Once again, this week I want to look at the scene in the first half of Tropical Malady (2004) where the tiger shaman disguises itself as a human woman. I plan to use Amy Robinson’s essay “It Takes One to Know One: Passing and Communities of Common Interest” to read the scene. Robinson identifies three key figures involved in a successful pass—“the passer, the duper ,and a representative of the in-group” (723). It is almost self-explanatory that the passer (or in this specific case, attempted passer) would be the tiger shaman, and the hunter would be the dupe. This would appear to leave us without a representative in the scene. Robinson goes to on outline that the representative’s ability to read the pass and permit it are what actualize the pass as a reality. Could it be said that in this case, the absence of the of a representative is what causes the shaman’s attempt at a pass to fail? I think that this is potentially true but I am interested in what we as viewers can get from the text if the audience itself is cast as the representative. The way in which we are privy to the knowledge that we are watching a pass, unlike in most of Robinson’s example, is not our cultural literacy. Rather we are informed via voice over that a pass is occurring, and witness with the dupe the tell-tale signs of the pass-we learn as he does, and therefore we cannot protect the shaman—or the hunter.
Robinson, Amy. “It Takes One to Know One: Passing and Communities of Common Interest.” Critical Inquiry. Vol. 20, Issue 4, 1994. 715-736.