metadigital Posted June 4, 2005 Share Posted June 4, 2005 linkyI wonder what exact moment in history turned the entire people of Japan into perverts? Is porn the expression of an obsessively pent-up sexuality, or an overly exposed one? Is the attraction to animated "hentai" merely a function of cultural appreciation for anime, or is it the symptom of the desire for idealized and artificial people? Is a pop culture defined by cuteness, sexuality, and violence the normal outgrowth of a peaceful society, or is it only the surface of forcibly suppressed militarism? Is Japan "just another weird foreign country" (as us Americans might see 90% of the world), or is it a nation whose psychology has been fundamentally damaged? May I inject a bit of mind tickle on the subject? Not so much an intellectual debate, more of a speculative one. Much of the Japanese aesthetics I have been exposed to remind me of a paper I once read concerning the aesthetics of post-WWI/WWII society. The paper can be found here: http://bid.berkeley.edu/bidclass/readings/benjamin.html. In particular, I am referring to this concluding passage: This is evidently the consummation of "*I'art pour l'art*." Mankind, which in Homer's time was an object of contemplation for the Olympian gods, now is one for itself. Its self-alienation has reached such a degree that it can experience its own destruction as an aesthetic pleasure of the first order. Besides the obvious link with historical Fascism, one might argue that the aesthetics of the so-called "first-world" are little different than Japan's, save only for the aversion to sexual perversity. After all, Japan isn't the only country producing art that might be characterized as "self-alienating" - Hollywood is just as guilty, and becoming increasingly so with its love of apocalyptic cinema (ie everything from ID4 to the recently debuted The Day After Tomorrow, to the upcoming War of Worlds). To this end, one might question whether the equation of Japan with sexual perversity is not merely the byproduct of an absence of "Protestant ethics", and whether the US would not have ended the same way had it not have its persistent alliance to Christian morals (which, btw, we all seem to take for granted in being disturbed by Japan's so-called "perversity"). We might conjure up the aesthetics of historic Japan in support of these views. We might point out that modern hentai had its roots in the "erotic" art produced ages ago in Japan. We would, however, run into the problems of Western "erotic" art produced along the same lines, around the same periods of time. Erotic torture and bondage, after all, were popular even during the Medieval times. And then again, the US had always believed that it had stood on the side of "righteousness", that its participation in the numerous wars of the world have always been a crusade for the sake of democracy and God. Japan, having lost WW2, does not have the luxury of such beliefs, and must instead deal with the problem of its own ugliness, its alliance with what is considered the "Axis of Evil." Some, it is true, believe that Japan has long left behind its former self, that in reclaiming its image as a productive first-world society, its people have already gotten over that stage of Japanese history. Some wounds, however, take longer than others to heal. Particularly ones opened by the blast of the only atomic bombs ever dropped on major human cities. The only comparison we can make in this case would be with Germany and Italy. My sources tell me that the Germans in Berlin are almost obsessed with the idea of peace. Though that itself maybe a symptom of deeper issues, is a similar trend followed by Japan? Apparently not, given the resurgence of militarism among the political right as of late, and the escalation of tensions between Japan and China. How do you navigate the social dynamics of a culture that has always prided itself on its military honor, a "warrior" society in every sense of the word, but which has been deprived of exactly that? How do you express the shame of defeat and powerlessness, of being an "occupied" country and a antagonist in world politics, through art? And then there's the matter of modern Japanese society, with its aging population, its obsessive work mentality, and its traditional code of manners that would mark a Japanese anywhere else in the world, but which for that reason makes it that much easier to feel "at home" in Japan. What, if anything, lurks below the surface of a society that by no means can be considered "healthy" in its expectations for the amount of work required for (especially) a male, and which has such a wide abundance of distractions in the form of its often escapist aesthetics? Is the latter the result of the former, as pop psychology might inform us, or is it something more complicated than that? Is the "disturbing" (as we might see it) trend of fanservice in the form of female submissiveness to the point of enslavement, as is common in Japanese pop culture (particularly anime), merely the psychological defense mechanism of an exhausted patriarchy unable to stem the tides of feminism, as we would proclaim based on Western patterns? Or is it something else beyond that? How do you account for, after all, the twisting together of cuteness-violence and cuteness-sexuality that seems to most Westerners a most unlikely and disturbing combination, until we examine our own aesthetics to find hints of the same? (ie any film with "cuddly", yet evil, children) Before we look, we must first realize that our eyes are mirrors. Most of us do not look to see the "truth", if it exists, but to see ourselves mirrored in the eyes of other people, in the cultures of other nations. A lack of understanding is not unusual, but to be expected, as no man can look through another man's eyes. But in judging others, I wonder if we're not really in the business of trying to judge ourselves? After all, most people could care less what happened to a starving child in some third world country, yet identify a pedophile in America and the whole country will turn against him, screaming for his judgment. What makes a victim of nature any less significant than a victim of sexual perversity? Why are we so quick to deal out punishment, but so hesitant to hand out aid? It's human nature - that's the obvious answer. But what are the implications of that nature? The answer to that question, I think, has alot to do with a understanding of Japan and its cultural mentality. After all, was Japan not at the receiving end of a judgment and a punishment that resonates even to this day? And are not its cultural expressions a subject of judgment even now? Judgments are mirrors of those who judge and we, who are "righteously" disturbed by Japan's perversity, have only to ask ourselves what they're mirroring in us. But even beyond that, we must ask what is mirrored in the eyes of they who live in the mirror. When the average Japanese "joe" looks at his country's history how is he supposed to judge? Is he supposed to say that his people were evil doers who have now turned to the light? Is he supposed to say that his country is filled with perverts? Of course not? And we wonder, we really do, what sort of mirror is created, when one looks inwards and judges himself. Will he ignore the past, and be doomed to repeat its mistakes? Will he condemn it, and attempt to move beyond its indignity? Or will he embrace it, and become that which the world has judged him to be: "And therefore, since I cannot prove a lover To entertain these fair well-spoken days, I am determin OBSCVRVM PER OBSCVRIVS ET IGNOTVM PER IGNOTIVS OPVS ARTIFICEM PROBAT Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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