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This week, I've been encouraging students to stay away from overused words, such as "beautiful," "delicious," etc.  One word that is heard all too often is "cute."  Cute is an integral part of Chinese society, as well as many other East Asian countries.  There are cartoons everywhere, on refrigerators, public buses, and noodle packaging.  Girls try to find the balance between innocent and sexy, and the result could best be described as "cute."  Birthday cakes, picture frames, umbrellas... everywhere you look, there's something cute.

A large amount of my time is spent around students, who are of course immersed in the culture of "cute."  And this is all fine and good, but it gets a bit overwhelming at times. The other day, a male student was wearing a neon pink shirt and matching neon pink glasses.  In a bid to out-do the effeminate male Korean pop stars flooding the airwaves and magazines, China's Super Boy singing competition program has become a parade of the "cutest" (translation: cross-dressing) boys the country has to offer.  I see semi-pimped-out rice rockets buzzing down the road, sporting Japanese cartoon decals.  And while I certainly have no problem with cute girls, I constantly see middle-aged mothers prancing around the shopping malls wearing the same tu-tu inspired fashions that my students wear.  Granted, they usually have the figures to pull it off, but there's nothing wrong with dressing with a stylish yet mature sensibility.

Every culture is obsessed with youth, but I think China takes it to another level, where many people lack education or skills to set themselves apart from the rest of the masses, but youth and beauty are always in fashion.  My students tell me that they don't want to grow up, that they wish they could always remain boys and girls.  Maybe this culture of cute is a way to retain that youth, even though the mirror is telling you otherwise.  I dunno, maybe my Western mentality is too testosterone-driven, and I have come to appreciate "cuteness" more since living in China, but when I see billboards with cartoon policemen telling me not to drink and drive, I feel like I'm in kindergarten.

 


05/20/2010 13:39

Oh, Mark! Your beautiful writing style is so... so... cute. :-)

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05/20/2010 19:03

*hurls himself out the window*

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