The Atlantic vis-a-vis Aniblogging

American liberal media bastion The Atlantic has inadvertently just done its part to make aniblogging respectable.

Behold:  The Atlantic article on Gangnam Style.

Make no mistake: for all that it is nominally about music and pop culture, this is aniblogging. It’s a dissection of an entertainment video clip from Asia and its cultural context.  It includes all sorts of cues and references for newcomers, who might not understand the cultural undercurrents in the film’s native country. It considers the work in the context of a larger body of work, which the casual reader is equally unaware of.  It even cautions the reader about the difficulty in translating nuances, and the unacceptability of the English word “hollow” for the precise emotion that the video’s creator wished to convey.

Now, The Atlantic is not a friend to anime blogging, nor to Asian cultures in general. Witness the condescension (or perhaps cultural imperialism) inherent in this article about Japan:

So far, dating Gomez hasn’t hurt Bieber’s sales. His latest album, Believe, recorded the biggest debut sales week so far in 2012. But AKB48’s newest album, 1830m, released this week, sold in its first day a career-best of more than 625,000 copies. Until Japanese pop acts built on the illusion of youthful innocence start slipping commercially, the country’s music industry won’t be in a rush to mature their stars. Hideaki Anno, the director of the famous Japanese cartoon Neon Genesis Evangelion, once told The Atlantic that Japan is “a country of children.” That’s a bit broad, but it’s hard to dispute that Japan is a country that wants its entertainment to be innocent.

Gee, how dare the Japanese do things differently from the US?  Allowing idols to date in America works just fine for them in America!  Why would the Japanese not follow suit?  Clearly, rather than it being a case of legitimate, respectable cultural differences, the Japanese as a people just aren’t grown up enough to hang with us excellent Americans.  The arrogance in that is appalling, which caused gendomike to comment:

I love the way that Hideaki Anno gets quoted at the end to twist the knife. Wrote about that article long ago too.

With an attitude like that, any help they give to the appreciation of foreign cultures in America is accidental.  That said, however, the publication of this Gangnam Style article by The Atlantic – and its wide acceptance as journalism – should cause anibloggers to sit up and take note.

Published in: on August 23, 2012 at 6:17 PM  Comments (6)  
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6 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. You’re more than a little off-base with your criticism of The Atlantic’s AKB48 article. This obsession with purity and the way idols are banned from dating – simply dating! – doesn’t take criticism because it’s “not like America”, it takes criticism because it’s fantastically oppressive. If you want to sing, you’re not allowed to fall in love. And it’s not just that your image and sales will suffer, it’s that the fanbase is liable to fiercely and remorselessly malign you for it on the grounds that it’s some kind of personal betrayal.

    Besides, in a way the cultures aren’t so different. On either side of the Pacific, you have the media and a non-trivial number of people taking an obsessive and ridiculous interest in the personal lives of celebrities.

    Now, I don’t much care for how sexualized too much of American culture is. But I’m not going to feign respect for the extreme opposite of that either.

    • Yes, but the concept of love that they embrace (and that you tout, above) is inherently Western. I am not suggesting that we need to feign respect for anything; rather, I am suggesting a genuine respect for other cultures is preferable. The assertion that everyone should be like America – even if we appear to have valid, humanizing reasons for it in this particular case – is problematic.

  2. That “arrogance” is very aniblogger-y too, in some ways. Gotta take both good and bad I guess.

    • Inasmuch as it makes aniblogging more palatable to the masses, I suppose you could say it’s not entirely a bad thing that they’ve mixed arrogance in with it.

  3. None of this commentary is particularly overt, which is actually what could make “Gangnam Style” so subversive. Social commentary is just not really done in mainstream Korean pop music, Hong explained. “The most they’ll do is poke fun at themselves a little bit. It’s really been limited.” But Psy “is really mainstreaming it, and he’s doing it in a way that maybe not everybody quite realizes.” Park Jaesang isn’t just unusual because of his age, appearance, and style; he writes his own songs and choreographs his own videos, which is unheard of in K-Pop. But it’s more than that. Maybe not coincidentally, he attended both Boston University and the Berklee College of Music, graduating from the latter. His exposure to American music’s penchant for social commentary, and the time spent abroad that may have given him a new perspective on his home country, could inform his apparently somewhat critical take on South Korean society.

  4. What?

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