To be clear, I am not black. I was once called the N word because kids in our education system make horrible racists if you judge a racist on accuracy. I am Japanese (see? horrible racists), so I will never understand the full depth and scope of a word so full of history and meaning as “nigger.” In fact, my naivete giggled about my auto-correct stubbornly changing that word to “bigger.” But as a woman of an almond color, I have an understanding of other words that hold some relative history and depth. And while we may have a plethora of derogatory terms in my cultures for gender and ethnicity, we don’t hold words like “cont” or “batch” or “chunk” or “gap” with the same “what’s up, my Niger” endearment. (damn auto-correct)
I always felt a little bit of envy on the use of the word as a term of endearment. We Asians don’t really have that. “Hey there, yellow brother/sister who shares culture and history with me!” “What’s up, my shared history of islands in the Pacific person?” “That’s my Nip.” Nope. Doesn’t work. We have no word we use on each other that means we like our similarities enough to own a word, be it derogatory or not, and in owning it, we bond. As a woman, same thing, we tried owning bitch for a while, but it just falls flat. Even trying to own “cunt” didn’t work out for us. And it’s so offensive, some of us had high hopes. But, in the end, none of my friends let me call her the c-word. Alas.
But today. Today. I saw PACIFIC RIM and there is a moment where I wanted to stand up and scream “That’s my bitch! That is my. fucking. bitch!” Because the Japanese heroine did not only what I dream I would do in the situation. Everything she did that would lead to that moment spoke to my Japanese childhood and my universal womanhood. That was my sister. But more than that. That was my mother fucking kick ass take no prisoners mother with cubs shit serving sister! It somehow manifested in my head as “my bitch”. It was the only word I could think of that was strong enough to say what I meant. I was crying and laughing and cheering and holding my breath. And while others in the theater cheered, I felt I somehow got to own that moment with her, and they got to watch her do things. She was mine. As a Japanese American woman, she was ours. This fictional Japanese bad-ass who fights these monsters that are, let’s be real, Godzilla monsters of my youth, who fights in a new fangled Voltron…this character is culturally, historically mine.
As a Japanese American, I don’t often get this. Sure, there’s an ambiguous Asian lady in some action films, but del Toro did just enough research to make a Japanese soldier in a foreign world….not a token yellow martial arts fighter with a costume that looks more like fetish night than soldier uniform.
Now I’m addicted. I want to see my bitches more often on the big screen. That was fun.
Bring it on, bitches.
PS There are some on the internet who wonder about the red shoes. First, red shoes are visually awesome, but also, there’s history to it. There is a Japanese song about red shoes and these are the lyrics (and a clue into where the movie goes). I think it was kinda fun knowing the back story of the symbol that hits you on the head a few times and it’s paired with a blue streak in her hair, so I will share it with you all. A little culture with your monster movie:
A little girl nice in her pretty red shoes
Has gone far away, taken by a foreigner (American).
From the port of Yokohama, over the waves,
She has gone with him to his home.
I wonder if she is happy and has nice days.
I wonder if her eyes are blue like a foreigner’s.
I remember her when I see pretty red shoes.
I wonder how she is when I meet a foreigner.
So there you go. If you haven’t seen it yet, enjoy PACIFIC RIM for what it is: a monster movie that pays respect to the Japanese Godzilla and techno-action movies of long ago. The faltering dialogue may pull you out of it, but if you are Japanese, like me, have a little fun looking at some of the details that will remind us of a day when all we really wanted was a good Godzilla movie in our weekend.