The Japan Diaries, by Formento and Formento: photography


How is this not crass cultural appropriation and stereotyping?

If the topic had been a First Nations people rather than the Japanese, the article would be headlined “Faux Native American Photography” and would have featured an excerpt of another piece entitled “Why the ‘Japanese’ Photography Trend Is Pissing Off Real Japanese”, deconstructing the history and offensiveness of the Western practice of mimicking Japanese fashion and society.

I mean for crying out loud, we were just championing the cancelation of the Redskins trademark, and within eight posts we’ve got a white couple with a Northern Italian surname (Formento) playing faux Japanese dress-up with trite nonsense like chewing on a katana, wearing geta in a modern paved back alley, and coyly flirting with the scandalous by draping tentacles over a woman’s face to invoke the most internationally famous Japanese fetish.

I just don’t even know what to say.


you forgot that it is only wrong if they are offended. seriously the redskins thing was bad and i am glad it is done with but maybe we could do something about the real problems plaguing the natives in all of north america instead of spending social capital to fight the owner of a team who in already causes a consistent flagrant misuse of public funds.


You have a good point - but you should see how they stereotype Americans. At least we’re ashamed of Mickey Rooney.

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The pictures on their website are even worse than you might expect from the excerpts here. Like, virtually every other picture is kimono + yellowface + some weird Western fantasy of Japan. Apparently this is how their “progressive interpretation and view of Japan” translates, because the way one progressively updates kimonos is with nipples and pubic hair.

I don’t remember particularly offensive Japanese stereotyping of “Americans.” For sure Japan has serious issues with how they treat and think of foreigners, especially blacks, Chinese, and Koreans, but offensively stereotyping white Westerners isn’t particularly prevalent. At least not so far as visual depictions go (many do think that Westerners are much more likely to riot, loot, and commit crimes, especially in the aftermath of a major earthquake).

Japan is pretty racist (much less so among the youth, thankfully), but I don’t see how that affects my point vis-à-vis BoingBoing. :wink:

That depends on what you mean by “crass”. If you could get a consensus that it’s crass, then you might have a point. Stereotyping only seems to be a major problem if it’s widely viewed to be an insulting representation. If you could actually link to articles about how pissed off Japanese are about faux-Japanese photography, then maybe.

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The imagery seems consistent with Japanesee pop culture.

As far as artistic merit, the biggest critics are usually the ones with the least talent; those that most advocate a woman’s freedom of expression are the most offended by female nudity; and caucasians are the first to be offended on behalf of other races.

I like drawing naked bodies – men and women – and I don’t have to explain my Asian heritage to anyone.

Oh, yeah – “Ghost in the Shell” rocks.

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It doesn’t have to be the Japanese who are pissed off - I’m pissed off (and I’m not Japanese). It’s disrespectful of another culture to just appropriate it for the “high-brow” equivalent of Halloween. I’m also surprised at Boing Boing…

Boing Boing: We Can’t Be Progressive All The Time

Clearly if they’ve openly derided the Redskins situation, they get a free pass on Orientalism this week

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Yeah, it kind of does. Otherwise we end up only allowing cultural expression within our personal “silos” of cultural identity… and you’ve suddenly given the scolds within each culture the right to police others in their own culture about subjects they have no knowledge of at all. So we end up allowing certain self-appointed white people to make sure that white people only do “white people” things. Fuck that. We already have the MPAA.

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So you’re OK with Sharia Law, so long as the people in the countries where it is practiced are OK with it?

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They are manifestly not okay with it. This point is also completely irrelevant. This isn’t an entré into the straw man of cultural relativism.

Edit: Conversely, if you do want white people to police whiteness, isn’t that more like Sharia law for white people than allowing people of whatever culture to speak for themselves? Having someone whitesplain for all whites is just going to lead to a downward spiral of repressive bullshit.

I dunno maybe it all balances out, he asked hopefully.

How do you differentiate your position from cultural relativism?

And how are all Sharia countries manifestly against it?

Maybe it’s like white/Western people dictating the contours of their own society, and demarcating the limits of acceptable behavior. For example, the age of consent in some societies is considerably lower than it is in the US. Nevertheless, it’s still a crime to have sex with people the US considers underage, even if the other part consents. Bribery is an accepted practice in many parts of the world, but it’s illegal for US companies to bribe people anywhere in the world. We’re not telling the “victims” how they should feel; we’re telling the perpetrators that we don’t find their actions acceptable.

pt. 1: Because the response to offense is a matter of empathy and precedent, not a matter of crowning the winner based on false equivalence and jumping right into a legal framework.

pt. 2: Because women and minority races and religions exist in those “Sharia” countries, and Googling the news about any one of those supposedly “Sharia” countries brings up plenty of articles about violent civil conflict resulting from the ongoing, failing attempts to impose Sharia.

pt. 2+.: Because criticizing insensitivity is not the same as imposing Sharia law, nor is being insensitive the same as imposing Sharia law.

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Maybe. I don’t see myself as living in a “white” society, where “white” means The Catholic League and other insular factions of the GOP.

Is that where you find the source of our discontent with cultural appropriation? (And note that I used the word “white” because I was responding to your statement about “white people […] polic[ing] whiteness”; I prefer to think of it as Western society.)

I’m not sure how that addresses how your statement differs from cultural relativism, unless you think that cultural relativism is implicitly legal and unempathetic.

Minority races exist in Japan, and there actually is a diversity of perspectives there as well. What level of home-grown objection is sufficient to make it legitimate for other cultures to join them in objecting?

If you can’t tell the difference between gauging the supposed sincerity of empathy for the victims of cultural appropriation and choosing which faction to feel sympathy for under a regime of Sharia law, there really isn’t much point to continuing the discussion, it’ll just be me constantly herding you away from the high voltage.

Gauging the supposed sincerity of empathy for victims of cultural appropriation? What does that mean? That those who find fault with Formento are not sincere? And I thought you were arguing that this is not cultural appropriation, and that there aren’t victims, so what are we supposed to be gauging? And even if there is cultural appropriation and people are being victimized, why are we gauging the (white) empathy for those victims when you’ve said the white perspective is largely irrelevant?