How to kill the “turning Japanese” cliche?


Turning Japanese

Adam Posen of the Peterson Institute for International Economics is the go-to guy for understanding Japan’s lost decade. From prepared testimony for a Joint Economic Committee hearing tomorrow…

What follows is thankfully not Adam Posen reading the words “turning Japanese” into the Congressional record, but I swear if I see that phrase again I might just rip myself in half, Rumpelstiltzken-style.

Now, here at Mutant Frog we like to follow cliches in the media, my own favorites being the overused “kabuki” and the often-used but always amusing “slammed!”  But “turning Japanese” is just so cringe-worthy that I haven’t been able to bring myself to mention it.

I am not sure why I hate this phrase so much, but I suspect it’s got a lot to do with the grating awfulness of the original song. I mean, imagine if every time Spain is mentioned on CNN they started playing “Hey, Macarena!” That’s how this makes me feel.

So what can be done to end this painful abuse of the English language? I was thinking it might make a difference if someone came out with a new definitive song about Japan, this time without the cartoonish 80s new wave voices and stereotypically “Asian” intro melody. Please let me know your ideas so we can finally take care of this important issue.

(Bonus: See Marxy’s take on the song at the bottom of the link)

15 thoughts on “How to kill the “turning Japanese” cliche?”

  1. The title of the Krugman column may as well be “Making a Face While Jacking Off that Racists Would Say Looks Like an Asian Person.”

  2. OK, “Turning Japanese” may be a shitty song and a horrible cliche, but this music video for the Polysics cover of “Domo Arigato Mr. Robot” is pure awesome.

  3. The phrase “Turning Japanese” should be used with pride by professional masturbators like Marxy.

  4. A recent MF post segued flawlessly from defecation to bagels. We’ve now moved on to self-abuse.

    I think complaining about people using cliches in headlines or titles to articles is bit futile. That’s what cliches are for. We see the headline and click, saying “Gee, what the hell could Krugman be trying to say with this?” Far less effective than “Adam Posen Compares Lost Decade to Current Crisis (again)”

    Now whether or not “Turning Japanese” is immediately racist is another question, similar to whether asking for ‘jimmies’ on your ice cream is immediately racist. Comparing someone’s wank-face with the face of an ethnic East Asian is a simile. Personally, I think that doing so in a song is a bit tasteless and in the case of the Vapors musically clumsy (disclaimer: I hate the genre), but that’s a question of art. Now, saying that people who are ethnically East Asian have faces that look like they are wanking is potentially quite racist.

    Beyond that, all the hullabaloo about that song being about self-abuse seems to have been discovered (or invented) by the US, Fenton’s take on it being unnervingly neutral:

    “It could be about a lot of things. I just woke up with that phrase in my head. It’s just an image which captures what that song was all about. But, no it wasn’t intended to be about wanking at the time.”

    Now, Adamu, is all of this etymological background the reason you don’t like the term (to the extent that you want to rip your body in two)? Or is just that you recall the riffs from the song when you see the term in a news media context?

  5. So now I have “Turning Japanese”, “Mr. Roboto” and “Whip It” (that one is thanks to the conical red hat that the robot is wearing, and all of this banter about 80’s paeans to masturbation) stuck in my head.

    Anyone know the antidote to this perfect storm of dreck 80’s tunes?

  6. “Now whether or not “Turning Japanese” is immediately racist is another question, similar to whether asking for ‘jimmies’ on your ice cream is immediately racist.”

    Huh? What race would that even be racist about?

  7. Adamu, man, I love you, but seriously — what is up with all the hating recently? Why don’t you spend all next week only writing posts about stuff that is AWESOME. I would really like that.

  8. Roy: Yeah, sorry. ‘Jimmies’ (like candlepin bowling) is apparently a Massachusetts thing, but you would be surprised at the goofy debates it used to cause when people asked for jimmies (a brown *or* multi-colored sprinkle topping) on their ice cream. Growing up, somehow it became the practice to call the brown ones ‘jimmies’ and the multi-colored ones ‘sprinkles’ and so some people began to surmise that the brown ones were ‘jimmies’ because people associated their color with Jim Crow. This later turned out to be a bunch of boolshit, although still, no one is certain of the definitive origin of this product’s name.

    One thing that I am certain of is that is never worth ruining a good Carvel ice cream cone debating with someone whether the act of ordering sprinkles is racist.

  9. Blacks, I would guess, from the song “jimmy crack corn.” Not that that word specifically refers to blacks, mind you (probably a reference to “gimcrack corn [whisky]” being cheap rotgut slaves might drink).

  10. I know that “jimmies” is a word for sprinkles, but I never had any idea that some people thought it was racist. Of course, when something is racist in America, it’s safe to assume it’s racist towards blacks.

  11. Damn that racist ice cream. How can I be positive when even ice cream toppings are a tool of oppression?

    Look, it was just not an awesome week. Sometimes that happens. When I see something awesome I will let you know.

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