Japanese product Essay
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Historically, it would one impossible to conduct a discussion on the issue of American interest in the culture and society of Japan without mentioning World War Two. The conflict between the two nations during the 1940’s forever linked each other as the landscape of the culture of modern Japan and the modern United States were shaped from the outcome of World War Two. In that regard, the histories of the two nations are forever interlocked. While one would assume that such an interlocking fusion would yield a negative, the reality is that the two countries eventually opened each others minds in terms of accepting each other.
Granted, there are still obstacles present to understanding each other, but the acceptance and understanding between the two culture have been advanced do to eventual infusion of Japanese pop culture entertainment into the American conscious. Unfortunately, not all presentations of Japanese culture are presented with a clear understanding of the basics of Japanese societal structure.
Any attempt to understand the Japanese must begin with their version of what it means to ‘take one’s proper station.
‘ Their reliance upon order and hierarchy and our faith in freedom and equality are poles apart and it is hard for us to give hierarchy its just due as a possible social mechanism. Japan’s confidence in hierarchy is basic in her whole notion of man’s relation to his fellow man and of man’s relation to the State and it is only by describing some of their national institutions like the family, the State, religious and economic life that it is possible for us to understand their view of life.
(Benedict) A significant reason that Japanese culture has been embraced by those in the west centers on the fact that many people are exposed to Japanese pop culture when they are very young. The operative point here is that what people are exposed to are the more pop driven forms of Japanese entertainment. It is not the classics of Japanese cinema that helps to define a consciousness in the eyes of the public.
Most people are not familiar with classic films such as YOJIMBO or GATE OF HELL of KWAIDAN. What people become familiar with are the various anime films, manga periodicals, etc. This is not because the public looks for lowbrow entertainment as much anime and manga output from Japan is very sophisticated in the storytelling techniques that are explored. Much of the reason that these forms of Japanese entertainment are so popular is that they utilize genres that “travel” well.
In other words, regardless of which culture produces a horror comic, an action-adventure film, a sci-fi fantasy, very little is changed in terms of the way those types of genres are constructed. A comedy, however, centers far too much on a specific culture understanding of a particular humor to be effective. Since much of the output from Japan that reaches the United States borrows from genres that “travel” well, the ability for the American public to accept the Japanese product is maximized.
(Actually, it is further maximized in light of the quality level of the writing that helps hook audiences) This does not mean, however, that there is a cohesion of understanding of the Japanese culture by the American audiences mainly because much of the homegrown American entertainment that uses Japan as a backdrop generally offers a very stereotyped image of Japanese society designed to be ‘swallowed’ by an American audience that has very limited knowledge of the actual culture.
This can be viewed in such films as LOST IN TRANSLATION and the landmark film (in terms of providing a skewed insight into Japanese culture) BLACK RAIN. This is not to say that the purpose of BLACK RAIN was to present an inaccurate depiction of Japanese people. What the purpose of BLACK RAIN was, on a deeper level, was to provide a complicated scenario for the Michael Douglas character to overcome the obstacles in his way in order to achieve his goal of capturing the villain.
The obstacles in BLACK RAIN, however, are fairly insurmountable: he is a stranger in a strange land who has difficulty functioning on his own and is forced to put his stubbornness and his prejudices aside so that he can bond with a Japanese police officer in order to achieve his objective. The character that Michael Douglas plays, however, is a complicated corrupt loner who is his own worst enemy. He is distrustful and keeps people at arms length. By being forced to accept help from these people who he has nothing in common with, he is able to ultimately grow as a person.
Like the character Michael Douglas plays, Japanese culture is ripe with complexity. The culture is different and the way people interact with each other in Japan is far different that the way people interact with each other in the United States. While BLACK RAIN does shows these differences, it does not go beyond the surface value of the differences to provide a more complex side of the Japanese. As such, the Japanese characters often appear one dimensional and border on stereotypes.