Tampopo and the employee

Screen Shot 2013-10-11 at 下午8.23.14

I think the shot above in Tampopo is one of the most important scenes. It reveals the social hierarchy and the etiquette for a business meeting by an employee, indicating an analogy to the situation that Tampopo faces in her Ramen restaurant. Through the comparison of the shot and rest of the movie, the employee and Tampopo are similar in three ways. They share comparatively similar social status; their lack of ability impedes their self-development or adaptation to the society; however, their destination is not determined by where they start.

At first, others do not treat people with low social status politely. In this shot, the supervisor drags the employee from the back rudely, suggesting that the employee is not of the same social level as him and the others. Tampopo as its name is an ordinary person. Her restaurant is also a “Tampopo”, comparing with the fancy French restaurant – “Sakura”. As the employee, at the beginning of the movie, Tampopo is flirted by an uncultivated guy. Therefore, can we conclude that “small people” are not being respected in Japanese society simply because they are “small”?

The employee and Tampopo both show a lack of knowledge of the their fields and their responsibilities. People in the scene are apparently of various ages. According to the etiquette in Japan, the elder or those with higher social status should seat first and usually farthest from the door. The small employee, the youngest with lowest status in the room, should seat after everyone else, but he seems to be unfamiliar with this convention. Tampopo owns an unpopular Ramen restaurant because she almost knows nothing about how to make proper Ramen and how to offer customers with the best service. For me, Tampopo is not a responsible owner and chef. Not only because her insufficiency of knowledge, but also she does not even have the desire to improve her work before the advent of Guro. The coming of Guro is a present from god. Tampopo is always waiting for the present to come by itself and never go to find it actively.

However, later in the movie, “small people” are elevated. The employee humiliates the other men by his mastery of French and French cuisine even though the others try to pretend that they make their serious decisions of the meal after thinking for a while. Under the rigorous training of Guro, Tampopo improves her proficiency in making Ramen and learns how to get feedback by customers’ facial expression and gestures. With Tampopo’s constant efforts, she finally succeeds.

The former inferiority of “small people” partly shown in the shot gives a contrast to their latter success. On the contrary, the arrogant are ashamed later in the movie. In my point of view, director uses those plots to convey that people are all equal. Even “small people” can have dreams and succeed. What one used to be does not decrease any chances of having a nice future.

Since Tampopo is a comedy, it can show a happy ending that might not be able to happen in the real world. The happy ending in the movie is another contrast with the hardship in out real life. In Japan, does “small people” really have a great chance to achieve upward movement?

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