Saturday, August 14, 2010

Orientalism in Italo and Euro Disco

Jessica - "Chinese Magic"

Aneka - "Japanese Boy"

Peter Randell - "Lost in Tokyo"

Murray Head - "One Night in Bangkok"

Fuck your life. Leave it behind and head to the exotic Orient, where neon lights and golden opportunities await your every need with a ninety degree bow and petite feet. The sprawling Asian megalopolis is "Blade Runner" gone utopic, so unexplored and so utterly foreign that it will eat you alive and you will never be the same. Enjoy complete and absolute anonymity in the Far East; fall in love with a beautiful creature that you can bring home later; even the strongest and mightiest of men fall prey to the wicked and unexpected charms hidden in dark alleyways, go-go bars and tea salons.

As much as we like to pretend we are creatures of enlightenment because we read Edward Said in Asian Studies 101, I think we as Westerners in Asia all carry a little bit of this Orientalist fantasy with us when we hop on that long flight. Asia is still uncharted territory as far as young Western interests are concerned - how many people do you know that can name more than five cities in China? As far as North Americans are concerned, many more opt to head to Western Europe or the tropical islands to the south for leisure travel. Those who make the trek over to Asia often (sometimes un)consciously carry little beacons of pride with them on their travels, peering down their noses at those pawns who think Paris is a big culture shock jump because the French speak French. Yeah brah, Europe is cool and all, but Asia is for the adventurous.

It applies to me, too, even though I have much more in common physically with the feline, almond-eyed geisha-ladyboy-me-love-you-long-time sex object than the awkward-looking visible foreigners stumbling around Tokyo with maps and backpacks. No one looks at me twice over here, and they have no idea that I am listening to "Chinese Magic" on repeat under my blanket while China Airlines Flight 0011 lands bumpily at TPE. As mentioned in this wankfest entry from a few months ago, it didn't take long for Tokyo to lose its magical mystery. I think I know deep down that the sprawling capital cities of Asia are just like anywhere else, with possibly more hepatitis and deformed beggar children, and that's why I'm afraid to visit and keep running away to Europe instead of exploring the countries and cultures in close proximity to Japan. I actually want Asia to be the exoticised fantasy land of Italo and Euro disco from 25 years ago, and not simply part of a globalized world that has been raped and pillaged by American popular culture.

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