A mixed-race body moving through homogenous spaces often inspires attempts at conversations of classification.

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2019-02-06 02:29Z by Steven

A mixed-race body moving through homogenous spaces often inspires attempts at conversations of classification. Whether through the form of a sudden, uneasy speechlessness followed by a mumbled comment, or an incessant stream of questions, this body of mine often seems to inspire the same disquietude in others that I experience within myself. In a crowded Tokyo mall, I once found myself the subject of a Japanese man’s gaze. When I moved to avoid him, climbing the stairs to the next floor, he positioned himself silently beside me, all the while staring at my face, my posture, my hands, my body. Only when I turned to exit did he open his mouth to mumble, “Jyun-japa?” (“Pure Japanese?”). He lifted his eyes to mine and I felt myself overcome by a blanketing silence.

Nina Coomes, “What Miyazaki’s Heroines Taught Me About My Mixed-Race Identity,” Catapult, October 16, 2017. https://catapult.co/stories/fans-what-miyazakis-heroines-taught-me-about-my-mixed-race-identity.

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What Miyazaki’s Heroines Taught Me About My Mixed-Race Identity

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Autobiography, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States on 2019-02-06 01:17Z by Steven

What Miyazaki’s Heroines Taught Me About My Mixed-Race Identity

Catapult
2017-10-16

Nina Coomes

Miyazaki tells us something about bodies in flux: There is no easy answer; only the conflict, the question.”

One summer day when I was nine, I climbed into a hair stylist’s chair and asked them to cut my hair to my ears. Until that point, I’d always had a head of long hair tumbling over my shoulder, useful for coquettish tossing when I imagined myself as Snow White or Cinderella. I had never worn short hair, had never wanted it; I’d always thrived on girliness that fed into my obsession with imitating what I perceived to be the ultra-feminine Disney princess archetype. But that summer, sitting in a chair too tall for me, I asked the friendly lady with the scissors to take it all. After a moment of thought, I told her, “Short—like a princess raised by wolves.”

I was referencing San, from Hayao Miyazaki’s Mononoke-hime or Princess Mononoke. In the film, San is a human girl left as a sacrifice to the gods of the mountain by her human parents, raised by the very god to whom she was sacrificed—Moro, a wolf-like Inu gami—and convinced, as a result, that she too is a wolf. When the viewer meets San for the first time, her small face is pressed to an open wound in her wolf-mother’s flesh. She turns her head toward the viewer, momentarily breaking the fourth wall, her face smeared in bright red. She spits a jet of blackening blood and rubs her fist along the edge of her chin, as if to wipe the stain of blood from her face. The utter humanness of this gesture, paired with her clear physical intimacy with the wolf-god, immediately casts her identity into conflict—a theme to be played over and over throughout the movie. Is San a wolf? Is she a girl? Is she neither, or both, or something in between?…

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