Film reviews, astonishingly bad editorials, a yuri history lesson, and an actor responds responsibly to whitewashing.
Dee, Vrai, and Amelia discuss the acclaimed Hiroshima-centric WWII film. (Short version: We liked it.)
The end of the watchalong, plus a general spoiler discussion of what hasn’t been adapted yet.
What makes a good con? We want your stories!
As a companion to our coverage of the film, here’s teammate Peter’s full-length review.
The dedication to authenticity in In This Corner of the World is a sight to behold. Matsubara stated that production had a hard rule for portraying Hiroshima and Kure. Unless they had a picture of what they were depicting, knowledge of the material it was made of, and its precise color, they wouldn’t put it into the film. A planned sequence, in which Suzu would sketch her favorite places in Hiroshima during a trip home, before her return to Kure, and ending at the Hiroshima station, instead ended at a department store since they couldn’t find a photo of the station during the exact period she was visiting. He mentioned the difficulty finding photos due to espionage prevention regulations and relying on interviews with individuals who had been alive during that period. One sequence, with school girls singing on their way to a military factory, was an addition specifically requested by one such individual. Everything surrounding Suzu and her two families is as close to reality as MAPPA could approach, just as it was during WWII.
How a love of Japan led me to stop dating its women (The Japan Times)
An editorial so tone deaf I can’t believe it made it to publication. Reducing women solely to their nationality and the way that culture benefits him, infantilizing them as “girls,” and framing relationships purely in how dating a Japanese woman drains his “control” of the relationship.
I admire the grace and beauty of Japanese women and am more than aware of their considerable diversity, from demure kimono-clad Kyoto ladies to the unfettered, boisterous personalities so associated with Osaka. I realize you can find everything in Japanese womanhood, from power-dressing politicians and brilliant authors to tech entrepreneurs. If my circumstances in life were slightly different — if, say, I was living in a Western country working for a Western firm, or if I was looking to form a bridge to Japanese culture — I have no doubt that having a Japanese partner would add a fascinating extra dimension to my life.
The reason, however, that long ago I found myself seldom aspiring to be in a relationship with Japanese girls has to do with the manner in which I connect with Japan itself, a culture in which I have always searched for a version of personal freedom. Somewhere in the cultural differences between Japan and the West I felt that I could define my own personal sense of self.
Having a Japanese partner, I repeatedly discovered, unbalanced this sense of freedom. No longer was I in control of my relationship with Japan; now I tended to feel more like a prisoner in a relationship with a foreign culture from which I could not escape. The only way I could truly enjoy and develop my love for Japan, I concluded, was by excluding my love life from that cultural relationship.
A recorded version of the panel presented at this year’s Otakon. Our own Caitlin was there in person, and was quite impressed by the presentation.
A poetic essay on the modern experience of being Black in America.
If your dreams are not scary as shit, if the life laid out for you is not you gambling for the bigness in the stars and your heart, then you are to be told you are missing out on your grandness. It is a fairy tale, a mythological fable passed from American school child to American school child, the cleaned-up, idealized bastard version of opportunity. You are told that if it speaks to you, if they speak to you, follow that, listen to that — heed whatever beckons and calls to your bones, to the marrow in you. And while this is inherently true, true if you believe in a power higher than heaven, in universal law and karmic cycles and spirits and Yoruba guidance and such, its application across the board for all of those who are walking the path of living, seems to be partial to a select, cherry-picked few, with the marginalized many scratching the bottom of the barrel for the remaining scraps. I don’t know…maybe I have spent too much time around dreamy, happy, white people (“white” as a construct, not as a skin or color or race. “White” as in a system, as a bubble, a box that allows certain segments of the population the honor of not having to be aware of the world outside of their own privileged circumstances)— us blacks have in us ingrained the idea that we are not deft at dreaming; the wanton idealism that lifts henna from ink to Coachella revelers, this reckless believe in overcoming all odds in spite of circumstance, the Bruce Willis/Tom Cruise effect Hollywood has made so easily tangible amongst the most elite of ivy league bro keg-chuggers, has not made its way through the pipelines of South Central, pass the barbed wire of the South Bronx, we are told. And so, we are told to dream, and mocked when the realization comes that dreaming is only a special kind of augmented reality for the under-served.
‘Death Note’ Is What Happens When Filmmakers Don’t See Race (Hollywood Reporter)
A thought on how the Netflix Death Note could have been interesting if it had actually embraced its transplanted cultural context.
It’s hard to imagine a more fitting actor for the American L than Lakeith Stanfield, a breakout for his eccentric performance as Darius on FX’s Atlanta and surely one of the most idiosyncratic and gifted talents of his generation. And the prospect of seeing a young black L lead an international coalition of law enforcement and intelligence officers on a manhunt for a global mass murderer is full of rich dramatic promise and adds potential layers of commentary to the original mono-cultural Japanese version.
But L’s blackness is never addressed, often distractingly so. When Light’s father, Detective Turner (Shea Whigham), meets the great L, masked by a pulled-up turtleneck, he says, “I figured you’d be older … and that I could see more of your face.” Turner the character may have refrained from noting L’s race out of a sense of politeness, but Death Note‘s curious color-blindness is to its own detriment. The film offers several visuals seemingly without awareness of their resonance in the real world: a hooded L appearing on the national news, L brandishing a gun as he chases Light through the streets, Det. Turner putting L in a chokehold. It’s not that those images are offensive to include; on the contrary, they are startling and fascinating and could have elevated Death Note, if only the filmmakers understood their import. As Indiewire‘s David Erlich wrote in his Death Note review, “Why go through all the trouble of setting Death Note in America if you’re not going to set it in the real one?”
