The Joy Luck Club A Semiotic Critique.
The Joy Luck Club as an exercise in semiotic critique. Luckily, the film lends it's self very well this discipline. There are four main subjects of the semiotic method: Rhetorical is the film's intentional meaning or message. Realist means true to life, does June act the way real humans would? Do the characters stay true to themselves? Formalist illustrates how the shots of the film combine to "mean" use of flashbacks, long landscape shots, and short quick editing. Mise-en-scene is the environment of the film, the sets, lighting, and costumes. Now, while these are not the only semiotic guidelines but they are the ones I"m going to focus on for this paper.
The Rhetorical aspects of this film are apparent. If you believe the following: that the film is directed toward women, that it being the story of four mothers and their daughters and family is universal, that the relationships between mothers and their daughters are as complex and emotional as any relationship could ever be. What the film attempts to show us is that the mothers are Chinese and their daughters are Chinese-American and face a set of problems, that although may seem different than a Caucasian mother-daughter relationship really are not beyond the common. The mothers do have difficult time relating to their daughters, there is not only a generational gap:.
June Woo " I talked to her in English and she answered back in Chinese".
There is also a translation gap:.
June Woo "We translated each others meanings and I seemed to hear less, while my mother heard more".
And cultural gap:.
Lindo Jong "Why I should pay $90 for hair cut? To look like you?".
These mothers and their daughters know each other. They, like us all just can't always come up with the correct words, so they mistake caring for conniving and assistance for hindrance. By the end of the story, (or the beginning, as the film begins just before June goes to China) the girls know much about their mothers.