I mentioned in my Christmas post that a lot of what Uyghurs know, or think they know about western culture comes from what they see in movies. This point was further verified to my classmate and I recently when we went visiting over the holiday. Uyghurs do watch a lot of Hollywood movies, (likely because they are sold in the underground DVD market real cheap) but their favourite of all is Korean dramas. All of my teachers are addicted to Korean dramas, which have all been translated into Uyghur and are daily shown on television. Uyghur culture and Korean culture are very similar in how they respect elders and the lack of public displays of affection on TV. When we visit student's dorm rooms they have large pictures hanging above their beds of their favourite Korean actors, and our teachers are always talking about what happened on the latest episode.
My classmate is Korean American and so people are always asking her questions about Korea and the latest drama. When we were visiting over the holiday we went to a friend’s house. She had four or five other women over visiting, all of whom live in the country side. One of these women knew a lot about her favourite movie star and therefore she figured she knew a lot about Korea in general. She looked my friend up and down and said, “you are pretty, when did you have your plastic surgery done?” (it took us a while to understand since plastic surgery was not covered in our textbook). My classmate was rightfully a little shocked and taken back. The woman went on to explain that she had read some where the large percentage of Korean actors that have plastic surgery, and that even a lot of none actors are starting to also have surgery. Her own reasoning therefore said “they must be an ugly people group if everyone needs plastic surgery”. My classmate, however, was not ugly so she figured she must have had work done to get that way.
It just goes to prove that you can’t believe everything that you see on TV, and have to be very careful about drawing assumptions from a limited amount of knowledge. This is a good rule for me. In the last few weeks all of my local friends have been busy preparing for exams and studying so my new favourite pass time is watching Uyghur movies. It is great since now I can actually understand some dialogue and see some of the culture played out in front of me.