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blogger as ethnographer

I had the privilege of flying on one of Eva Airlines’ Hello Kitty planes today.

Here's a screenshot so you know what I'm talking about


Everywhere you turn on the plane, you see signs of Hello Kitty: from the pins on the flight attendants’ uniforms, their pink aprons, the pillow covers, to the air freshener in the lavatory.

Eva Airlines is seriously dedicated to Hello Kitty


I started chuckling as I stepped onto the plane. It’s cute and adorable. But soon I grew weary. [Yes, I tend to overthink. Are you even surprised?]

There are obvious social and cultural reasons that girls, and in fact, women under 50, are encouraged to be cute, to find cutesy things desirable, and also to screech in delight whenever such cutesy things are encountered: In a patriarchal, male-dominant society, men prefer women that are dependent and docile (or at least seemingly so) and find them to be more attractive.

A nation of young women marching to the drumbeat of cuteness. Some critics have even gone so far to call it the “infantilization of women”.

There is the voice that many women here speak in. High-pitched and nasal. 

The facial expressions: eyes blinking deliberately with eyelashes a-fluttering, better yet if they appear to be watery & starry. Verisimilitude of manga characters.

I imagine myself a reject from the Hello Kitty factory.

I’ve never been able to be cute – partly because I am 5’7″ and not starving myself. By Taiwan standard, I am enormous. I also cannot fake Jennifer Tilly’s voice. Just imagine Lucy Lawless feigning cuteness. That. Did you throw up in your mouth too?

That being said, I begin to lean towards + on the cuteness scale when I arrive. It’s as if when I speak in Chinese, I assume a different personality. Or maybe they’ve spiked all the food here.

I tilt my head. I blink my eyes. I smile vacuously.

I know tomorrow I will start making a bunny sign when having pictures taken.

This is like an emergency note written by a survivor before the inevitable Borg invasion.





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My parents watch a lot of TV. They are at a stage where they deserve to do whatever they feel like, really, and my dad’s health does not allow him to stray away too much or too often from stationary activities. That being said, there are three televisions inside the 800-sq-ft. 3- BR apartment, so yeah, they watch a lot of TV. I have realized after having left home for the U.S. in 1993 that the most precious yet the most difficult gift I can give my parents is simply being there.  As a result, I end up watching a lot of TV when I keep them company.

It is always a quick and dirty way for me to get reacquainted with the here and now in Taiwan. The social mores in vogue. I am often reminded to be proud of where I came from, followed by a sudden wave of homesickness and dread while I am… at home… because of my imminent departure. On the other hand, I am also quite frequently flabbergasted, especially by the commercials. Since  “a cultural critic / modern tribe ethnographer” was one of my answers to “What do you want to be when you grow up?”), I cannot help but have a running commentary scrolling through my mind’s eye, my mental news ticker. To be unabashedly confessional, I am fascinated and excited by the contradictions, the dichotomy, the ambiguities represented in the media messages now that I have had a chance to step outside, looking in.

Sometimes a virtual lower third is the only image superimposed on what I am seeing…



(The first line of caption in the video says, “The 42nd day after breakup…”





p.s. This post is being written as I watch TV with my father which we have been doing for about 2 hours now…

p.p.s. The first time we saw this commercial, my father said, “@#%%$. We are a bunch of crazy people.”

p.p.p.s. Yes, this commercial is being aired at all hours, not just “after hours” which do not exist here anyway.

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