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Reviews Comments: A Satire about Jingoism and a Love Letter to Dogs and Japanese Culture Isle Of Dogs film/book review by Immortalbear

I am a strong believer in the importance of political correctness. However I feel that occasionally political correctness reaches out and strangles media that is actually trying to support its goals. Such is the case with Isle of Dogs, a film that takes place in a future Japan where there is an outbreak of diseased canines that everyone fears will poison the human population.

Subtlety is a key word in Isle of Dogs repertoire. It manages to talk about a number of topical subjects yet it never departs from the plot to speak these subjects directly. The dogs in the movie represent illegal immigrants, either abused or scapegoated by political figures in attempt to secure power. Their disease, or in the case of their counterparts legal status, is very much a problem, but the government isn\'t interested in fixing the problem because they have secured power by demonizing this voiceless minority. Furthermore, the film goes out of its way to make its audience empathize with the dogs. They may not have the same language and perspective of humans, but they show traits of loyalty and respect to each other as well as a human child that comes to help them.

Some might wonder why the film chose Japan specifically but I think its because it has such a rich folklore of children going on journeys of self discovery and changing the dynamic world around them. The main character is a stand-in for Momotaro, the hero that developed inter-species friendships that helped him save the land. His devotion to his dog, Spots, and Chief\'s devotion to him bears a resemblance to Hachiko, a Japanese dog famous for its loyalty toward its owner. The protagonists faced off against Kobayashi, a Frankenstein of jingoist propoganda, possessing the controlling attitude of Shinzo Abe, the blatant hate speeches of Donald Trump, and the brutal ruthlessness of Vladimir Putin. Wes Anderson pits the idealism found in fantasy against the cynicism that currently controls our global powers.

Admittedly, the film embraces some of the sillier quirks of Japanese culture, but silliness in culture is a common staple in satire. Dr. Strangelove showed the silliness of American militarism and The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp showed the silliness of British stuffiness. A serious film about talking dogs would undermine itself. Never mind the film shows the various cool parts of Japanese culture, such as its advancements in science, its intricately prepared meals, and its exotic atmosphere. Isle of Dogs is a great example of political subtlety mixed in with a tale about a boy\'s love for dogs.

Comments

  • AntiDragon4185
  • 25th Apr 18
Apologies, but I had to rush this out quickly, before leaving for work.

Although I appreciated the review, I have a question regarding the terminology; I thought Jingoism was a term coined in Britain around WWI regarding the militant desire to dominate other nations through war. As tense as the relationship between the dogs and the humans are, I wouldn\'t say they were ever at war (the awesome fight scenes not withstanding).

Although some may wish to dispute the your accusation of \"hate speech\" in regards to Trump, your insight into satire, the conflict among minorities, and the Japanese culture is impressive. (even though I consider myself an enthusiastic admirer of Japanese culture, I had never heard of those legends before now). Needless to say, the movie gains far more significance upon realization their choice of Japan as their setting was not at random. Over all, a very poignant and insightful review.

  • Immortalbear
  • 25th Apr 18
You accurately describe the root of the word, jingoism but like many words, it branches out over time. The Google dictionary defines jingoism as "extreme patriotism, especially in the form of aggressive or warlike foreign policy".Wikipedia extends it further to "Colloquially, jingoism is excessive bias in judging one's own country as superior to others — an extreme type of nationalism". I've seen various news articles using the latter definition to describe situations where one culture has aggressively antagonized another culture, even when they are in the same country. Nationalism may or may not be racist in certain contexts but jingoism is always negative.

I really want to avoid a political firestorm, but Trump's speeches about Mexican immigrants are notoriously inflammatory. The most infamous was "They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists." before adding a half-hearted walk back "And some, I assume, are good people". He has also called for the "complete and total shutdown" of Muslims entering US borders. He called Obama and Hillary Clinton, the founder and co-founder of ISIS. He has also called Hillary Cinton the "devil". while on stage. He has also been known to tweet inflammatory videos such as this ones in this article: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/nov/30/videos-tweeted-by-trump-where-are-they-from-and-what-do-they-really-show. To sum up, Trump's most common political move is to try to incite anger toward a social class, religion, or political party he does not like, much like how Kobayashi tries to incite anger toward dogs.
  • Immortalbear
  • 25th Apr 18
BTW, I appreciate your input.
  • maninahat
  • 26th Apr 18
Nice review, I'm not sure what you mean about political correctness in the opening paragraph though?

Also Catch 22 is American (The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp would be a better example).
  • Immortalbear
  • 27th Apr 18
Sorry, I\'ve gotten a lot of satire mixed up over the years. Your example is more accurate.

My first paragraph was referring to some of the negative reception from some reviews as well as some negative reception from the YMMV section. They seem to think this movie was made to laugh at the expense of Japanese culture. I didn\'t want the review to come across as completely accusatory, but at the same time I wanted to say that political correctness came in different forms and shouldn\'t be condemned as racist just because it has some humor in a culture that is not American.

I feel like I\'m living in a film culture run by realists. Some critics say the dogs should have voices by Asian actors because it was set in Japan. Well, using that logic the dogs would have been more authentic if they were voiced by actual dogs except, you know, we would never understand what they are actually saying. The actors chosen for the dogs\' voices were chosen because they were recognizable and talented actors with an affinity for comedic timing, something that is highly desired in an animated film that is trying to be funny. What a lot of critics ignore is that this is one of the few films that actually tries to use the native language of the country they are trying to portray rather than have everyone speak English and simply hand wave it away.

Tracy is disliked for being a \"Mighty Whitey\". Except that she isn\'t one. She may play juvenile detective, but she mostly repeats plot points so that an audience that is mostly English speaking has less chance of getting lost in a plot that is mostly spoken in Japanese. She may have found the dog cure, but she only needed to find it in the first place because the grief of a Japanese scientist prevented it from being released. She confronted Kobayashi, but it is Atari\'s words and actions that win over the population and make Kobayashi remorseful about his sins. She is accused of being bossy, but Atari can be pretty forceful too. His relationship with Chief hits a rough patch when Atari sees some opportunities to act as a kid again, while Chief just wants to go to the agreed location. Ultimately, Chief placates to Atari\'s wishes. At some point, kids\' childish behavior just has to be attributed to them being kids and not some grandiose statement of cultural superiority/inferiority.
  • maninahat
  • 27th Apr 18
Ah okay. I\'ve not seen the film, but I had heard somewhere about the american voice actors for dogs (and the implication that these American dogs are the familiar heroes and Japanese society are the villains). I can\'t say much on that myself, but I have noticed that animated movies are getting a lot more stick these days for getting white voice actors to do non-white roles (as in Kubo, or The Simpsons) and I think that is partially deserved; its not like it\'s hard to get people of colour to talk into a can.
  • Immortalbear
  • 27th Apr 18
Then I suggest you watch the film. Atari, Professor Wanatabe, and his assistant are all heroes in the story and are all played by Asian actors. If you want more diversity, the narrator is Courtney B. Vance, who is black. Jeff Goldblum is brown, of Russian descent, and also plays one of the dogs. The two main villains are played by Asian actors, but the rest of the Japanese cast is a morally grey group, varying from those that want to help the dogs to those that are afraid of them. They possess all the flaws and virtues portrayed in typical society. The dogs play an important role in the plot, but it is Atari, Professor Wanatabe, and his assistant's actions that save the day.

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