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Foreign Culture through Western Eyes Anonymous 23031

These days non-Western cultures are now being given a greater chance to accurately portray their own culture in Western media, particularly with regards to women who were often only viewed through the male gaze previously.

However, I’m also sad that the fantasy element of these cultures, aimed Western eyes, will be gone.

For example, I don’t think neither the film nor the book of Memoirs of Geisha was ever supposed to be an accurate representation of geisha and Japanese culture, but an embellished story aimed at Western audiences. Anyone familiar with Japanese culture will immediately be able to pick out the Chinese actresses, the incorrect hairstyles, the made up geisha culture, etc.

I wish there was a way to still make romanticised media set other countries with a fantasy element but in way to make it clear you shouldn’t take it 100% as being real and that it wasn’t created by people from that country. Or to involve people from that culture so that the story can be an embellished fantasy but not in way that is harmful.

It feels like a whole genre of real life fantasy media set in foreign lands will never be made again and appreciating older media in the genre will be forever frowned upon.


Anonymous 23049


Why not just consume media with a traditional-fantasy setting made in those countries?
Japan does it all the time. Even westerners are creating fiction in that style (this might be what replaces those old pieces of media with an ignorant/poorly researched version of Japan). Even then, I think more "unconventional", original takes on Japan-based fantasy will always be made every now and then, and as long as they're not blatantly ignorant, it will be fine.

I'm Mexican and I loved Coco, btw.

Anonymous 23051



Memoirs of a Geisha is one of my favorite movies and is one of the main reasons I got interested in Japanese culture since an early age, but I was also disappointed to find out it was inaccurate about actual geisha. The geisha who was interviewed and based off of Sayuri's character, Mineko Iwasaki, sued Arthur Golden for a breach of contract. Geisha traditionally have a very secretive community so she had asked him not to use her real name, but he did anyway. This made her get death threats and ostracized. She was one of the most famous geisha of her time, so it was really sad to hear how her reputation was tarnished by this man. I bought and read her book "Geisha, A Life" that is an autobiography of her life and is supposed to be more factual. She's lead a pretty interesting, unique life that is clear Memoirs didn't do enough justice.

Anonymous 23053


I hadn’t thought of that but it’s a good idea. I guess it won’t be exactly the same as it’s not aimed at the Western eyes (eg won’t highlight East/West cultural differences so much) but probably still enjoyable nonetheless.

Same, though I haven’t read her own book yet. Are there a lot of differences? I do think Golden went too far by including her name, especially with the embellishment.

I also like media where a Westerner travels to a foreign land, such as Silk, The Painted Veil, The Sleeping Dictionary, Mongambo, and Lost in Translation but some of them would fall under “white saviour” or colonialism these days. I hope these genres are able to evolve so that they are no longer cringey in places but still maintain the “exotic” magic. I guess a foreign crew making a film in another culture will always be difficult.

Anonymous 23055

The existence of the "exotic" creates the existence of the colonial tone. They are inextricably connected. You can't have one without the other.

Anonymous 23071

True, if white people are involved. I have seen some movies where someone will discover their own culture, such as someone American born Chinese moving to China and embracing the culture, such as Shanghai Kiss or Shanghai Calling. I guess these are the more acceptable version of this type of media. They are able to highlight the differences between East and West, though the exotic/exaggeration element tends to be minimal.

Anonymous 23101

It applies in that case too. Americans "discovering their culture" by following their heritage implies and reinforces the exotic as not being American. Again, in any way shape or form, the exotic creates the colonial, the outsider. In your example, all that's changed is that instead of someone being an outsider somewhere else, the Chinese going to Shanghai is "the outsider returning home".

Anonymous 23117

But what about movies that show a non-American going to USA? I think the term "exotic" applies to every culture.

Anonymous 23136


One of the primary differences, I think, was that Memoirs of a Geisha completely undershadowed the role of people other than "Mameha" had on "Sayuri"'s development (It's kind of insulting they didn't even bother to give them actual names, now that I think about it). "Mother", "Auntie", and "Granny" in particular, who were based on "Mama Masako", "Auntie Oima", and "Mother Sakaguchi" in Iwasaki's book, played a huge mentorship role in Iwasaki's life - much more than "Mameha" (or Satoharu in Mineko's book. Yaeko, based on Hatsumomo, was actually the one chosen to be Mineko's big sister.)

Anonymous 23138

What if I told you those are the exact same as well?

Anonymous 23143

>I think the term "exotic" applies to every culture.
Agree, what is “exotic” depends on your background. Been parts of white culture can be exotic to other white people. I haven’t watched it, but I think Emily in Paris is an example of this. The French didn’t like the exaggerated way in which they were portrayed, but this was exactly what (some) Americans want in a show set in France.

Anonymous 23144

I meant “some parts” not “been parts”.

Anonymous 23177

Haven't watched it either but the first good laugh I had was when I read the actor list, not a single Arabic actor or actress? You got a sassy gay black best friend and an Asian chick but couldn't get one asshole named mohammed? At least 10% of french are of Arabic descent, it's not that hard. Also all the names are really cliche…

Anonymous 23180

How can a Frenchmen be of Arabic descent? Is this like Americans identifying as "German" or "France" even though they've never even been to those countries?

