Sunday, November 13, 2005

The Globalization of Fiction

I just saw something that made me happy. It'll probably annoy and offend some other people, but that's their problem. I just watched the trailer for Memoirs of a Geisha.

I remember hearing about the book when it came out, especially the fact that it was written by Arthur Golden, who is most decidedly not female, Japanese, or a geisha. And I was happy then, because people were giving it good reviews based on the quality of the work, not because of any political agenda. (I suppose you could argue that divorcing the life of the artist from his or her work is a political agenda, but you could also argue that Paris Hilton is talented. I would disagree with you on both points.)

And now, DreamWorks has made a movie out of the book. In the movie, the titular protagonist is played by Zhang Ziyi, and two of the major female characters are played by Michelle Yeoh (Zhang's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon co-star) and Gong Li. Note that all of these women are, in fact, Chinese, but are here playing Japanese characters.

Yeah, I can hear the activists complaining already. Which is funny, because I never hear anybody complain about a non-Irish actor playing an Irish character, or a non-French actor playing a Frenchman. Funny.

Here's my point: this is a story very much about Japan and its women, but it was written by an American man and is being made into an American movie with Chinese actors in prominent, starring roles. This is a good thing. And if you truly believe that people should not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character, you should damn well agree with me.

Another bit of trivia: parts of the movie were filmed at Hakone Gardens in Saratoga, where my good friends Sean and Crissy got married in May. Their celebration included an installation of Firefall, which is as close as you'll ever get to the Silver Age Planet Krypton. Very cool.

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