Aug 12, 2019 in Review

Gung Ho Film Analysis

The movie Gung Ho offers a depiction of the differences faced by two separate cultures while working together. They mainly consist of the lack of understanding and mutual liking. To get a clear comprehension of Gung Ho’s cultural importance, there is a need to look at the six Dimensions of Natural Culture by Geert Hofstede. Hofstede employs various measurements of the cultural world to explore and provide a more enhanced appreciation of cultural significance. These six dimensions include masculinity vs. femininity, the power distance index, pragmatism vs. normative, uncertainty avoidance index, indulgence vs. restraint, and individualism vs. collectivism. These dimensions act as measurements for the identification of cultural values and describe the differences between them. As every dimension results in measurement, this Hofstede’s theory permits the quantification of the results of the analysis. This makes the use of Hofstede’s model of Dimensions of National Culture exceptionally appreciated while comparing various cultures. 

There are a number of events in the Gung Ho film that relate to the six dimensions by Hofstede, explaining the effects the values and behaviors of a society have on that society’s culture. In this light, a comparison between American and Japanese cultures and a description of the effects these cultural differences may have on human resource and management practices in these countries have been portrayed in the Gung Ho film while employing the concepts of Geert Hofstede’s model.  

The high and low power distance styles between the American and Japanese cultures use the Power Distance Index by Hofstede. This dimension quantifies the recognition and anticipation of power distribution inequalities. The expectation and acceptance are represented by less powerful members of an institution. It denotes the measurement of disparity from below rather than above, suggesting that it is permitted by both the cream of the top and their supporters. This power distance index analysis of Japan made by Hofstede led to a tally of 54 contrasted with the United States of America’s tally of 40. The 54 tally of Japan is indicative of their being mindful of ranking that is appropriate for their social settings. It also points out that the Japanese act accordingly. The United States’ score of 40 has a lower power distance index compared to Japan, demonstrating the effects of their way of thinking which implies that everybody has their own uniqueness. This individual uniqueness, for the Americans, points out that all people are unequal. 

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There is a personification of the power distance index in the Gung Ho film presented by Keaton’s character. This is when he first arrives in Japan. Keaton meets Watanabe, who is undergoing a training program for management. Watanabe explains the reason for his wearing shame ribbons whilst pleading for one more chance to be a better manager. Keaton dismisses such accounts and does not view the management ritual or relationship as being important. In this instance, the Japanese, having a higher power distance index, would follow their superior’s orders without questioning more easily than their American colleagues.

On the uncertainty avoidance index, Hofstede measures the capacity of a culture to handle uncertain circumstances. Cultures that elude uncertainty make it through the implementation of laws and regulations for their protection, and are commonly inspired by their panicky drive. Cultures that embrace uncertainty, on the other hand, are more lenient to divergent ideas, attempt to have lesser laws and are more open to various philosophies and religions. The US scores below an average mark of 46, demonstrating their fair acceptance of new concepts and their inclination to perceive new things as being relative. Japan is among the countries that avoid uncertainty the most with a tally of 92. This is habitually ascribed to the persistent danger of natural disasters. However, it is not transferred to the corporate world and is evidenced in the long and comprehensive process of decision-making Japan follows. 

Throughout the film, Gung Ho, the American and Japanese cultures clash. This leaves the viewers pondering on whether these two cultures will be able to embrace each other, and whether the industry will attain success. Eventually, the positive appraisal of the two cultures is required to save the small town. This uncertainty is the film’s basis. 

The pragmatic versus normative dimension explains the way society seeks to preserve some connection with its past so as to face both present and future challenges. The US has a normative tally of 26 and is focused on the present, having traditional values, and tends to a short-term basis of measuring performance. Japan is pragmatic with a tally of 88, focused on the future and insists on virtue. It also tends to gauge performance on a long-term basis.

