“But there are differences between Japanophilia and cinephilia, just as there are differences between paying tribute to a foreign culture and using what you've gleaned about a country from watching its movies as some sort of exotic backdrop. And therein lies the problem. I love so much in Isle of Dogs. I am moved by it. So why do I find myself cringing so hard at the way it reduces an entire nation's history and character to the equivalent of an album's deep-cut? Yes, it's easy to read what Anderson & co. are doing as an homage to his hermetic ideas of the land of the rising sun rather than a racist Orientalism caricature along the lines of, say, those old Fu Manchu movies of the 1930s or Mickey Rooney's buck-toothed landlord from Breakfast at Tiffany's. (We're not dignifying this with a link, you'll have to seek out this atrocity yourself.) It's a little harder to acknowledge that there's a tourist-y tone-deafness that comes as part of the package. Harder, but necessary. You don't get one without the other here.”
“Much of the Japanese dialogue, especially Atari’s, has been pared down to simple statements that non-speakers can figure out based on context and facial expressions,” he continues. “The dogs, for their part, all speak clear American English, which is [...] effectively reducing the hapless, unsuspecting people of Megasaki to foreigners in their own city.” Jen Yamato of the Los Angeles Times supported Chang’s review by tweeting out her own criticism: “Thank you, Justin Chang, for devoting far more attention than most critics will to many of the willfully tone-deaf ways Wes Anderson appropriates and marginalizes Japanese culture and people in his so-called homage. It is ugly, indeed.”
Anderson generally likes to decorate his margins with nonwhite, virtually mute characters: Pelé in Life Aquatic, a Brazilian who sits in a crow's-nest and sings David Bowie songs in Portuguese; Mr. Sherman in Royal Tenenbaums, a black accountant who wears bow ties, falls into holes, and meekly endures Gene Hackman's racist jabs—he calls him "Coltrane" and "old black buck," which Anderson plays for laughs; Mr. Littlejeans in Rushmore, the Indian groundskeeper who occasionally mumbles comical malapropisms. There's also Margaret Yang, Apple Jack, Ogata, and Vikram. Taken together, they form a fleet of quasi-caricatures and walking punch lines, meant to import a whimsical, ambient multiculturalism into the films. Anderson frequently points out his white characters' racial insensitivities ("Which part of Mexico are you from?" Wilson asks Ines in Bottle Rocket. She shakes her head. "Paraguay." "Oh, Paraguay … that's over … under … Guatemala. …"), but he presents them, ultimately, as endearing quirks. [...] He's wise enough to make fun of it here and there, but in the end, there's something enamored and uncritical about his attitude toward the gaffes, crises, prejudices, and insularities of those he portrays.
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