Published on International Journal of Social, Politics & Humanities
Publication Date: April 15, 2019
Media Arts, University of Abuja
Journal Full Text PDF: Culture Shock: Lessons from Ayo Makun’s 30 Days in Atlanta.
Media of communication perform certain functions such as informing, entertaining, educating and surveillance. Film as an integral part of these media performs the above functions. “Culture Shock: Lessons from Ayo Makun’s 30 Days in Atlanta” succinctly exhumes the power of film in addressing societal happenings through culture. The study employs qualitative narrative analysis in tackling the research objective. Findings from the study reveal inherent socio-economic lessons to be learned from Ayo Makun’s 30 Days in Atlanta.
Keywords: Culture, Culture shock, Film & Society.
Every society on earth is tied to one culture or the other. Culture is as old as mankind. Its relevance in society cannot be underestimated. The term culture is credited to Sir Edward Taylor. Taylor (as cited in Danbello and Dakogol, 2015) opines that culture is the complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, moral, law, custom and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society. From the preceding definition, it is evident that as a member of a society, one either learns or shares a culture. However, Adeleke (2003) is of the view that culture is a communal entity as it reflects the being of an individual in its entirety. Culture thus gives a group of people its peculiar identity”. Furthermore, Adeleke submits that culture is both tangible and intangible. Tangible culture entails the physical material we can touch and feel. For instance clothes, food, artifacts, etc. while the intangible or untouchable cultures are the norms and value of a people or a society. These values are inherent in the being of an individual (Adeleke, 2003). Our focus in this paper is on the intangible culture. They include the peoples’ religion, beliefs, values, norms, knowledge etc. Irele (1991, p.51) calls this aspect of culture ‘inner’ culture or ‘the spirit of a people’.
As mentioned at the start of this paper, every society is tied to one form of culture or the other. An individual in a society is conversant with his/her culture. The kind of clothing they wear, the food they eat, the way they exchange pleasantries among others. However, living among members of another culture may make an individual learn the culture of their host, consciously or unconsciously. Besides, visiting another society for the first may even pose some challenges or confusion to a person. In this situation, we say the person is culture-shocked. Culture shock is the feeling of disorientation experienced by someone when they are suddenly exposed to unfamiliar culture, or a way of life, or set of attitudes. Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines culture shock as a sense of confusion and uncertainty sometimes with feelings of worry that may affect people exposed to an alien culture or environment without adequate preparation. Furthermore, culture shock is the experience an individual may have when one moves to a cultural surroundings which is distinct from a person’s own; it is also the personal disorganization a person may feel when experiencing an foreign way of life due to immigration or a visit to a new country, a move between social environments, or just transition to another type of life. One of the most prevailing causes of culture shock involves individuals in a foreign environment (para.1).
30 Days in Atlanta is a comedy film by a Nigerian comedian, Ayo Makun, popularly known as AY. The film chronicles the journey of an illiterate character called Akpos to Atlanta in the United States. On arrival to America for the first time, Akpos was met with the peoples’ diverse ways of doing things. On several occasions, Akpos has to vehemently oppose the Americans ways of life.
2. OBJECTIVE OF THE STUDY
The main aim of this study is to highlight some vital lessons that could be learned from Akpos’s experience in America. The paper presents some of these lessons in thematically for a better understanding. Akpos speaks Nigerian Pidgin English, so, his utterances are italized in Nigerian Pidgin English. These utterances are translated into pure English Language as we will see in the body of the paper.
This paper adopted the qualitative narrative analysis in tackling the research objectives. This methodology of analysis affords the researcher some flexibility and depth.
