Racial Minefields

Geisha film incenses Japanese

Japanese criticism was restrained when compared with the abuse hurled at Zhang by her compatriots, angered by her involvement in a film about China’s former colonial ruler. “She’s sold her soul and betrayed her country,” a Chinese blogger wrote. “Hacking her to death would not be good enough.”

In our navel gazing, helped along by the rest of the worlds view of racism as an American- or more precisely- an Anglo-Saxon problem, we forget that resentment and prejudice is an age-old human problem.

Here’s the difficulty: there are real inequities and historical grievances undergirding the racial conflicts.

In this case, I really like the Chinese actresses chosen for the parts. They are beautiful and talented, and they have star power, but I have to think that among all the Japanese and American Japanese there probably were some candidates for a part in a film about Japanese culture.

Hollywood has always been a bit silly about this… think back on the films filled with Caucasian actors who despite the best efforts of make-up just didn’t have authenticity in their portrayal of Native Americans or Chinese, etc. Think Kung-Fu here. I liked watching Carradine, but he was obviously not Asian. He sure wasn’t the charismatic Bruce Lee.

That was the point, then, wasn’t it? But why would we be making that point today? Do we, on the other hand, have to be overly sensitive to each racial or culture group? It shouldn’t be too hard to realize there is a balance. With the small number of films made about Asians, it seems directors and producers could make at least a token effort to engage actors who represent their own culture.

Admittedly I know nothing about filmmaking and the entertainment industry, but I do know what lends depth and enjoyment to my watching experience… and it doesn’t seem to add anything to have offended large groups of Asian peoples with the casting choices.

But this is the fantasy world of fiction and film, after all. One which has a long record of men depicting women, of every sort of conceit and deception to tell their stories…. and in that sense, do we have a tempest in a teapot?

Just some of us prefer a choice of the wide range of teas available to the highly advertised brand name.