Vegas while his mother is a famous porn-writer. People in the sitcom are not bounded by what society expects of them. They live their lives and express their true selves. After all, that is why they all come to American for: individual freedom.
2. Self-reliance Self-reliance is the price you have to pay for freedom and there is no case more typical for this value than Rachel Greene‘s in the sitcom. She used to be a spoilt child, a ―daddy‘s girl‖, and is ready to get married to a rich dentist. Before the wedding, she finds out that her fiancé is cheating on her, so she gets away from the marriage, runs to New York and lives with Monica – her best friend from high school. When she comes to New York, she is penniless and jobless; all she has is her freedom. She wants her freedom but is afraid to live on her own, that is why she adds: ―Look Daddy, it's my life. Well, maybe that's my decision. Well, maybe I don't need your money. Wait! Wait, I said maybe!‖ (Season 1, episode 1) She is not sure of her raising herself in the big city. But to American people, freedom is worth more than anything, so Rachel‘s final choice is to stay with her friends, keeps her freedom and finds a job. At first, she struggles and continues using the credit cards paid by her father to go shopping:
Rachel: They're my new 'I don't need a job, I don't need my parents, I've got great boots' boots! Monica: How'd you pay for them? Rachel: Uh, credit card. Monica: And who pays for that? Rachel: Um... my... father Monica: C'mon, you can't live off your parents your whole life. Rachel: I know that. That's why I was getting married.
The friends gather around her, encourage her to live on her own: ―Come on, you made coffee! You can do anything!‖, and require her cut all her 33
credit cards. They all chant ―Cut! Cut! Cut‖, which makes the action a tribal ritual marking the growth of a person. From then on, Rachel starts to stand on her own feet. She kicks off as a waitress at their favorite coffee house. Although the payment is not satisfactory, she hangs on to it and keeps looking for a more suitable job. As the years go by, Rachel is at the top of her career being a fashionista at Ralph Lauren‘s and she has never asked for financial support from her family again. She has become an independent woman. Even when she is accidentally pregnant with Ross and has a baby together, she does not require a marriage or responsibility from him, ―can be as involved as he wants.‖ (Season 8, episode 3) Throughout the series, viewers can see the major change of Rachel from a daddy princess to a realistic, practical New Yorker. She learns to rely on herself with the guidance and spiritual support from her beloved friends. By that, she gradually gains people‘s respect for her, especially from her father. He even sends Jill – Rachel‘s spoilt younger sister to New York to ―learn about the value of money from the one daughter he‘s actually proud off‖ (Season 6, episode 13). Thus we see how self-reliance can raise the status of one in the society. Chandler Bing is also a person who takes pride in his selfreliance. ―We are Bings! And if there's one thing my father taught me was never borrow money.‖ (Season 9, episode 16) He says that to his wife Monica when they are short on money due to his unemployment. He would rather pay the bill late by the money he earns than ask for help from friends or family. Joey has the same opinion when it comes to money. In season 6 episode 6, Chandler moves out to live with Monica, leaving Joey alone with the apartment he can hardly afford. Chandler 34
wants to help his friend but he has to ―trick him into taking it so I won‘t hurt his pride.‖ This way of thinking fits with Kohls‘ theory mentioned earlier ―In the United States, a person can take credit only for what he or she has accomplished by himself or herself.‖ Americans want to be respected for being able to raise themselves, and any kind of unrequired support would be considered an insult to a person. There are situations where the honor for self-reliance is not shown in the actions of the characters but we can still see how Americans value it. In season 4 episode 18, Rachel invites her boyfriend to her apartment for a home-made dinner, which theoretically cooked by Rachel but actually by Monica. Rachel is a bad cook so she asks Monica for help. The audience of the show laughs out loud in this situation, which shows their low esteem for Rachel‘s lack of selfreliance. However, in critical time, people still reluctantly accept help from their close friends. Chandler pays for the acting classes for Joey, Joey covers the bill for Chandler, Monica gets a Porsche from her father, Phoebe owes Joey a muffin, etc. That states a fact that much as they want to be independent and self-reliable, no one can handle problems on their own. They always receive a helping hand from family and their close friends during hard time. The researcher finds it quite balanced between keeping your pride in self-reliance and receiving support from people. Most of the time, they try to do things by themselves, and it would not hurt to accept the aid from their close ones once in a blue moon. Probably it is a slight change from the traditional concept of self-
reliance and the modern one, which in the researcher‘s opinion, more practical and intimate. 3. Equality of opportunity This value is most clearly reflected in matters of job and love. People in the sitcom may not be at the same starting point but they are all equal and treated to same to reach their goal. Joey used to be Dr. Drake on the famous soap opera Days of Our Lives. After a long time cut from the show due to some internal conflicts, he is offered to re-audition for the part. Joey is in shock to hear that:
Joey: Audition? I thought you were gonna offer me the part. Terry: Why would you think that? Joey: Well, I was Dr. Drake Remoray, Stryker‘s twin brother. I mean, who looks more me than me right? Terry: Everybody has to audition. I‘m sorry Joey that‘s…that‘s the way it is. (Season 7, episode 4)
Even when Joey takes part in other movies or commercials, he has to audition regardless of his long time being a soap opera star. He and every other actors share the equal chance of getting the part. ―That‘s way it is‖ In Season 9 episode 18, Chandler is currently out of job and doing in internship at an advertising company. He is in his thirties and the other interns are around twenties, much younger than him. At the 36
beginning, he is intimidated by those youngsters, thinking he is too old for such a young industry. However, Chandler is more experienced and sharp than those ―kids‖ so he manages to stay in the competition. Finally, the day to choose official assistants comes and there are only three available spots out of 15 interns. The first two spots are taken and there is one spot left. There are two potential candidates for the spot: Chandler, who works hard and experienced, and Charlie, the boss‘ son. Unfortunately, Charlie gets the job. The audience ―aw‖ when they see this scene. Chandler‘s friends gather around him to share their sympathy and rage at the unfairness. So we see that unfairness is strictly judged by Americans. They oppose to inequality of opportunity. Nonetheless, the writers and the producers of the show still want to remind the whole society of this value, so in the sitcom, Chandler is offered a higher position – junior copywriter as a reward for playing fair during the internship and for his true efficient working ability. As the old saying goes ―It is all fair in love and war‖, the former is proved to be true in the sitcom. When things are left undecided and ―free in the market‖, each individual shares equal chance of getting what they want. In season 7, episode 17, Ross and Joey meet the same girl and start dating with her at the same time without each other‘s awareness. After a couple dates, they find out the truth and at first, they try to convince the other to let them date the girl. But no one is swayed so they come to a decision that:
Ross: No Joey! Look why don‘t, why don‘t we just let her decide? Okay? Hey-hey, we‘ll each go out with her one more time. And-and we‘ll see who she likes best. Joey: (smiling) That sounds fair.
So they both go out with the girl and share equal chance of winning her heart over. The same pattern can be seen in season 2, episode 12 between Monica and Rachel, or season 3 episode 9 between Joey and Chandler. Another example of this equal chance in love is the proposal to Phoebe in season 9 episode 22. Phoebe is in a love triangle with David, a blast from the past, and Mike, the love of her life. Phoebe loved David a long time ago but he had to go to Russia to do research for nearly 8 years. Then Phoebe meets Mike and they are madly in love. Unfortunately, they want different destinations in life: Phoebe wants a marriage when Mike does not, so they reluctantly break up. In this episode, David comes back and proposes to Phoebe. While he starts his speech, Mike suddenly shows up with the intention of proposing as well.
Phoebe: What are you, what are you doing here? Mike: I have a question I need to ask you. David: I have a question I was kinda gonna ask her myself. Mike: Yeah, I understand, but before you do, she really needs to hear this. David: (annoyed) Ok, would you care for my seat as well? Mike: Actually yeah, that'll be great. David: That's fair. You've had a long trip.
