What are the first titles that come to mind when thinking of Asian Movies? For the most part, many of my friends that I have asked this question of come up with two answers. The first answer, sadly, is usually “I’m not sure I have seen any, so nothing”. My other more worldly friends mentioned movies such as “Godzilla”, “The Fast and Furious Tokyo Drift”, “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” and even much to my shame “Karate Kid”.
“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” is in fact a co-produced movie that was done by China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and the United States. It was released in 2000. “Godzilla” is in fact a Japanese production however has had many different versions recreated in other countries such as America. Many people have not seen the original Japanese version that was released in 1954. “The Fast and Furious Tokyo Drift” is another co-production between Japan and the United States. It was released in 2006 by an American production company by the name of Universal Pictures. And finally we come to the last friends’ answer (which truly embarrasses me), “Karate Kid”. It is a film series that is 100% American and was first released in 1984.
Much to my shock, not one of my American friends was able to state just one 100% Asian film. In Japan, it is rare to have a Japanese person not be able to answer this question in reverse. In fact, many Japanese have more American movie crushes than Japanese movie star crushes. Most of my Japanese friends are head-over-heals in love with Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio, Julie Roberts, Cameron Diaz and others among a large list of rather less known American actor/actresses.
In my opinion this could mainly be caused by many foreign films holding centre stage, even before their own countries films. When I lived in Japan, I occasionally went to the movie theatres to watch American films that were just being released. These new American releases took in much more on the debut weekends than the Japanese films. In addition, many television commercials showcase foreign movie stars such as Keanu Reeves, Meg Ryan, John Travolta and many more American stars. It is hard to flip through a magazine or channel surf in Japan without coming across an American actor/actress.
Although it is hard to specify if every Japanese people know more than each and every American citizen in completeness, it is clear among my friends and acquaintances. In the book
East Asia: Tradition and Transformation by Fairbank, Resichauer, & Craig the authors reported on a transition into a more Westernized society that not due to the historical events of Commodore Matthew Perry but more or less post World War II. At this time, American troops took over many parts of Japan and brought in Western cultures such as wearing Western clothes, Westerns style foods and other cultural traditions that the Japanese had never seen before this time.
Today, many aged Japanese citizens that were alive before WWII state that the Japanese children of today are unlike anything they knew before the war. Japanese children are raised outside of poverty and other hardships that were seen before this time. For instance, many younger generations can not image life without a DVD player, computer, movie theatres and/or the treasured McDonalds and Kentucky Fried Chicken. Older generations used to pick traditional Japanese food favorites of Udon, Ramen and Sushi whereas newer generations mainly choose pizza or hamburgers.
Transitions done during post-war times have definitely metamorphosed the Japanese culture and traditions of later generations. If you spend some time writing a cause and effect essay on this topic, you’ll definitely see decades of americanisation as a result. Although I have emerged into what my friends call a “Japan’ized” person, many in America have not had the chance to be educated in the same way. To me it appears that the Japanese as an average know more about American films that the Americans do. What do you think? Can you name ten 100% Asian films off the top of your head?