Thursday, June 14, 2007

Miss Universe Wants to be a Hero...

Newly crowned Miss Universe Riyo Mori (or as we say here in Japan, Mori Riyo) wants to be on the cult hit TV show Heroes. And it looks like she may get her wish. Ms. Mori is the first Japanese Miss Universe since 1959.

Since she lived in Canada for 3 years, I'm guessing her English skills will be more than up to the task should she land the part.

I've never seen Heroes. Japan gets plenty of Western TV, especially if you have cable or a Sky Perfect satellite receiver, but so far Heroes isn't one of them, as far as I know. Cult shows that are or have been popular here include Twin Peaks, The X-Files, most versions of Star Trek and Roswell. 24 and Lost are crazy popular among those hip to them in Japan.

Bart Simpson is the CC Lemon (a fizzy soft drink with a weak lemony aftertaste) spokeskid... or at least he was. I've frequently drawn him as one of the characters in my kids' classes dialogues and he usually gets a response consisting of the kids whispering, "CC Lemon!" to each other behind my back.

SuperDrama TV runs Dallas on the weekends, Walker: Texas Ranger daily and recently aired the first season of The Sopranos Friday at midnight.

But the "Superman as a teen" series Smallville is also playing here now, and I haven't heard much buzz on it.


Ms. Mori is certainly a beautiful young woman, full of enthusiasm for her new role as Miss Universe. Evidently she doesn't fit Japan's national image of what a Japanese Miss Universe should be like. I don't really have an opinion on this. Still, I've noticed that my own views of what makes a woman attractive are sometimes at odds with whatever seems to be the societal standard here, so I guess I'm not too surprised. That's also true back in the States.

As much as I love Japan, there are certainly some elements of life here that make me uncomfortable. A lot of incredibly bright high school girls in my classes seem ambitionless, preferring to dream of lives as tour guides, flight attendants and housewives rather than careers as lawyers, doctors or politicians. Among the glossy, harcover shashinshu (photo books) of pop stars and actresses posing in bikinis you'll find some of children as young as 11 years old. Some high school girls, obsessed with fashion, will accept money from lonely older men and go on paid dates. And of course, there are the infamous chikan (molestors), lone wolf pervs on the crowded commuter trains who take the opportunities afforded by being packed elbow-to-elbow to grope women's and teens' asses... or whatever else they can get their hands on.

So maybe it's not surprising that someone as seemingly Westernized as Ms. Mori might not strike the fancy of whoever it is that drives these particular aspects of Japanese life.

What does it all mean? I have no idea. One thing I've always tried to do is avoid getting into this "analyzing the Japanese" mindset that so many foreigners do here... at least based on other blogs similar to mine I've read. I can tell you what I've seen if you're interested, but I don't want to make the sweeping generalizations about Japan common where one ESL teacher or another has read the (almost) completely asinine Dogs and Demons and thinks he or she has it all figured out.

Whereas I have no problem with making sweeping generalizations about ESL teachers like myself!

But yeah, I find myself creeped out from time to time here just as much as I ever did back home, only in slightly different ways.

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