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Answerman - Why Do Westerners Make Assumptions About Japan Because of Anime?


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MarshalBanana



Joined: 31 Aug 2014
Posts: 2123
PostPosted: Wed Oct 18, 2017 11:29 am Reply with quote
Was the person asking really Japanese? I don't know but I've got this feeling they were faking it to ask a question.
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DerekL1963
Space CowboySpace Cowboy


Joined: 14 Jan 2015
Posts: 473
Location: Puget Sound
PostPosted: Wed Oct 18, 2017 11:35 am Reply with quote
Answerman wrote:
Quote:
But only 36% of Americans own a valid passport (compared to 60% of Canadians and 75% of British and Australians).


A good part of that is simply because America is so freakin' huge. Unlike (say) the British or Canadians, we don't need a passport to travel to sunny beaches or warm climates in the winter. That's one thing that I find many not-Americans don't really grasp, the diverse effects of the sheer physical size of the Lower 48. (Adding Alaska and Hawaii to the mix just turns it up from 11 to 12.)
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jdnation



Joined: 15 May 2007
Posts: 661
PostPosted: Wed Oct 18, 2017 11:46 am Reply with quote
It's not at all odd that people often learn about another country/culture through film, television and documentaries.

Film and TV is usually the main proponent. Sometimes these convey things that might give the wrong impression, but those who come to incorrect conclusions or assumptions about Japan aren't doing so maliciously.

In fact as mentioned, people from other cultures can get the wrong idea about Americans too. And this is also a result of American TV shows and Hollywood films that often portray stereotypes or exaggerations of their own nation.

For example given the portrayals shown on American comedies and sitcoms, it's not odd that people of other more conservative nations get the impression that white American women are highly promiscuous and will sleep with anyone at the drop of a hat. But this is not at all representative of American women in general. And of course Hollywood and the American entertainment industry tends to be more liberal and therefore pushes a portrayal of America that is not reflective of the views and lifestyles of the majority. Of course the medium of storytelling itself often demands focuses on things and people that are uncommon in order to be interesting, so it's not a surprise that characters in TV and film are created to be intentionally different and therefore put in situations that are not representative of the majority of the movie-going audience of their own nation, because entertainment is primarily about escapism venturing into conflict which often involves people on the seedier side of life.

The same is likewise true of mainstream American News, which has been losing viewers consistently for alternative independent media over the years. Mainstream news usually pushes the government narrative or covers up for one party or the other over things such as war which is not reflective of the majority of Americans who over the years have been catching on to such propaganda.

Yet, the only connection people elsewhere can make without knowing actual Americans will be through media such as Hollywood, TV and 'official' News channels.

It's up to places on the Internet and columns similar to Answerman that help bridge the gap and explain things in more detail.

I presume Japan also has a similar 'Answerman' somewhere fielding questions for Japanese people interested in other foreign cultures or what it's really like in America.
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residentgrigo



Joined: 23 Dec 2007
Posts: 1393
Location: Germany
PostPosted: Wed Oct 18, 2017 11:52 am Reply with quote
Why do people make assumptions about the US because of Hollywood? Why do people think that Game of Thrones is based on historic event and the living condition in the middle ages. Eh.

Which bring me to Debt of Honor from 1994 by Tom Clancy. You know, the man Ubi Soft put on about 100 military game covers? I am about to finish his original Ryan verse in audiobook form (what else am i supposed to do at work...) and it´s fascination how far the understanding of Japan has come in 2 decades. I am not saying it came all that far but that only 23 year old book was shockingly racist despite me knowing beforehand how infamously racist it is. My "favorite" part was when the book mentions manga early on. A series about an office lady who has sex with her dog is being mentioned as a widely read classic that just got rebooted to great acclaim. It´s publicly read by most salarymen in inverse and that´s just the tip of the iceberg. The book ends with a lone renegade from Japan committing 9/11 on the US and killing 99% of the US government. Oy.
No bestselling anything or anyone would pull shit like this today. The book itself is a solid thriller btw.


Last edited by residentgrigo on Wed Oct 18, 2017 12:15 pm; edited 1 time in total
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jree78



Joined: 14 May 2011
Posts: 96
PostPosted: Wed Oct 18, 2017 11:58 am Reply with quote
I learn about Japan by watching youtube channels such as: "Only in Japan," "Rachel and Jun," "International me," "Abroad in Japan," and the best one in my opinion is "Life where I'm from x." If I want to know about Japan I watch those channels. If I want to watch entertainment that a relatively small portion of Japan's population enjoys and is not necessarily representative of Japan I watch anime.
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edmg7



Joined: 02 Aug 2017
Posts: 10
PostPosted: Wed Oct 18, 2017 12:05 pm Reply with quote
So if I assume that the Japanese see American culture through stereotypes because anime shows usually depict Americans in a stereotypical way, is that a bad assumption about what the Japanese think since anime is inaccurate?

