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Behind the Headlines: APA News Blog

Academic Version: Applying my personal experiences and academic research as a professor of Sociology and Asian American Studies to provide a more complete understanding of political, economic, and cultural issues and current events related to American race relations, and Asia/Asian America in particular.

Plain English: Trying to put my Ph.D. to good use.

November 2, 2005

Written by C.N.

Popularity of Samurai Movies

USA Today has an article that talks about the emerging — or enduring — popularity of samurai films among American consumers and in influencing Hollywood movies:

A subset of the martial arts genre, samurai films have been made since the early 1930s in Japan. They gained international status when renowned directors such as Kurosawa (Rashomon) explored the genre. Interest in Japanese pop culture and easy access to the films on DVD is driving the resurgence.

“It seems they’re just now, at the dawn of the 21st century, finally receiving the mainstream appreciation in the U.S. that is their due,” says Patrick Galloway, author of Stray Dogs & Lone Wolves: The Samurai Film Handbook. . . .

Swordplay is only part of the attraction of samurai films. “What you have in a samurai battle is close-in, bladed warfare, the good guy going against the bad guy face to face,” Jeck says. “You have kinetic energy, balletic grace and brutal force, all conjoined.” A foreign cousin of the American Western, samurai films “have struck a chord with U.S. audiences,” IFC’s George Lentz says.

I’ve talked before about how the popularity of certain Asian cultural elements can be both good and bad. It’s good when it introduces people to parts of Asian culture that had been in obscurity until then and fosters an appreciation and respect for those cultural elements. It’s bad when it reinforces and perpetuates negative stereotypes and biased portrayals of Asian culture.

Some Asian Americans may also object because they feel that American filmmakers are merely “copying” or “butchering” the original Asian elements for their own gain. Others see this type of cross-cultural influence as healthy and a sign of respect for the original Asian works. Like most things, there isn’t a simple answer, just general principles that need to be considered.

Each work will be judged separately — like Steven Spielberg’s upcoming release of Memoirs of a Geisha.


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Copyright © 2001- by C.N. Le. Some rights reserved. Creative Commons License

Suggested reference: Le, C.N. . "Popularity of Samurai Movies" Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. <http://www.asian-nation.org/headlines/2005/11/popularity-of-samurai-movies/> ().

Short URL: http://www.asian-nation.org/headlines/?p=156