Part of it is that I don’t trust myself enough to make declaratives. The other part is that I love floating around in the liquid space between solid statements. Ideas and thoughts, to me, are so much more valuable than opinions.
There’s a divide, in pretty much any work of art but especially in Lost In Translation, between artistic meaning and cultural consequence.
Lost In Translation isn’t at all about Japan. I think you’re right when you say that the Japanese could easily have been any other group of people. Is it fair that A Group Of People (and I think Charlotte’s husband and that ditzy actress had a little more characteristic attention than any of the Japanese characters) get reduced to stereotypes for a greater artistic purpose? What effect does it have on the culture surrounding Lost In Translation that there’s an entire nationality that will not, for the intent of the movie, be spoken for?
I wonder, too, if the dinosaur on the seven-story-tall screen at Shibuya crossing could have been Christ the Redeemer looking over Rio de Janeiro. I think western culture, especially American culture, associates a certain and very specific exoticism and mysticism with Tokyo/Japan/Asia—how do you process the quiet control of ikebana alongside the terrifying perversion of tentacle porn?—that the movie relies on, if not in story, in ticket sales or (sigh) hipster cred. Yes, Tokyo is bright and beautiful and foreign and fascinating—but it’s a place, with people, and I think it could stand to be examined as something somebody can have a real, multi-faceted, human relationship with.
It’s not Sofia Coppola’s fault that her movie is one link in a racist canon. But Hollywood denies Japanese people of Japan, and I get tired of it. I mean, shit, in movie-fabricated-history, even the last samurai is Tom Cruise. And the worst is that people are okay with this.
jeannr: Maybe it isn’t Sofia Coppola’s fault that Hollywood can’t make a movie about Japan that has human, complex, real Japanese characters in it. But whose fault is it, then? And why do I feel the need to find someone to blame about it? [snip]
I really need to re-watch Lost In Translation and come to terms with my feelings about it.
Maybe it isn’t Sofia Coppola’s fault that Hollywood can’t make a movie about Japan that has human, complex, real Japanese characters in it. But whose fault is it, then? And why do I feel the need to find someone to blame about it?
It’s not like Japanese media is some shining beacon of cultural tolerance, anyway—matter of fact, Japan is horrible about caricaturizing foreigners in media—but somehow it’s worse, to me, when it comes from an industry like Hollywood in a country like America. Chances are, if you’re living in America, unless you clicked the link in the last sentence you’d never know that McDonald’s Japan has a Stereotypical White Guy shilling their burgers. And even then, you’d probably laugh about it, and you’d have the room to laugh about it because Hollywood has the final say in how the world views a culture or a people. Asians, in Hollywood, are scarcely a people yet.
Lost In Translation, the way I see it, is about feeling alienated, and what better way to show alienation than place people in a strange, foreign country where the people are strange and indecipherable? In which case it’s important that the audience not be able to identify with any of the Japanese people, that we never see them as complex people. Can a movie be good when it’s, intentionally or otherwise, fundamentally racist? Maybe it can; I don’t know.
And I feel like such a downer for bringing this up whenever people talk about this movie, but then I see Gwen Stefani and her Harajuku slaves or that fucking Nissin chow mein commercial and feel disgusted that nobody’s paying attention. I don’t want to get in the way of the enjoyment of a movie, but I don’t want the enjoyment of a movie to get in the way of discussing racism. So I’m torn.