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Cultural logic, ethos, and ideology all point to systems or institutions sharing in certain belief patterns such as to project a shared consciousness across a select populace. If one were to extract a pattern using the above three variables as a basis for rhetorical analysis, one would then be in a position to not only detect the effect a given text or document bears on a given audience, but also gauge its efficacy within a given context. “Why Do People Freak Out About MSG in Chinese Food? | AJ+”, produced by Yara Elmjouie, accesses the stigma, perceptions, misconceptions and attitudes borne by many in the Western world when it comes to Chinese foods containing monosodium glutamate [MSG].
In the short documentary, the presented argues that far from common belief that MSG-laden foods are dangerous, many foodstuffs currently consumed in the US contain the chemical product. Elmjouie’s argument is that most of the cultural hysteria and distrust over Chinese foodstuffs containing MSG stems from racially-motivated suspicion that translates to a shared cultural logic among Americans whose ethos, the characteristic spirit of what makes one an American, adopts a distaste for many things foreign thus assumes the aspect of national ideology.
It goes without saying that different people perceive the same things differently. The way one group of people react to a given sensation or topic differs from the way others would receive similar sensations. This in some ways encapsulates the meaning of cultural logics. In the documentary clip, Elmjouie demonstrates that while 1.
4 billion Chinese – an assumption he makes that all Chinese have no problem with MSG – relish food laden with MSG, the case is different in America. To the contrary, as Yara demonstrates, many food products sold in Western countries contain MSG and the chemical compound is even listed among the ingredients for many foodstuffs.
On the other hand, the presenter’s argument that the basis for distrust over Chinese food containing MSG lies under racist perception is insufficient to warrant acceptance yet substantial enough to deserve address. As Yara demonstrates, many popular and branded food products contain MSG. These products, as revealed, pass FDA approval hence are a trusted commodity for consumption for many westerners. Rather, it could be argued that the distrust for MSG, especially foreign food products containing MSG, stems from fears over sub-standard food safety practices in foreign states.
Notwithstanding concerns over food standards in foreign countries is the tacit realization that many chefs and people in western countries prefer cooking MSG-containing food for private use or in restaurants. As a natural product, it is argued that concerns over poisoning or potential harm brought about by consumption of MSG bears little merit. It can therefore be argued that concerns over MSG derive from its lack of recognition as an element of cultural character. The presenter notes that Italian food, usually liberally seasoned with garlic and other spicy ingredients, initially received negative reception by Americans decades ago while today, are a celebrated ingredient to Americans.
This demonstrates that garlic, over time, came to be accepted as part of the American spirit when it comes to cuisines and this manifests in the attitudes many Americans today bear towards garlic and Italian foods. The reverse of the same ethos extended towards Italian foods that previously were received with suspicion and condensation as ‘un-American’ yet today are considered common and popular can thus be seen in the way MSG is perceived. The idea of cultural perception thus introduces us to the notion of ideology as extends to a nation’s preference – and abhorrence – for particular items such as food. Yara reveals that many American chefs fear to include MSG as part of the ingredients used in food preparation The presenter notes that Italian food, usually liberally seasoned with garlic and other spicy ingredients, initially received negative reception by Americans decades ago while today, are a celebrated ingredient to Americans.
The documentary notes that many older-generation Americans bear negative attitudes towards MSG and go to the extent of harassing chefs using MSG in America. This form of cultural stereotype that harbors fear for ‘non-American’ products or cultural items such as MSG extends beyond mere ethos where one identifies with a given practice and goes further than a set group of people whose reference stems from a certain cultural perspective or logics. Instead, it demonstrates one’s bearing and adherence to a set of normative beliefs of value standards whose reason limits itself to not only personal likes, but the projection of a national consciousness that regards certain items as ‘American’ and others as ‘non-American’.
In conclusion, while the presenter fails to determine that fear and abhorrence over MSG in food stems from racist inclinations, inadvertently or otherwise, he effectively demonstrates that the subject belongs to a case of cultural logics where the way people view MSG depends on where they come from. Additionally, the question of ethos or characteristic spirit of a people is effectively demonstrated due to people’s reaction in favoring American-made food containing MSG over Chinese cooked foodstuffs.
He shows that far from a distinct dislike for MSG, Americans demonstrate a preference for MSG with the caveat that it comes from trusted sources. Conversely, it is this very ethos that provokes charges of racist perception of Chinese foods when we view some Americans harassing chefs over their choice of ingredients. Here, the demonstration reveals the existence of a national ideology that rejects foreign items or cultural values in preference of domestic ones, a subject easily confused for racism. Ultimately, while the presenter fails to prove that American distaste or fear over MSG stems from racist inclinations, he nevertheless reveals a manifest preference for American-made and owned substances, items and values by Americans.
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