The Golden Child vs Tibetan Buddhism?

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The Golden Child vs Tibetan Buddhism?

Postby Mawkish1983 » Sun Mar 11, 2012 6:15 pm

I hope I have posted this question in the right place; my apologies if I haven't.

I've just watched The Golden Child again. I was wondering how close to the mythology of Tibet or Tibetan Buddhism the film was. Are there aspects that the film gets right? Are there aspects that the film gets wrong? If someone was to view this film and use it as their only basis for understanding Tibetan Buddhism, how similar to Tibetan Buddhism proper would their understanding be? I'm struggling to word my question meaningfully, so I hope this makes sense.

I have also asked this question at http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=16&t=11752
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Re: The Golden Child vs Tibetan Buddhism?

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Sun Mar 11, 2012 9:52 pm

I think Eddie Murphy was portrayed very accurately.
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The Chinese characters are Fo (buddha) and Ming (bright). The image is of a student of Buddhism, who, imagining himself to be a monk, and not understanding the true meaning of the words takes the sound of the words literally. Likewise, People on web forums sometime seem to be foaming at the mouth.
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Re: The Golden Child vs Tibetan Buddhism?

Postby justsit » Mon Mar 12, 2012 1:10 am

Having watched only the trailer, not the full movie, I think I can safely say PadmaVonSamba is spot on.

For something authentic, you might try The Unmistaken Child.
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Re: The Golden Child vs Tibetan Buddhism?

Postby Josef » Mon Mar 12, 2012 1:14 am

I love The Golden Child.
It's not very accurate though, other than the nose picking.
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Re: The Golden Child vs Tibetan Buddhism?

Postby asunthatneversets » Mon Mar 12, 2012 1:20 am

Brotha Numsie!
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Re: The Golden Child vs Tibetan Buddhism?

Postby zavk » Mon Mar 12, 2012 1:53 am

Hi all

I responded to Makwish's question over at DhammaWheel, just thought I'd post it here too.


Hi Mawkish

This essay from a while back 'Orientalist Commercializations: Tibetan Buddhism in American Popular Film' doesn't mention The Golden Child but analyses Seven Years in Tibet, Kundun and Little Buddha. The points it raises about the West's fascination with and idealised constructions of the 'Mystical East' might shed light on your question. Hope this helps.

Metta
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Re: The Golden Child vs Tibetan Buddhism?

Postby kirtu » Mon Mar 12, 2012 3:28 am

zavk wrote:This essay from a while back 'Orientalist Commercializations: Tibetan Buddhism in American Popular Film' doesn't mention The Golden Child but analyses Seven Years in Tibet, Kundun and Little Buddha. The points it raises about the West's fascination with and idealised constructions of the 'Mystical East' might shed light on your question. Hope this helps.


This essay is extremely odious - this is not a reasoned argument but a mere series of assertions presented as fact.

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Re: The Golden Child vs Tibetan Buddhism?

Postby justsit » Mon Mar 12, 2012 3:50 am

kirtu wrote:This essay is extremely odious...

Agree. One part was written by someone with a particular ax to grind.
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Re: The Golden Child vs Tibetan Buddhism?

Postby zavk » Mon Mar 12, 2012 4:24 am

Hi all

I should have added some qualifying statements in the initial post. I did notice the bit by the follower of Dorje Shugden. I do not follow the contestation about the matter and it is not my intention to engage in it here. The essay's interpretation of the films are of course contestable, as any interpretations are.

The main ideas I wanted to share are more precisely the points about the ongoing influence of Orientalism—i.e. of how media texts could sometimes, even if unintentionally, perpetuate unhelpful stereotypes which reinforce cultural hierarchies or misrepresent others. You'll note that the essay engages with the work of Donald S. Lopez Jr, who is a noted Buddhist scholar. Before anyone dismiss him as being merely an 'academic' Buddhist, it should be noted that he is also a committed, longtime practitioner of Tibetan Buddhism. His scholarly work and sacred pursuit co-inform one another. If anything, based on what I've read of his work, his critiques of Orientalism reflects a desire to respect and honour Tibetan Buddhism and culture. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Donald_S._Lopez,_Jr.

So, while the author's reading of the films may to some degree or another be regarded as personal opinion, Lopez's ideas are far from being groundless assertions, kirtu, developing as they have out of many years of historical research as well as study of Tibetan Buddhism and culture (but admittedly, the brevity of the essay limits a clearer understanding of his work)—not to mention that Lopez's work derives from a broader and very legitimate and respected field of postcolonial studies.

