VII.  Pragmatic Reading

Expressed Emotions

Research has indicated that people can quite reliably identify the facial emotions of persons from diverse cultures.  Evidence for the existence of a relatively few universal “primary” emotions is quite strong, and is especially marked for the negative emotions such as fear, anger or disgust that are typically associated with conflict.  As intercultural entertainment products service increasingly diverse and dispersed markets, HK action films’ mobilization of primal emotion via narratives emphasizing life and death struggle, abuse, betrayal and triumph produces emotional signifiers that are widely and easily read.

Yukari Oshima in Mission of Justice and Michiko Nishiwaki
Japanese culture in particular tends to regulate the expression of emotion according to context-specific rules.  HK action films – especially female action films – make disproportionately frequent use of Japanese performers or characters in roles that often violate these very norms.  Postmodern cultural products are said to lose the transgressive power of art via the “obsolescence of shock” (Note 3).  In an Asian cultural context, perhaps such open display of primary emotions may simultaneously both be easily read and received as transgressive – therefore shocking.

Notes:  Pragmatic Reading

3. John Hill, “Film and postmodernism.”  In, Hill & Gibson, op. cit., pp. 94 – 103, esp. 97.