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Portrayal of Japanese in (Western) movies

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24 Aug 2003
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What do you think of the portrayal of Japanese people in movies? There are a lot of things which really irk me, example.. when they hire Chinese actors to play Japanese! (yes, some people can tell the difference!)

Here're some of my quick observations..... (I'm focussing on modern movies, not WWII ones such as "Empire of the sun")

"The Karate Kid Part 2": an Okinawa where everyone speaks English. Where Japanese people speak English to each other! Still, a good-natured film.. good focus on culture, doesn't hide the fact that there's a clash between Japanese way-of-life and U.S. bases (helicopters flying overhead etc)..

"Major League 2": terrible, racist trash! Takaaki Ishibashi ("Tunnels") wears a kimono(!) and walks around waving a Samurai sword(!!). Awful.

"Gung Ho/Working Class Man": great, funny film. A Japanese company buys Michael Keaton's American car factory. Lots of great humour when Keaton goes to Japan: he looks in the window of a Japanese restaurant, ends up at McDonald etc. Sure, the Japanese use a river like an onsen (umm.. I don't think so) and there are other stereo-types, but nothing insulting.

"Black Rain": I love this film. Ken Takakura's one of my favourite Japanese actors. And Yusaka Matsuda- who sadly chose to make this film while dying of cancer and subsequently did die- was great too. Maybe chimpira don't ride around with (yet again!) Samurai swords, but generally there was a lot I related to in this film.

-NRS
 
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