A Cultural Bias

For some time I’ve been wondering when Japan’s anime and India’s Bollywood offerings would break through in the West. Anime is certainly integrating itself into American culture – children’s cartoons, the comic book industry, toys galore. Even household products owe some debt of influence to the stylistic design so prevalent in anime since it is source material for so many designers.

With the recent wave of well-crafted anime movies – Ghost in the Shell 2, Steamboy, and Howl’s Moving Castle – I was expecting more of an impact in the U.S., but there just doesn’t appear to be a foothold in the mainstream for the genre. I have to believe there’s a stigma still attached to “kiddie media”; both by the powers-that-be who control distribution and by the masses who aren’t making it apparent how much they want it (if they really do). No matter that Maus, a comic book, is a serious work in it’s own right and has been recognized as such; including receiving a Pulitzer prize. No matter that movies like Batman, Superman, Spider Man, Men In Black, The Mask, Barb Wire, X-Men, Spawn, Hell Boy, Electra, Hulk, Daredevil, Sin City and the soon to be released Fantastic Four (to name a few) are all comic book properties and do huge business when taken off the paper and put on the big screen – in flesh and blood, that is. No matter that the rest of the world gobbles this stuff up as they do many things American. The sad truth is: as a general rule, some content – including foreign content – just isn’t really accepted. And I have to wonder if there isn’t some relationship to other things that aren’t catching on as quickly either (including some technological things).

What prompted this was an entry over on the Anime News Network that “Howl’s Moving Castle” made it’s North American Premiere in Hollywood last night. Now I don’t watch entertainment news nightly, but something tells me they didn’t cover it. And if an important and globally popular Bollywood movie – featuring Indian actors and locations – were to premiere, I suspect it too would get the cold shoulder. I consider this cause for concern. There’s nothing worse than showing up to work and not being able to talk about the cool new movie with everyone else. And when “work” is an increasingly global/virtual collaborative endeavor….