They all look the same...

Kerim Yasar kerimyasar at
Tue Aug 31 23:52:46 EDT 2004

But, and 
> this gets back to points made by the two Marks,
> there was also a lot of 
> discourse basically of this kind: Hollywood has long
> gotten Japan 
> wrong, but this time they have--at least in
> spirit--gotten it right. We 
> cannot ignore these discourses and the distinctions
> they make in 
> Hollywood's representations of Japan.

I didn't mean to ignore those discourses, simply to
suggest that they are rooted more in ideology than in
history.  I think we agree on that much.

I can see how the story of the film plugs into certain
recurrent motifs in Japanese culture--the first one
that pops into mind is the "noble failure" paradigm. 
And we can certainly say that the filmmakers are
masters of calculation.  We see this most perfectly in
the bifurcated ending, in which the Japanese heroes
all die and the American hero lives happily ever

> Next, as my first paragraph already implies, we
> should remember that 
> the issue is often not whether a film is accurate to
> history, but 
> whether it accords with the version of history that
> audiences desire or 
> are accustomed to.

You make an excellent point.  If that is the issue, I
suggest that, for clarity's sake, we refer to it
perhaps as "ideological fit" instead of
"authenticity," which vaguely implies some kind of
endorsement.  I realize that the discourse in question
itself claims to be about "authenticity" but there is
no need for us inadvertently to perpetuate that error
by getting mired in the same rhetoric.

The success of
> Last Samurai in 
> Japan, then, has as much to do with the rise of
> right-wing 
> neo-nationalism in Japan--and their version of
> history--as it does with 
> the influence of Hollywood. We should thus temper
> our claims of 
> hybridity with a thorough consideration of
> persistent nationalism in 
> Japan.

It is fascinating and amazing that Hollywood, at least
in this film, and the new mainstream Japanese
nationalism seem to have found a "sweet spot" of
mutually harmonious convergence.  This also raises
some interesting questions about post-9/11 nationalism
in the United States.  After all, it's not as if The
Last Samurai were made especially and only for the
Japanese market--something was meant to resonate with
Americans as well.  The truly bizarre twist here is
that if we were to search for a contemporary
equivalent for the last samurai--anti-modern, bound by
traditional codes of honor, a small group of renegades
against the Leviathan of the modern state--we come up
with al Qaeda!

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