Monday, May 15, 2006

The Asahi Shimbun is Japan...right?

When I Googled the English-language news on Japan this morning, I came upon this startling cartoon from the May 14 edition of the Chosun Ilbo:

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi hangs his head in shame as a senior U.S. congressman berates him to stop visiting the controversial Yasukuni Shrine, which honors convicted war criminals. Korea and Japan look on and think, “Some U.S. lawmaker’s words count for more than ours?”

The chairman of the House International Relations Committee, Henry Hyde, reportedly asked Koizumi to stop the shrine visits -- the next one expected on August 15 -- if he wants to address both houses of the U.S. legislature. Continued protests from Korea and China have fallen on deaf ears, but Hyde’s remarks seem to have caused quite a stir in Japan.

Quite a stir, yessir. Representative Henry Hyde's letter to House Speaker Dennis Hastert received a top of page 2 mention in the May 14 Asahi Shimbun and...a top of page 2 reference in the May 14 Asahi Shimbun.

That's it. No other newspaper or news service bothered to carry the story.

Not exactly burning up the wires or the airwaves.

Still, I cannot get enough of the disturbing use of "generalized over-50 Caucasian" stereotypical imagery in this cartoon. One would think that Henry Hyde has wavy hair, no glasses (a sign of genetic fitness), a receding hairline and expanding waistline.

As regards the waistline, the depiction might be accurate.

As for the face though, the real Henry Hyde looks like this:

As you can see, Henry Hyde's head of hair is long, lush and straight, not wavy. While his hairline is receding, it is not in full retreat, as the cartoon indicates.

Hyde also always wears glasses. Since we are trafficking in stereotypes here, my guess is the cartoonist dropped the glasses because the resulting character would be too "Asian-looking" for the Chosun Ilbo's readership to accept as representing an American.

Nothing like demonstating an utter lack of confidence in the reader's intelligence.

Frankly, when I first saw the cartoon, I though the image was a crude caricature of Senator Joseph Lieberman, seen here on the left. Or maybe Henry Waxman of California, if he did not have the mustache.

* * *

The poses of the three Asian figures are startling, as well.

On the left we have the recondite Koizumi, bowing shamefacedly before the generalized American figure of authority. He is the schoolboy, caught fighting with the others, and is now receiving a vigorous scolding from the teacher, who pounds his right fist into his left hand in an intimidating manner.

Meanwhile, in the back, standing together, are Mr. South Korea and Mr. China, the other boys in the fight. Mr. South Korea looks on, his head spinning, confused at the turn of events. Mr. China, a character as cool as a cucumber, could hardly care what happens to Koizumi. His shoulders in full shrug, he turns his back on whole the scene

First...among many questions...why aren't Hu Jintao and Roh Moo-hyun in this picture?

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