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Lost In Translation


Luke
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Though I had noticed the obvious exaggerations of Japanese stereotypes through-out the film, I hadn't really considered it to be racist.

Surely the cultural differences are part of the plot, and the stereotyping no worse than that in any other film (if lost in translation is racist then surely almost every American film that has ever featured English characters is racist).

Anyway, yesterday my girlfriend went out for drinks with some people from work and got on to talking about Lost in Translation. One of them said that she hadn't been looking forward to the film as she'd heard it was very racists and had herself found that to be the case.

I think this is the article she had originally read that gave her the impression it's racist:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,...1130137,00.html

and here's another link too:

http://www.asianamericanfilm.com/archives/000602.html

So - what do you think? Is the film racist? are all these things talked about just part of the plot/story/film.

Are we laughing at the Japanese or are we laughing at the obviously comical exaggerations?

Are we really laughing at the Japanese man for not understating Bill Murray? I certainly don't think so and think this is one of the points that misses the most.

I'll try and put together in more detail exactly what I think, but in the mean time - what do you think?

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Use the search, Luke

Gah! I feared someone would post something like that, so, do you know what I did? - I used the bloody search.

No results!

I guess I made the mistake of assuming the posts would have been in the relevant forum though, and so I just used the search function at the bottom of the page.

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It's all very well a bunch of Brit-geeks speculating on whether or not the film is racist. These opinions are irrelevant. I would however, be interested in the opinions of anyone amongst us who is either Japanese or is of Japanese descent.

As for the comments from that New Zealander - :o "The showers are too low, and I bang my head on the door frames". Remind me never to visit New Zealand...

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It's all very well a bunch of Brit-geeks speculating on whether or not the film is racist. These opinions are irrelevant. I would however, be interested in the opinions of anyone amongst us who is either Japanese or is of Japanese descent.

Racist.

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I think I'd punch somebody if they insisted it was even remotely racist.

I, as well as a fair few other people did find the film xenophobic in places.

There a number of laughs and cheap jibes at the expense of the Japanese e.g. height, 'Engrish' etc.

Racist might seem too strong a word to use in this example but to me, Bill Murray's character in particular was extremely stubborn and ignorant. I have already posted in a previous Lost In translation thread:

I actually found Bill Murray's character quite ignorant and obnoxious a lot of the time. He didn't seem to even try to adjust to his surroundings. For example, his rudeness when ordering the two dishes in the restaurant. Is it the waitresses fault she doesn't quite understand what he is saying? No, it is his. I found the cheap jibes at Japanese people quite uncomfortable to watch. Admittedly I did laught at a few of the jokes but ultimatley, it seemed a little xenophobic.

The film seems to try and balance this with Johannsson's character in constant awe of the Japanese culture. For me, it seemed too little too late.

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I, as well as a fair few other people did find the film xenophobic in places.

There a number of laughs and cheap jibes at the expense of the Japanese e.g. height, 'Engrish' etc.

Oh for pity's sake. The man is over six foot tall, and he was clearly different from the people around him. If you think his height was a racist slur, why not go the whole hog and accuse the film of pointing out that tall people are silly, too?

Honestly, when people can't tell the difference between racism and observational comedy it makes me cringe.

Racist might seem too strong a word to use in this example but to me, Bill Murray's character in particular was extremely stubborn and ignorant.

His supposed stubborness and ignorance (of which I saw NONE) has nothing to do with the issue at hand. Personally, I think you failed at every point in understanding what the film was about.

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And surely having a stubborn and ignorant (or racist) character doesn't make a film racist.

Should all characters within a film act in a politically correct manner?

And surely Bill Murray's character is a racial stereo-type of an American - ignorant, stubborn, uninterested in other cultures, tall, etc - nobody seems to mind about that.

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Bill Murray's character was stubborn and ignorant. But I don't think it was because he didn't like the Japanese, I think it was more to do with the fact that he's supposed to be this talanted actor but here is again being sent on another trip away from friends and family to do yet another advert. Being in Japan wasn't the cause of his stubbornes and ignorance it just heightened it as he was in a totaly alien culture.

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Oh for pity's sake. The man is over six foot tall, and he was clearly different from the people around him. If you think his height was a racist slur, why not go the whole hog and accuse the film of pointing out that tall people are silly, too?

Honestly, when people can't tell the difference between racism and observational comedy it makes me cringe.

His supposed stubborness and ignorance (of which I saw NONE) has nothing to do with the issue at hand. Personally, I think you failed at every point in understanding what the film was about.

Hmm, I'm over six foot tall, I don't make joke s abuut people smaller than me.

And yes you are right, it is observational comedy but it's cheap jibes at Japanese people. Maybe if I tried some observational comedy regarding black people and their big lips, oriental people and their narrow eyes, asian people and their cultural wear e.g. turbans, bindis etc.

Hmm, you say I failed to understand what the film is about and yet you can't see Murray's stubborness or ignorance? Let me point it out for you: In the restaurant towards the end when the Johanssens character is pisse doff at Murray for sleeping with the other woman. Murray gets pissed off at the waitress for not understanding him even though he has made no attempt to fit into his surroundings. Goijng to a foreign country and getting pissed at a local because they don't understand you due to your failure to even try to communicate in a language you both understand is stubborn and ignorant IMO.

But as you say I guess I just failed to understand what this ever so delightful film was about. Care to enlighten me?

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pah - and the search is shite.

Even now when I search for 'lost in translation racist' no results are returned.

Crappy, shite search function.

Lost AND Translation

Today and older.

All forums.

Bingo! B)

:o

how long have you been waiting to use that?

You wouldn't believe me if I told you :D

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And surely having a stubborn and ignorant (or racist) character doesn't make a film racist.

Should all characters within a film act in a politically correct manner?

