Occupation: PhD Candidate
Residence: Los Angeles
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/11/2020
Primary Language: Vietnamese
Other Language(s): English
The following is transcribed between myself and the informant, from this point forward the informant will be known as TT and I will be MH.
TT: Are you familiar with Friday the 13th?
MH: Yes, I am.
TT: In Vietnam we also have Friday the 13th, but it has a different context then the commercialized one in the United States. The story goes, in the early 2000s there was a storm in a city in Vietnam and that city was semi-destroyed in the storm and many people were displaced. The people in the surrounding regions banded together and came into the town to deliver aid and help out. Then one day, well Friday the 13th, two busses carrying people who were supposed to be delivering aid crashed and almost everyone died in the collision. And now the day is cursed.
MH: Is there any relevance of Friday the 13th as we know it in America, or like are the two ideas completely separate?
TT: From what I remember the two are not linked but purely by coincidence.
The informant grew up in south Vietnam, however he moved here for school alone when he was sixteen. While adjusting to America he found this to be an interesting coincidence and parallel between the two vastly different cultures.
The conversation happened over FaceTime during quarantine. We were talking about tattoos and how tattoo parlors do “flash tattoos” (pre-designed tattoos that clients can pick from that usually only cost no more than 50$) on Friday the 13th, and how often they are spooky themed. This then got us talking about the concept of Friday the 13th and the odd parallel between the culture of it here in the USA versus in Vietnam.
I think the concept of the unlucky number 13 is fascinating as it centers from the western christian ideal of the 13 disciples – the 13th being Judas the traitor of jesus- so there were really only 12 proper ones. The fear around the number was popularized in the 1890s in England. This trickled in building codes as most western buildings, especially in the U.S. omit the 13th floor. However, my friends and I are familiar with the fear of 13, and Friday the 13th, from popular slasher films in the 1980s-90s. It’s interesting to see the presence of fear surrounding Friday the 13th in a non-western culture.