Gung Ho demonstrates the pragmatic and normative nature of these two cultures when Keaton gets to know that Assan may never open the plant in Keaton’s town. Keaton was anticipating an instant action for his employees, demonstrating American present-orientation while Assan’s management was designing their company’s future, showing the futuristic orientation of the Japanese. 

The individualism versus collectivism dimension gauges the level to which people look after themselves and their close families or incline to join larger groups. In collectivism, allegiance is to the group rather than the individual. The US has a more individualistic culture. Together with their low power distance index, the US inclines towards emphasizing personal success, equal rights and low authority reliance. Managers and workers turn to each other regularly and share information openly. Japan is more collectivist, emphasizing harmony and loyalty to the company and group with paternalistic practices being common. 

In the movie, Japanese employees receive lower wages without complaining but have higher consistent production rate. American employees, however, show less devotion to the company, evidenced by Keaton trying to persuade his workers to meet the 15,000 quota of production. Instead of forming a concession to meet the plant’s objective as the Japanese had, the Americans started talking themselves out of attaining the goal and seeking means of lowering it. It was Keaton’s discovery that without the same standard of loyalty to the company, the American employees were not as inspired to meet the desired goal. 

Masculinity versus femininity denotes the delivery of emotional roles and principles such as achievement and assertiveness versus nurturing and social support sometimes linked with gender roles. The US is both a masculine and individualistic, and values individual success. Japan, on the other hand, is majorly masculine. 

The masculinity of America and Japan is depicted at the film’s end when the employees recognized they would not meet the production quota. Trying to meet the objective, the Americans decide to take shortcuts, and Keaton makes the major decisions. Assan management examines the last vehicles and fires him because of dissatisfaction. Keaton persuades Assan to offer them another chance by likening their performance to the triumph of basketball team. This symbolizes American masculine and individualistic cultural dimensions. 

There are various American and Japanese management styles and practices impacted by these cultural differences. They include leadership style, managing people, communication, gender roles, and the concept of authority, diversity, and approach to conflict. 

In the American setting, a leader has an inclination to act as the group’s head. These leaders communicate clearly and directly, cutting through from the top to bottom. Japanese leaders, on the other hand, implement a rather patriarchal style, acting as members of the group. Communication for the Japanese is habitually from the bottom upwards. Keaton demonstrated American leadership by speaking for the people and meeting directly with the plant’s management, who came to Keaton together rather than individually. 

The Japanese opt for a more collective way of managing the people while the Americans choose to take up the management at the individual level. In most instances, communication for the Americans is direct regardless of the levels or positions of the people communicating. In Gung Ho, the Americans approach Keaton directly and he addresses them directly. The Japanese, on the other hand, opt for indirect communication, going up the corporate ladder. They employed the Assan management group to relay their views on their behalf. Gender roles for both cultures are majorly masculine with minor considerations for femininity. The concept of authority for both the Americans and Japanese is based on the shared approach towards the group idea, the emphasis on collective and not personal values and doctrines. The authority is chiefly aimed at the people rather than the individual.  For the Japanese a conflict is majorly a disciplinary action rather than a corrective measure, whereas the American approach to conflict takes a rather corrective approach. This approach seeks to have things mended rather than thrown out. It is a fixer approach. It becomes evident when Assan management inspected the final vehicles, and fired Keaton because of dissatisfaction. Keaton, however, persuaded Assan to offer them another chance and succeeded. 

The film Gung Ho is a clear demonstration of our cultural differences and it offers the ways in which these cultures can be reconciled in order to achieve success. It teaches about the requirement of unity and the importance of compromise. In the end, everyone’s goal is to be successful no matter what their cultural backgrounds or environments are. In Gung Ho, the Americans and Japanese manage to meet the plant’s goal of 15,000 production quota. This happened despite having different cultures and practices. In anything we seek to achieve, we ought to take other people’ interests into consideration and appreciate our differences, trying to reconcile these differences for a common achievement.

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