And surely Bill Murray's character is a racial stereo-type of an American - ignorant, stubborn, uninterested in other cultures, tall, etc - nobody seems to mind about that.

You are quite right, a character doesn't make a film racist, not at all. But eh use of Engrish may sit uncomfortably with some.

And no, all characters shouldn't act in a PC way. That would be boring and one dimensional.

My point is, you asked if some people found the film racist. I gave my opinion and examples as to why people would think this. I explicitly said racist may be too strong a word to use but there are definite laughs at the expense of a race.

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Bill Murray's character was stubborn and ignorant. But I don't think it was because he didn't like the Japanese, I think it was more to do with the fact that he's supposed to be this talanted actor but here is again being sent on another trip away from friends and family to do yet another advert. Being in Japan wasn't the cause of his stubbornes and ignorance it just heightened it as he was in a totaly alien culture.

I agree with you.

I'm not saying Japan was the cause of his ignorance merely an example of it.

Yes he was in an alien environment but made no attempt to fit. Instead he made sarky comments.

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Hmm, you say I failed to understand what the film is about and yet you can't see Murray's stubborness or ignorance?  Let me point it out for you:  In the restaurant towards the end when the Johanssens character is pisse doff at Murray for sleeping with the other woman.  Murray gets pissed off at the waitress for not understanding him even though he has made no attempt to fit into his surroundings.

Then you missed the point of the scene. He and the girl were having a wordless fight at that point. No matter where he was in the world, he would have been sharp with the waitress. It was nothing to do with the fact he was in Japan. Get it?

Goijng to a foreign country and getting pissed at a local because they don't understand you due to your failure to even try to communicate in a language you both understand is stubborn and ignorant IMO.

Again, that scene was nothing to do with him being in Japan. He would have been rude to an American waitress.

But as you say I guess I just failed to understand what this ever so delightful film was about.  Care to enlighten me?

Do a search.

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Lost AND Translation

Today and older.

All forums.

Bingo!

Indeed, and it also seems that adding 'AND racist' also returns the relevant thread.

Hmm, perhaps if you didn't have to wait 2 days between each search you perform then I may have put in a little more effort.

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Then you missed the point of the scene. He and the girl were having a wordless fight at that point. No matter where he was in the world, he would have been sharp with the waitress. It was nothing to do with the fact he was in Japan. Get it?

Again, that scene was nothing to do with him being in Japan. He would have been rude to an American waiteress.

You are right. They are quarelling. I know this and I agree he would have been curt with anyone. My point is though that had he bothered to try to communicate the waitress would have not been so confused and not need to hang arounf the table for further confirmation. Although when someone is pissed off rationality is not their most obvious quality.

Now argue your case for the use of Engrish throughout the film. You must be able to understand why some people would find this offensive.

Do a search.

No thanks.

I think I understand the film perfectly. I just don't find it as deep and subtle as many have made out. It's so heavy handed with it's subject matter that it's pretty difficult to not get the point.

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Again, that scene was nothing to do with him being in Japan. He would have been rude to an American waitress.

I agree with that absolutely.

I've been thinking about it and this film could have been set anywhere really, even in New York or Texas, and the characters would have acted in the same way.

Also, in the articles I linked to there are complaints that all the Japanese characters are represented as "dolls or cartoons", "one-dimensional and dehumanised".

Surely ALL the characters except Bob and Charlotte are represented that way. The stereo-typed Hollywood air-head bimbo, the aged bar singer, the nagging wife on the phone. It's simply that there are very few non-Japanese characters in the film.

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Also, in the articles I linked to there are complaints that all the Japanese characters are represented as "dolls or cartoons", "one-dimensional and dehumanised".

Surely ALL the characters except Bob and Charlotte are represented that way.  The stereo-typed Hollywood air-head bimbo, the aged bar singer, the nagging wife on the phone.  It's simply that there are very few non-Japanese characters in the film.

Surprisingly, no. The ONLY other acceptable and 'cool' people portrayed in the movie are (wait for it....) JAPANESE!

Where? At the party he goes to. The Japanese surfers and singers, the dude learning French - Bob was so happy with them, he went straight home to tell his wife.

Anybody who can't see the subtle touches within needn't worry as there'll be another Tom Hanks movie along any day now.

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Now argue your case for the use of Engrish throughout the film. You must be able to understand why some people would find this offensive.

Why would they find it offensive? The letter 'r' is more difficult for the Chinese and Japanese community to pronouce because it's so rare in their own langauge.

Where's the offense?

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Also, in the articles I linked to there are complaints that all the Japanese characters are represented as "dolls or cartoons", "one-dimensional and dehumanised".

I would have liked subtitles in the scene at the hospital, while he's sat waiting for her to finish being treated. To have some idea of what the joke was, rather than either sit in awkward silence or 'laugh at the dumb old Japanese guy' would have been nice.

For the rest of the film, the lack of subtitles was 'immersive', but that scene was awkward

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Why would they find it offensive? The letter 'r' is more difficult for the Chinese and Japanese community to pronouce because it's so rare in their own langauge.

Where's the offense?

Exactly. The joke comes from the way they speak.

That's what will be found offensive by some.

Black people tend to have bigger lips and larger noses than white people. If someone were to make a joke about that many people would be offended by it.

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It's all very well a bunch of Brit-geeks speculating on whether or not the film is racist. These opinions are irrelevant. I would however, be interested in the opinions of anyone amongst us who is either Japanese or is of Japanese descent.

As for the comments from that New Zealander - :o "The showers are too low, and I bang my head on the door frames". Remind me never to visit New Zealand...

It's not really racist, it did piss me off a bit sometimes. It's kinda like the level of annoyance when you see an english person in an American movie or sitcom and they get a cheap laugh out of his (wrong) accent or comments about cooking or the war.

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