Actually, this scene is more about hilarity but we can still see the concern about equality of opportunity. Both of the men deserve equal chance to pursue their dream woman, and both have the chance to show their love to her. In addition to love and job matter, equality can be seen in daily stories. Season 5, episode 14 is where Ross applies for a new apartment from a man who is moving out. The apartment is beautiful and Ross wants it very much. To make sure he gets the apartment, he sends over a basket of mini-muffins. To his surprise, many other applicants also offer the owner something to make certain of their slot. They offer him: baskets of muffins, a pinball machine, a new mountain bike, and many more. One may find this the opposite of equality of opportunity; nevertheless, the researcher finds it fair and square. As defined in chapter II, equality of opportunity means people from different background enter the same playground and have equal chance to show their best to win. In the sitcom, we can see that Ross and many other applicants enter the playground of who gets the apartment. They all do their best, which is to impress the owner, to reach their goal. It is not a written rule but everybody understands application forms only do not guarantee anything. Therefore the research believes it is still fair and square when all the players know the rules. Or in season 7 episode 17, Monica together with Rachel and Phoebe goes to a wedding dress store to buy her one. There is a 50% discount, so by the time they get there, there is already a huge crowd of ―hungry‖ brides-to-be waiting at the front door of the store. The store is open but it has a specific open hour for the discount, which is why the door is closed and people have to 39
wait outside until the happy hour. It is just a small detail but the researcher thinks it reflects the equality of opportunity pretty well. If the store opens at its regular time, the ones who get there first will have better chance of buying their desired dresses, leaving the less wanted dresses for the late customers. Instead, the store ―rounds people up‖ and opens at a specific time so that everybody shares equal chance to get their wedding dresses. However, after the store opens, the girls rush in like hungry animal, eyes like hawks to look for the dress. They fight against each other, steal the dress from each other, etc. The owner does not interfere and lets the girls literally fight for their dresses. The researcher cannot help thinking that maybe the concept of equality of opportunity in the modern days is different from the tradition. If in the past the fairness and squareness means competing with your own talents, without using tricks or pulling strings; it seems now tricks and strings are legal in the game. But since everyone understands that, the equality is still preserved. 4. Competition Competition or competitiveness appears quite clearly in the sitcom and especially in Monica Geller. Monica is all about winning, being the best. She often calls people who cannot do what she does ―losers‖, ―suckers‖ – which match the theory about competition in chapter II. She is always the one who comes up with competitive games or bets. In season 4, episode 12, Joey‘s rooster annoys Rachel and Monica with his crow. Monica suggests holding a competition of who
knows who better between the girls – Monica and Rachel, and the boys – Joey and Chandler. The competition starts off ―gently‖ with:
Monica: Yeah! And the winner gets a hundred bucks. Joey: Serious? Monica: Are you scared?
―Are you scared‖ is so Monica. She normally challenges the opponents and adds such manipulating phrase to intimidate them. Monica always appears aggressive when it comes to competition. In this game, Ross is the question designer and also the referee. During the game Monica keeps her competitive I-want-to-win face. She answers really fast and barely gives Rachel a chance to answer even though they are in the same team. After ten questions, they are tie and Ross decides to have a lighting round: in thirty second, the team which answers the most questions wins.
Monica: You guys are dead; I am so good at lighting rounds. Chandler: I majored in lightning rounds. All right, we‘re gonna destroy you.
Now we see the game face from all the characters. When it comes to competition, generally, Americans are competitive because no one wants to be or be called ―the loser‖. To make it more exciting and worth fighting for, they raise the award of the winner. If the boys loose, they have to get rid of the rooster. If the girls loose, they have to switch apartment with the boys.
Rachel: Monica, betting the apartment, I don‘t know about this.
Monica: Rachel, I have not missed one question the whole game. I own this game!
Another time in season 9 episode 22, she invites Chandler, Phoebe and Mike – Phoebe‘s boyfriend, to play ping pong.
Phoebe: All right, all right... I'll play if we don't keep score! Monica: But then how do we know who wins? Phoebe: Nobody wins! Monica: So, we're just four losers... SUPER!
Winning and losing is important to her. Even when she loses to Mike, she insists on an extra match ―best out of three‖. The researcher realizes that Monica often asks for an extra match/round/game when she loses in the official one because she refuses to lose. Not only is Monica interested in games and winning, she also wants to prove her ability and knowledge to people around her. Once, Phoebe attends a reading class and asks Rachel to join her. Phoebe has never been to high school so she wants to learn literature and have fun. But to Rachel, she only cares about the fun part; therefore she often copies ideas from Phoebe. Phoebe requires Rachel to take the class ―seriously‖, which Rachel cannot. Instead she suggests Phoebe goes with Monica. In the class, whenever the teacher raises a question, Monica raises her hand and shouts ―I know! I know! I know!‖ before anybody else can think and have chance to answer. She wants to show off her knowledge and compete with her classmates so much that one day:
Monica: (entering, happily) All right everybody! Everybody guess what? I just convinced Paul to give us a test next week! All: A test?!! Monica: Come on! Tests make us all better learners! Oh yeah! We should have essay questions!! (Season 5 episode 9)
In every situation, Monica strives to be the best. In Season 8 episode 21, Monica is a chef at Mahi Mahi restaurant and she gets a bad review from a food critic. Monica feels humiliated and upset because she is always proud of her cooking skill. To prove the critic wrong, she cooks the best dish of her and brings it to the cooking school where the critic teaches. Her intention changes when she comes to the class. The critic is not there yet and a cooking class for beginners has just begun. She lingers and attends the class with Joey, pretending to be a beginner as well. She makes fettuccini and the teacher admires the ―talented beginner‖. Monica looks around and smiles with proud. Her look indicates that she is the best and everybody else is, as usual, ―losers‖. Cooking is her forte, but Monica also wants to be acknowledged in other activities too: ―Y'know, I don't like to brag about it, but I give the best massages!‖ she talks to Chandler. The truth is opposite to what she thinks because agony is shown on all over Chandler‘s face. Monica is quite beaten when she finds out the truth, so Chandler has to help her see the truth from a better angle:
Chandler: It's okay, you don't have to be the best at everything. Monica: Oh my God! You don't know me at all!
Chandler: You give the best bad massages. If anybody was looking for the best bad massage and they were thinking to themselves, "Who's the best of that?" They'd have to go to you. Monica: Huh. So you're saying like umm, if there was an award for the best bad massage, well who would get that? Chandler: Oh, it would be you! You! Monica! And you'd get all the votes! (Season 5 episode 13)
So the ―worst‖ is put in a nicer way ―the best bad‖ and Monica is pleased with such excellent word choice from Chandler. All the anecdotes about Monica show that this girl is competitive and not only does she love winning, she refuses to lose. As an observant, the researcher finds Monica an exaggerated image for competitiveness. Therefore, she tries to look into other characters if they also have competitiveness in them and how competitive they are. The result is as expected. Ross, Chandler, Joey, Rachel and Phoebe are all put into situations where their competitiveness is shown but not as constant and extreme like Monica‘s. Ross, in season 5 episode 15, has just moved in a new apartment and he does not make good impression with the older residents. One day they throw a retirement party for the handy man and Ross also throws his own party, proving he is fun and his party is cool too. He buys food, plays pop music and decorates his home nicely. Season 9 episode 15, Chandler is put in a competition with other interns in an advertising agency to generate idea for a pair of sneakers. He is intimidated by the youngsters because the sneakers look ―hipped‖ and 44
not familiar to people of his age. He tries them on to grasp the feeling of being a youngster so that he can come up with good ideas. In fact, he does and receives the boss‘ compliment. Joey is an actor so he is always in some audition, competing against other actors to win a part in a movie. Rachel competes with her co-worker at Ralph Lauren‘s in a different way. In season 5 episode 18, her boss and her colleague are smokers and they often discuss work at the rooftop – a place for smokers. Rachel, being afraid of losing her position in the department, pretends to be a heavy smoker to join them at the rooftop and exchange ideas. Phoebe‘s singing career is threatened in season 2 episode 6 when the coffee house owner decides to hire a professional guitarist. When meeting the professional, Phoebe tries to compete with her:
Phoebe: So, um, so um, how many chords do you know? Stephanie: All of them. Phoebe: Oh yeah, so you know D? Stephanie: Yeah. Phoebe: Ok, do you know A minor? Stephanie: Yeah. Phoebe: Ok, do you know how to go from D to A minor? Stephanie: Yeah. Phoebe: Ok. Um, so does your guitar have a strap? Stephanie: No. Phoebe: Oh. Mine does
At the end of the conversation, she tries to find one thing that makes her better than Stephanie: a guitar strap. Her competitiveness is fulfilled until the subject finds at least one thing she/he can win over the opponent. 45
We can see that competition is innate in American people. Whether this value is obvious or not depends on each person and the situation they are put into. People automatically enter a race to success; it can be small like knowing more than another, winning in a game, or big like getting promoted, getting the job. In a way, competition motivates the people to be better. But too much competitiveness will be a burden that urges people to do anything to be the best, just like some of the characters in ―Friends‖ do. 5. Hard work From what the researcher collects, the sitcom does mention the working life of the characters. There are many episodes in which the setting is at work: an office, a studio, a restaurant, etc, but not all of them bring up issues at working place, which are better at reflecting the hard work, in the researcher‘s opinion. At the working place setting, the situations revolve around the relationship between boss and staff, among colleagues. The struggle at work is less focused than the other issues. Based on the frequency of working issues mentioned in the sitcom, the most hardworking characters are Chandler and Ross. Chandler is an IT procurement manager with the specialization on "statistical analysis and data reconfiguration‖. The character is built with the image of a typical office man who is dressed in suit and carries a briefcase most of the time. He cares about his work even though he does not like it very much. In season 9 episode 2, in a company meeting, Chandler is appointed to be the director of the company‘s 46
office in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Although he does not want to work for from home, and Monica certainly disagrees with the fact that Chandler has to be away for four days in a week, finally they have to agree to separate during week days and reunite at weekends. Chandler is hardworking because he even works at Christmas and on New Year‘s Eve: ―Yeah, we have all this paperwork that needs to be filed by the end of the year. If I don't get it done, I'll be fired.‖ (Season 9 episode 10). In the researcher‘s opinion, such action and sacrifice is considered as hard work. They put aside minor problems, family reunion, etc to focus on their work. People who do not devote their life to work will not be appreciated, and in this case ―be fired‖. But hard work in this sitcom does not mean you stick to one job and pour your heart into it. With Chandler, he has never really like his current job while other do:
Phoebe: Oh, I like my job. Joey: I love my job. Rachel: Yeah, I can't wait to go back to work. Ross: I can't get enough dinosaurs!