Sokuseki Bijin no Tsukurikata: Akiko Higashimura (Brain vs. Book)
A review of Higashimura’s “report”-style manga, a style combining art and photos that here documents various easy-fix beauty treatments.
In her other work, Higashimura has tackled these impossible standards women are held to, but her viewpoint is critical. She’s often highlighting the ridiculousness of it, even as she has characters longing to be that perfect woman. In Princess Jellyfish, she gives us a variety of versions of womanhood, women who are happy with the way they are, even if they don’t meet society’s view of what a woman should be. And in Tokyo Tarareba Girls, her thirty-something characters struggle to reach the “finish line” of marriage, even when it’s clear that this is not the thing that will make them happy. But in Sokuseki, she is completely uncritical of these standards of womanhood, totally accepting of the idea that she needs to “fix” herself. I’m sure part of that is because this is reportage, and the whole idea behind the series is no doubt to sell women on the idea of doing these treatments themselves. That doesn’t mean it’s not still depressing to see these harmful ideas laid out on the page without any effort at engaging with them.
While recent studies have shown men are more likely to be considered trustworthy and more likely to be hired and supported, men in scientific fields have balked at these facts.
Given the enormous amount of data to support these findings, and given the field in question, one might think male scientists would use these outcomes to create a more level playing field. But a recent paper showed that in fact, male STEM faculty assessed the quality of real research that demonstrated bias against women in STEM as being low; instead the male faculty favored fake research, designed for the purposes of the study in question, which purported to demonstrate that no such bias exists.
Why do men in science devalue such research and the data it produces? If anyone should be willing to accept what the peer-reviewed research consistently shows and use it to correct the underlying assumptions, it should be scientists.
But it is in large part because they are scientists that they do not want to believe these studies. Scientists are supposed to be objective, able to evaluate data and results without being swayed by emotions or biases. This is a fundamental tenet of science. What this extensive literature shows is, in fact, scientists are people, subject to the same cultural norms and beliefs as the rest of society. The systemic sexism and racism on display every day in this country also exist within the confines of science. Scientists are not as objective as they think they are. It is an extremely destabilizing realization for someone whose entire career has been rooted in the belief in human objectivity.
A history of the persistent, harmful “psycho lesbian” trope, with examples from the 1970s up to modern day.
Homosexuality was famously removed from the 7th editon of the DSM-II by the American Psychiatric Association in 1973 (1974, American Psychiatric Association.) In Japan , the classification of homosexuality as a disease lasted a few decades longer. “… “homosexuality” was removed by the World Health Organization from the list of “mental disorders” in the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems 10th revision published in 1993 (which was adopted by the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare the following year).” (Japan: Human Rights in Law and Discrimination against LGBT People in Japan, 2017 Amnesty International.) By 1995, homosexuality was no longer considered a disease in Japan, but it’s taken a few more decades for manga artists to notice.
The idea that lesbianism is a pathology, as posited by Freud, lingers in popular media where lesbianism also functions as a fetish for readers. Manga and anime are pop culture media, but frequently published and produced to fit within socially conservative framework (whether to sell to the widest possible market or to cater to a specific demographic or just to protect one’s own industry from government intrusion,) which means that these 20th century associations linger on well into the 21st century. “Everyone knows” that lesbians are predatory, or emotionally unstable, although it’s been shown that with the simple addition of laws that put gay relationships on a more stable footing, suicide and depression decrease.
Ed Skrein Exits ‘Hellboy’ Reboot After Whitewashing Outcry (Hollywood Reporter)
An example of how an actor can respond responsibly to whitewashed casting.
Skrein, who is known for playing the villain in last year’s Deadpool, joined the cast of the Hellboy reboot last week, and he was to play rugged military member Major Ben Daimio, who in the comic books is Asian. Some on social media objected to the casting, calling it another example of Hollywood whitewashing a character. And after a mounting outcry, he has decided to leave the project, sharing the news on Twitter Monday.
“It is clear that representing this character in a culturally accurate way holds significance for people, and that to neglect this responsibility would continue a worrying tendency to obscure ethnic minority stories and voice in the Arts. I feel it is important to honour and respect that. Therefore I have decided to step down so the role can be cast appropriately,” the actor wrote in a statement. “Representation of ethnic diversity is important, especially to me as I have a mixed heritage family. It is our responsibility to make moral decisions in difficult times and to give voice to inclusivity. It is my hope that one day these discussions will become less necessary and that we can help make equal representation in the Arts a reality.”
Toyoake City, Aichi Declares Support for LGBT (Nijiiro News)
Support for the LGBTQ community has been piecemeal in Japan, coming from individual corporations, prefectures, and municipalities rather than nationally.
Mayor Kobuke Masayoshi, who read the the declaration at Toyoake City Hall, stated “It is said that sexual minorities make up 7~8% of the population. We would like to do what we can for these individuals.”
In addition to the declaration, the city also revealed that it is collaborating with the Nagoya-based NPO ASTA (NPO法人アスタ) on a project aimed at facilitating further understating of sexual minorities.
Kubo Masaru (23) of ASTA said that, “I hope that these kinds of efforts continue to spread.”
The city is planning to introduce consultation services for public organizations and support groups, in addition to lectures about LGBT for citizens. Films featuring LGBT protagonists are planned to be screened at the city’s “Gender Equality Festa” (男女共同参画フェスタ) which will be held on October 21 at Toyoake City Hall.
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