The Last Samurai Essay

3337 words - 14 pages

Hollywood and Orientalism have traditionally had an inter-twined relationship that continues to persist even today. Orientalism can be described in three different ways. Firstly, as Edward Said illustrates in his great work “Orientalism” illustrates, “it is academic in nature; composed by people who write, teach, and research on the “orient.” (Said, 1978, 4) Secondly, “Orientalism is also a style of thought based on an ontological and epistemological distinction between “Orient” and more often than not the “Occident” (Said, 1978, 5). In other words, Orientalism creates, through the binary opposition between the East and West, a means for dealing and understanding the Orient, and western self-understanding through opposing itself against the “Other.” (Said, 1978, 5) Orientalism is used when describing European-American views on the region of Asia, and has often led to western Eurocentric views proclaiming their dominance over East Asia through an uneven exchange of power. In short, Orientalism as a Western style for dominating, restructuring, and having authority over the Orient (Said, 1978, 5) Additionally, it has created a regular pattern for the idea of European Western having political, intellectual, and hegemony over Asia.
The Hollywood film industry has particularly been a fertile ground for Orientalism. In the late nineteenth and twentieth century western narrative and cinemas inherited and narrated visual traditions, as well as the cultural assumption, on which Orientalism was based. (Bernstein, M; & Studlar, G;1997, 3) In other words Hollywood created many films founded on Eurocentric dialogue of Orientalism notions that place the west in a position of dominance. In addition, romanticized idealism and myths of exotic difference based on race, sex, and fantasy that clouds East-West relationship. (Prasso, XV) However in an ever-globalizing world that has experienced conflict and tragedy brought on by cross-cultural misconceptions and racism one would think that we can see through and moved passed and harmful cultural stereotypes and Eurocentric dogma. Unfortunately, even in the “enlightened” 21st century, Orientalism is still produced in Hollywood. Concrete examples of overt orientalism evident in film on part of the filmmakers, has been replaced by latent orientalism that is potentially planted in the sub-consciousness of the viewers. (Scurry 9) In other words, Orientalism knows influences its audience sometimes without them even realizing or recognizing they are being influenced.
In the film The Last Samurai we see the embodiment of many orientalist characteristics. First, the film has typical “Japonerserie” stereotypes. Second, it has the typical white male protagonist savior who has superior abilities and authority over characters of a difference race. Third, the movie stereotypes the role of woman in typical orientalist dialogue of Asian woman as obedient, subservient, and exotic. Finally, the usage in the film of languages casts...

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