• Edinburgh, Scotland


Regarding Philip Brasor’s Jan. 30 Media Mix column, “Cultural insensitivity no laughing matter“: Japan’s hypersensitivity to “outsiders” laughing at something connected to Japan looks even more ridiculous and blind when lined up against the constant insensitive commercial TV “comedy shows” that grossly insult the U.S. African-American community with racist portrayals of President Barack Obama, using outdated slapstick “humor” — as shown to me recently by an American friend on YouTube.

When is Japan going to mature a little and learn about satire as a form of comedy? The taboos and silences that cover so many aspects of Japanese society resemble a sort of deep-felt national trauma at times. This is ridiculous in 2011.

Although the family of the poor guy (who was a victim of both the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic-bomb blasts) can laugh freely at his misfortune, others seemingly are disallowed. Stephen Fry, compere of the BBC quiz show in question, “QI,” and easily a much brighter and more intelligent personality than 99 percent of those found on benighted Japanese television, has now been recommended to cancel his visit to Japan. He was going to feature aspects of Japan’s language development, a subject that would have been watched by millions in the United Kingdom, and might even have helped many people warm to Japanese culture and society. Now it appears this will not happen — a sad reflection of how Japan itself remains stubbornly wedded to its self-inflicted isolationist attitude to the world.

The Japanese need to loosen up a bit, laugh at themselves and their numerous peccadilloes, and allow others to laugh at them too, on their own terms. Once they do this, maybe, just maybe, the culture pundits, media gurus and chattering classes can take their place alongside others in First World nations who understand that humor, for some, has many more facets than those found in Japan’s dire TV fodder.

william hardwick

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