• The Loquacious Geisha: Lotus Blossom and the 'Hidden Transcript' of The Teahouse of the August Moon

    Lori Morimoto (see profile)
    Film Studies
    Asia, Area studies
    Item Type:
    Conference paper
    Conf. Title:
    Society for Cinema and Media Studies Annual Conference
    Conf. Org.:
    Society for Cinema and Media Studies
    Conf. Loc.:
    Boston, Massachusetts
    Conf. Date:
    March 23, 2012
    Asian Representation, Geisha, Teahouse of the August Moon, John Patrick, Kyo Machiko, Asian studies, Film studies
    Permanent URL:
    Scholarship on representations of East Asian women has honed on the ubiquity of a ‘geisha’ stereotype in Asian-themed Hollywood films: women who willingly acquiesce to the prerogatives of Western men and, in so doing, symbolically affirm the subordination of East Asian political autonomy to a paternalistic United States. Within this context, the contemporaneous popularity in Japan of Daniel Mann’s 1956 film Teahouse of the August Moon seems to suggest the unfettered ability of Hollywood cinema to penetrate both borders and minds in the dissemination of U.S.-centric ideology. Yet, I would posit that the enthusiastic Japanese reception of this representative ‘rashamen’ film in fact can be attributed to what anthropologist James Scott terms the “hidden transcript” of the film’s extensive Japanese language dialogue. Japan’s fifth-highest grossing film of 1956, Teahouse was based on a Pulitzer Prize-winning John Patrick stage play, the script for which featured the linguistic contributions of Japanese cast members that, as critic and subtitler Shimizu Shunji wrote at the time of the film’s release, were rendered all the more effective in the film through the performances of Japanese stars Kyo Machiko, Negami Jun, and Kiyokawa Nijiko. Focusing on Kyo’s linguistic and physical performance of the geisha Lotus Blossom, this paper argues for an alternative understanding of the symbolic relationship of postwar Japan and the United States embodied in Teahouse of the August Moon; one that was hidden in plain sight of both the film’s American audience and producers by virtue of its linguistic difference.
    Last Updated:
    7 years ago
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