I’ve always enjoyed stories that take a part of culture with a seemingly simplistic explanation, or an explanation that the majority is not interested in, and unravel it. In this process, something that I have taken for granted is seen completely different.
The Big Think video “The Truth about your Chinese Takeout Video” does exactly this. In a more condensed form, the video creates a deeper meaning to mundane things like how John Wilson transformed my view on scaffolding in his 2020 documentary “How to with John Wilson.” Or what the Canadian Television series “How It’s Made” caused me to rethink the complexity of modern luxuries like a toothbrush.
The Chinese takeout box is yet another example of the history, culture, and innovation packed into making life so simple for people in the 21st century. The video shows that nothing is truly authentic through the visualization of an American flag being rammed into a box of fried rice. At this point, it is revealed that we have been duped. The “Chinese” take-out box is not a Chinese invention. It is in fact American or at least invented by an American. However, as usual, some stealing was done to achieve the masterpiece that is a takeout box.
The video informs the viewer that the style was inspired by Japanese origami. However, originally it was neither named the “Japanese box,” nor “Chinese box,” but rather the Paper Pail. This made me think about the fact that the West loves to take ideas from other cultures and make them less cool. On a more serious note, I wondered if this could be considered a form of cultural appropriation. Especially the “Chinese” style font pasted on the side to increase the illusion of authenticity. If taking a culture’s traditional clothing in order to look stylish is wrong, isn’t taking an art form to produce profit equally evil?
I think the video failed to consider this point. However, that conversation cannot be covered in 2 minutes. Considering the time, I think the video was able to pack in a lot of information in a short time. They did this through fast-paced narration, interesting visuals, and historical footage.
From here on out I will look at the Chinese take-out box as an example of the globalizing world we live in. For this reason, I think that Big Think achieved its mission.