Geishas go to Disneyland
Memoirs of a Geisha represents the Disneyfication of Japanese culture and the utter debasement of Arthur Golden’s fine book. Although the book is written in English by a westerner, that does not excuse the lazy stereotyping in this film: the variable accents, the use of popular Chinese actresses (as if it doesn’t matter), the expensive film set that is more Disneyland than Gion. Many reviewers will point to this film’s beauty as if this alone accounts for its artifice. It is beautiful in an inauthentic glossy way that is not difficult to achieve, saturated with the visual signifiers that spoonfeed a sense of time and place onto the viewer. Even the geisha ‘look’ appears to have been watered down – with the use of non-Japanese actresses – to be made more pallatable to Western audiences. If you are the kind of person who takes coach tours to ‘exotic locations’ only to film the entire trip out of the bus window with a camcorder, then this movie is for you. I cannot imagine what market this film might have in Japan, if any.