Monday, November 3, 2008

The Politics of Miyazaki

Daniel Thomas MacInnes of Conversations on Ghibli has done the animation world a great service in posting and commenting on a Japanese documentary on Hayao Miyazaki's North American promotion tour for Princess Mononoke at the end of the last millennium. But as good as his focus on the business marketing context of the Ghibli-Disney relationship's beginning is, it's his penultimate paragraph that's the most significant part of his piece, for it touches on something the Full Metal Archivist was picking up on throughout the documentary:

Still, as an artist and dedicated Ghibl Freak, I am endlessly annoyed by all these stupid questions from the suits, the expectation that Miyazaki dumb his work down to the level of...I dunno, the average George W. Bush voter. Why does everything in this country be dumbed down to the lowest common denominator? Why does everybody have to be so mindless, so sloven, so stupid? Thank God there will be no President Sarah Palin in 2009. But in this swamp, that possibility is always lurking nearby, just like November snow in Minnesota.

In fact, Thomas shouldn't have backed off on his self-described "rant" or chalked it up to his health or mood in his final paragraph. Pay attention to Miyazaki's emotional response to the questions asked by most American film critics: he's angry and tense, not just nervous or anxious. The assumptions behind the questions are pissing him off, and because of that, his answers are quite revealing. But the conception of politics Miyazaki is drawing on is much broader than only electioneering and lowest-common denominator media culture, ranging from the interaction between creative artists, their works, and their audiences (particularly children) to the politics and pedagogies of form. No time to elaborate on this now, but will be happy to in comments.

BTW, the FMA fears Ponyo will be his last film. Here's the theme song:

For more on the characters and themes (in Japanese), head over here. MacInnes is the source for those of us limited to English.

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