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    Kung-fu girls

    Oh, my. How very unfortunate. You know how, despite different cultures, languages, and aesthetic and spiritual traditions going back thousands of years, all East Asians are basically the same and can communicate with each other intuitively, using their yin-yang-mystical Oriental powers and stuff? Well, somehow, that’s not the way it’s working on the set of Memoirs of a Geisha. I can’t say I’m sad. Why that book was hyped so much is beyond me. I do think it’s funny, though, that the fact that a bunch of people with different native languages can’t communicate is considered remarkable.



    Added on 14 December: Laughter is, apparently, the universal language. Either that, or the chatroom is the great global equalizer. Maybe both.

    3 Responses to “Kung-fu girls”

    1. John says:

      Never read the book, but watching Chinese play Japanese, or vice versa, always makes my skin twitch, even if the faces are similar to the other ethnicity (usually not). The mannerisms are so different, it’s painfully obvious. The Joy Luck Club suffered tremendously from this.
      I’ve got to say that the same goes for watching Americans and Russians try to play each other.

    2. Sean Kinsell says:

      I’ve never seen Russians trying to play Americans in any movie where the mannerisms and dialogue mattered. But I think I can sort of imagine what you mean. I definitely understand the part about Joy Luck Club-style missteps. (Isn’t Ming-Na Wen, like, Vietnamese? In addition to being nerve-abrading?) The idea that people would figure that herding Asians of any old nationalities together is somehow more “authentic” than just choosing the right actors for the parts, even if some have been reared in the West, floors me.
      As far as Memoirs of a Geisha goes, unless you have privileged access to psychoactive meds, don’t bother going near it. It just gets worse from the intro, which is all the bad anyone needs.

    3. John says:

      There’s a great scene in Moscow 2042 where Voinovich’s narrarator tries to put his feet up on his desk. It seems to relax Americans, but it just makes the Russian feel self conscious. Russian actors never get the American attitude right, and Americans are either mirthless or too American when playing Russians. I’ve seen Soviet films with Russians playing US military men – they are far too casual. They think the American casual attitude seeps into the military, and are sadly mistaken.
      Moscow 2042 also has one of my favorite moments in Russian Lit.: the same character is on a Lufthansa flight and the stewardess offers him a miniature of Absolut. His response is: “This is for children of what age?”.