The Intimacy of Touch

When working with my two project partners from China, Vicky and Jolie, three things were made absolutely apparent. First, that they were more than ecstatic at discovering that, despite my name, I was a girl. Second, the reason they were happy I was a girl was because they wanted to focus on romance for the film project. And third, obviously gender stereotypes are more cross-cultural than the actual romances we were discussing. Personally, I do not like romance movies, but I was roped into the project due to my partners’ enthusiasm. While they pointed me towards the romantic comedy You Are the Apple of My Eye (2011), I led them in the direction of A Walk to Remember (2002).

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The basics of the films were essentially the same: boy meets girl, boy falls in love, boy tries desperately to woo girl by changing aspects of themselves, girl tries not to fall in love, girl falls in love anyway. Also, both films were based off of novels of the same name. The one major difference, however, lay in that You Are the Apple of My Eye is a true story, whereas A Walk to Remember follows the basic fictional plot Nicholas Sparks sets out in his novels. Knowing that it was a true story, You Are the Apple of My Eye was easier to watch, because it was not the typical Hollywood-style romance. This is apparent in the fact that not only does the boy fail to get the girl, but that the boy and girl only have physical contact exactly one time during their relations. The physical act of placing a part of your body, whether it is a hand, arm, etc., on another person can be seen as intimate contact. However, physical contact with another person is not at all seen as odd in American society. Close friends will hug, drape themselves about one another, and possibly even hold hands, simply displaying the level of comfort they feel with one another. From what I learned through the movie, and through my partners, is that this is not common in China. It was described to me that holding hands was at a level of intimacy that could be uncommon to observe even when people were dating.

 

You Are the Apple of My Eye (2011)

This Taiwanese romance film focuses on a mainly on one girl, Shen Chia-Yi, and the boy who tries to win her over, Ko Ching-Teng. The story takes place between 1994 and 2004, focusing on the comedic pursuits of Shen Chia-Yi by not only Ko Ching-Teng from high school through college. Though Ching-Teng and Chia-Yi fall in love and want to be together, they never end up with one another due to their differences. There is a main focus placed on the idea of touch in the film, because it shows the intimacy between characters. The one time that Screen Shot 2013-04-16 at 2.30.34 PMChing-Ten touches Chia-Yi he is comforting her, and he is very hesitant to even touch her. All other contact between the two characters is done vicariously through holding the same items, such as a lantern, or believing that when they danced with someone that they were actually touching the other person. Their entire relationship existed through other forms of intimacy, like phone calls and presents they give one another. Even at the end of the film, when Ching-Teng “kisses” Chia-Yi, he is only kissing her husband in the way he wanted to kiss her.

It is suggested in the film that it is because they never reached the level of intimacy where they touched one another that their relationship never developed. However, sometimes relationships are better when that level of intimacy is not reached. As Ching-Teng states, “If you really like a girl, it is impossible to see her marry to another guy and still bless them. But I am wrong. In fact, when you really like a girl, you’d be happy for her when you see her finding her Mr. Right. You will want them to be together, and to live happily ever after.”

 

A Walk to Remember (2002)

This American romance film is set in 1998 and encompasses the story of Landon Carter and Jamie Sullivan, tumblr_mlpisaKZwc1r637swo1_500following their story from high school up until their early marriage. The story mainly surrounds Jamie’s battle
with leukemia, and Landon helping her to accomplish a list of things she wants to do before she dies. It is around this list that their relationship blooms, and leads to the dedication that they will spend the rest of their lives together, no matter how short Jamie’s life may be. Their entire relationship is built off of the intimate moments and touches they have with one another. The relationship itself begins with a kiss, and progresses from that kiss into more intimate touches like the placing of a temporary butterfly tattoo on Jamie’s shoulder. Though the touches were once hesitant, they progressively get more comfortable with one another. At first they believe that their relationship will not work because of their differences, but they overcome them with the power of love. They reach the highest level of intimacy with their marriage, sealing their bond as husband and wife.

 

The Cross-Cultural Comparison

Watching both of these films, it is apparent that the intimacy of touch breaks the borders between people and leads them into relationships. The similarities between the develop of romances displays that relationships, no matter what country a couple is in, begin the same way. Though the touches and intimacies were few in You Are the Apple of My Eye it is viewed normal regarding the culture. Were the touch not involved in A Walk to Remember then there would have been no confirmation that the boy and the girl wanted to be together. American relationships focus on the intimacy between the people involved; without that intimacy then there is no difference between a romantic relationship and a simple friendship.

The understanding of the intimacy of touch is what I gained from this cross-cultural experience. Where my partners found it odd that in A Walk to Remember they touched each other so much, I was left puzzling over why they never touched in You Are the Apple of My Eye. The pursuit of relationships is different between countries, where in one pulling someone into a kiss can be the start of a relationship, while in another poking someone with a pen can display intimate feelings. Both films also go into the idea that in a relationship, or in life in general, you do not expect to get something out of it. Similar to studying for a test, like in You Are the Apple of My Eye, or performing in a play, like in A Walk to Remember, the outcome may not do anything for you. Similarly, the relationships were not pursued in to gain anything from them. Both the boys and girls pursued their love simply because they wanted to, which acted as a freedom from strict societal boundaries and expectations. There is a whimsical feel about the relationships, and it is clear that the feelings on both ends are pure. Whether the characters touched or not, they overcame the boundaries between each other to gain an intimacy found within rewarding, romantic relationships.

Despite the differences in touch, the idea surrounding both of the movies is clear: if you truly love a person, you will want them to be happy. This message of love and understanding can surpass all cultural boundaries.

 

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Screenshots from “You Are the Apple of My Eye” (2011)