Tuesday, July 1, 2008

So on Angry Asian Man, there's this post on CNN's coverage of the Butler's Cafe, a cafe in Japan where Western (read:white) men dressed in butler costumes serve the princesses (read: Japanese women customers).

So AAM says this about it:

I just shake my head at this. But the more I thought about it, I realized the concept could be interpreted in a couple of different ways. There's the idea that Japanese women fantasize about having a western prince sweep them off their feet (which literally happens in the segment). Yuck.

Then again, I realized there is a bit of a role reversal happening here—instead of the subservient Asian woman, we're seeing the white man in the servant role. And that's hella fantasy. Perhaps it's actually a little bit of both. Either way, it's a really stupid idea, a stupid story... and nobody comes off looking very good.
which I think sums it up fairly well, except that I feel there's a whole lot more going on with this.

On top of what AAM brings up, there's also the issue of the heteronormality that I got from watching the clip. Not that this is anything new for mainstream media, but I wonder how it would fare if a man went in to be a princess. Would they come to his beck and call as well? Probably not, although who knows?

Additionally, all the butlers look white in the clip, but they are only referred to as "Westerners." If I, an American of Japanese Ancestry, went to apply for the butler position, would I get turned down because I look Japanese? Believe me, I'd only speak English, and I could be as gentlemanly as the next gallant knight (more on this later), but I have the sneaky suspicion that I wouldn't get the job no matter how "Westernized" I might be.

Also, I think this whole fantasy of the (white) knight coming in and sweeping the princess off her feet is pretty telling of the effects of the patriarchal Japanese society. I think the Japanese women interviewed and shown in the cafe (which doesn't look super full...I suppose the extravagance is pretty classist in itself) express their frustration with a society that doesn't value them. I've seen a lot of Japanese guys (well, lots of males in general) treat their friends/partners like crap, so it doesn't surprise me that a lady wants to get a little pampered. Hell, I'm sure she'd like to just be listened to and respected like a human being should be.

Anyway, I just thought I'd throw my few cents in on this one. I dunno, when I read the post and watched the video, I couldn't help but notice how there's so much wrong with this beyond the general "Japanese women just looooooove American (read:white) men" stereotype. Sigh.

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