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The Gods Must Be Crazy

Page history last edited by goldenapple 7 years, 1 month ago


FILM: THE GODS MUST BE CRAZY (1980) (South Africa)




  • Summary: A comic allegory about a traveling Bushman who encounters modern civilization and its stranger aspects, including a clumsy scientist and a band of revolutionaries.
  • Storyline: A Sho in the Kalahari desert encounters technology for the first time--in the shape of a Coke bottle. He takes it back to his people, and they use it for many tasks. The people start to fight over it, so he decides to return it to the God--where he thinks it came from. Meanwhile, we are introduced to a school teacher assigned to a small village, a despotic revolutionary, and a clumsy biologist.
  • Details:





  1. FIRST:  Please watch the film The Gods Must Be Crazy (1980).
    1. Where?
      1. Stream it - search CanIStream.it for The Gods Must Be Crazy to find a site such as Crackle.comHulu.comYouTube.com, or another site where you can watch the film online. (NOTE: The running time for the full-length film is between 1:09:00 and 1:48:51 minutes. Do not mistake a trailer or excerpt for the film itself.)
      2. Rent it - e.g., at a Redbox kiosk.
      3. Borrow it - from your local public library.
  2. NEXT: Work in teams of 4 to discuss the eight (8) sets of questions posted in the Discussion Forum.
    1. The first five sets of questions were taken from "The Gods Must Be Crazy Study Guide: Cultural Myths and Beliefs."  I added the questions 6 - 8. 
    2. Upload your team's answers to the quiz. Upload only one set of answers per team; include the names of all team members in your post.
  3. NEXT WEEK Come to class next prepared to present your answers.  I will randomly call ON people to present on behalf of their team.


DISCUSSION QUESTIONS -  (you can download a hard copy from here)

1. The Coke bottle: Acceptance, adaptation, and aggravation

The culture of the Bushmen of Botswana traditionally is a nomadic lifestyle, centered on the Kalahari Desert. In this environment, Bushmen were unfamiliar with natural hard substances that could be used as tools (like rocks or wood) or with man-made hard substances (like metal or glass). However, they quickly accepted the glass bottle and adapted to this new hard substance.

a) What uses did they find for it? 

b) What problems did it create in the society?


2. The Coke bottle: its origin story and the task

Xi' s culture had a strong belief system, and so the discovery of the bottle was quickly associated with the gods.

a) How did they explain the arrival of the Coke bottle?

b) What task did Xi accept, and why was he so determined to carry out this task?


3. Cultural interpretations of property ownership, the goat, and the consequences

Because the Bushmen were nomadic, they owned very few possessions and had no concept of ownership. This is very different from Western materialistic culture, wherein people with many possessions are given higher status, display their wealth, and have enacted many laws to protect property.

a) Why did Xi decide to spear and cook the goat?

b) How was his action interpreted by the Botswanan authorities?

c) Lack of inter-cultural understanding almost caused Xi to die - why was this?


4. Reactions to clothing and Miss Thompson

The Bushmen had a style of clothing which suited their environment, but Xi's reaction to Miss Thompson when he sees her dressing indicated that he had little understanding/acceptance of any other type of clothing. This reaction is the result of ethnocentrism. In Xi's case, it was understandable, because (we presume) he had never seen a white person before.

a) Summarize briefly why he was shocked by Miss Thompson.

b) The naturalist Mr. Steyne, on the other hand, was clearly impressed by Miss Thompson. What made her attractive to his Western eyes?


5. Does the punishment fit the crime...or the culture?

Mr. Steyne's assistant acted as an interpreter for the Bushman. He understood the cultural differences between the importance that modern industrial society places on time and its irrelevance for the Bushmen.

a) Why was he so horrified when Xi was locked up for 3 months?

b) Explain why this punishment was chosen by the powerful Botswanan authorities.

c)Why was this punishment totally unsuitable for someone from a culture like Xi's?


6. About the film's star

a) Read the Wikipedia: N!xau, the biography of the film's star.

b) Comment on how he bridges multiple cultural identities and how his cultural identification has affected his life's choices.

c) Comment on how his cultural difference from that of the filmmakers has affected his treatment compared to that of the film's other stars.


7. The Challenge of the Intercultural

Researcher Timothy Weiss published an article titled, "The Gods Must Be Crazy: The Challenge of the Intercultural", in Journal of Business and Technical Communication, v7, n2 p196-217, Apr 1993. Read the abstract here.

Let's examine why Weiss selected that title for his article.

a) What cultural groups does the film portray? Name them and specify the factors that distinguish among these groups.

b) What characters serve as bridges between multiple cultures? Explain your answers.

c) Cite terms and concepts from the textbook that explain why The Gods Must Be Crazy can be characterized as "The Challenge of the Intercultural".


8. Television Tropes and Idioms

a) Wikipedia: Trope (literature) defines a trope as: "the use of figurative language – via word, phrase, or even an image – for artistic effect[1] such as using a figure of speech. The word trope has also come to be used for describing commonly recurring literary and rhetorical devices,[2] motifs or clichés in creative works.[3][4]


b) Read TV Tropes: The Gods Must Be Crazy [http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Film/TheGodsMustBeCrazy?from=Main.TheGodsMustBeCrazy]

c) Select two of the TV Tropes from that site and briefly discuss how they reflect cross cultural concepts discussed in this week's readings and class discussions


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