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Culture plays a large role in everyone’s day to day lives, even if it not easily recognized. Julia Wood defines culture in her book Communication in Our Lives as a coherent system of understandings, traditions, values, communication practices and ways of living (189). The film Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai has many themes that correlate to the ideas within Wood’s book. Both the film and book have ideas of collectivism, power distance and long term orientation that make them easily relatable. The first idea from Wood’s book that was seen in the movie was collectivism. Cultures with a high collectivism value the groups identity over specific people and the people within the group feel deeply rooted in the values and customs developed over time.
This idea of collectivism relates to the theme in Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai of unity. This is shown in the mob mentality that the face and continuation of the mob is not dependent on one person but rather the group as a whole. Ghost Dog, the main character, is a hitman for the American mafia and he is hired by Louie to kill a man sleeping with the head bosses daughter. He kills the man and spares the daughter when he realizes that she is there, causing problems for him in the future. This is a relevant scene in the movie to relate collectivism because Ghost Dog values the mafia mentality that women should not be harmed unless necessary in the situation. This shows his deeply rooted customs that he holds true to in his culture. The second idea is power distance which relates to the theme of respecting order in Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai. Power distance is the reference to the gap between people with power and people who do not (Woods 191).
Cultures that have a large power gap tend to have power passed down through the family and respect for those who are in power. This also leads to a large amount of respect for the groups elders/leaders. This is shown throughout most of the film due to the culture of the mafia. Mafia boss positions are usually given through family ties and you must respect the boss and his rules. As bosses get older and they pass down the title of head boss, they become highly regarded elders. The final idea from Wood’s book that is shown in Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai that will be discussed in this paper is the idea of long-term orientation. The idea of long term orientation is that the group focuses more on the history and future of the group, but it does not focus on living in the moment. This means that the group has more long term plans, is very hardworking, and is very committed and loyal to the said group.
This relates to the theme of commitment in Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai. Long-term planning and hard work are shown through Ghost Dogs line of work, as a hitman you have to plan the attack and all of the situations that could happen afterward. This is also his way of life and it is how he provides for himself so he must work hard or he will not have a good life. Loyalty is shown in the film at the very end when Ghost Dog is unwilling to harm Louie because Louie is his master and he is in debt to him for saving his life many years ago. It is also seen from Louie’s stand point, he had to kill Ghost Dog for killing his boss.In conclusion, the themes of unity, commitment, and respecting order presented in the film Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai are easily related back to the ideas in Julia Wood’s book, Communication in Our Lives.
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