Realizing the he is the only one who hates his job, Chandler decides to quit and find another job of his passion. After a long time being unemployed, Chandler challenges himself in advertising. He starts as an unpaid intern. Despite the unpaid job, he still enjoys it and put effort in his work. He spends time thinking of new ideas to sell a product. He practices composing slogan at home: ―Cheese, it's milk that you chew‖ (Season 9 episode 11). As a result, he is offer the position of a junior copywriter at the end of the internship. In season 10 episode 6, Chandler bids the idea for a national commercial, which is a 47
breakthrough in his new career. However, the sitcom does not describe in detail how he gets the bid and how hard he works for the project. Ross is also a hardworking guy. At the beginning, he works as a paleontologist at the New York Museum of Natural History. He is passionate about science, especially dinosaurs, since small. After a while, he is offered to be a paleontology lecturer at New York University. He write books and conducts research about paleontology. He works really hard for this job. In season 8 episode 12, Ross is asked to teach an extra class which is across the town from his university. The two classes are ten minutes away and it is obviously Ross cannot make it in time due to the distance and rush hour. The first time, when he gets there, no sooner does he introduce his name than the class-dismiss-bell rings. He determines to come to class on time and to teach the students so the second time, he wears a pair of running shoes and even warms up during the first class at the university and runs to the class. This time, he makes it in time but Ross is exhausted. He can barely breathe and ends up passing out on the floor. They say third time is the charm and Ross thinks of another way to save his strength and time. He wears a pair of roller-skates and rolls to class. He comes to the class on time and is able to give a complete lecture. Besides giving lectures at the university, Ross attends paleontology conference as well. In season 9 episode 22, he is appointed the keynote speaker of the conference. When he is revising the speech, Chandler comes in to use the laptop and accidentally brings viruses to Ross‘ laptop. All the slides and the notes for the conference are gone. Ross has to stay up all night to remember and rewrite it. Luckily, he finishes it on time and gives a successful 48
speech. He receives good comments and compliments from his friends and colleagues. We can see that hard work is highly appreciated from this situation. The one who works hard will reap ripe fruit of success and respect. In other characters, the hard work value is not very distinctive. Monica is depicted somewhat a hard worker. It is quite logical since she is competitive, so she wants to beat people at almost everything, especially cooking. She cooks everyday and write recipes for new dishes. Rachel is seen sometimes at her office but there are very few stories about her working hard in her job. Joey is usually late for work; at times he even forgets an audition here and there. The viewers see him practice his lines in his movies at home occasionally, but that does not show hard work. Phoebe is more flexible in her job than others. She works as a freelance masseur therefore she is under less pressure than those who work for a company or an organization. After all, hard work does exist in the sitcom but this value is not accentuated. Most of the situations are about relationship and problems in daily life. Work-related issues take a small account in those problems hence the hard work value is touched upon compared to other values. 6. Material wealth Material wealth, or in simple word richness, does appear in the sitcom. However, there are many types of being rich mentioned in the sitcom. Some people may be rich thanks to inheritance from their ancestors. Others get rich from their own blood and sweat. As material wealth is about being rich for what you have put effort in, in the sitcom, 49
only the people who are rich and have a sufficient life by working hard are admirable. Those who receive fortune from somebody else are often laughed at or of little account. In the sitcom, everyone goes to work with the aim to earn money. With money, they are able to pay the bill, the rent; buy food and clothes; travel and enjoy entertaining activities, etc. Rich people are admired for their properties and prosperity. In season 3 a millionaire named Pete sets his eyes on Monica, but having just broken up with her love, Monica cannot return Pete‘s affection yet. On the other hands, the other five characters all love him. Pete makes his fortune out of his talent and hard work. He invented an office program which is used worldwide, thus he is a rich, respectable man. His house is huge and equipped with modern technology. He has three TV screens to hold conference with partners around the globe. His lighting system is adjusted by voice recognition. When the gang visits his house, they are astonished by the furniture and high tech. On their first date, he invites Monica to the place where they serve the best pizza – Italy, and then they fly back to New York in his private jet. Among the friends, no one is as close to ―filthy rich‖ as Pete, except for Joey once in season 2, episode 17. Back then, Joey is still the famous ―Dr. Drake‖ in the soap opera Days of our lives. He has a fight with Chandler over a toothbrush and decides to move out. He buys a big apartment with all the fancy decoration. He even buys furniture that he considers art: a glass water table, a glass table with a panther shaped base, high-quality cushion, a sculpture of a random dog, and even a telephone line in the toilet which is weird and redundant to ordinary 50
people. His friends show amazement when they are checking out the new apartment. They do not judge Joey for being overspending because they know he works hard and deserves to possess anything that he is satisfied with. Some of the characters also yearn for material wealth. Ross once buys a red race car. Monica receives a Porsche from her father and everyone wants to drive in it. Chandler dreams of a house near the suburb to raise his kids. Phoebe wants a Volvo to drive her kids to school. Rachel is always looking for richness whether by marrying a rich guy or working hard by herself. Material wealth is not viewed as materialism. They respect people with material wealth because it reflects their hard work. The richer the person is, the harder he/she must have worked. People in the sitcom often strive to have a better life whether it can be a better apartment or just a more relaxing couch. 7. Directness, Openness and Honesty The directness, openness and honesty are expressed in the conversations among the friends. The openness is seen in the way the characters take in the information. They are open to many topics: job, relationship, and even sex. The researcher is surprised at how the friends can talk about their sexual relationship and share the sexual problems with each other freely and openly. In season 4 episode 11, Chandler is nervous about making love to his girlfriend Kathy, who is Joey‘s ex-girlfriend. Chandler is 51
afraid that he cannot compete with Joey in this matter, so he seeks Monica for help. Monica very willingly gives him advice of women‘s erotic zones. In season 3 episode 23, Ross talks to Chandler and Joey about a skin abnormality – ―a koondis‖ on his sitting area, he even pulls off his pants and let the guys check it out. In the same episode, Phoebe turns to Rachel and Monica for advice about who she should dump since she is dating two guys at a time. The two other girls do not judge their friend a bit. They are open to Phoebe‘s polygamy viewpoint. They just do what their friend asks them to do – to give advice. The openness is not only about an open mind but also an open heart. Most of the people in the sitcom are very friendly and open to strangers. They often smile, greet and shake hands when they first meet a new person. They are open to help a newly-met friend. In season 10 episode 2, Monica and Chandler decide to adopt a baby but do not know the procedure. Phoebe introduces them to a couple with experience. The couple, even it is the first time they meet Monica and Chandler, are very nice to them. They are enthusiastic about the adoption. The wife binds book of all needed forms and information about adoption, categorizes it so that Monica will find it easy to skim through. One must be open to behave nicely and thoughtfully to a stranger. The couple is only one example out of many in the sitcom. In most situations where new people meet each other, we can see the openness in the way they behave and treat each other. Directness and honesty is often seen together. The characters are very direct to each other in their daily life. When someone asks the other for opinion about something, they usually get a direct and honest 52
