Sample Sociology Essays on The Arrival (2016) Movie and Cultural Communication

The Arrival (2016) Movie and Cross-Cultural Communication

As globalization blurs the social and cultural lines, the world is increasingly becoming culturally diversified. Most individuals now are moving to other countries for education, work, or other purposes. As our environments become extremely diversified, it is challenging to relate and communicate with people from different cultures. Issues like stereotyping, racism, and violence have taken prominence due to failure to tolerate foreign beliefs and practices. To avoid the above problems, cultural tolerance is important since it promotes the understanding of other cultures. Arrival film impressively illustrates the challenges of encountering new cultures and the importance of understanding and accepting the foreign individuals.

Arrival, directed by Denis Villeneuve, is a 2016 science fiction film about the entry of aliens on earth. The movie is an adaptation of a 1998 short narrative, Story of Your Life by Ted Chiang (IMDb, 201). Twelve alien ships are seen hovering around the world and the US army Colonel, in an attempt to gather knowledge on the gigantic spaceships, commissions a team to space led by Louise Banks, a linguist, and Ian Donelly, physicist. They first encounter two seven-legged aliens and on their second trip to the aliens’ craft, Banks carries a small white board so she can use to communicate with the aliens. Communication between the aliens and the two humans is taxing since none can understand the other. However, after a long struggle, the Banks begins to decipher the aliens’ language. At one incident, though, her team mistakes the aliens’ message for a threat and bombs their craft, leading to the death of one alien. Later, Banks learns that the aliens were trying to tell them (the humans) to unite. The movie ends with a vision from the future in which General Shang, the Chinese leader who had initiated plans of war against the aliens after perceiving threat, approaches Banks telling her that war would not be necessary.

Arrival is a clear indication of how humans react when faced with strange situations or when they encounter people from different cultural backgrounds. People categorize and stereotype others because they lack the familiarity, awareness, and understanding of the given group (Matusitz, 2012). When people are knowledgeable about a different culture, they are likely to appreciate accept it. On the other, people who are ignorant about other cultures are more likely to stereotype and prejudice the cultures, or even cause interethnic violence. This phenomenon is portrayed in Arrival when the humans encounter the aliens, creatures from a different planet who spoke a different language. While trying to communicate with the aliens, the team misinterpreted an illustration for “tool” for a “weapon”, which triggered fear and violence as a defense strategy. Nations began to plan war against the aliens while some of the members in space bombed the aliens’ craft, causing the death of one alien. It is clear that ignorance leads to prejudgment and misinterpretation due to language barrier. In the Arrival’s context, the imagined threat by the humans ignited violence, which later proved unworthy.

Interacting with people from diverse cultures therefore, requires tolerance and acceptance. Some scholars have termed this concept as cultural intelligence: the ability to adapt when associating with people from different cultural backgrounds (Recor, n.d.). In the movie, Banks was interested in learning the language of the aliens and even at one point, she took off her radiation suit to reveal her face to the aliens. She uses the board on which she writes words and struggles to decipher what the symbols of aliens’ meant. Culturally intelligent people have an intrinsic interest in interacting with different cultures, which affords them the knowledge, familiarity, and awareness. For instance, the undying pursuit of Banks and Donnelly to learn the language of the aliens helped them to later understand that the aliens meant that Banks has gift that could be used as a tool to unite all the nations (IMDb, 2016). This revealed the danger of language barrier.

Tolerance is a valuable quality for successful interactions in diversified environments. Cultural tolerance entails the respect, appreciation, and acceptance of the other culture (Recor, n.d.). It is afforded through knowledge, communication, and conscience. The virtue is not only a moral requirement but also a legal and political duty, explaining why individuals face legal consequences for cultural intolerance. If Arrival was a real life narrative, the soldiers who bombed the craft would have been charged. Lack of tolerance led to the death of one alien although the foreign creatures meant well for the humans: they wanted unity on earth. When the craft was bombed, the aliens threw Banks and Donnelly out to save them, illustrating their good will.

Tolerance and acceptance of other cultures, as seen through Arrival, is essential in diversified environments. Individuals prejudge and prejudice people from different backgrounds due to lack of knowledge, sometimes causing interpersonal violence. Familiarity, awareness, and understanding of other cultures are important for effective communication since they promote tolerance and acceptance.



IMDb. (2016). Arrival (ii)(2016). IMDb. Retrieved from

Matusitz, J. (2012). Relationship between knowledge, stereotyping, and prejudice in interethnic communication. Revista de Turismo yPatrimonio Cultural, 10(1), 89-98. Retrieved from

Recor, A.J. (n.d.). Teaching tolerance. Learning to Give. Retrieved from