I hear these sentiments:
Humor is universal
Music is universal
Film is universal (this is the theme clip shown at all foreign film theaters)
But I can’t stand eastern European humor. It relies on polemics, stereotypes, and seems more like stump speeches than jokes.
I really cannot take much Tibetan, Indian or Chinese traditional music. Like chalk on the blackboard.
And some films should never leave their home country.
Do you think there is anything where you can say “___ is universal”?
What would that be?
I agree that all three – humor, film and music – have a basic, essentially universal appeal. That said, content will always vary from culture to culture, and other cultures often regard such differences in POV and interest appealing – or less so. Not to mention that a dominant, mainstream culture provides different standards of humorous interest, filmmaking techniques and topics and musical genres than its counterculture(s).
Humor is heavily culturally dependent, unless it’s physical comedy. That really is universal. For this reason, although many sucessful American comedies bomb overseas (if they are released there at all), physical comedies do well. Physical comedy isn’t particularly common anymore here in the U.S., but one form can be found on televisions almost everywhere: the Three Stooges.
I’ll add a less salient point that international action movies – a generic hero versus omnious bad guys and lots of creative fighting sequences and physical action sequences – seem to translate well across cultural barriers, whether the hero is a product of Hollywood, Hong Kong cinema or Bollywood.
No one’s spoken up for music yet? Well, not only is (most) music universal, it’s also timeless. It doesn’t generally get out of date or die of old age. Especially classical stuff. The same can be said for humour, but not all forms. Malienation is right about physical humour, that never gets old and can be appreciated by everyone. But the same can’t really be said for films. I mean, practically everyone likes some form of music, and there wouldn’t be a soul on the planet who doesn’t enjoy a good laugh. But I for one don’t think films are universal. They’re wonderful, but not everyone’s cup of tea.
Wow. I couldn’t disagree more. While I agree that the concept of music is universal, I think that the appreciation of individual works of music is very subjective, at least as much as film, and is heavily based on the cultural perspective of the listener. Most world music and avant-garde modern electronica is incomprehensible to me, for example, even though I acknowledge that there must be giants in those genres. I simply don’t like them. At the same time, there are lots of people who find the punk and indie rock I do enjoy to be simplistic noise. Who’s to say their opinion is worth more or less than my own?
Furthermore, as I learned in a Math and Music course that was otherwise mostly useless, when anthropologists play music that is seemingly-universally acknowledged as having a certain quality to it (say, joyous, or sad) to cultures that are greatly insulated from the cultures that produced it, they do not perceive the same qualities in the music. In fact, they often don’t really appreciate it at all, since it’s so different from their own music.