Monday, May 24, 2010

everything is love

A couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to be able to attend a free screening of a new documentary called Babies . It follows four babies from around the world from their first breath to their first steps. Here is a preview if you haven't heard about it:

I thought it was a cute movie: the babies laugh, they cry, terrorize their little brothers and have meltdowns when things don't go their way--just like us adults.

The thing that I thought was interesting was when I saw publicity about the movie (interviews with the director, reviews, etc.) I noticed that there was a tendency for people to describe three of the babies as being from their city/country and one from their more general continent. I'm guessing you can guess who was who.

Yup, we typically had the Mongolian baby, the Japanese baby, the American* baby and the African baby. Even if the person started out describing the Namibian baby as Namibian, they would eventually fall into a pattern of calling her the African baby.

I think this comes from a tendency of people to see Africa as this large, homogeneous mass even though it is a place with lots of different countries and cultures like Europe. And I am guessing the average reader can tell me some differences between Greece and England, but not Kenya and Chad. Let us all ask ourselves: what are the reasons for that?

Comments? Questions? You know what to do.

*I hesitate to use the term "American" even though it is generally accepted that this means not North America or South America, but the United States of America. This is related to the main point of this post--that the language that we use is an indicator of how we see others in relationship to ourselves, and also how we see ourselves in relationship to others.

p.p.s. The title of this post comes from what I thought was being said in the first line of the song from the trailer. I looked it up, and apparently the first line is "everything is lost." I like my interpretation better.


  1. I think it's more of a dumbing down for the general public -- you'd be surprised how few people have a clue where (or even what) Namibia is.

  2. I took "World History" in high school, but it was really European History, really. I know shamefully little about the various countries in Africa. Maybe slightly more about South Africa and Egypt. Otherwise, not so much.

  3. I thought it was interesting that there were two Asian babies and no European babies.

  4. Toni Gerard4:15 PM

    i hate using the term "american" too - it drives me crazy! but when i was in kenya a few months ago i found myself in the situation of having to use it. when i told people i was from the u.s. they just stared at me. for some, eventually, the light would click on and they would say "oh, you're american!" it was weird.

  5. I saw this movie and loved it... but the most striking thing to me was that there were 2 urban babies and 2 rural babies, and the urban ones were from super-urban places and the rural ones were from super-rural places. I guess the idea was to show the contrast, but I kept thinking that most of the world lives in between those 2 extremes, in cities or towns or villages or what-have-you.