comments and feedbacks. In season 9 episode 7, Phoebe brings two dresses that she plans to wear for her first visit to Mike‘s house to Monica and Rachel and asks for their opinion. After a couple of seconds, both Monica and Rachel bluntly shake their heads, shrink their nose and say ―Oh God, neither!‖ That is a sign of directness and honesty. If they were not direct and honest, they would have say something else in order not to hurt Phoebe and reluctantly choose either of the dress even when they dislike them both. However, not all the time do we see directness and honesty in the first place. The reason why the researcher says ―in the first place‖ because the characters are put into difficult situation, into a dilemma when they do not know what to do to not hurt each other but still get the job done. In season 10 episode 6, Joey asks Chandler to nominate him for a national commercial – the project Chandler is working on. To sound more convincing, Joey gives Chandler a video tape of one commercial he acted in a long time ago. Chandler at first does not believe in his friend‘s ability of acting so he tries to avoid Joey. But he does not want to hurt his friend‘s feeling, so he pretends that he watched the tape and he likes it but his boss does not. Joey realizes that Chandler is lying to him so he gets mad at him. Chandler keeps lying that he watched the tape. In the end, Chandler has to confess that he does not think Joey is ―chameleon‖ enough to be in his commercial. After that, Joey stops being mad and forgives his friend. There are many situations like this in the sitcom. There is always a problem, someone lies for the sake of not hurting the other one, but ends up telling the truth. The truth is always appreciated no matter how hurtful it is. Directness and honesty is what Americans value more than courtesy which may lead to lying even with no harm. 53
One outstanding situation about honesty is in season 1 episode 3. Many good fortunes fall on Phoebe during the week. Her bank account suddenly receives $500 extra dollars out of nowhere. Everybody else is happy for such luck.
Joey: What are you talking about? Keep it! Phoebe: It's not mine, I didn't earn it, if I kept it, it would be like stealing. Rachel: Yeah, but if you spent it, it would be like shopping! Phoebe: Okay. Okay, let's say I bought a really great pair of shoes. Do you know what I'd hear, with every step I took? 'Not-mine. Not-mine. Not-mine.' And even if I was happy, okay, and, and skipping- 'Notnot-mine, not-not-mine, not-not-mine, not-not-mine'...
Phoebe insists on returning the money and ends up receiving another $500 dollars for being honest and a free telephone from the bank as a token of apology for causing her inconvenience. Phoebe gets mad at the bank for keep giving her things she does not work for hence does not deserve to possess. She then gives all the extra money and the phone to a beggar on the street. From this situation, the researcher withdraws that honesty is very respected and appreciated in the US. A person should stay true to what he is and has, and should always stand by the truth. For being honest, one is even rewarded. 8. Practicality and Efficiency As the researcher observes, all the characters in the sitcom are practical. Being practical is being flexible and suitable for the current situation which will bring good result to the subject. Out of the six main 54
characters, Rachel is most practical. In season 4 episode 8, people find out that Rachel exchanges gifts she gets. Chandler once gave her a backpack but Rachel exchanged for something else and told him that a big dog ran off with it. Ross gave her a golden necklace and she exchanged it into credit and bought herself a different necklace. In her defense, Rachel only exchanges the gifts which are not useful for her, but she still keeps the ones that are important like a fossil from Ross on their first date, a tiny t-shirt from Ross, etc. In season 6 episode 10, Rachel and Phoebe come over to Monica‘s apartment and start looking for Monica‘s Christmas presents for everyone. Chandler is in shock since he believes Christmas presents should be kept secret to be a surprise. But Rachel is witty enough to sway the man:
Chandler, that‘s not enough. I mean what if she gets you a great present, two medium presents, and a bunch of little presents? And you‘ve just gotten her one great present? I mean that‘s just gonna make her feel bad. Why would you do that to her Chandler? Why? Why?
So they all look for Monica‘s presents together with the aim to find equally relevant gifts to those. To some extent, the researcher agrees with Rachel. If Monica‘s present is of little value, why should Rachel spend a fortune on hers to Monica, and vice versa? That would not be economical and wise with the money at all. Instead, she could by something at a similar price or size and everyone is still happy for receiving gifts on Christmas day.
Besides Rachel, there are anecdotes about other characters that reflect practicality as well. In season 8 episode 22, Joey invites Chandler to the premiere of his movie. Chandler falls asleep in the middle of the movie until the end and Joey is angry with him. He is so mad that he decides to pay back all the money Chandler has ever lent him to pay for his: headshot, electricity, rent, acting class…After some calculation, seeing the result, the frown on Joey‘s face disappears. He immediately turns to Chandler, smiles and says ―So you fell asleep during my movie. Big deal right?‖ And they are back to normal. Joey is being practical in this situation because the amount of money he owes Chandler is quite big and he has two choices: to make a big deal out of Chandler‘s falling asleep, pay all the money and lose his friend; or forget about the small mistake of Chandler, not pay the money and remain best friends. It would be considered crazy for a person with common sense to choose the first option. Joey‘s practicality does not only save him money but also his friendship. It is not an act of selfishness, but a deliberate decision for the general good. Efficiency can be seen in Monica. She is organized and fast. In season 9 episode 11, Chandler is upset about being unemployed and he has no idea where to start. Monica enthusiastically offers to help him categorize jobs by industry into folders and files so that her husband can have a clearer view and comparison among jobs. Then Chandler goes to the bathroom for a few minutes. When he comes out, the folder is neat, clean, organized, colorful and ready. Monica often brings along the tag maker when she helps someone with packing. According to her, the tag makes the packing easier and faster. Chandler, being Monica‘s husband, 56
possesses a little of such quality. In season 5 episode 24, Chandler and Monica decide to get married in Las Vegas. As a traditional girl, Monica wants ―Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue‖. They both go to a fashion shop and look around for something new. Chandler picks out a blue shirt which satisfies two out four requirements: new and blue. Chandler has an old condom in his wallet already, now they only need something borrowed. Chandler in a sneaky look, suggests Monica to take the shirt and get out without paying for it.
Monica: That's stealing! Chandler: No, we'll-we'll bring it back! Just put it under your dress Monica: You're so efficient. I love you!
