Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Pat Morita; Memoirs of a Geisha

1. Noriyuki Pat Morita

Pat Morita died on November 24.

His experience as a Japanese American actor working in the US is the subject of a New York Times editorial by Lawrence Downes, called "Goodbye to Pat Morita, Best Supporting Asian". Access to NYT articles can sometimes be a bit complicated, so here is a part of it that caught my eye. It is more a comment on the climate the US media creates for Asian actors, rather than on the work of Mr. Morita himself.

Mr. Miyagi remains everybody's idea of a positive character. Who can forget "wax on, wax off," his wise counsel linking car care to karate? But still, it bother me Miyagi-san so wise, but find so hard use articles, pronouns when talk.

I don't know much about Mr. Morita's life, though it was always my impression that, as Mr. Downes puts it, "he was a man of uncommon decency and good humor."

We will miss you, Mr. Morita.

Wikipedia article
NYT obituary

2. M o a G

I am not a fan of Memoirs of a Geisha, but a lot of students really like it. Many say that it is the reason that they got interested in learning more about Japan. To all of you, but especially the latter group, I recommend you read literature by actual Japanese writers--even actual geisha!--because it's amazing stuff and might give you insights into things that you wouldn't get otherwise.

A film adaptation of the novel is about to be released. The novel has long been the subject of controversy, perhaps most notoriously as regards the case of IWASAKI Mineko's repudiation of the book. Controversy related to the film, however, has also emerged, with some people in Japan dissatisfied with the inauthenticity of its representations of geisha and others with the fact that many of the characters in the film are actually portrayed by Chinese actors. Critics in China have also complained about this, some quoted making very intemperate remarks indeed. Others prefer not to comment, hoping it will just go away, and still more are interested in it for the insight it gives into the ways foreigners imagine Japan.

This article from Yahoo news gives a nice overview.

On the other hand British people I know (a certain one in particular especially) complain all the time about the cheesy way Hollywood depicts Britain, British people, etc., so a charitable view would regard this as merely more of the same.