Xenophobia, cult culture cool, and global immigration of a foreign pop culture

June 8, 2007

Following my questions from last week about the relationship between mainstream and subcultures, I’d like to raise the question of the power of xenophobia. As the Chinpokomon episode accurately depicted, intense xenophobic anxiety usually surrounds the prevalence of an emerging foreign pop culture. Is it possible that xenophobia (not just of the nationally foreign, but also of that which is foreign to the mainstream) is a fueling force for cult followings to become the cool new mainstream trend? In other words, the very definition of various forms of “coolness” is that whatever is trendy is relatively obscure or inaccessible. So isn’t the existence of xenophobia something that could drive the popularity of a foreign conception of “cool”? (Case and point: the minute the South Park parents lost their xenophobic attitude toward Chinpokomon and seemingly embraced it, it stopped being cool.)


Emi Koyama’s Visit: Class visit, and Her Lectures on International Adoption and Intersex

June 1, 2007

We were lucky enough to have Emi Koyama visit our class, and give two really interesting talks for the Celebrating Protest Lecture Series. I first met her when she visited our class and gave a introduction to intersex, and it’s common misperceptions. Emi is a really great speaker, she got our entire class hooked as soon as she shared with us her infamous snail story. Snails apparently dance around each other for hours, circling each other before they mate. Eventually when they decide they like each other, they swap by the neck and both parties are impregnated. These snails are what hermaphrodites are, never humans. She spoke of the mistaken identity of intersex people, mainly intersex children. I had not much previous knowledge about intersex and found her class visit very informational. She shared with us major shojo mangas and boy mangas that now feature intersex. They seemed interesting and hope to read them some day.

Her activist writing on children of intersex was really interesting. Until I read her articles, I had never thought about the negative impact the medical community could potentially have on intersex children. Because I studied biology at this school, and work at the University hospital, I only have views of the medical community as doing anything they can to help people. It was unusual for me to hear her speak on the negative impact medicine could potentially have on these children. The reason she sees this is because these children, due to their unusual physical appearance, are often times examined by an entire medical team. It is sometimes referred to as a “public stripping” where the children must undress in front of a team. Sometimes pictures are taken of their naked bodies. I am a bit torn on this issue, as it makes sense that the medical team’s purpose is to pursue further medical knowledge of intersex so that more can be done to help intersex children. However at the same time, the way things are done currently seem to be a bit extreme and very careless of the children’s emotions. Hopefully improvements can be made for the future.
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Prototype World Citizen

May 31, 2007

Given the increasingly global presence of anime/manga, especially in America, I had to ask week 10’s guest Beryl Turner—the head of ACEN, anime/manga aficionado and historian extraordinaire—whether he sees anime and manga in America losing its Japanese connection and become totally subsumed into mainstream American pop culture. His answer? Absolutely. According to Beryl Turner anime and manga will be a prototype for what globalization is touted to do in the best sense—create a sort of world citizenry. He believes that manga and anime as an art form will eventually lose its nationality, and I am inclined to agree. The one issue, however, is the nature of anime/manga fans in America in the past and at present. Even Beryl acknowledged, giving this breakdown of the road map to mainstream status—innovation/discovery, dissemination through the underground as a fringe movement, (re)discovery and tentative investment from Big Business and the explosion—that anime and manga has its roots in the underground. Furthermore, considering that anime/manga fans while extremely inclusive of fans of other genres such as science fiction, still refer to the collective other as “mundanes.” It is hard to see this group of people forgetting the history behind their beloved art form.

I suppose then, that the key to transforming anime/manga into a global commodity sans national boundaries, lies in the unwitting masses who never touch the underground and never make it to a convention like ACEN, those who flip to Cartoon Network and get their first glimpse of Bleach, then head to a bookstore like Barnes and Nobles or Borders and pick up a copy of the manga along with a title by an American author and never bother to dig further. Is this positive? Negative? I can’t say. I am all for the more prevalent exposure of anime and manga in the West and around the world, but then I am also one of those people who likes to stick to the facts, and for me one of the facts here is that manga is Japanese. Still, I would hate to see an authenticity debate rear its head in this quarter. Maybe I should say manga was Japanese, but today and in the future it can and will go in whatever direction its progressively more global fans pull.

Anime as Acceptance (and Art)

May 30, 2007

I just wanted to express my delight at Beryl’s comment in class today. He said that anime is essentially a form of acceptance. Even after years of trying to draw comics the “Marvel way,” and not being able to succeed…he said that if he at least wrote a good story and put effort into it, his comic would be accepted by the anime community. I really like this idea. Sure, not everyone can be an artist…but if they have a passion for something and really put their all into it, it makes sense that the community should accept his efforts (and encourage him to improve).

It was also interesting to hear his take on anime becoming less and less “Japanese” as non-Japanese artists begin to contribute to the field. Just like house music lost its Chicagoan identity, anime is becoming more of a global creation and less of a style specific to Japan. I think it will definitely be interesting to see where anime goes from here–Beryl thinks that it will become increasingly global. And if the evolution of anime is anything like the evolution of house music (into so many new and unique styles and genres), I think I agree with Beryl that it could be a good thing. As long as non-Japanese artists put as much passion into their drawing and stories, then anime should continue to be just as beautiful and entertaining as it always has been. The importance lies in keeping up the craft.

Thanks to Beryl for taking the time to come speak to us. Awesome last class!

– Jorie

Globalization: Fashion, Video Games, Food and Media

May 25, 2007

Power point presentation on globalizaiton. Santte Blatiey, Alan Nieves, Soton Rosanwo and Tina Shen.

Toys/Clothing Merchandise
Globalization of Japanese Pop Culture
Japanese products that are globally available and massively consumed:
Fashion Trends
Kanji Shirts
Japanese Tattoos
Harajuku Girls
Shibuya Girls
Superflat Accessories
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Authenticity? Why can’t we just call it “food?”

May 23, 2007

The whole issue of authenticity with regard to Japanese food baffles me.

In particular, I think it’s very important to note the difference between something that is authentic and something that is quality. Sushi produced from fresh fish and rice with a smear of cream cheese might be high quality and displayed very smartly, but that doesn’t make it authentic Japanese-style sushi (the cream cheese does it in). It seems that a lot of restaurant owners would support the idea of authentication certificates…but only as a way to up their prices because they’re selling “the real thing.” People think that because sushi is presented authentically, it must be great. Granted, traditional Japanese sushi chefs pride themselves on using the freshest and best quality ingredients (so there, quality = authentic)…but here in America, there is far less emphasis on the stylistic and cultural elements of sushi preparation and display. As Lauren mentioned, subtle details as the temperature of sashimi can make or break a meal — and these details are so often overlooked here (hence the reason we get freezing cold sashimi presented haphazardly on a plain plate). Shi-shi restaurants mark up their sushi prices because they serve it on a pretty plate with lots of garnish and colorful add-ins…it’s probably better to look at than consume. Kappabashi models, anyone? But as Miho said, when people go to Chinatown, they seem to understand that what they order isn’t exactly what they would eat if they went to China, taking available ingredients and regional variations into account. So why don’t critics do this when they rate Japanese food?
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