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Reasons for the Differences between Eastern (especially in China) and Western Movies

Reasons for the Differences between Eastern (especially in China) and Western Movies


The western and eastern societies have differing cultures, ideologies and practices; this is evident in the films produced in those societies. The differences in their ways of life provide reasons towards the understanding of why films from both societies differ from one another in various aspects. The differences in films are evident through the themes, cultural values, belief systems, social lifestyle and practices, philosophies and other factors (Miura, 2008). Both cultures are complex; their influence in the film industry understood only through an analysis of various reasons. The paper focuses on exploring reasons for the differences between eastern, especially in China, and western movies.

Cultural influence

Cultural uniqueness is a major reason for the difference between western and eastern films. In Chinese films, the culture depicted is an oriental one; the traditional culture differs completely from the western one. It shows through the musical instruments, music, cooking methods, medicine, daily practices and other factors incorporated in several Chinese films. For instance, a holistic approach towards human health is evident through the healthy eating practices. Chinese movies depict a belief system encouraging a modest way of life and strict rules on open display of affection. For instance, very few Chinese movies depict extreme sexual scenes; however, with the evolution of the film industry, many producers continue embracing a more open perspective.

A comparison of the Japanese movie ‘Shall we Dansu’ and its western version depicts distinct differences in the view of the relationship between male and females. The original version is conservative and views ballroom dancing as a taboo activity; it approaches it from a more documentary than drama perspective. The American version, on the other hand, expresses the belief that dancing is not shameful; it views dancing as a form of expression between two people. The view is evident through the version’s focus on the expression of romantic emotions through dance. It creates an emphasis on the relationship of a married couple and marital affection based on the western standards of male-female ideals, relationship and romantic love (Miura, 2008).

Western movies, on the other hand, depict a more liberal culture; it is accommodative of other cultures and practices outside the norm. The films show an advanced culture and love for exploration and adventure; other liberal cultural practices in western films are evident through; public display of affection, and extravagant lifestyles. This materialistic style is counteracted by the emphasis on the Chinese belief that real happiness can be attained by inward intervention.

Influence of ideologies

The difference between eastern and western movies also depends on their respective ideological views; western movies depict a focus on individualism in several movies where the main actors embark on satisfying individual or family needs. Several plots focus on the individual’s effort in achieving the hero factor (Zhang, 2009). The resolution of conflicts often ends with the achievement of individual needs. Chinese movies, on the other hand, have more collective approach; they depict the cultural faith in fundamental connections with others and collectivism. The spiritual and missionary approach towards life is evident in films where the protagonist struggles towards achieving goals beneficial to more than just himself/herself; it cultures are unique and entirely different from one another; this is evident through an analysis of various films.

Individualism versus despotism

The differences in eastern films’ oriental views and western focus on individualism are evident in the two versions of the film ‘Mulan’. Whereas, the western version focuses on individualism, the Chinese version reflects ethos of filial piety, relationalism and loyalty. It also accommodates an alternative form of feminism evident in the culture’s preference for the collective (Yin, 2011). The Disney version views Mulan’s experiences as a hero’s journey of self-discovery; it incorporates universalization values in the movie. In support of individualism, the producers eliminate all cultural elements from the film; this is evident through the denouncing and depreciation of Chinese culture as an oriental tyranny. Its depiction of Mulan as hero focuses on the theme of individual freedom. In the original film, the Chinese culture of communalism is evident; it depicts norms and values adapted by the eastern culture and religious inclination (Yin, 2011).

Differing views on marriage relations

Relationships between married couples in eastern and western films also depict an unavoidable difference; emotional outpouring in marriages depicts a distinct difference. Eastern films show an indirect and reserved approach towards emotion; the restrained attitude is evident in the actors’ communication patterns. The western films, on the other hand, depict characters’ direct and open attitudes in expressing thoughts and feelings. The differences explain the uniqueness of marriage themes in films from both groups. Husband and wife relationships in western films have their foundation on mutual romantic love; it is the primary component in the institution. Expression in the relationship is through practices such as affectionate gestures and gifts.

The eastern view on marriage is non-romantic and lacks emotional overtures. The films depict a view of marriage solely as an institution for child-rearing. In such films, eastern couples act more as parents than couples; priority is placed on their parental roles and not romantic relationships. Such a perspective; contrary to the western one; does not view love as a necessary factor in the sustenance or maintenance of a marriage within a society (Miura, 2008). There is still an expression of love, romance and affection; however, Buddhism, Confucianism and other influences result in the adoption of an inward view of such ideas. These differences are evident in the western and eastern versions of ‘Shall we Dansu.’

Marriage roles difference

The depiction of marriage gender roles is also a reason for the difference; in eastern movies, the husband is often the head of the household and tyrant over its progress. The wife assumes the role of submission, child-rearing and provides for her husband’s needs. While the husband is mostly at work, the wife focuses on taking care of her home, husband and children. The western films depict a more accommodative perspective where the wife and husband are more like partners, on the same level in the marriage. The marriage is as a contract of mutual obligation and companionship (Miura, 2008).

Cinematic styles

The cinematic styles in western and eastern films also present a reason for the difference. Though they adopt some of the styles from the western society, the eastern films choose styles that cater for a singular society; this focuses on values, traditions and viewpoints. The uniqueness is evident through the settings, costumes, music, language and actors’ physical appearances. Differences in cinematic styles also emerge through a focus on performance, editing patterns, composition of film frames and rhythms. Modern western films, on the other hand, focus on an intensive cinematic style; this favors many close views, rapid cutting, extreme variances of lens length and many camera movements.


In conclusion, western and eastern films have often depicted unique differences; these exist due to a variety of reasons. Influenced by their respective cultures and ideologies, the differences are evident in the production of films. Despite the influence of both societies on each other’s movie production processes, the differences are still evident. The uniqueness of the films show through the depiction of ideologies, cultural influences, gender roles and differences, social values, cinematic styles and communication styles. Both western and eastern film makers continue focusing on making movies reflecting their cultures, practices and ideologies enhancing their uniqueness.


Miura, S. (2008). A Comparative Analysis of a Japanese Film and its American Remake. San Jose State University Scholar Works, Retrieved May 19, 2014 from http://scholarworks.sjsu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=4484&context=etd_theses

Yin, J. (2011). Popular Culture and Public Imaginary: Disney versus Chinese stories of Mulan. Javnost- The Public, 18(1): 53-74.

Zhang, F. (2009). Hero in the West and East. Winston-Salem: Wake Forest University, Retrieved May 19, 2014 from http://wakespace.lib.wfu.edu/bitstream/handle/10339/14822/FangZhang_Thesis.pdf