Orientalism and the Spectacle of the OtherJapan and the Japanese in Wie is de Mol
Building on theory about Orientalism, media representation and cultural stereotypes, this master thesis explores representations of Japan, Japanese culture and society in Western media products. The focus of analysis is the popular Dutch reality television game show ‘Wie is de Mol?’, which took ten celebrity candidates to Japan in its 2010 anniversary season.
Since its first release in 1978, the theoretical framework provided by Edward Said in his monumental book ‘Orientalism‘ has become an important analytical tool to analyse media representations of non-Western ‘Others’. This study explores representations of Japan, Japanese culture and Japanese society in Western media by taking Orientalism as its theoretical starting point. The focus of analysis is the popular Dutch reality television game show ‘Wie is de Mol?’ (‘Who is the Mole’?), which took ten celebrity candidates to Japan in its 2010 anniversary season.
Building upon theory about Orientalism, discourse and cultural stereotypes as well as contemporary media examples of Western Orientalist representations and stereotypes, ‘Wie is de Mol?‘ is extensively analysed in its ‘totality’ – from the production and promotion of the show to its content and reception by viewers. Attention is not only paid to representations of Japan, but also to the (potential) influence of these representations on viewers perceptions, ideas and images of other countries (Japan) and people (the Japanese Other).
This study shows that, despite press releases and other promotion material in Orientalist fashion, the programme itself provides a fairly balanced and nuanced depiction of Japan, especially compared to other programmes and films under discussion. This is in part due to the nature of the programme, which mostly revolves around the candidates and uses the country as an ‘interactive background’, and the professional practices of the makers of the programme, who mostly try to avoid stereotypes and clichés. However, the programme does largely follow the ‘representational paradigm’ of depicting Japan, as the programme needs to provide images and narratives that are familiar or recognizable for Dutch viewers, of whom most are not familiar with Japan and Japanese society. Stereotypes and clichés are therefore used, but often in innovative and playful ways.
This master thesis was written in completion of the Media, Culture & Society (Media & Journalism) master program at the Erasmus University Rotterdam.
Keywords: cultural stereotypes, Japan, media representations, Orientalism, Otherness, popular media, representation, television