interpersonal communications theories in kung fu panda movie

Movie: Kung Fu Panda (2008)
Scene (29:33″): Panda meets Master Oogway under the sacred peach tree of wisdom. Background: A panda, who was “accidentally” selected to become a “dragon warrior”, the highest rank in his dreamy world of kunk fu, had been humiliated and discouraged from trying to become a kung fu warrior by the in-group members of the palace inhabitants. The scene: Panda is standing on top of the rock by a blossoming peach tree, his shoulders slumped, looking at his feet. A chief master of kung fu palace, Master Oogway, arrives to the tree and finds there Panda with mouthful of peaches and few more in his hands. Oogway cheerfully praises him for finding the sacred tree of wisdom. Panda is highly embarrassed, spits out the peaches and apologizes, saying he thought it was a regular peach tree. Oogway keeps walking towards him smiling warmly and saying that he understands that Panda eats when he is upset. Panda rapidly murmurs that he has no reason to be upset so he is obviously not upset, his hands behind his back, turning to the sides and looking around. Oogway leans towards Panda and asks why is it that he is upset. After a short pause, Panda sighs and tells him that he failed a lot that day – being the biggest failure of kung fu, of china and of “suckers”. Oogway agrees. He expresses his concern that the “Magnificent five” – the inhabitants of the palace and recognized kung fu warriors – hate him, with what oogway again agrees. And then the biggest concern – that Master Shifu, who is supposed to train him, will not succeed to turn him into a “dragon warrior”. Panda shows his fat belly and makes comparisons with the “Magnificent five” saying he doesn’t have what it takes to become a warrior, which, eventually lead him to the conclusion that he should quit the idea of kung fu and go back to his previous job of making noodles. Oogway tells Panda that he is too concerned with past and future, while he should focus on the present, which is a gift.

1. Non-verbal communication
The messages and atmosphere of the first part of the scene is transmitted mainly by non-verbal clues. Our communication cycle consists of 6 parts, including: sender, channel, message, receiver, feedback and noise. An integral part of face to face communication (the channel) is non-verbal communication and body language, which are important channels for effective communication that can give us clues the sender is himself sometimes not fully aware of. Through this scene body language plays an important, even central role. It opens with Panda standing at the edge of the rock, his posture slouched, head down and looking at his feet, describing his psychological state of not seeing any right future, being completely taken by his problems and accepting pessimistic negative stand towards them. Afterwards, when Oogway asks Panda for the reason of his bad mood, Panda says “Upset? I am not upset, why would I be upset” but his body language vividly shows that he is lying and when the verbal answer does not match body language, its usually the body language that should be trusted. Panda answers too rapidly, mumbling and repeating same “mantra” words “upset? Im not upset”. At the same time he keeps looking to the sides, his shoulders are slumped and he avoids eye contact completely. But body language is being also used here in a positive way as a part of empathetic listening by Oogway who, in spite of “im not upset” answer, keeps projecting non-judgemental environment and empathetic behavior also through body language – he keeps slowly and gently leaning his neck towards Panda smiling warmly and encouragingly while asking in calm relaxing friendly voice “so what ARE you upset about”. 2. Determinism

Determinism is type of a limiting paradigm. Determinism is the opposite of flexibility and serves a person to define himself in some terms and “lock” it without any possibility of change. This becomes the way he sees himself that “frees” him from responsibility for his actions or fortune, but on the other hand, does not allow him the freedom of choice for his responses as well, keeping a person “a slave of his past”, primed by his previous experiences and locked in his predefined paradigm, view on life. Determinism on a personal level makes self-perception passive and pre-defined, when nothing is “up to the person”, but he is the way he is because of his genes (genetic determinism), place he grew up in (environmental determinism) or previous emotional experiences (emotional determinism). Panda is telling Oogway that he is fat and not sporty and therefore he cannot become a dragon warrior. He compares himself to the “Magnificent five” by physical features and concludes that since he is built differently – its genetically not possible for him to use kung fu and to become a warrior. He puts himself “in a box” based on his perception of himself and it limits his own progress and future possibilities. 3. Circle of concern, circle of influence & proactivity

Panda is complaining to Oogway about his terrible failures through that day, about all the things that keep him from becoming a kung fu warrior, including physical differences, hatred of the group of warriors and seeming lack of possibility to be trained into a warrior. Through his speech he is focusing on the problems, on things that worry him much, over which he has no control, focuses on obstacles. This is a part of reactive behavior – things happen and force a person to respond not leaving much gap between the stimuli and response but rather being drawn into situations that demand responses. Oogway leads him to zoom out of his current immediate problems and concerns and to focus on things he can do now, things that are within the “circle of influence”. It’s a proactive way of acting – focusing on things we have control over and influence on, taking the time to stop and think to choose the most appropriate response based on our values and not circumstances (Frankl).

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