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Saturday, December 03, 2005

Cultural Controversy in "Memoirs of a Geisha"

Looks like the Japanese are mad that Chinese women play the lead characters (who are supposed to be Japanese) in the movie, and the Chinese are mad because the lead Chinese actress (Zhang Ziyi) is depicted as having sex with a Japanese man. It sounds funny to me too.

Of course, it does remind me that me and a few of my Chinese colleagues have been mistaken for each other by our non-Chinese colleagues/friends. I try not to be offended on the occasions when it happens (and some of the ones who make the mistakes do eventually become genuinely good friends), but it's still a little annoying.

In any case, when I was in Berkeley in the late 80s/early 90s more than one Japanese tourist came up to me and tried to speak Japanese to me. It was those encounters (as well as my general enjoyment of Japanese cartoons) that led me to eventually take Japanese classes and then get good enough at Japanese to get into lots of trouble.


Amy said...

I never thought you were Japanese, but then, it helped that I knew your name probably before I knew what you looked like. Without that, I think I would have guessed Chinese or Korean. But then, I mostly don't even think of that sort of thing.... Much like it never occurs to me to wonder whether someone is gay, or notice what kind of clothing they're wearing. I guess it matters if you want to try to speak a particular language to someone, but other than that, why do we all care so much?

Piaw Na said...

The reason why people care a lot is history. The Chinese and the Vietnamese have had a particularly turbulent one, for instance, and that history (of which I confess ignorance) was an issue for me and one of my close friends when we first started becoming friends.

The Japanese and the Chinese --- read "The Rape of Nanking" and see if you can understand why the Chinese still have not forgiven the Japanese (who still have not apologised).