If Asian movies and / or series can show us something, it is how different their cultures are with respect to the American continent, and although there are also many similarities, we can only recognize that their traditions and ways of seeing the world contrast with those of the ours to a great extent. The most recent phenomenon in this regard was The Squid Game – 100%, a Korean series produced by Netflix that broke audience records and according to some reports is on its way to becoming the most watched foreign series on the platform.
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However, with so much success and so many eyes watching her, it is normal that some controversies arise, such as accusations of plagiarism to Japanese films, and of sexism because of the way they portray women. Now the controversy revolves around the character of Abdul Ali, a Pakistani immigrant who also happens to be the darkest character. One of Ali’s characteristics is that he is extremely kind, and for that reason he was accused of being a stereotype of the model immigrant or even the “good savage”; the university professor Uju Anya posted the following on Twitter:
I don’t speak Korean and the subtitles are reportedly bad. But please explain to me why The Squid Game portrays the only non-Korean main character as a brown-skinned man who all the time whines ‘sir’, gratitude, sacrifice and submission to equally screwed up people like him.
I don’t speak Korean, and the subtitles are reportedly bad. But, please explain why Squid Game portrays the only non-Korean main character as a brown skinned man who the entire time snivels in “sirs,” gratitude, sacrifice, and subservience to people equally fucked as him. pic.twitter.com/vQIAnl9ZT2
– Uju Anya (@UjuAnya) October 5, 2021
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In another tweet, the teacher complained about people who justified this representation saying that it is a way of “humanizing” immigrants before the Korean public that is usually “racist and hostile”, and she compared it to the stereotype of “Uncle Tom” , which comes from a play where a black slave was depicted as extremely servile and self-sacrificing.
The answer we needed came from a Korean named John lee, who identifies himself in his podcast as a “writer, columnist, and social media personality.” In a series of tweets, Lee explained that manners and relationships work differently in Korean society than in other countries. First he clarifies that in the Asian country “unless you are a friend of someone or you are the father or teacher of someone, and in a very small number of rare cases, you never address someone by name”, regarding the friendship, Lee says that unless you are the same age and have gone to the same school, it is “almost impossible” that you are friends with someone. In the case of how Ali addresses Sang-woo, it is with the word sajang-nim:
Sajang is a word used to refer to the president of a company. Nim is a gender neutral suffix used to elevate the person you are talking to. So if the person you are addressing is a man, the literal translation of sajang-nim would be ‘chief sir’. If it is a woman, ‘lady boss’. Although sajang-nim was actually a word that was meant to address the president of a company, it colloquially became a word that was used to address anyone you don’t know (usually a man) who you think deserves to be treated with. I respect.
Although sajang-nim was actually a word that was meant to address a company president, colloquially, it became a word that was used to address any person that you don’t know (typically a man) whom you think deserves to be treated with respect .
– John Lee (@koreanforeigner) October 6, 2021
So, let’s get back to Ali. It turns out that Ali’s character is an undocumented migrant worker from Pakistan. What that means is that when it comes to social hierarchies, Ali is VERY in the background. That explains why your employer hasn’t paid you for months. Who are you going to complain to about unpaid wages? As soon as you file a formal complaint, you will be deported. It was not disclosed how long Ali has been living in South Korea. But what is certain is that during the time that he has been, he has had to keep his head down.
Who is he going to complain to about unpaid wages? As soon as he makes a formal complaint, he’s going to get deported.
It’s not revealed how long Ali has been living in South Korea. But what’s for sure is that during the time he’s been in Korea, he’s had to keep his head down.
– John Lee (@koreanforeigner) October 6, 2021
The thread is much longer, and goes on to detail why the representation of Ali is not a stereotype like the “Uncle Tom” mentioned by the teacher, but rather a reflection of how Korean society mistreats immigrants, especially immigrants. of brown skin. Thus, The Squid Game I would be portraying a reality and making a complaint (and not a mockery) with the character of Ali.
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