Pasted Graphic 7

First Paper

Due: Friday, September 26, at 5pm on dropbox

In this first short paper, I’m asking you use the skills we’ve been practicing in the first weeks of this course to analyze problematic representations of Japan in one of seven popular American films. This assignment builds on the discussions we have had about the patterns through which Japanese-ness, Japan, or Japanese people / characters are constructed in American popular consciousness, often using national character arguments. Although I’m asking you to consider a particular set of prompts, your paper must have a thesis statement.

There are three stages of process for writing this paper ---

First, please pick one of the following seven films to watch: Kill Bill, vol. 1***, Ghost Dog, Lost in Translation, Memoirs of a Geisha, The Last Samurai, The Wolverine, or Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift. Watch the film (or watch it again, if you’ve already seen it) by finding it on this course’s Collab page.

*** I have had bad luck ripping Kill Bill. I can rip the film but haven’t been able to capture the subtitles which are, of course, important. Therefore I have placed a DVD copy of this film on reserve at Clemons. All of the other films are streaming from Collab. Let me know if you have problems.

Second, as you watch it, and reflect on it afterward, consider: How are Japan and Japanese people represented in the film? How do the representations reflect or reinforce national character arguments about Japan or Japanese people? All the films on this list do include subtle or not-so-subtle national character assumptions. Your task in this paper is to identify and analyze how national character assumptions are embedded within these films.

Third, building from your thoughts about the previous questions, create a thesis around which to structure your paper. Your final paper should be four to five pages, double-spaced. This is about 1000 to 1600 total words.

A few questions that might be helpful as you watch the films, though you should not feel the need to address any or all of them in your final paper. I include them here as helpful prompts that might draw you to interesting conclusions about these representations of Japan:

How does Japan figure in? It is a backdrop, a vital element, a setting? Another way to ask this is: Why does this film have to involve Japan? Could the film have been made if the same story was told using another country? Try it on for size -- actually imagine the possibilities of setting the same film in other countries. What countries / culture “work” with the story and which ones don’t? What does this tell us about filmic representations of Japan?
How is power represented within in the film? Who has power? What kinds of power exist? How does the film explain or represent power?
How does race and ethnicity get commented upon within the film’s narrative? How does race or ethnicity matter in the film’s production?
How is difference represented? How is similarity represented?
Who, exactly, is Japanese? Who isn’t? Why does that matter?
What is (the idea of) Japan being used to do within the film?
Finally, it might be helpful to remember that all of these films are American films made for American audiences. Why would any American film need to include this much about Japan?

Remember, this is not a research paper. I’m not asking you to come up with a list of things that were “wrong” about Japan in the film, and then research what the “right” answers are. This assignments asks you to analyze how Japan is being represented in this film and to what ends.