• Child Upbringing
In this scene in the film, a white woman tries to persuade her small daughter home, and she resists her mother. Akpos looks surprised from a distance and utters these words: shuuu! Heeee! I too like Warri. If to say na Warri ee dem for don press small hot konk for her head… .(I love Warri very much. If it were to be in Warri, someone would have given her a hot knock on her head…) Akpos was confused and disoriented to see this kind of situation in Atlanta. His traditional belief, taking into cognizance where he came from (Nigeria), a child should listen to the parents, and in fact anyone that is not his/her age mate despite what. Still shocked at the situation, Akpos walks closer to the small girl and he says: where you! If na bon you ehh, I for use eeh take exchange recharge card (If I were your parent, I will exchange for a recharge/call credit). Ironically to Akpos, the girl’s mum rebukes him. At this juncture, Richard, Akpos’s cousin drags him away from the scene. Richard (an enlightened fellow) reminded Akpos that he could not try those things he threatened in America. He further intimated Akpos that if he tries it, he would be arrested by the police. This scene portrays a deal of culture shock to Akpos. To him, a small girl should not dictate to the parents. But the reverse is the case in the United States. The small girl of probably 3-4 years vehemently tells the mum: you don’t tell me what to do. In Africa, particularly Nigeria, just as Akpos walked closer to the young girl and rebuked her, a total stranger may even spank her because of the manner she talked back at her mother. And an African may even appreciate the stranger. Traditional African society believes in the collective upbringing of a child. This is in contrast to the West philosophy of individualism. The West or European believes that individual should have their personal rights, just as the young girl expressed her’s. But the question is, does she know the “good” from the “bad” at that age? My opinion is, a child of that age should be carefully watched and tutored. However, the form of attitude as expressed by the white woman and her daughter can be found in present day African society, especially among the elites in the urban cities. These sets of people have imbibed the western philosophy of “freedom”. But to Akpos, that should not case.
• Regulating Alcohol Consumption/Drug Abuse
Akpos and his cousin, Richard, walk into a bar and he- asks for a beer. The following dialogue ensued between Akpos and the bartender:
Akpos: Eeeh! Where you, you give me beer.
Bartender: you want beer? Do you have a valid ID sir?
At this point, Akpos asks his cousin what the bar tender meant by the question. Richards narrates to Akpos that the bartender wants to know if he (Akpos) is up to 21 years old. This explanation provokes Akpos and he started ranting: Abeg give me beer. I get my moni to buy the beer. Na wetin dey work you? (Please give me beer. I am buying the beer with my money. What is wrong with you?). The bartender insists she needs to see a valid ID before she sells beer to him and threatens to call the police. To Akpos, it is an irony of situation for someone with his/her money to be denied beer in a pub. In a typical Nigerian situation, as much as one has the money, they can buy whatever brand of alcohol they desire. But that is not the scenario in America as portrays in the film. The film portrays American society as a society where alcohol regulation is enforced. Akpos is culture-shocked because in Nigeria it is a common site to see public pubs, popularly known as beer parlour everywhere. It is pertinent to point out that alcohol producers are mandated by the regulating agency to inscribe on their brand: not to be sold to a person under 18. Despite this, people of different age, ranging from minor could purchase alcohol from any place at any time. The sellers of alcohol do not want to know the age of any individual that wishes to buy the product as long as he/she could afford the product. This brings us to the issue of regulation. Regulating alcohol consumption should be tightened in African societies. In Nigeria, the duty of regulation may fall within the confines of Consumer Protection Council (CPC) or National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC). These government agencies should have spies that monitor alcohol sellers/distributors. With this, some sort of control or regulation will be enforced. Furthermore, public pubs or beer parlours should be properly licensed, supervised and monitored by the relevant authorities because it is a common sight to see beer palours scattered in streets.
The expression of Akpos is that of a typical Nigerian man that believes he can get whatever brand of alcohol he needs at any time and place. This could be linked to self-medication/drug abuse. Self-medication is a rampant case in Nigeria. An individual can easily walk into a patent medicine store and demand to buy their desired drugs without a doctor’s prescription. This is not obtainable in western countries. For instance, for an individual to buy a painkiller he/she may need to present a doctor’s report. Those that get these drugs easily get them illegally- through the black market, and they are usually costly. This is a gauge to the fact that we need to have robust regulatory frameworks in respect of drugs.