Practicality and efficiency is highly appreciated in modern society, especially in the era where time is precious yet there are many things do to. Like material wealth, practicality and efficiency should not be view as a bad value. It is different from being material and practical without caring for others. In the sitcom, all the characters yearn for material wealth and act practically and efficiently as long as their actions result in good, positive outcome for themselves without violating other‘s rights or benefit. 9. Change orientation The presence of change orientation is obvious in ―Friends‖. Throughout the sitcom, we see characters make many changes. From tangible subjects like partner, job, accommodation to intangible matters like characteristic, viewpoint, etc. 57
In 10 years of living together, the six main characters have changed their job or working place quite a few times. Rachel starts as a waitress at Central Perk. But the job is not of her passion and she is not qualified for the job either. She makes customers wait; sometimes she even forgets their orders and chitchats with her friends instead. With the encouragement of Joey and Chandler, she quits her job and pursues a career in fashion. She moves from a personal assistant at Fortunata Fashions to an assistant buyer at Bloomingdale‘s. Not stopping there, Rachel applies for the position of a coordinator of the women's collection at Ralph Lauren‘s and after a while, she gets promoted to merchandising manage. In the last season, Rachel is fired from Ralph Lauren‘s but is offered a lucrative position at Luis Vuitton in Paris. Monica also starts off being a waitress at a small restaurant, gradually works her way up being a chef at Mahi Mahi, and finally settles with Javu – a topnotch high-class restaurant. Chandler has done two different jobs: an IT Procurement Manage and a junior copywriter. Ross works as a paleontologist at a museum and then becomes a paleontology lecturer at New York University. Phoebe changes from a
singer/guitarist to a freelance masseur. Joey only has the talent of an actor so his career path is a straight way in filming industry. There are also some changes with their accommodation. The two pairs Joey-Chandler and Monica-Rachel switch their apartment twice. Not only do they switch apartment, they switch roommates too. When Monica and Chandler are in relationship, Rachel has to move in with Joey. The decorations of their apartments slightly changes through time as well: the pictures on the wall, the table lamp by the telephone, the 58
arm chairs, etc. Ross has lived in two different apartments. Phoebe accidentally sets her apartment on fire and has it rebuilt. Mobility is one distinctive trait of Americans. Long time ago, their ancestors are pilgrims, immigrants therefore the ability to adapt is highly required. Until now, American people are pretty flexible with and adaptable to changes in living conditions, including places, weather, neighborhood, etc. Besides the tangible changes, we can see the change in each character‘s traits and viewpoints. Rachel has changed from a whining princess to an independent woman. Mike – Phoebe‘s boyfriend – changes his mind about marriage and agrees to embark upon another adventure with Phoebe after his failed marriage of nine years. In season 5 episode 11, the gang makes a New Year‘s resolution where each person promise to make a change or do something new this year. Ross wants to stay happy after two divorces so he promises to do one new thing that he has never done before each day to spice up his life. Phoebe dreams of piloting a commercial jet. Chandler is put on a bet to get 50 dollars from his friends if he stops making jokes of them in a week. Joey hopes to be able to play the guitar. Rachel is advised to gossip less and Monica is asked to restraint her obsession for cleanliness. At the end of the day, none of them can keep their promises. The research sympathizes with the characters since she understands changing a viewpoint or mindset is not as easy as changing a shirt or a bed sheet. However, their New Year‘s resolution should still be acknowledged as the wanting and the willingness to change.
As stated in chapter II, change represents progress, improvement and growth. The career paths of the characters reflect the progress very clearly as the next jobs are often more profitable, suitable and satisfactory then the previous ones. However, Joey makes the researcher wonders if all Americans are change oriented since he is the one who likes everything to stay the same most in the group. He hates the fact that Chandler moves in with Monica and overreacts: ―Come on! It's like the end of an era! No more J-man and Channie's‖ (Season 6, episode 2). Or the time when Monica and Chandler decide to grow their baby in the outskirts, when Ross and Rachel break up and make the atmosphere awkward, Joey often says: ―I want things to be the same‖. Is it the writers‘ intention to let Joey be the one who is more conservative? Is it a hint saying although Americans are change oriented, a part of them are still yearning for the usual daily life like a bug feels snug in a cozy rug? 10. Informality Informality is about being friendly, casual in daily life. This value is clearly seen mostly because of the nature of sitcom. The language used in the sitcom is informal, either between friends or between a younger and an elder. In the sitcom, some of the parents of the six friends appear in some episode. They talk to their children and the children‘s friends in a friendly way, requiring little sense of formal. Chandler‘s mother calls Rachel ―honey‖ when they first meet. The friends call their parents by their first names. Ross‘s mom is called ―Judy‖. They feel free to talk to the parents friendly and openly. In 60
season 9 episode 5, the six friends celebrate Phoebe‘s birthday in a restaurant. Ross‘s mom comes along to look after Emma – Ross and Rachel‘s daughter. However, she seems to enjoy her drinks and her eyes are not on Emma. Rachel calls out to her from across the hall: ―She spit up. Judy! She spi...Judy! Look alive, Judy! Thank you.‖ There is little sign of formality in her saying to Ross‘s mom, but no one opposes to that, and even Judy does not show any sign of anger or disapproval of Rachel‘s language. It would not be the same to Vietnamese people in such situation. We often require order and respect in the language between the young and the elder. As Kohls said in chapter II, to Americans, informality is considered as a compliment than an insult. It is proved to be true in ―Friends‖. When two people first meet and they like each other, they often require the other to call them by their first name. In season 3 episode 24, Chandler‘s boss really likes him and his sense of humor. Chandler becomes his pet and the boss often smacks him on his buttock at the office, in front of other colleagues. While Chandler is still in confusion, his colleagues are jealous of him:
Phil: With him? You‘re his favorite, you‘re his guy! Stevens: We never get smacked. I‘m telling you, I need some smacks. I got a kid starting Dartmouth in the fall.
Such informal actions imply that Chandler is close enough to his boss so that he can act informally to. Therefore, to Chandler, the smack is a compliment.
11. Future orientation We can catch the essence of future orientation in some episodes of ―Friends‖ in the situation where they plan for their future whether near or far. The one who thinks about the future the most is Chandler. He is the only one in the sitcom who is revealed to have been saving up his money for future plan; other characters‘ saving plan is not mentioned. In season 7 episode 2, Chandler and Monica prepare for their wedding. Monica is so upset about her parents spending all her wedding money out of fear that she would never be able to get married. Chandler reveals that he has been saving for quite a long time. He writes the number on a piece of paper and gives it to Monica. The audience never knows the exact amount of money but that number makes Monica jump out of her chair, yelling with joy: ―How great are you, you little saver?! I mean, the-the amount you have is exactly the budget of my dream wedding!‖ However, Chandler does not want to spend all the money on just a wedding. He has other plans, too.
Chandler: So we only have two kids, y‘know? We‘ll pick our favorite and that one will get to go to college. Monica: You thought about that? Chandler: Yeah. Monica: How many kids were we gonna have? Chandler: Uh, four, a boy, twin girls and another boy. Monica: What else did you think about? Chandler: Well, stuff like where‘d we live, y‘know? Like a small place outside the city, where our kids could learn to ride their bikes
and stuff. Y‘know, we could have a cat that had a bell on its collar and we could hear it every time it ran through the little kitty door. Of course, we‘d have an apartment over the garage where Joey could grow old.
His image of the future is clear and specific. Later, in season 10, Monica and Chandler actually purchase a house outside the city in order to raise their child the way they have planned. The matter of what will happen in the future is often brought up. In season 8 episode 24, Rachel has just given birth to Emma while she and Ross – the father of her baby – are not married. Janice, Chandler‘s ex-girlfriend, walks in to greet the new mom and the new born baby. She asks Rachel about her future.
Janice: Can I just say, I really admire what you‘re doing. Just raising her all alone. Rachel: Oh, I‘m not doing it alone. I have Ross. Janice: Oh, sure. Now. But what happens when he meets somebody else and gets married? I‘m telling you Rachel, listen to Janice. They all say they‘re gonna be there until they start their real family.
Rachel cannot help but thinking about her future without the shoulder of a husband. The thought of raising Emma alone urges Rachel to find a husband for herself and a step-father for Emma. Future orientation is also about forgetting the past ―let bygones be bygones‖. We can see it quite clearly in the relationship matter in the sitcom. In season 6 episode 24, Richard, Monica‘s ex-boyfriend, comes
back to her and propose. Monica at that time is already in love with Chandler.
Richard: I know this is crazy but am I too late? Monica: What the… Yes you‘re too late! Where was all this three years ago?! Fair? Please don‘t even talk to me about fair! Fair would‘ve been you wanting to marry me back then! Or fair would‘ve been Chandler wanting to marry me now!
Despite their burning love in the past, Monica still heads to the future with Chandler. Richard had his chance three years ago but he missed it. Monica let it go and starts a new love with Chandler. The same pattern is seen in the relationship between Phoebe, Mike and David. The characters all care about the future, which is shaped by the present, and let the past die down. 12. Time and its control The time factor is not expressed obviously in the sitcom. Mostly, we see the characters look at their watch and say: ―I have to go to work‖, ―I gotta go‖, ―I‘m late‖. However, we still catch the main point that to American, timeliness is highly expected and required, especially at work. Yet, there is one episode in which time shows its control and effects on the six characters. It is in season 7 episode 14 ―The one where they all turn 30‖. This episode is set at Rachel‘s 30th birthday party. It is a recap of the moments each one of them turns 30 years old. They all have to sit back and think seriously about their future because 64
the age reminds them that they are running out of time to live and enjoy lives. Right after celebrating her 30th birthday with her friends, Phoebe comes to her twin sister‘s house to congratulate her. It is when she finds out that she is actually 31 years old. Phoebe is shocked and devastated.
