The Avengers’ Japanese Release Ignites Controversy
what is this I don't even
In preparation for The Avengers opening this month in Japan, the film’s marketing team has come up with an ad campaign that has some people very upset, and rightfully so: in Japanese, the film’s tagline is 日本よ、これが映画だ, translated as “Hey Japan, this is a movie”. While that sentence might seem utterly inoffensive, for a few prominent voices in Japan, it’s a phrase loaded with notions of cultural and cinematic superiority. Hey Mary Sue readers, this is a blog, hit the jump to find out more!
According to journalist Takashi Odajima, the tagline cultural imperialism and a deep sense of superiority — it would be like colonialists saying “Hey native people, this is culture,” or The New York Times saying “Hey Japan, this is journalism.” Other folks, particularly 2ch users, Japan’s largest textboard, cautioned against being upset, fearing that it would show an inferiority complex, or that Japan was easily upset by a tagline “likely thought up by a Japanese person.”
In reality, both reactions speak to how bad the tagline is: it’s flippant, snotty, and it’s awful that Japanese folks have to worry about seeming overly sensitive about it. Honestly, who thought of this tag? It seems to be assuming so many erroneous things, namely that 1) Japan has never heard of The Avengers, 2) Japan doesn’t produce real movies, and 3) The Avengers is such a good film, it needs no introduction.
And hey, it is a good film. But is it good enough to subvert the conventions of cinema and foreign film exchange? To put it in perspective, if Japan released a movie that was a big hit overseas and marketed it to us in a similar way, I have no doubt in my mind that the Internet would be blowing up over a disrespect for American cinema and culture, and frankly, a disrespect for our capacity to enjoy foreign films.
So, let’s blow up about it, or at least talk about it, but the right way. One of the great things about global cinema is the ability to connect and relate to other nations and cultures while still understanding the global and historical context that we all live in — I think Japan would have enjoyed The Avengers immensely, without movie executives evoking Western cultural imperialism in their ad campaigns.
Metal Gear Solid mastermind Hideo Kojima, who hasn’t publicly talked about the issue, tweeted a funny advertisement by the team behind Japanese film The Kirishima Thing: “Hey Hollywood, this is a Japanese movie”. While it’s great to maintain a sense of humor about the situation, I sincerely hope the next blockbusters to come out of our country roll back the offensive marketing campaign, lest we see “Hey Japan, this is the hero you deserve, but not the one you need right now.”
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