Wes Anderson’s New 'Isle Of Dogs' Confronts Whitewashing, Instead Placing Japanese Culture At The Forefront
Start writing a post

Wes Anderson’s New 'Isle Of Dogs' Confronts Whitewashing, Instead Placing Japanese Culture At The Forefront

In the shadow of Hollywood’s belligerently disturbing "whitewashing" notoriety, Anderson’s new film counters Asian and Asian-American underrepresentation.

Wes Anderson’s New 'Isle Of Dogs' Confronts Whitewashing, Instead Placing Japanese Culture At The Forefront

It’s 5:45 on a Thursday night when I enter the Cinépolis movie theatre on 23rd Street in Chelsea. I’m 15 minutes early but I wait with patient anxiety in my seat for the previews to start before the six o’clock showing of Wes Anderson’s newest: "Isle of Dogs."

Like many of Anderson’s previous movies such as "Moonrise Kingdom" and "The Life Aquatic," "Isle of Dogs" is a visually stunning romp that juxtaposes dark themes with wit and dry humor to create fantastic effigies of human existence. It follows twelve-year-old Atari in his pursuit to reclaim his dog, Spots, after his uncle, Mayor Kobayashi, exiles all canines to "Trash Island," and the subsequent uprooting of a conspiratory plot to be rid of the dog species entirely. What makes "Isle of Dogs" stand out, however, is the care and precision with which Japanese culture is handled—especially in the shadow of Hollywood’s belligerently disturbing "whitewashing" notoriety.

While the movie is currently held in high regard, with a rating at 91 percent on Rotten Tomatoes and an 8.2 out of 10 on IMDb, I have come across some disgruntled reviews brandishing the film as cultural appropriation, a complete fetishization or Orientalization of Japanese culture, or succumbing to a "white-savior" narrative.

It’s understandable to get upset from the offshoot: Anderson is, in fact, a white man making a movie about a fictional, futuristic, Japanese society. However, it is important to note that there is a distinct difference between "fiction" and "fetishization." After careful consideration, analysis, and research into various Asian-American reactions to the film, it seems reasonable to claim that "Isle of Dogs" is nothing if not a respectful and heavily researched exploration of cultural sensitivity, representation, the consequences of "Othering," and the power of language.

In her article in The New Yorker titled “What ‘Isle of Dogs’ Gets Right About Japan,” Moeko Fujii expresses her appreciation for the film, a film which places her native language at the center of attention, and actively neutralizes the only American/Native English speaking character. She details the accurate portrayals of the intricacies of everyday life in Japan and her pride in being the only one in the theatre to catch on to subtle jokes that English speakers would never understand.

Wes Anderson and co-writer Kunichi Nomura, along with the multitudes of Japanese actors and creators who were involved in the making of the film, understand the shortcomings of Asian and Asian-American representations in the entertainment business. They have proven that they can work against that with subtle subversions like the Japanese characters’ understanding of Tracy, the foreign exchange student’s English, but their choice to remain as interlocutors in their own language, the fact that the ultimate savior of the whole movie was the Japanese hacker from the newspaper club, and not to mention the obvious narrative of the oftentimes violent "Othering" of a group that is in some way different to the assumed norm (i.e. the exiling and encampment of the dogs).

These methods are forceful and important—to which Fujii relates: “One of the most potent shots in the film is of graffiti on gray cement. A large black scrawl asks, 'Douyatte bokura wo korosu tsumori?' 'How on earth do you plan on killing us?' For most viewers, it’s a mark on the wall. For Japanese ones, it’s a battle cry.”

Report this Content
This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

New England Summers Are The BEST Summers

Why you should spend your next summer in New England.

Marconi Beach

Three years ago, I chose to attend college in Philadelphia, approximately 360 miles away from my small town in New Hampshire. I have learned many valuable lessons away from home, and have thoroughly enjoyed my time spent in Pennsylvania. One thing that my experience has taught me, however, is that it is absolutely impossible to beat a New England summer.

Keep Reading...Show less

Fibonacci Sequence Examples: 7 Beautiful Instances In Nature

Nature is beautiful (and so is math). The last one will blow your mind.

illustration of the fibonacci sequence

Yes, the math major is doing a math-related post. What are the odds? I'll have to calculate it later. Many people have probably learned about the Fibonacci sequence in their high school math classes. However, I thought I would just refresh everyone's memories and show how math can be beautiful and apply to physical things everywhere around us with stunning examples.

Keep Reading...Show less
the beatles
Wikipedia Commons

For as long as I can remember, I have been listening to The Beatles. Every year, my mom would appropriately blast “Birthday” on anyone’s birthday. I knew all of the words to “Back In The U.S.S.R” by the time I was 5 (Even though I had no idea what or where the U.S.S.R was). I grew up with John, Paul, George, and Ringo instead Justin, JC, Joey, Chris and Lance (I had to google N*SYNC to remember their names). The highlight of my short life was Paul McCartney in concert twice. I’m not someone to “fangirl” but those days I fangirled hard. The music of The Beatles has gotten me through everything. Their songs have brought me more joy, peace, and comfort. I can listen to them in any situation and find what I need. Here are the best lyrics from The Beatles for every and any occasion.

Keep Reading...Show less
Being Invisible The Best Super Power

The best superpower ever? Being invisible of course. Imagine just being able to go from seen to unseen on a dime. Who wouldn't want to have the opportunity to be invisible? Superman and Batman have nothing on being invisible with their superhero abilities. Here are some things that you could do while being invisible, because being invisible can benefit your social life too.

Keep Reading...Show less

19 Lessons I'll Never Forget from Growing Up In a Small Town

There have been many lessons learned.

houses under green sky
Photo by Alev Takil on Unsplash

Small towns certainly have their pros and cons. Many people who grow up in small towns find themselves counting the days until they get to escape their roots and plant new ones in bigger, "better" places. And that's fine. I'd be lying if I said I hadn't thought those same thoughts before too. We all have, but they say it's important to remember where you came from. When I think about where I come from, I can't help having an overwhelming feeling of gratitude for my roots. Being from a small town has taught me so many important lessons that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

Keep Reading...Show less

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Facebook Comments