Geishas are Blue-Eyed?

December 17, 2005

Here's a Japanese review on Memoirs of a Geisha. The writer seems annoyed at what she calls the "kitschy oriental cliches"

Unfortunately, the whole thing reeks of a souvenir shop extravaganza, like they upended the shelves of Oriental Bazaar right onto the streets.

How about some cliches about Asian women? This story looks at the stereotypes that are perpetuated in the film. Hollywood loves a stereotype or two.

Has anyone seen this thing yet? Can you explain to me why the print ad shows a blue-eyed geisha?


Melissa Hung

Founding Editor

Melissa Hung is the founding editor of Hyphen. She was the editor in chief for the magazine's first five years and went on to serve in many other leadership roles on the staff and board for more than a decade. She is a writer and freelance journalist. Her essays and reported stories have appeared in NPR, Vogue, Pacific Standard, Longreads, and Catapult, among others. A native Texan, she lives in California. Find her on Twitter and Instagram.



I read the book and I was taken by how other cultures and lifestyles are . Especially with children. I enjoyed reading the book. What I didn't like was the movie. I was so upset.First of all if you didn't read the book I don't think you would really understand what was happening. Is it just me. They skipped over the important information and they changed a few things that I didn't like. It was poor acting. In the book they were very mean to her. In the movie they weren't that mean. The book showed how hard her life was growing up. The movie just wizzed by that. They should have done it much better. The book said she had greyish blue eyes. In the movies her eyes were dark blue you could hardly tell. things that I thought should have been in the movies weren't. I feel it could have been better than it was if they had the right person to create that movie. I didn't even finish watching the rest of it.
i haven't seen the movie yet, but i read the book when it came out and the main character has silver/grey eyes. as i remember, this was hinted at in the book as some blood connection to a minority in japan, like the ainu or something. but that was left pretty vague.
I haven't seen the movie either, but I also read the book and she was born with blue/gray eyes. Like the above poster already mentioned, it was supposed to be connected to some minority in Japan. But one of the reasons she was such a valued geisha was for her eyes, which was a rare thing.
Thank you for this. I wrote on my blog encouraging people to not see the film---and this will lend an important "echo" of my original sentiment. Cheers.
Here's an opinion piece in the SF Chronicle about the ongoing controversy over Chinese actresses playing Japanese women. Ethnic slippage: Chinese geisha cross too many boundaries
Lee, why don't you see the film before you judge it. I have not seen it yet, but I was a huge fan of the book. So much emotion from a "white" writer pretending to be a geisha. I'm not baggin on you in particular Lee, but people should watch/read/experience whatever it is that they are criticizing before they dis on it. I'll prob rent it since imdb had several mixed reviews on it. And when it comes down to it, who cares what color a person's eyes are... I think we are getting a tad too nit picky.
Memoirs of a geisha is worth a watch. Even through all the controversy, I think we should be proud to have a film out there where majority of the actors are asian. Yes, there's definite stereotypes, but if Hollywood knows theres a strong demand for Asian type movies, eventually we may see movies out there that we're proud off.
More "Asian type" movies, indeed. I mean, once Hollywood realizes how much better Sho Kosugi was in the "Ninja" series than Micheal whats-his-koff in the "American Ninja" movies, we'll be on the road to fair representation in the media.For a bit of Japanese perspective, checking out the Wall Street Journal article. Despite being an icon of Japanese culture in the USA, are most people in Japan as unfamiliar with geisha most people are with as any other waning tradition of the affluent classes?
We have to give the producers of "Geisha" some credit. They could have easily did the usual switcharoo and somehow made the Ken Watanabe character into a role for Tom Cruise or something.
Seng, couldn't agree with you more that Sho Kosugi was one bad ass mothafucka in the "Ninja" series, and that Micheal whats-his-koff was a lame ass flamer who in no way should be associated with the term "ninja." Man, I wish I had a geisha or two right now.
The main character (played by Zhang Zi Yi, who has somehow annoyingly changed her name into Ziyi Zhang, in order to seem more westernised) has grey/blue eyes because she has some heritage as a minority Japanese aboriginal. I'm not sure if the actual geisha the book is based on has the same eyes, but according to the book, this greyness indicates that she has a lot of the "water" element in her character, which ensures that she takes a long and winding path in life, but eventually gets there. I believe it serves as a good metaphor for the disposition and fortunes of the character.Imho, the film itself is pretty shoddy when compared to the book, which was an intricate study into the life and times of Ritta Sakuri (I think that's how you spell it). Watching the film, many of the most intersting events (such as the details of what happens in the geisha school, or the intricacies of the virgin bidding) seem rather glossed over and held at a distance. It's more like the audience is being "told" what happened, rather than being "shown".I felt a little kicked around by the storyline, which suffered from being too much a skimming treatment of the book. I would rather have had them neaten up the storyline by snipping back a few events and developing the important aspects of the characters and our understanding of their world.
Okay, basically. It was a story.A story. No, Bolden was not completely accurate but he did get facts on the lifestyle, and hollywood had to play up the dress. It was a rare thing for the girl to have blue eyes, and that was the point. The only thing he did wrong was tell what geisha told him these things, because she wanted to remain anonymous. Read the book before you speak against it. It was very good. The movies is also.
People will whine about anything these days, and nobody you're right. By the way the actress was Chinese.