Monday, April 19, 2010

Japanese Americans Vs Hollywood

When reading Kristine Kuramitsu's article on Japanese internment camps in the World War II period, I was shocked at how Japanese Americans were treated and how the media influenced public ideologies regarding both the camps themselves and the wider Japanese American society. Before reading the article I had no idea that these camps even existed, but I am shocked to find parallels between the Holocaust concentration camps and the Japanese Internment camps. Maybe it is the fact that American society are ashamed of such internment camp existence in the most ‘democratic’ and powerful nation on earth, but I feel that their history is often ignored and neglected in the media today.

Considering how the Los Angeles Hollywood system is the biggest and most mainstream mode of cinema today, I am surprised (or maybe not so much) of how Hollywood fails to represent Japanese Americans or even Asian Americans generally in contemporary film. And if it does it nearly always represents Asian Americans in terms of strict stereotypes which are often insulting. The film 16 Candles (1984) is one out of many films I can think of which is racially insensitive and offensive to Asian Americans through its depiction of the character Long Duk Dong. To portray this character in the comedic sideline role is interesting, and I think Hollywood still do this. Why can’t Hollywood ever cast a Japanese American as a central protagonist? Why must Japanese cinema remain seen as an ‘art’ form of cinema? One could argue that Hollywood has progressed a long way in terms of African American characters in mainstream film, however I feel as though Japanese Americans are ignored more frequently. This shows how the media and mainstream Hollywood still influence what we see, or rather do not see, in terms of racial representations and public ideologies regarding race in America.

On a final note I found that the film Conscience and the Constitution (2000) tells the ‘true’ story of Japanese Internment Camps. Although I haven’t watched the film myself, I think this seems to offer a more accurate representation of Japanese Americans than the media of the World War II era portrayed.

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