No Banzai! Intentionally or Not, Fox Undermines Asian Image

Okay, I saw it. Not to support it, but to see it so I can criticize it in an informed fashion.

The show is supposedly a spoof of crazy Japanese game shows. If you’ve seen Takeshi’s Castle,then you’ll probably have an idea as to where they’re coming from. However, these shows (unless you watch TNN’s Most Extreme Elimination Challenge, a dubbed version of Takeshi’s Castle) are obscure to most US viewers, and the ultimate result is that most Americans will just think Japanese and/or Asians are simply off the wall.

Another major issue I have with the show is the “foreign” accent of the “Japanese” narrator. I think anyone who has ever heard a Japanese native speak English can tell that the voice is of an American trying to sound foreign–sometimes the Rs and Ls were too perfect… not that an authentic foreign accent would have been better.

Another point of contention is something I have previously mentioned: the image of the “mysterious oriental”. Japanese/Asian actors contort there faces while striking a martial arts pose. I mean, will we ever be portrayed as regular citizens? These types of stereotypes remind me of Mr. Bojangles–“We here t’ entertain da masser, yowzer.” Some have said that it is just in fun–something that even the Japanese might do (not the most legititmate argument)–and if you don’t like it, don’t watch it. But what they fail to realize is that: while I may refuse to see Banzai, others will see it, form an opinion about Asians influenced by this program, and carry this opinion around, someday affecting me or my fellow Asians. Why don’t some people get it? We don’t live in separate, insulated worlds; we’re all mixed together in one society, affecting one another, directly or indirectly, whether we like it or not.


Misdirected Pride

Perilously, there is something that might be miscontrued as being positive: Asians rule. If you saw it, there were a couple of pretty funny stunts. A Japanese guy–he did seem to speak fairly fluently–plays “Mr. Shake Hands Man”. He grabs the hand of an unsuspecting celebrity, Kelsey Grammer last night, and refuses to let go, until Grammer tries to do his impersonation of a Sumo wrestler! The other one is “Lady One Question”, who asked Simon Cowell of American Idol, one question–What’s the difference between American and British contestants?–and leaves the microphone in his face, forcing him to either continue his answer or walk away in bewilderment. It was pretty funny to see Cowell on the spot for once.

And the possible saving grace? Yes, you guessed it. The Japanese/Asian were putting the non-Asians to task. In the Shopping Cart joust or the Old Lady Wheel Chair game of Chicken, all contestants were white while the referees were Asian. Only stupid non-Asians would actually perform these inane acts. But, is this good? Not really. For one thing, the show is in incredibly poor taste. The One Limbed Soccer Penalty Kick Conundrum (or something like that) takes a shot at the handicapped. In this bit, they pitted a one-legged kicker–without his prosthesis–with a one armed goal keeper. I mean seriously, a spoof is a spoof, but this was totally tasteless. “So,” the white viewer might think, “are all Asians this tasteless?”

Worse for Asian Americans, the issue may be even deeper than just a lack of taste. It deals with our identity and place in society. With a critical eye, we might ask: Why use white contestants? Well, any good ol’ boy could easily respond, “Hell, yeah, of course the contestants were white folk. Who’d watch the program if the contestant were all Asian?”

Indeed, who would?

In many respects, we are an invisible minority in the media–except maybe in news broadcasts. (Y’know, those Asian are smart, right? Like, they dominate math and science, right? Like my Calculus class is a sea of black hair.) To change this situation, we have to do it ourselves. No one will do it for us. Now, if I only knew how… Any suggestions?

And again….

Sorry to be soooooo persistent, but just in case there are other random visitors–or if you haven’t told your family and friends to sign it–I will continue to post: The City of Los Angeles is planning to construct a new Police Station, Jail and Emergency Center next to Nishi Hongwanji Buddhist Temple in Little Tokyo. If you or your family and friends have not done so already, I urge you to visit and sign the petition below to protect the community that is Little Tokyo.

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