What Japan can learn from French blockbuster ‘Serial (Bad) Weddings’


Special To The Japan Times

Love between different races is one thing, and then there’s marriage. Guess which is more complicated.

“Serial (Bad) Weddings,” a 2014 French film released originally as “Qu’est-ce qu’on a fait au Bon Dieu?,” wrestles with this exact issue. The film was a sleeper hit in its home country, reportedly watched by one in five people in France. Now it has finally reached our shores, at the same time as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration is refusing to open the nation’s doors to refugees another couple of centimeters.

The film’s director, Philippe de Chauveron, describes France as being “schizophrenic” in the way it deals with its multiracial population.

“On the one hand, there are the ultra-rightists who want to crack down on foreigners and refugees,” he says, “and then there are the liberals who are all for opening the gates.”

Intriguingly, France has the highest rate of mixed marriages in the EU — close to 20 percent of married couples are of differing nationalities. For the rest of Europe that number is a paltry 3 percent on average.

In Japan, the number of mixed marriages rose from 4,156 in 1965 to more than 45,000 in 2006, but has since decreased. In 2013, 21,488 married couples were mixed (out of 660,594), according to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare.

De Chauveron says that the French are perhaps “more willing to experiment and try out things. Also, we are more likely to tire of relationships that go too smoothly. We thrive on arguments and passionate discussions and we love poking fun at each other’s racial foibles.”

If only the Japanese could be as light-hearted.

  • Kleinzahler

    I was in France when the film came out and i thought it was ery funny. A French farce, almost in the “Cage aux Folles” category. It wasn’t just about race, but also about the grooms having different religions and part of the humour was the involvement of the Catholic priest. I wonder if a Buddhist monk, or Shinto priest in Japan would agree to officiate at such a wedding? I know of two couples where Frenchmen have married Japanese women in France. In the first, the groom was also Jewish and they found an English liberal rabbi to officiate. The bride’s parent’s refused to attend, so the couple went to Disneyland and bought large helium filled balloons of Micky and Minnie mouse which they used to represent the bride’s parents during the ceremony – and no doubt to also express what they thought of them. In the second case, it was only the father who did not want to attend the wedding, but the mother did, dressed in a fine and impressive kimono. In the west, I and others find it hard to understand Japanese brides. They seem to want to wear a white white dress, rather then a kimono and being photographed in front of the Eiffel tower, or on the banks of the Seine, seem more important then anything else. I know European couples can also appear more interested in the outer appearence of things then taking stock of the serious and important change in their lives that takes place at a wedding. Perhaps Europeans have something to learn from the Japanese, that we only see our own superficialities and eccentricities, when we see them expressed in a different way in others.

    • Bernadette Soubirous

      I wish Japanese women would study world religion more. I have met many Japanese woman who have married Jewish and Muslim men, but have no clue about Judaism nor Islam and the relationships ended. Also, Asian women think that white men are all perfect. That is why the Japanese women visit Europe, Australia and America with the sole purpose of marrying a white man. Usually the man is broke and not doing well financially. I hope we all find love.