The trailer for Disney XD's new Japanizi: Going, Going Gong plays like a specially made media installation to accompany a game of Uninformed Generalizations About Japanese Culture Bingo: Japanese man shouting in a kooky outfit! Sumo wrestlers! Ninjas! Guy hitting a gong!
There's nothing inherently wrong with drawing inspiration from Japanese culture, but there are respectful ways to do it and there are ignorant ways to do it. What we have here is a disrespectful, ignorant way to do it. Japanizi, as Angry Asian Man puts it, is "mostly built on the premise that Japanese people/television/culture are sooooo weird! And wacky!" That stereotype is both persistent and harmful. Appropriating a fetishized, reductive conception of Japanese culture and touting it as outlandish and exotic is demeaning, plain and simple. Furthermore, the idea that Japanese pop culture is TOTALLY CRAZY — as opposed to our very normal and totally standard pop culture — is pretty specious. The very popular American kids' game show Double Dare, for instance, was basically centered around forcing kids to swim around in fake snot. That's far "kookier" than anything on air in Japan.
And not only is Japanizi othering, it's also completely inaccurate. As Patrick St. Michele points out at The Atlantic, the "Japanese game show culture" purportedly represented by Japanizi hasn't been prominent in the large cultural landscape of Japan for roughly 15 years. And, even when the stereotypical "weird" shows were popular, plenty of Japanese people were shocked and/or outraged by them. It's not as though Japan was ever some kind of magical, technicolor land of constant shouting and widespread Human Tetris.
"The show claims to double as an introduction to the Japanese language and Japanese culture, and as a means to spread that language and culture far and wide," writes St. Michele. "It's too bad it'll also be spreading a woefully outdated stereotype." It would be great if a show targeted at children tried to introduce them to other cultures! Unfortunately, what we have here is just a steaming pile of inaccurate stereotypes, veering into the territory of caricature.
[H/T Angry Asian Man]