Japanese people=?? in American films/series

There exists stereotypes for any group of people, and of course Japanese people are not exceptions. Especially popular films and television series reinforce any kinds of good/bad stereotypes about races or ethnicity or nationality. When you look at two popular artefacts from different periods, you can see how differently Japanese people are portrayed in them.

The first stereotype comes from one of my favourite film “Pretty Woman.” Can you remember there appear a middle-aged Japanese couple in the scene at the hotel in this film? I bet the scene lasts for only a couple of seconds though. I can get the picture about how Japanese people are stereotyped in 1990. The couple looks so rich (and they must be because the hotel is super-luxurious hotel). They are curious about anything luxurious. This clearly reflects what Japan used to be in 90s. We were in the midst of economic boom. We were getting rich and being successful. At that time the stereotype for Japanese people was ‘RICH.’ And we can also point out from this scene that they are longing for anything American.

As time goes by, it has significantly changed. In one of the popular American TV series, we can see another sort of stereotype for Japanese people. It’s form “HEROES.” There shows up one Japanese guy in this series, who also has a supernatural power as other characters have. In the drama, he speaks mainly in Japanese (remember this is broadcast in the US) and sometimes speaks in terribly Japanese accent English. As you see in the clip from Youtube, he is different in a way he behaves. However, he got popularity among the viewers because he is “ECCENTRIC.” Now today’s stereotype for the Japanese turned out to be “ECCENTRIC,” or how different from the mainstream.

I’m not trying to be too pessimistic, but I feel a bit sad owing to the fact there’s only one characteristic to describe Japanese people today, which is the deviation from the mainstream. Not only in American films/series Japanese people and culture are characterised as something weird or unusual. For instance all the subculture from Japan which is getting attention throughout the world. Again is it too pessimistic to think Japanese people and culture are notable just because it’s eccentric?


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