I've been reading a one-degree-of-separation blog recently, Frankly Frivolous, which is about all the TV you're watching--the stuff you admit to and the stuff you don't. And, as someone with certain, and admittedly sometimes arbitrary, standards for dialogue/writing/directing that often mean shows get the axe in ep 3 ("Dude. Where are we?" killed Lost for us, sadly), it's nice to be able to keep up with things via someone else's intelligent commentary.
And so I must respond to the Heroes discussion in FF's recent blog post. Don't get me wrong. Heroes is one of our guilty pleasure, fluff TV watches. We find it intriguing--sort of 4400 without the buddy-cop element and without the full 'verse worked out completely. I tend to like the show, although we both could do without Nikki's story-line entirely, thank you very much. If one treats it like a soap and fast-forwards through the bits you're not keen on, it works well.
But I have a problem with it, which is the same problem that Alias (also guilty pleasure, also fab, also yummy on many levels) had: Or-ee-en-tal-ism. That's right. "Eenja" the place where wisdom is had. Place of monsoons, umbrellas, kids playing football (except they'd be playing cricket if it were going all-out stereotype), white columns and huge mansions, small dark dusty academic offices (that look oddly like the same place as the NY apartment inhabited by the same character), sultry women in saris, protective mothers, everyone is a scientist, everyone wears fab Banana Republic-style flowy clothing (from before BR sold out and became Extra-Special-Gap)...At least in Heroes they play to the "better stereotypes" if there is such a thing. In Alias "Eenja" was one big confusing bazaar with veiled women and people scraping in the dirt in their oh-so-colourful sparkly garb. And so it's just annoying. Right down to the accent that Sendhil Ramamurthy takes on. It grates a little. Mr. Miyagi for the 00s.
I think the portrayal of Japan has similar elements, but Hiro is a much better character than Mohinder, and he doesn't have to do the cheeseball spiritual abstract voiceover stuff--Japan is a place of ritualised office calasthenics, manga, and cubicles with Star-Trek obsessed inhabitants hip to American culture, Japanese style. so there's orientalism there too, just a different flavour and with a different edge. Others more familiar with Japan and its popular image can help me in analysing that.
Heroes' Orientalism is the boring kind. The overt, in-your-face, why-oh-why kind. Because of this, it doesn't make me stop watching the show. It's just too overt to be truly offensive. Perhaps it's a signal that South Asia has finally made it onto the radar screen of mainstream America: it's not just China and Japan anymore. Welcome to the club.