Hollywood angers both sides

A new Hollywood movie, starring three Chinese actresses and set for a limited release today, is inflaming tensions between China and Japan.  The casting decisions made by the producers of Memoirs of a Geisha have led to a heated debate about cultural—sensitivity, and some Japanese are arguing that a movie about Japanese culture should have a Japanese actress in the lead.  

In traditional Japanese society a geisha entertained well—to—do men. The English—language film is set in Japan and adapted from the American novel by Arthur Golden. It stars Chinese actresses Ziyi Zhang and Gong Li, and Chinese—Malaysian actress Michelle Yeoh.They join several Japanese performers, including Ken Watanabe.

An Associated Press story says:

Producers Douglas Wick ("Gladiator") and Lucy Fisher, and director Rob Marshall ("Chicago"), say the casting was an exhaustive, meticulous process that considered acting ability, star power and physical traits.

"Some Japanese actresses didn't even want to audition, because they couldn't speak English and were too afraid to try to take it on," Fisher said.

With a bilateral relationship plagued by historical mistrust and fights over natural resources in the East China Sea, the symbolism of Chinese actresses portraying Japanese women serving Japanese males is too much for many Chinese. During Japan's 1937—38 occupation of the Chinese city of Nanjing, Japanese troops killed at least 150,000 Chinese civilians and raped tens of thousands of women. 

Congratulations, Hollywood! You have managed to alienate both Japanese and Chinese potential viewers.

Brian J. Schwarz   12 08 05

A new Hollywood movie, starring three Chinese actresses and set for a limited release today, is inflaming tensions between China and Japan.  The casting decisions made by the producers of Memoirs of a Geisha have led to a heated debate about cultural—sensitivity, and some Japanese are arguing that a movie about Japanese culture should have a Japanese actress in the lead.  

In traditional Japanese society a geisha entertained well—to—do men. The English—language film is set in Japan and adapted from the American novel by Arthur Golden. It stars Chinese actresses Ziyi Zhang and Gong Li, and Chinese—Malaysian actress Michelle Yeoh.They join several Japanese performers, including Ken Watanabe.

An Associated Press story says:

Producers Douglas Wick ("Gladiator") and Lucy Fisher, and director Rob Marshall ("Chicago"), say the casting was an exhaustive, meticulous process that considered acting ability, star power and physical traits.

"Some Japanese actresses didn't even want to audition, because they couldn't speak English and were too afraid to try to take it on," Fisher said.

With a bilateral relationship plagued by historical mistrust and fights over natural resources in the East China Sea, the symbolism of Chinese actresses portraying Japanese women serving Japanese males is too much for many Chinese. During Japan's 1937—38 occupation of the Chinese city of Nanjing, Japanese troops killed at least 150,000 Chinese civilians and raped tens of thousands of women. 

Congratulations, Hollywood! You have managed to alienate both Japanese and Chinese potential viewers.

Brian J. Schwarz   12 08 05