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Tuesday, February 17, 2004
I found it a little hard to take Momus' criticism of Lost in Translation seriously right about the time I read the following line:

"I squirmed. Does Murray's charisma have to come at the expense of someone else all the time?"

Someone saying this while talking about a comedy--to say nothing of the fact that he's wrong, since even aside from any concrete examples it's clear Murray's character's humor comes from a lot of self-loathing--is clearly putting ideology over art, and seeing as how Momus isn't actually arguing from any defensible political position, just a vague don't-sell-us-out-man grandstanding, it hardly even seems worth considering. This is what comedy is, hon, making fun of other people; it's the responsibility of people in a comedy to fire back. You could make the argument that since the cook doesn't speak English, he can't fire back, but a) that means he's not actually offended, since he doesn't know he's being made fun of (and isn't "Why the straight face?" as much a joke about Murray's character's own ignorance as anything else?), and b) I dunno about Momus, but here in New York, I know for damn sure I get made fun of in Spanish or Korean or Russian at least three times a day, and it doesn't particularly bother me.

This is to say nothing about the whole stupid "betrayal" issue, but more on that later.

Also: this is Japan we're talking about here, not Nigeria or Palestine or something. It's a powerful country, capable of withstanding a Sofia Coppola movie. Do purveyors of anti-American films have to defend their anti-Americanism? And isn't their anti-Americanism a whole lot more virulent than any perceived anti-Japanism in LIT? This matters: when you're talking about issues of exploitation, the power relationship matters. And I think Japan's culture is strong enough (it's clearly the third or fourth most powerful in the world, seems to me) to deal with Bill Murray joking around with old ladies. I promise.

Also also: this is a man who wrote a song called "Coming In a Girl's Mouth" and he's offended by someone making a joke about a toe being sushi?!?! Are you fucking serious?!?!

UPDATE: On the subject of the particular irony of Momus making this argument, I might point out that that the headline of the page for one of his albums is "Prease Enjoy Anarog Baloque!", total Engrish if I ever read it. So clearly he's not saying "no one should ever poke fun at silly Japanese things," he's saying "Sofia Coppola should not poke fun at silly Japanese things," and that's a far weaker argument. More on that soon.