Here's how it goes. Bill Murray plays Bob, an ageing Hollywood star who's been lured to Tokyo to shoot a whisky commercial. Staying in a top hotel, he's lonely, a bit disorientated and bemused by the Japanese people around him. He forms a platonic relationship with Charlotte, played by Scarlett Johannson. Some see it as being an innocent reflection on time spent in a different culture. Others, particularly Japanese-Americans, have taken offence at the negative stereotyping of Japanese people.
Scarlett & Bill
What's the basic problem?
The problem is that Japanese characters in the movie are moulded into that old false stereotype. The attitude that all Japanese people are eccentric or overly-polite and the only way for anyone from the west to interact with them is to talk over their heads at their expense. And here it just seems like almost every time a Japanese person appears on screen, he (or she) is there as padding for a sarcastic observation by Bill Murray's "Bob".
Bob, the guest
Am I being too sensitive?
Haven't we gone beyond the days of racial stereotyping in movies. The days when John Wayne was shooting native-American Indians etc. Come off it, I lived in Asia for two years and it astounds me sometimes the ignorance people in the west have towards asian-people and cultures.
Sofia Coppola answers the criticism
I've read a couple of interviews on the net with Sofia Coppola and she appears surprised at such criticism of her movie. In one interview with the "Independent Newspaper" she says, "I know I'm not racist. I think if everything's based on truth, you can make fun, have a little laugh, but also be respectful of a culture. I just love Tokyo and I'm not mean spirited, I guess someone has misunderstood my intentions".
Sofia & Bill, on location
The dangers of stereotyping
OK, I'm absolutely certain she had the best intentions and I'm sure she has a love affair with Tokyo and I'm not accusing anyone of being racist. But I think she has fallen into the trap that, for example, many UK newspaper editors
fall into. They would lapse into absolute horror if anyone were to accuse them of being racist but there is an innocence in failing to see the dangers of stereotyping a race. If you don't see my point, just pick up a British newspaper and read a story that refers to Germany. You may be surprised at the language, the metaphors ... (sometimes you would imagine some editors are still fighting World War 2). It's seen as innocent fun - but it's all too easy to reinforce a false stereotype.
Having said all that ...
I saw "Lost in Translation" when it first came out and I loved the mood, the acting but at the same time was mildly irritated by all that I've mentioned above. It's an otherwise brililant work but what I am asking is: couldn't we have had just one Japanese character that was smart and witty? Am I being too sensitive?
The Golden Statues
"Lost in Racism"
A group of Japanese-Americans feel so strongly about this that they are running a campaign "Lost in Racism". The group are lobbying the movie industry to make sure that "Lost in Translation" doesn't pick up enough votes to get an Oscar next Sunday. Kai Yu is running the campaign and he gave me a few thoughts of his own on Reality Check last Monday. Click below and you'll hear the full interview.
title: Lost in Racism - Reality Check Interview with Kai Yu length: 3:53 MP3 (3.732MB) | WMA
Lost in an FM4 poll on the whole issue:
so what do you think about
"Lost In Translation"?