How Feeling Rules Affect Identity

by vscott95 on November 18, 2013 - 11:09pm

            In the film “Somewhere Between” (Goldstein Knowlton, 2011), four families experience and face social problems with feeling rules by means of social interaction and what is appropriate while trying to understand and raise adopted girls from China. All of these girls were directly affected by China’s One Child Policy, and their families were somehow incapable of keeping them in their family. While all of the girls know they have Chinese roots, not all of them quite understand or feel directly connected. In fact, Jenna, one of the teenagers featured in this film, referred to herself as a “twinkie”, as white on the inside and yellow on the outside, while her sister rebutted and said she felt more like a mixture of American and Chinese. Another teenager, Jenny, or Fang (her Chinese name), is shown as a small child being sang the happy birthday song in Mandarin by her family with a cake written on in Mandarin, and then is again shown being sang to in English with English writing on her cake. Jenny’s mother, in an attempt to be able to socially interact with her daughter at a young age, studied Mandarin in order to be able to communicate. She also adopted three other girls from China by means to make Jenny more comfortable

            While all of the girls and their families attempt to overcome the border between being Chinese and being American, they do it in different ways. Jenny and Haley make more of an attempt to visit China and the orphanages where they were adopted from. While Jenny just participates and is involved in the orphanage and helping a little girl with cerebral palsy get the intensive therapy that she needs, Haley goes a little further in search for her family. She hangs posters and gets a response from her father. Meeting her father violated feeling rules on Haley’s part, because any American would be very tense and just speak formally to each other, her father was very touchy and grabbed her hair and touched her face like they knew each other on a personal level for their whole lives. It is evident that Haley is very uncomfortable with the situation because all she does is sit there very stiffly and does not say much. The same situation occurs when Haley meets her mother, she is very touchy and hugs Haley a lot while Haley just stands there not knowing what to do. Haley’s family’s translator also helps avoid violating feeling rules for both families by slightly changing the translations in order to not insult or offend anyone.

            Another issue of feeling rules evident in the film is Haley’s idea of religion. In China, it is very communist based and Christianity is not often practiced. However, God and church are a very big part of Haley’s life and she believes that it is divine intervention that caused her to be adopted and end up with her family in America. Her mother is very involved in orphanages in China and helps with finances and provides supplies, but she understands that she cannot preach her religion in China because she may be seen as a threat.

            All families deal with feeling rules in ways such as interacting with the Chinese population or interacting with each other while crossing a cultural border. Although all four girls were raised in America, they still have that Chinese identity that they are trying to cope with and understand, and a part of that understanding is figuring out where they stand in the Chinese community as well as the American community. Their families, friends, pen pals, and people they meet from China are a large part of their figuring out how feeling rules work in both communities.

Goldstein Knowlton, L. (Director & Producer). (2011). Somewhere between [DVD]. United States: Long Shot Factory & Ladylike Films. 


This is a great post because we just learned about China’s One Child Policy, which is a major issue. It’s unfair to the people of China if they want more than one child. Everyone should have their freedom and desire to expand their families. The girls from the movie accept the fact that they were adopted and sent away to have a better life. Although they are content with their lives, I don’t blame them for wanting to know about their old lives and real birth parents. Feeling rules was a huge part in this movie. The differences between the American culture and the Chinese culture are so noticeable, such as Haley’s father being touchy with her. Feeling rules can be difficult when switching into different cultures. The girls in the movie handled their struggles in a very mature and realistic way. This was a very positive movie in giving awareness about feeling rules and China’s One Child Policy.

I think your post is really interesting because the difference in feeling rules is something that I can’t imagine Haley or the other girls thought too much about. They all showed interest in understanding their adoption and where they came from, but Haley seemed overwhelmed to actually come into the culture. Haley’s mom previously talked about the problem with religion, but something as subtle as touching her hair or her face wasn’t something she probably thought about as a cultural difference until she was experiencing it and was uncomfortable. I think the feeling rules in the US would be to give each other space and slowly build a relationship. Personal space is a huge deal for me. I hate hugs, even with people I know really well. Haley was not only having contact with people from a different culture, which would make me uncomfortable at first, but people who abandoned her, making the situation really uncomfortable. You are right about the girls needing to know where they stand in both communities. I think Haley was incredibly brave for meeting her biological family, and I think having gone through the situation once already, the next time they come into contact will be much better.

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