Abe' Mark Nornes amnornes
Mon Dec 6 22:22:08 EST 1999

At 10:42 AM +0100 12/6/99, Roger Fischer wrote:
> Sounds very interesting. When should this book come out? Can you tell us
> more about it?

Since she's only starting the research now, I'd give it a couple years
before reading it in print. I'm sure earlier articles are inevitable, and
I'm sure they will be both inspiring and provocative.

At the talk she gave here, she argued that in the past only the United
States has been able to create global culture. At the same time, she allowed
that even McDonald's gets localized wherever it lands. To discuss this, she
drew on a Japanese author whose name was something like Iwabuchi. He uses a
catchy phrase, "cultural deodorizing," to describe this kind of process.
This is particularly true of products from non-American sources, because
their success in most markets is based on the erasure of the original

Allison pointed to the history of character mechandising without going into
it. She gave the impression that the book would go back to the 1950s when
this started (although I suspect the history is far longer than that).

She discussed how Pokemon is deodorized for the states at the levels of
production, consumption/play, and in media discourse. She played with the
idea of worlds, both the virtual world that kids are encouraged to play in
and the real world where Pokemon graces the skins of aircraft. The former
discussion was pretty interesting, since she brought in some of the non-tv
materials like maps and guidebooks to the Pokemon world.

She hinted at potential psychoanalytic readings, but pulled her punches and
didn't go into them. It basically had to do with incorportating supernatural
power by acquiring consumer products.

It was a very interesting talk, though obviously early in the
conceptualization stage. She is clearly making the most of her time here in
gathering materials and exploring the Japanese reception context. The latter
will probably be one of the most important contributions, and she made
fascinating observations about the differences between age groups and gender
in Japan (she gave a nod to Marsha Kinder's Playing with Power, which
probably gave a healthy push in the direction of reception).

I also had the feeling that the idea of deodorization is less useful than
she thinks, because it radically simplifies a messy reception context
outside of Japan. Figuring this out will be the most difficult task of the
book. Just a Nichibei scope would be rough, but she casting it as a study of
the globalization of play. One hint at the complexity of this part of her
project came in the discussion of "deodorization" when she used the word
"corny" to describe her object of study. The word is revealing because it
points to a reception that has little use for deodorized products. It's a
kind of camp sensibility that has co-existed with the butterflies and geisha
version of "our" Japan.

I'd like her to step back and consider the reception context in which she is
writing, publishing and teaching.  If area studies relied heavily on the
Richie version of traditional Japan in the past, what does it mean to shift
to a camp sensibility that has been the domain of cultish fan culture
before? What does this imply for the power relations circulating in this new
academic culture?

It might be interesting to go back to Paul Schrader's work, because one of
the most interesting things about him is his ability to combine both. When
he was writing criticism, he kept them separate (consider the difference
between his introduction to the yakuza film and the transcendentalism book),
but his film on Mishima was a curious, fluid mixture of the two modes of


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