Phoebe: Plus, it totally ruined my schedule! I…I haven‘t done any of the things I wanted to do by the time I was 31 Joey: Like what? Phoebe: Like okay I-I-I, I haven‘t met any Portuguese people! I, I haven‘t had the perfect kiss! And I haven‘t been to sniper‘s school!
It is only one year but one very important year. It is 365 days and one could have done many things and carried out a bunch of plans. Time is precious and no one wants to waste a minute of it, let alone a whole year. The researcher realizes time affects a person‘s life remarkably. Their plan, their future is determined by the present, by every minute passing by. That is why they try to be practical, to be efficient and they make plans. No one knows when their time is up; therefore, they have to make each day count. II. Vietnamese and American viewers’ perception of the American values reflected in “Friends”. In order to answer this question, the researcher gave out 100 questionnaires and 100% of them were retrieved. 85% of them are qualified. Out of the 45 qualified Vietnamese and 40 qualified American informants, 40 Vietnamese and 40 American are randomly selected to assure the balance and neutrality for the analysis. 65
The qualified informants all meet the requirement of the research: the age ranges from 21 to 38; there are both American viewers and Vietnamese viewers; they watch all 10 seasons of ―Friends‖; and the language proficiency of Vietnamese viewers is advanced. The researcher is going to analyze data questions by questions, and make comparison between American viewers and Vietnamese viewers to see the difference in their perception of the American values reflected in ―Friends‖. Question 1: Do you find “Friends”: Extremely funny/Funny/Not funny?
Figure 1&2: The level of hilarity of “Friends” in the view of Vietnamese and American audience. With this result, the researcher assumes that viewers all enjoy the sitcom. This helps verify the validity of the research since the researcher 66
believes when people enjoy something, they tend to take interest in it, pay more attention and closer observation to the subject, hence give out more exact answers and specific opinions. Moreover, the percentage of American people who think ―Friends‖ is extremely funny is higher than that of Vietnamese viewers. This implies that the native viewers appreciate the sitcom more than Vietnamese viewers. It can be the result of the difference in either language proficiency or culture, or both. Question 2: Do you have any difficulties while watching “Friends”? Language/Background knowledge/None? The second question is to find out the difficulties that viewers, both American and Vietnamese, bump into while they watch ―Friends‖. The difficulties are put into two categories: Language: vocabulary, slang, listening skill, etc Background knowledge: American culture, lifestyle, etc The informants are free to choose one or both of the categories above, or the ―none‖ option. And the result is:
Figure 3: Difficulties of Vietnamese and American viewers while watching “Friends”. Those who choose ―Language‖ are all Vietnamese viewers. Since the requirement of participants for this research is advanced level of language proficiency, the language barrier does not cause so many problems for Vietnamese viewers in understanding the sitcom, only 10% of them do. Mostly, the language problems come from slang and phrasal verbs. It is understandable because the nature of a sitcom is casual, informal; therefore there are many slangs and phrasal verbs being used in ―Friends‖. There are 35% of Vietnamese viewers who find it hard to thoroughly absorb the sitcom due to the lack of background knowledge. Surprisingly, out of 40 American informants, 12.5% of them also have difficulty with background knowledge, mostly about the famous people 68
or characters in novels or movies. ―Sometimes, I don‘t know who they are talking about, and why the audience laughs so hard.‖, said one American informant. This problem is probably due to the setting of the sitcom. The setting of ―Friends‖ is in New York, the capital of ―high culture‖ – the fine art; therefore they use a lot of anecdotes or quotes from people in the art industry like Michael Flatley – the king of tapdance, Tom Brokaw – American television journalist, Paul O‘Neil – baseball player for The Yankees, Diane Keeton – a Hollywood actress, etc. New Yorkers are fonder of entertainment than citizens of other states, thus quite many American viewers find themselves outsiders when they watch ―Friends‖ because sometimes they do not get the jokes created by New Yorkers. After all, America is a diverse nation whose citizens come from different backgrounds; therefore they cannot share the same interests, fields of knowledge and perspectives all together. The difference of percentage in language and background knowledge categories between Vietnamese viewers and American viewers reassures the researcher‘s assumption in question 1. Language and background knowledge are actually the barrier to Vietnamese viewers to fully appreciate the hilarity of the sitcom. The rest of the informants have no difficulties understanding the sitcom. 55% and 87.5% are quite safe numbers for the research since the majority can absorb the sitcom naturally, which validates their observation and realization of the American values reflected in the sitcom.
Question 3: Among these listed American values, which one is reflected in “Friends” according to your observation? Question number three is one of the main ones. The researcher makes a list of 12 American values and asks the informants to tick the values they see in the movies, and also give some specific examples to prove that. The result is shown in the following chart:
Figure 4: American values reflected in “Friends” according to Vietnamese and American viewers. 71
As seen from the chart, the informants‘ opinions match the observation of the researcher that is all 12 American values are reflected in the sitcom. Furthermore, there is little dramatic difference between the answer of Vietnamese viewers and American viewers, except for the hard work value. In addition, generally, American viewers realize more of their values in the sitcom than Vietnamese viewers because from the statistics above, we can see that the percentage of American viewers realizing one value is often slightly higher than that of Vietnamese viewers. This can be explained by the fact that Americans understand themselves, their culture and lifestyle more than Vietnamese people do; therefore they can easily spot the values shown in the sitcom via the characters‘ actions, behaviors, language, etc. Vietnamese people, being the non-native viewers, lack the knowledge about the Americans; hence it is harder for them to realize all the American values in the sitcom. The American viewers‟ perception of American values in “Friends”: Individual freedom and directness, openness and honesty are recognized by most of the people. They realize individual freedom in the character‘s traits and their decision in life. Directness, openness and honesty are seen in the way the characters talk to each other, the way they confront problems and solve the crisis. They may avoid bluntness but they prefer directness when talking to people instead of beating around the bush. The character may be dishonest at first in some situation like Rachel lies to her dad about having a wedding with Ross while in fact she does not plan to, but in the end, they all come clean and tell the truth. The followings are self-reliance with 80% and informality with 72.5%. Examples for self-reliance given by informants 72
are issues related to work mostly like how they go to work every day to earn money. Evidence for informality is nothing clearer than the language used by the characters. Equality of opportunity, competition, material wealth, practicality and efficiency and change orientation are recognized as well at a moderate level. Equality of opportunity is expressed via situations where the characters apply for a new job, new apartment, or get acquainted with a hot stranger. Their examples for competition are taken mostly from Monica‘s characteristic or situations where Monica is in. Material wealth is reflected via the yearning for richness like new car, new apartment. Practicality is clearly shown by Rachel, efficiency is shown by Monica. Change orientation is said to happen in relationship because the characters change partners quickly and quite a lot. Future orientation and time and its control are also seen in the sitcom by 40% and 30% American accordingly. They realize that the characters often talk about their future intention or plan ahead for something. It can be the near future or the far one. Time is a subtle element but is still spotted out in the sitcom by American viewers. They say that the people in the sitcom value time very much. They often try to be on time to any event, lateness is avoided and late comers are criticized like the situation about Phoebe‘s birthday. Hard work is the realized by the least people. Only 25% of the American viewers see it. Three fourths of them do not realize this value
in the sitcom. They acknowledge the presence of hard work but do not think it is obviously mentioned.
―The hard work in the sitcom is only touched upon. Yes, they mention the characters‘ jobs, but they merely show any effort of the characters in their process of working.‖ – the interviewed American viewer commented.
