Jason, over at Kimchi Ice Cream, has a really interesting post up that discusses Korean Wedding Hall culture, and the ways it resembles weddings back home, but that resemblance, in the end, only serves to bring the differences into even starker, more jarring contrast.
This reminds me of one of the most interesting insights Brian in JD had talking about Korean Christmas: Brian uses the "Uncanny Valley" idea to talk about Korean treatments of Western cultural practices, and I think it's apt.
The uncanny valley is a robotics term: experts found that as AI and robots behave more like humans, we respond to them more positively, but beyond a certain point, it creeps us out instead of making us like the robots, and we focus on the differences instead of the similarities: it's easier to sympathise with the cartoonish Mr. Incredible than with the nearly photorealistic characters in the Final Fantasy movie, and in NHL '94 it was SO COOL that you could make Wayne Gretzky's head bleed, but in NFL 2010 those touchdown dances seem a little too graceful for NFL players.
(from Swingers: warning: language)
Jason's description of Korean weddings, which is highly worth reading, seems to support this uncanny valley idea. I think a wholly traditional Korean wedding, with Korean-only reference points, would be a nicer experience than the "Disneyland/Vegas" wedding Jason describes. The wedding that seems to want to be taken on Western terms gets under our defenses... but then smacks us in the face even more sharply with its differences, because it seemed to hint that it would meet our expectations for weddings from back home. It's the old bait-and-switch.
Korean Christmas is another good example of this. The music is similar...ish; the decorations are similar...ish but it's a freaking couple holiday!!!
I'd like to look a little more at this funny spot where expectations and practices clash between cultures. I began writing about it, and the post ballooned into what I'll break up into a series, for the sake of me, you, and time. I'd been planning to write an article about the other side: observations about my Korean students' views of cultural change - for a while anyway, so now seems like a good time.
The three parts will be as follows: first a look Korean cultural change as viewed by Koreans, next, Korean cultural change (especially co-opting of foreign elements) as viewed by expats, and finally, Korean culture abroad: what will Koreans do if Korean culture really DOES become popular in the West, as everybody allegedly wants to happen? I'll use a lot of my own observations, and stuff I've noticed during this semester's discussion classes, in the series. Until the next post, you should go read Jason's article about Wedding Halls/Castles.
Jason takes a thoughtful, intelligent look at the way Koreans have taken Western weddings, isolated a few elements, exaggerated a few elements to cartoonish heights, and discarded the rest. He mentions purity, which triggered some stuff for me, because I've been thinking about writing about this topic of what I call cultural cross-pollination, but from the exact opposite side.
Here's part 1 of my series: Korean cultural change to older Koreans