In any event, bracketing the specific matters related to conflicts in Tibetan Buddhism and culture, the argument that media texts can sometimes reproduce unskillful oppositions between the developed First World and the undeveloped Third World—ideas that champion the West as 'saviours'—and so forth, are exemplified in the counter-criticisms by African commentators on the Kony2012 campaign. As you can see in this small selection of responses by Ugandian journalists and social activists, they make similar arguments: ttp://americawakiewakie.tumblr.com/post ... actions-to (note: I'm just citing this to clarify my point, not to start a debate about Kony2012 as such)

Let me stress again that my intention is not to cast aspersions on any aspect of Tibetan Buddhism or culture as such. Nor am I suggesting that any attempt to represent Tibetan culture in a favourable light is wrong or bad. All I wish to do here is merely to draw attention to how broader historical processes may influence construction of media representations in popular culture—and by extension, the conditions underpinning our understanding.

It is the influence of these broader historical process which, I think, might be of interest to Mawkish as well as others who are curious about the matter.

:anjali:

EDITED: the link I put up initially was incomplete; it works now.
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Re: The Golden Child vs Tibetan Buddhism?

Postby kirtu » Mon Mar 12, 2012 5:16 am

zavk wrote:The main ideas I wanted to share are more precisely the points about the ongoing influence of Orientalism—i.e. of how media texts could sometimes, even if unintentionally, perpetuate unhelpful stereotypes which reinforce cultural hierarchies or misrepresent others.


The author of the essay posits an extreme view and makes numerous groundless assertions mostly about their interpretation of how American's and American society views Tibetan Buddhism. One example is that they assert that movie going audiences laugh at the native population for being "backward", etc. Really? This was a noted reaction in theaters? I saw all those movies and never heard it.

They also make a great deal out of a single charged case played out on TV and make numerous assertions based on that (in fact I know a young monk who was not a tulku but was sent to a monastery when they were about 12 and have been studying there for 6 years now).

You'll note that the essay engages with the work of Donald S. Lopez Jr, who is a noted Buddhist scholar.


I think the author gives Lopez a bad name by taking his work out of context and stretches it to fit their own preconceived viewpoint.

At any rate one could hardly extract the "West as Savior" from either Kundun (quite the opposite in fact) or "Little Buddha" (the Western kid is not the main tulku emanation).

It's late where I am and I have to go to sleep but will follow up tomorrow.

Kirt
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Re: The Golden Child vs Tibetan Buddhism?

Postby zavk » Mon Mar 12, 2012 5:44 am

kirtu wrote:The author of the essay posits an extreme view and makes numerous groundless assertions mostly about their interpretation of how American's and American society views Tibetan Buddhism. One example is that they assert that movie going audiences laugh at the native population for being "backward", etc. Really? This was a noted reaction in theaters? I saw all those movies and never heard it.

They also make a great deal out of a single charged case played out on TV and make numerous assertions based on that (in fact I know a young monk who was not a tulku but was sent to a monastery when they were about 12 and have been studying there for 6 years now).

......

At any rate one could hardly extract the "West as Savior" from either Kundun (quite the opposite in fact) or "Little Buddha" (the Western kid is not the main tulku emanation).

It's late where I am and I have to go to sleep but will follow up tomorrow.

Kirt


Hi Kirt

As I've mentioned interpretations of texts, by their very nature, are open to contestations. This is problem that has always faced disciplines in the Humanities like literary studies, film studies, media studies, and so forth. Researchers might analyse a particular text—e.g. a sonnet by Shakespeare or a film by Hitchcock—and extrapolate from their interpretations to make claims about culture, and society. These claims could be supported to some degree or another by historical research. But when it comes down to it, they will always be limited in that it is difficult, if not impossible, to generalise them to say that the represent the views of everyone else who read that particular Shakespeare sonnet or Hitchcock film. There is of course another approach to the study of these things which focuses on audience research--but even these are limited because there is ultimately no way to cover enough ground to get a complete and water-tight conclusions.

So yes, you raise very valid points here and I do agree with you that the author's interpretation cannot be generalised to all American audiences. But for me, there is still some value in engaging with the essay insofar as the broader ideas about the ongoing influencing of Orientalism in media representations is supported by a large body of historical research. For me, what I take from the essay is NOT 'oh American audiences are stupid or are being duped', but rather 'that there are certain conditions which might influence our understanding.' And as far as my limited ongoing study of Buddhism goes, being mindful of the influence of conditions, seeking to be aware of conditionality--rather than fixating on the motives of an unchanging 'I' (the author or the audience of the films)—is an exercise worth pursuing.

But yes, I understand your discomfort with how the author presents her views.
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Re: The Golden Child vs Tibetan Buddhism?

