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Memoirs of a (Chinese) Geisha


As expected, a film version of the fantastic, read-in-one-sitting book, Memoirs of a Geisha, is in production and I am very glad to hear of it. However, it bothers me that three of the actresses chosen to play some of the story’s main characters are not Japanese, but are, in fact, Chinese. Don’t get me wrong …I like Michelle Yeoh and what’s her name from Crouching Tiger as much as the next gal. I just find it hard to believe that in a country with a population of over 100 million, three Japanese actresses could not be found to portray Sayuri, Mameha and Hatsumomo. It just seems less than authentic, you know, being as it is a film about Japanese geisha. (Honestly, did Lucy Lui fool anyone into thinking she was Japanese just because she donned a kimono in Kill Bill?) I hope they don’t think all Asians look alike and that people won’t be able to tell they’re Chinese by looking at them. One of the blessings of living in a cultural melting pot like Guam is learning to tell whether someone is Korean, Chinese, or Japanese by their appearances. That really comes in handy when you want to avoid insulting a Chinese person by greeting them in Japanese.

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9 Responses

  1. That bothered me at first, for the exact same reasons, and it still kind of does. But what I realized was that we don’t bat an eye when someone of Scottish extraction plays a Swede, or someone from England plays a German… so (I’m asking myself now) is it really that different for Chinese people to play Japanese characters? Are we saying that Europeans are interchangeable but Asians aren’t? I don’t actually know what the right answer is, I’m just asking the questions.

  2. Ken Talton says:

    I think its called acting! šŸ™‚
    Seriously though, how did y’all handle the Typhoon?

  3. carolyn says:

    david’s got a good point. i never thought about that, mostly because i don’t have a problem with the interchangeable races in acting…asian or european. i’m usually just thrilled to see asian or asian/american films being made.
    and people at the ABC stores still greet me in japanese and at Hard Rock Cafe, they ask my husband if i need a menu in japanese! wtf? i think it’s the haircut.

  4. Josie says:

    Point well taken, David. It didn’t bother me at all that Mel Gibson, an Aussie, played a Scott in Braveheart. But I would be bothered if a film about Chamorros in Guam was in production and all the actresses cast were Hawaiian. I’m not sure why it’s different…maybe the Asian thing is a little closer to home for me.
    Carolyn, I get greeted in Japanese at ABC stores too…I think the staff is just programmed that way. šŸ™‚
    Ken, the typhoon wasn’t too bad. Things are back to normal for us. Can’t say the same for Saipan and Rota. They really took a hit and both islands have no water or power.

  5. Katie says:

    Memoirs of a Geisha was given to me to read by my dear sister Kimmie some years ago and it is still one of the most inspirational books about women I’ve ever read…I agree about the Japanese vs. Chinese thing. It really isn’t the same. Let’s just hope that the producers have the good sense in them to give Chiyo-san blue/grey eyes.

  6. Annalynn says:

    Living here in TN, some people think I look like Susie Wong or Lucy Liu. I can’t help but laugh.

  7. Gail says:

    Hi Josie,
    Nice new look for the blog and congrats and good luck to Addie on going for the Coast Guard thing.
    Just for fun check out how good you really are at detecting Asian ethnic backgrounds.
    http://www.alllooksame.com/

  8. Josie says:

    Hi Gail! Thanks for the fun link. I got 12 of 18…it says “I may have a talent.” Haha. Some of them looked like they could be Malaysian or Vietnamese. Not all look same! šŸ™‚

  9. Katie says:

    What a hilarious game, Gail! I only got 4 correct! Just when you think you know your Asian distinctions…

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