Geisha girls! Same-same but Different!

April 5, 2005

That's right! Chinese actors. Who don't speak english. In an American film. Written by Arthur Golden, some white guy.

Then the whole thing seems too ridiculous to even get angry about. Clearly these people are totally confused.

Michelle Yeoh defended the casting, saying,

"Director Rob Marshall said he cast actors and actresses who are perfect for the roles rather than by their nationalities...And some of the biggest Japanese names are in the movie, too, like Ken Wanatabe and Koji Yakusho."

So now Japanese actors are tokens in a movie about Japanese people - geisha, for God's sake- set in Japan?

I read Memoirs of a Geisha. It was a pretty good book. Who knows how accurate it is --most Japanese people probably don't even know. There's a lot more to Japan than geisha and samurai, and most people don't get all obsessed by it the way some do here.

I have no problem with the fiction, except that yet again it is a white man telling the story. Of an exotic, economically, socially and sexually oppressed young girl. Japanese girl. Which would also be okay, if it weren't the time we'll see Asians on the big screen this year.

But it is. A few years ago it was The Last Samurai. Now this. Plus Crouching Tiger, Flying Daggers. The only represention of modern Japan in recent Hollywood memory is Lost in Translation, and that whole "lip my stockings" scene blew it.

So here we go again. Chinese, Japanese, what's the diff? They'll be speaking in English anyway. Zhang Ziyi doesn't speak english? no problem, she just has to look pretty. It's about geisha, it'll sell. White guys will flock to it like vultures to a carcass.




Well me I'm still young and I haven't heard about Geishas alot before so it was pretty interesting. The actress was beautiful, tough it does seem wrong that she's not japanese.
What's wrong with "Crouching Tiger..."? It's based on old Chinese literature and the created by Taiwanese/Chinese writer/director. The portrayals of women in the movie were very feminist in nature. None of the women was a simpleton or sexual plaything. Au contraire, they were real human beings.I do agree that there should have been Japanese women in the "Memoirs.." movie. Simply, there is a distinctive difference in look for both people as there is between English and Italians.
I actually liked Crouching Tiger and Jackie Chan and a lot of the other kung-fu type movies. My problem is that ancient kung-fu type movies are the ONLY kinds of movies that get made that star Asians. The representation of Asians is so limited --they do kung-fu or they're good at science. We don't see Asian soccer coaches or modern dancers or rock climbers or Hollywood producers or loggers or historians or whatever, you know what i mean? So it's the weird contradiction of being glad to see successful Asians making cool films, but the frustration of them being set in a time when everyone's wearing kimono with the ability to dodge poison-tipped needles matrix-style.It's sad that we had to celebrate Harold and Kumar, a pretty dumb stoner movie, because it starred Asian Americans. But it was the first Hollywood comedy to do so, and for that reason it was a big deal. We've got a long way to go before casting agents think of Asian faces as a possibility for anything but the "ethnic" roles --the food delivery guy, the imported sex slave, the kung-fu dragon lady, the geisha-- and it's not ever going to change if Asian Americans don't insist that it happen.
very good point!! there are a lot of films from Asia that show people in all types of situations and historical periods. support these aggressively and that might help to move the hollywood backed stuff off of its self-located dime. this is a reliving of past representations that have affected blacks, latinos and others.
When I was a little girl, just out from being a toddler, I would watch Asian “Kung Fu” movie films. I would be transfixed by what little of the culture they actually showed even though the English was bad. In truth there was nothing wrong with their English it was just poor performances by American actors who tried to make the words fit to the lips. It was “dubbing”. The same thing was done to such Japanese cartoons as Gatchaman (G force), Space Cruiser Yamato (StarBlazers), Robotech etc. When I took Tai Kwon Do at the YMCA, the first thing I thought of my Asian descent cool teacher was, “Wow, Mom, his English is really Good! Better Than the Movies!” This is why when I grew up and I got into Hayao Miyazaki fims and Rumiko Takahashi stories (Inu Yasha, Ranma) I always tried to get them subtitled. English below and the real actors speaking the real words. Every country has a culture that should be presented in truth not in cliche.It’s like how people spout Hai! when attacking not knowing it’s a Japanese term for Yes.Thanks for listening. ;)