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Mon Mar 12, 2012 12:59 pm

Tibetan culture and it's various Buddhist traditions are full of stories people with "magical" powers, and Tibetans themselves are very aware at the marketing potential that these legends provide, but the ends are seen to justify the means. So, it is not only western filmmakers who perpetuate what Alexandra David-Neel called "the Magic and mystery of Tibet". Filmmakers such as Khyentse Norbu, also exploit this, as do as many purveyors of Tibetan merchandise such as "singing bowls".

To any kind of 'outsider' to any tradition or culture, what is not understood is always a mystery and therefore has endless potential for elaboration. The Golden Child gives about as accurate an understanding of Vajrayana Buddhism as the Wizard Of Oz does about what one is likely to encounter in a tornado.

It's a movie!!!!
.
.
.
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The Chinese characters are Fo (buddha) and Ming (bright). The image is of a student of Buddhism, who, imagining himself to be a monk, and not understanding the true meaning of the words takes the sound of the words literally. Likewise, People on web forums sometime seem to be foaming at the mouth.
Original painting by P.Volker /used by permission.
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Re: The Golden Child vs Tibetan Buddhism?

Postby Jikan » Wed May 02, 2012 2:21 pm

I think the article is incomplete but not completely odious. There are elements in it that are complementary to what we do. Here:

Giving up materialism is a virtue we enjoy seeing in Tibetan culture, even one that satisfies or renews us, but is not one we approve of for ourselves. To toy with the idea of a nonmateralist culture is romantic and entertaining. To act upon this idea for ourselves, however, is downright un-American.


I think this tidily sums up the role of Himalayan kitsch in the spiritual materialism trip (cf Zizek's half-cocked, half-accurate analyses of Zen & "western Buddhism"). The quoted claim also suggests that there really is something radically alternative-to-consumer-capital about Buddhist practice in practice. That's a claim many engaged Buddhists would like to get behind.
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Re: The Golden Child vs Tibetan Buddhism?

Postby Sherab Dorje » Wed May 02, 2012 3:25 pm

As for Little Buddha, any movie casting Keanu Reeves as the Buddha has to be seriously depraved: "Like... samsara, dude... whoa!" :tongue:
"When one is not in accord with the true view
Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
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Re: The Golden Child vs Tibetan Buddhism?

Postby kirtu » Wed May 02, 2012 5:43 pm

gregkavarnos wrote:As for Little Buddha, any movie casting Keanu Reeves as the Buddha has to be seriously depraved: "Like... samsara, dude... whoa!" :tongue:


So now you want to deny Keanu Reeves and Bernardo Bertolucci exposure to the Dharma?

DK was the advisor on that one, BTW, and it got him going on his own films. Very well done even with all it's flaws.

BTW - I'm see your Keanu Reeves and raise you River Phoenix. That might have been unredeemable.

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Re: The Golden Child vs Tibetan Buddhism?

Postby Fa Dao » Wed May 02, 2012 7:58 pm

oh for f**ks sakes people, lighten up!! Its a hollywood movie...of COURSE its not going to be realistic..its meant for entertainment. I enjoyed all of those movies for their entertainment value. Eddie Murphy was hilarious... and apparently I am one of the few that likes Keanu Reeves movies. I thought he did a very cool Shakyamuni. So there...nyah nyah nyah!!
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Re: The Golden Child vs Tibetan Buddhism?

Postby Sherab Dorje » Wed May 02, 2012 9:13 pm

Waaaaaaay cool dude! Like wow! Completely like zen yah know? :tongue:
BTW - I'm see your Keanu Reeves and raise you River Phoenix. That might have been unredeemable.
Ha! I see your River Phoenix! Time to show your hand.

I've got a Steven Seagal (tulku and all!) to play the Buddha, what you got? :woohoo:
"When one is not in accord with the true view
Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
Naropa - Summary of the View from The Eight Doha Treasures
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Re: The Golden Child vs Tibetan Buddhism?

Postby Nosta » Wed May 02, 2012 10:23 pm

PadmaVonSamba wrote:I think Eddie Murphy was portrayed very accurately.


:rolling:
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Re: The Golden Child vs Tibetan Buddhism?

Postby Lhug-Pa » Thu May 03, 2012 12:27 am

gregkavarnos wrote:I've got a Steven Seagal (tulku and all!) to play the Buddha, what you got? :woohoo:



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Re: The Golden Child vs Tibetan Buddhism?

Postby Sherab Dorje » Thu May 03, 2012 9:37 am

DAMN! Lost again! :crying:
"When one is not in accord with the true view
Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
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