The Vietnamese viewers‟ perception of American values in “Friends” Sharing the same idea with American viewers, most Vietnamese viewers recognize individual freedom and directness, openness and honesty. Their examples are also about the traits of the characters. The evidences for directness, openness and honesty are not specifically given. The viewers generally say it is the way people talk to each other, the way they confront problems and solve the crisis. Ranking 2nd is also self-reliance with 77.5%. Informants say they see the characters all rely on themselves by working hard. Informality is also widely recognized. 70% of Vietnamese viewers see this value in the sitcom. They report that it is expressed through the way people in ―Friends‖ talk to each other, the way they dress and behave. Surprisingly, hard work ranks 4th in the list of Vietnamese people. 60% of Vietnamese viewers think hard work is shown clearly in the sitcom. They perceive it through the conversations of the characters.
―I see them talk about their jobs all the time. And after their conversation at the coffee shop, normally someone will stand up and say ―I have to go to work‖, or ―I‘m late for work‖. So I think they
must care for their work to say such sentences.‖ – said an interviewed Vietnamese viewer.
From this point, the researcher assumes that there is a difference in the perception of hard work between Vietnamese people and Americans. While most Vietnamese viewers agree that hard work means you talk about your jobs, your colleagues and you go to work every day; the American viewers expect to see more of the struggle of the characters to get their job done and more problems at work place to consider it hard work. Material wealth, competition, practicality and efficiency and change orientation are recognized as well at a moderate level. The same ideas for evidences are shared between Vietnamese viewers and American ones. They point out relatively the same characters for each value, only in different situation. Equality of opportunity, future orientation and time and its control are less recognized by Vietnamese viewers but they are still acknowledged. The people who tick these values give the same comment that they sense the existence of these values but can hardly remember specifically any situation. Future orientation is seen when the characters talk about the future, which does not happen much because most of the time, the sitcom raises the problems at the present and suggests immediate solution. It focuses on ―the now‖ more than the future.
However, it comes as surprising and interesting for the researcher to know that equality of opportunity is not clearly seen in the sitcom. The interviewed Vietnamese viewer remarked:
―Nope, I don‘t see that. Rachel‘s got her look and it‘s easier for her to get good jobs at Ralph Lauren, and then Louis Vuitton with helps from Mark. Joey uses his ―power‖ to get himself in some projects. Phoebe gets all the bad lucks.‖
The researcher also notices this during observation and she partly agrees with this point. Probably it is the different between the traditional value and how it is practiced in real life in modern time. And the fact that 50% of American people realizing this value somehow backs up this point. They belong to the new generation; therefore their view on equality of opportunity is slightly changed from the traditional one, like what the researcher assumes from her own observation. There is one option ―Other‖ put in the table of American values in the questionnaire. The researcher wants to know the viewpoint of the viewers on this subject besides the foundation theory stated in the literature review. No American viewers add any other value, but interestingly, there are two Vietnamese viewers say that there are more American values in the sitcom than listed. They are: Family/Friendship Commitment Passion Trust Flirting/Dating tricks 76
The researcher assumes that viewers have not had enough theory about cultural values therefore they cannot differentiate between cultural values and issues. Passion can be included in hard work. Flirting/dating tricks, trust, commitment and family/friendship are concerned issues raised in the sitcom. They cannot be considered as value which is defined as the shared beliefs among people in one society of the world outside, what is right and wrong. Question 4: Among the values you recognize, which one is the most obviously seen? Which one is the least obviously seen? This question is different from question 3. When question 3 is mainly about listing the values seen in the sitcom, question 4 helps identify the value which is most obviously expressed and the value which is least obviously expressed. The nominations for the most obviously seen value suggested by the informants are individual freedom, directness, openness and honesty, self-reliance and informality. And the result is:
Figure 5: The most obviously seen American value according to Vietnamese and American viewers. So both Vietnamese viewers and American viewers agree that individual freedom is the most obviously seen value in the sitcom. This explains why it is the most widely recognized as figured in question 3. It is also understandable because individual freedom is the first traditional value ever created. This value can be considered born on the same day America was born. The first right an American possess is freedom; therefore, this value is conspicuous in the whole sitcom. The nominations for the least obviously seen value are future orientation, time and its control, hard work and equality of opportunity.
Figure 6: The least obviously seen American value according to Vietnamese and American viewers We can clearly see the difference in perspective of Vietnamese viewers and American viewers. To Vietnamese viewers, it is time and its control that is least obviously seen, while to American viewers, it is hard work. This result also corresponds to the contrast mentioned above in question 3. This is caused by the different level of understanding Americans and American values between the natives and Vietnamese viewers.
CHAPTER V – CONCLUSION
I. Summary After a period of time observing the subject – ―Friends‖, and collecting data from volunteers, the researcher has found the answers for her questions. There are currently twelve American values. The reason for the word ―currently‖ is that as stated in chapter II, cultural values originally were created by the people in previous generations, then passed on to each individual of that particular society, and gradually spread onto bigger regions. But because it is created by the people, it is subjected to change as the people evolve. That is why from the first six traditional values, America now has twelve. Maybe in the future, there will be changes. This hypothesis is quite possible since one of the current values is change orientation. In the sitcom ―Friends‖, there are also twelve values corresponding to the ones mentioned in chapter II. The values are reflected in the characters‘ traits, behaviors and in the situations they are put in. Viewers of the show fully realize these values as well. Individual freedom is the most obviously seen value. However, with the least obviously seen value, there is a difference between the perceptions of Vietnamese viewers and American viewers. While hard work is the least obvious to American people, it is time and its control to
Vietnamese viewers. The difference is caused by the difference in the level of understanding America and American values. II. Implication From the result of the study, the researcher has high hope of using the sitcom ―Friends‖ as an authentic teaching material for the two subjects: American studies and Cross-cultural communication for the following reasons: The richness in American values of the sitcom: in the textbook for American studies, students are taught the six traditional values of America. If used, this sitcom will be a lively and authentic example for student to study. The values are put into situation, into daily life; they are not abstract matters anymore. Moreover, the students can identify the values more easily if they happen to be in the same situation. They can learn how to react to each situation, which is also the aim of teaching cross-cultural communication. The reality of the sitcom: the sitcom received many awards for being one of the best sitcoms in US of all time. It is praised for its realness and true to real life. Hence, there students can get closer to reality by watching the sitcom instead of learning from some set-up, inauthentic clips. The flexibility of the sitcom: the nature of a sitcom is that each episode is quite separate from the others. Therefore, it is quite flexible and easy to ―cut-paste‖ the needed scenes or episodes for teaching without damaging the plot or distorting the story. Even 81
with a scene for 30 seconds can already reflect some values naturally and thoroughly. Last but not least, its sense of humor: the sitcom is witty and clever with hilarious situations. Students would feel relaxed and enjoyable while watching the sitcom, and yet they are still able to learn something. Understanding that there is time limitation in each lesson, the idea of watching ―Friends‖ in class is not feasible. Therefore, the researcher suggests using ―Friends‖ as an assignment at home or supplementary. After a lesson about the values, lecturers can edit the suggested episodes in this research to his or her requirement, and then send them to the students. The task of the students is to watch the clip and write a reflection and send back to the lecturers for assessment. III. Limitation of the study Firstly, with ten seasons, and 236 episodes in total, ―Friends‖ is a huge source of American values for the researcher to explore. Moreover, due to time limitation, the researcher cannot analyze the collected data thoroughly and fully. What the researcher presents in this study are only a few examples out of hundreds meaningful and useful others. Secondly, the number of informants is not big enough to make a firm statement of the findings. In addition, the questionnaire only collects the most general ideas while in fact, there are still contradict opinions on some aspects of this subject. Should the researcher be more
prepared and have more time, she would have chosen more informants to interview instead of only two. Lastly, since there is not much previous research on this topic, the foundation theories are not sufficient. Without a firm base, the research cannot stand tall and strong. IV. Suggestion for further research With all the limitations above, the researcher only hopes that this study can be an inspiration for later studies. From the researcher‘s experience, ―Friends‖ truly is a wonderful source for studying about American people: their characteristics, culture and lifestyle. Moreover, it can be of much assistance to studying the two basic skills: listening and speaking. ―Friends‖ can be use as an authentic material for students to practice listening and speaking. However, lecturers should choose the episode or scene which is suitable to students‘ language level. ―Friends‖ is best used for intermediate and advanced level. Despite her best effort, the researcher is fully aware of the inevitability of the short-comings and mistakes in the study. She takes full responsibility for those weaknesses and welcomes any comments and suggestions. May this study set the first brick on this subject and be the reference for similar studies.