More on topic, I'm not too surprised that some Americans assume anime is like Japan (though I see plenty of people who know better) because of how any culture relates to their television shows. Just looking at American shows I watch I see plenty of realism even in the more comically ridiculous shows, but I know what is fake because I live in America. When you live in another culture it is a bit harder to discern what is accurate to life as depicted in the media of another culture.
Another example I can think of was told to me by my uncle from when he worked over in Turkey in the mid 90s. He told me that at the time (the same decade the US was really uneducated about Japan) a lot of the people he met thought of the US as a Christian nation. They therefore assumed that everyone in the US was Christian and that everything the people did on US television shows was how Christians acted. That's a huge misconception of American lifestyles and their religious and philosophical diversity.
In any case it takes time, and a lot of fans of any media can make assumptions about culture out of naivety, but we're getting better about it.
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Jonny Mendes



Joined: 17 Oct 2014
Posts: 546
Location: Europe
PostPosted: Wed Oct 18, 2017 12:17 pm Reply with quote
From my experience, one of the best windows to look at what Japan is and about the culture of the country is NHK World TV channel.
They have lots of programs and documentaries that take us inside of the daily life of Japanese people.

There are many preconceptions about Japan that are very different in real life. From my visits to Japan i can say that NHK programs are a very accurate portrait of what is life in Japan.
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Chrono1000



Joined: 05 Oct 2013
Posts: 343
PostPosted: Wed Oct 18, 2017 12:21 pm Reply with quote
To be fair cultural assumptions are easy to make for any place that you haven't lived. It is why gun ownership views differ so greatly between a large city where the police might respond in 3 minutes compared to a rural location where the police might respond in 30 minutes if you are lucky. So yeah it is important to keep in mind that entertainment is a poor way to learn about other places.
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Scalfin



Joined: 18 May 2008
Posts: 50
PostPosted: Wed Oct 18, 2017 12:28 pm Reply with quote
I think another factor is that the US doesn't have the same Anime's extreme-niche industry framework as Japan, so it's easy to think of the shows as at least mass-media enough to be aired at an hour people actually watch, and values naturalism much more than Japanese media seems to, so that there's not much of a difference between how English is spoken on the screen and in person other than the elimination of regionalism. As such, we kind of expect the series presenting themselves as relatable normalcy and the characters talking about how normal and unremarkable they are to represent Japanese perceptions of normalcy.
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mangamuscle



Joined: 23 Apr 2006
Posts: 2129
Location: Mexico
PostPosted: Wed Oct 18, 2017 12:30 pm Reply with quote
TBT I feel the question is kind of annoying, it reads like "I prefered when american's knew nothing about japan to them now thinking they now it well". A crash course in japanese cultuire is watching Tom Selleck in the movie "Mr Baseball" for anyone interested, sadly I can't find it streaming anywhere nowadays.

Quote:
The news media is of very little help.


That is an understatement, like, it should be in the american english dictionary in the "understatement" definition. There was a time when news media in the USA was, well, news media and I had great envy since ours blatantly conspired with the official political party to keep us in the dark. Nowadays I find the best place to find the facts about contemporary topics in the USA watching Comedy Central and similar outlets O_o
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Random Name



Joined: 24 Nov 2016
Posts: 343
PostPosted: Wed Oct 18, 2017 12:31 pm Reply with quote
For me my parents were very strict and there was no way I could even own a manga so I was very ignorant of Japanese culture (Well really all cultures). It wasn't until college when my friend showed me bleach that my eyes were opened to a whole new world. Basically anime opened up the door to my love of learning about other cultures (not just Japanese culture). So when you say anime is possibly the most important connection we have to Japan I believe it.
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CatSword



Joined: 01 Jul 2014
Posts: 683
PostPosted: Wed Oct 18, 2017 12:51 pm Reply with quote
I really hope no one thinks boning your sibling is socially acceptable in Japan because of certain anime.
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jsevakis
ANN Director of New Media


Joined: 28 Jul 2003
Posts: 1642
Location: Los Angeles, CA
PostPosted: Wed Oct 18, 2017 1:02 pm Reply with quote
MarshalBanana wrote:
Was the person asking really Japanese? I don't know but I've got this feeling they were faking it to ask a question.

The original question's English was a little broken in a way that was consistent with Japanese grammar styles and hard to fake. I had to rewrite it for clarity.

CatSword wrote:
I really hope no one thinks boning your sibling is socially acceptable in Japan because of certain anime.

I've definitely heard from a few that do. Even gotten a few Answerman questions from them. I honestly didn't know how to respond.
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Gemnist



Joined: 10 Feb 2016
Posts: 1041
PostPosted: Wed Oct 18, 2017 1:02 pm Reply with quote
I always knew why Americans are so narrow-minded in this regard, but those passport and travel numbers are outright depressing, especially for someone like me who tries traveling at least once a year.
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belvadeer



Joined: 11 Jun 2006
Posts: 3902
PostPosted: Wed Oct 18, 2017 1:10 pm Reply with quote
Sheesh, it's not like North America is the only place on the planet where people make presumptions about other countries based on lack of information. The question prompter makes it sound like we're the only part of the world that does that. Japan has had (and still does have in some cases) a narrowminded and ignorant view of what foreigners are like, and stereotypical portrayals in anime are a big part of the cause (we don't all have blonde hair and blue eyes, say hello to everyone we see on the street, and ask for directions because we're always lost when we visit other lands...to name a few).
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