Anonymous 23182

Marocco and Algeria are right across the sea and used to french territory right until the 60s.
So yeah a lot of people (at least 10%) talk Arabic and they go see the extended family back home. Or the family come see them, like I said it's like what 3h by plane maybe?
Lots of Arabic bakery in france too, it's even pretty common to go to Algeria or Marocco on family vacations

Anonymous 23202

Honestly anon because no one wants to see Arabic stuff in a show about France. It is not why people watch it.

Anonymous 23203

But they do want to see East Asians and Sassy black men in Paris? Who, by all standards, are even more out of place than the Arabs?

Anonymous 23242


I've always liked "colonial adventure" as genre. White people going to exotic places and getting exposed to totally different cultures. I enjoy reading real accounts by explorers and anthropologists and I think they are much more honest and true than any depiction of non-western culture made for western audience today. Now it's all sanitized and PC. For example, it's impossible to write honestly about how violent and brutal a lot of hunter-gatherer tribes are, and the truthful early accounts get labeled "racist lies".

There's also just romanticism in these stories that can't exist anymore. Everywhere has been explored, even distant tribes nowadays have TV and internet, information is too available and the mystery and sense of exoticism is gone. Go to any city in the world, you see the same Starbucks and McDonalds joints. Everyplace is becoming identical and cultures have little uniqueness left.
One genre where the sense of exploration exists is scifi, all those stories of space exploration and meeting aliens are very inspired by colonial stories.

I'll also say that it's a total double standard anyway because every other culture still can depict westerners anyway they want, including exoticism and stereotypes (just look at how japanese treat european historical settings).

Anonymous 23249

There's a lot more racism toward Arabs then there is toward black or Asian people in France. At least that's my impression, I might be completely wrong tho since I'm white as flour

Anonymous 23250

It's true that now everything is easier to find but I don't see how it takes off the wonder of it. People already discovered it sure but have you been there? That's why I love traveling, everything is new to me when I go to another country. Sure they may have Starbucks and Mc Donald's but they adapt to their public. For exemple I went to a Mc Donald in China and they had waffles fries and some sort of noodle burger.
Even when just moving from town to town there are some small changes. In France you can't say Marseille and Lille have the same look because they really don't.
Of course modern building tend to look the same, but for exemple in Singapore there is lots of greenery everywhere on the buildings, something that I haven't really seen elsewhere yet.
Last thing : I keep taking about cities but nothing keep you from exploring the countryside

Anonymous 23252


OP here, this is exactly the same feeling I have. Everywhere we go is exactly the same these days and I feel so sad that I missed the period where traveling was truly an adventure. Because things were so unknown before, even true accounts were magical. I guess as the world got smaller and smaller, more exaggeration/fantasy was needed to keep the magic but we've reached a point where exaggerating other people's cultures isn't considered appropriate (which I can understand).

I never made the connection with science fiction before but that's another genre I'm a huge fan of, especially Star Trek The Original Series where they encounter new and exotic cultures every episode. As that old meme goes, we were born too late to explore the Earth, born too early to explore space.

I just wish there was someway to have this colonial genre continue (on Earth) without the negative parts. I think something like a movie about an African woman exploring China for the first time would have a similar feel of two cultures clashing but no one is making that movie. Again, we are stuck in the annoying in-between part where the old style is no longer being done but new possibilities haven't been fully embraced yet.

>For example, it's impossible to write honestly about how violent and brutal a lot of hunter-gatherer tribes are, and the truthful early accounts get labeled "racist lies".

I do think you have to look at things from both sides as sometimes things can get misinterpreted, such as the Fore people of Papua New Guinea being labeled as cannibals when in reality eating their dead relatives was their burial ritual. Yes, it's still technically cannibalism but not the murderous way that usually comes to mind with the word. I'm not against people having more control over how their own culture is portrayed but I also agree that negative things shouldn't be completely covered up.

Another thing I really like about colonial movies is when they don't hold back about how awful colonialism was for the local people as that wasn't really spoken about that much until recently. The clash of the magical exploration and profits of the white people compared to the reality of the suffering of the local people is an important part of the genre. In Memoirs of a Geisha, the Americans are entertained by the beautiful geisha but we also see how much Sayuri suffered to become a geisha and how the war affected her. If these movies are no longer made, will out understanding of colonialism actual end up suffering?

Anonymous 23253

I enjoyed Mama Weed which features a lot of Arabs in Paris and even some East Asians. I liked it because it's a culture clash movie but I can see how other people might not want something like that.

Anonymous 23321

No one has to consume western media, and no one has to be represented there…because it will never be an accurate representation. It is just a translation, and a translation is never perfect.

Zatoichi, 1989, Japanese version is the one you should watch.
Zatoichi, 2003,American version, is made for western audience. It is very different. Even though it uses Japanese actors, the culture idioms are left out, because western audience would not understand them.

The mistake is thinking western movie is the big version. No, it isn't. The western version is just a translation so that western audience can see the story.

non-western cultures should continue to make their own media that meets their own cultural needs. If west wants to translate it and make their own version so they can experience the story, that's ok.

In other words, don't wait for the west to make your media, then complain, because they wont ever get your culture right when they have their own culture.

Anonymous 23353

Well said. I completely agree. All the talk about representation always ignores that there is an entire world outside west. Asia, Africa, Middle-East etc all produce shitload of their OWN media, that does not have any problem with western distortion.

Westerners have our own culture and history and that gives us our own unique perspective. We can't escape that and we shouldn't need to. There is nothing wrong with it and nobody blames any other culture for having this natural bias.

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