Althen, G., Doran, A.R., Szmania, S.J. (2003). American ways: a guide for foreigners in the United States. Intercultural Press. p.27 Friends. Retrieved on February 18th, 2011 from the website
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Friends#Impact Gerstle, G. (2001). American Crucible; Race and Nation in the Twentieth Century, Princeton University Press. Hofstede, G. (1991). Cultures and organizations. London: McGraw-Hill Kluckhohn, C. (1951). Values and value-orientations in the theory of action: An exploration in definition and classification. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Kohls, L.R. (1984). The values American live by. Retrieved February 18th, 2011 from the website http://www.claremontmckenna.edu/pages/faculty/alee/extra/American_ values.html Kroeber, A. & Kluckhohn, C. (1952). Culture: A Critical Review of Concepts and Definitions. New York: Vintage Books. Levin, D.R. & Adelman, M.B. (1993). Beyond language- intercultural Mackey, A. & Gass, S. M. (2005). Second Language Research: Methodology and Design. New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc 84
communication for English as a second language. Prentice Hall, Inc. Rokeach, M. (1979). Understanding human values individual and social. New York: The Free Press. Television Heaven. Friends. Retrieved on December, 10th 2010 from the World Wide Web http://www.televisionheaven.co.uk/friends.htm Value (personal and cultural). Retrieved on February 18th, 2011 from the website http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Values#cite_ref-Santrock_0-0 Vu, T.T.H (2009). A Vietnamese-American Cross-cultural Study on Cultural Reflection of Television Advertisements. HULIS - VNU Wardhaugh, R. (1993). Investigating Language: Central Problems in Linguistics. Lightning Source Inc.
Appendix 1: Questionnaire for Vietnamese and American viewers
My name is Pho Quynh Anh from E1K41 – University of Languages and International Studies (ULIS). I am doing a research on ―The American Values Reflected in One of US All-time Favorite Sitcoms „Friends‟.‖ I would like to have your opinion on this subject. Your answers are of great account to the success of the research and your cooperation is highly appreciated. A. ABOUT INFORMANT
(Your personal information is for the research and further
interview if necessary. Other than that, it is kept perfectly private)
Your name:……………………………………………………….. Email:……………………………………………………………… Age:………. Your nationality: Education level: High school Undergraduate Postgraduate Vietnamese American
Can you speak any foreign language(s)? :………………………. If YES, what is the level of that foreign language(s) Beginner Intermediate Advanced 86
B. QUESTIONS 1. Do you find ―Friends‖: Extremely funny Funny Not funny at all
2. Do you have any difficulties watching ―Friends‖? (you can choose more than one) Language (slang, vocabulary, etc) Background knowledge (lifestyle, culture, etc) None 3. Do you find any of the following American values while watching ―Friends‖? Tick on the left if you do. Please give specific examples for such values (From which character? In which situation?) √ American values 1. Individual Freedom / Individualism 2. Self-reliance 3. Equality of Opportunity 4. Competition 5. Hard work 6. Material wealth 87 Example
7. Change orientation 8. Future orientation 9. Practicality and Efficiency 10.Informality 11.Directness, Openness and Honesty 12.Time and its control 13.Other (please be specific): 4. Among your choices of these American values, which one is the most obviously expressed/seen in the sitcom? ………………………………………………………………………… ………………………………………………………………………… Which one is the least obviously expressed/seen? ………………………………………………………………………… ………………………………………………………………………… ************** Thank you very much for your cooperation! 88
Appendix 2: Guiding questions for interview 1. Do you enjoy watching ―Friends‖? 2. Do you know about American values? 3. Why do you choose (X) the most/least obviously seen value?
Appendix 3: Interview’s transcript with the selected American viewer Time: April 13th, 2011 Place: French Department Interviewee: American viewer X Q: Good morning, thank you for coming here today and help me out. A: You‘re welcome. Q: Ok, so you have seen all 10 seasons of ―Friends‖ right? A: Yes I have. Oh I love it so much. Back in the States, I often waited for Thursday. It‘s ―Friends‖‘ night you know. Q: Oh great! Now, why do you like it so much? A: It‘s very hilarious. You have a good laugh watching ―Friends‖, you know. They are all funny. I like Chandler the most because he often tells jokes. Q: So besides all the good laugh and jokes, do you see any American values in the sitcom? Well, you are American so you know what your values are right? They are already listed in the questionnaire I gave you the other day. A: Uhm, yes. But I need to look at it because there are like 10 or more than 10 values right? Q: Sure. A: Ok, I remember them. Yup, they are pretty much the values we live up to. 90
Q: Why do you say ―pretty‖ much? A: Because you know not everyone values the same thing. I would say that generally, theses 12 values are live up to in America. But it doesn‘t necessarily mean that all the values are taken into consideration at the same level. Personally I really appreciate individual freedom and self-reliance, but I do not care about material wealth very much. I mean of course I dream to have a house of my own, but it doesn‘t need to be fancy, you know? Q: I see your point. So you say you see hard work the least obvious in the sitcom. Why is that? A: I don‘t think they mention much about hard work. The hard work in the sitcom is only touched upon. Yes, they mention the characters‘ jobs, but they merely show any effort of the characters in their process of working. Q: So you mean there need to be more situations where the characters have trouble at work and try to find the solution to get the job done? A: Yes yes, exactly. Hard work, you gotta sweat a little, right? Q: You bet. Thank you very much for coming again. Your information will help me a lot. A: Don‘t mention it. Q: Good bye! A; Bye!
Appendix 4: Interview’s transcript with the selected Vietnamese viewer Time: April 14th, 2011 Place: French Department Interviewee: Vietnamese viewer Y Q: Chào ấy, cám ơn vì đã đến nhá. Mình bắt đầu phỏng vấn luôn đi. A: Ok ấy. Q: Ấy đã xem đủ 10 seasons của phim ―Friends‖ rồi đúng không? A: Uh, xem đi xem lại luôn. Q: Tốt quá! Thế ấy thấy ―Friends‖ thế nào? Trong questionnaire tớ thấy ấy trả lời là Extremely funny. A: Uh, tớ thấy hài thôi rồi luôn. Mà kiểu hài thông minh ý. Xem thấy rất thích, như bị cuốn vào phim cùng các nhân vật luôn. Q: Uhm, tớ cũng thấy thế. Thế ấy xem ―Friends‖, ngoài việc thấy nó hay và hài hước, ấy có thấy những giá trị nào của người Mỹ không? Kiểu những phẩm chất, đạo đức mà họ tôn trọng và sống theo những phẩm chất ấy ý? A: Có, tớ trả lời trong questionnaire rồi mà. Tớ thấy gần như các giá trị mà ấy liệt kê đều được nhận diện trong ―Friends‖ cả. À chỉ có cái Equality of opportunity là tớ thấy nó hơi bị chệch hướng. Tớ xem phim thì không thấy equal lắm vì Rachel xinh đẹp và hay dùng mỹ nhân kế để leo thang trong sự nghiệp nhá. Ở Ralph Lauren rồi đến Louis Vuitoon qua sự giúp đỡ của anh 92
Mark. Joey thì có ―năng lực‖ của mình để tham gia được vài một số bộ phim. Còn Phoebe thì lại gặp xui xẻo. Tớ thấy cũng chẳng equal lắm. Q: Uh rồi, đồng ý. Thế ấy nghĩ sao về hard work? Có được thể hiện rõ không? A: Cũng khá. Thấy họ toàn nói chuyện về công việc suốt mà. Hoặc là sau mỗi lần ngồi tán gẫu ở Central Perk, thường sẽ có một người đứng dạy và nói ―I have to go to work‖, or ―I‘m late for work‖. Tớ nghĩ là họ phải quan tâm đến công việc thì mới nói những câu như thế chứ. Q: Uhm, good point. Thế thôi. Tớ chỉ cần thêm thông tin và giải thích của cậu cho các lựa chọn của mình thôi. Thế này là đủ rồi. Cám ơn cậu nhá. A: Có gì đâu. Cùng là fan mà. Bye cậu Q: Bye cậu.
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