Offence Warnings

“This programme includes negative depictions and/or mistreatment of people or cultures… wrong then and wrong now… acknowledge it’s harmful impact.”

As any reader of mine knows, I’ve been getting through some old Spider-Man cartoons. Spider-Man And His Amazing Friends had the above warning before an episode entitled ‘Sunfire’.

I don’t really understand the need for the warning unless there’s some guilt at using another country’s culture, something that I see a good inclusion with progressive ideas.

We had an electronic company called Ichi-Ban Electronics which my Japanese isn’t great but I understand to mean number one (as in the best). Nothing wrong there, every big country is known for something and modern Japan is known for high technology, Bullet Trains, being advanced in robot creation. The use of this stereotype helps Japan to seem like a really impressive place to think about. (Obviously tech is worldwide but for advancement people often think about Japan, plus both Sony and Nintendo are Japanese.)

The older man in the show is the villain, a Japanese character who wears a sort of samurai looking suit. This man has a fusion reactor (tech see) and he wants to destroy a city using a giant fire monster. When I think of old Japan, I think of the Feudal times, I think of samurai, ninjas, the rising sun flag and a proud, honourable people. To show a Japanese old man on TV as a villain, invoking ideas of old warriors who had honour is surely a good thing, he didn’t become something goofy for viewers to laugh at, he was quite a serious character.

Sunfire was the villain’s son. Sunfire’s super suit was wearing the rising sun flag which once again brings in ideas of pride, plus the hero could fly so embodies the actual rising sun. When out of costume, he blends well with the Americans while sharing his culture like Aikido martial arts or a bit of language like Arigato meaning thanks. Sunfire joins Spider-Man as a hero to stop his father so I can only see positive promotion of the culture.

The only bad thing is when Iceman shouts bonsai in celebration which to me says stupid Iceman more than anything.

I can see no reason for the offence warning because gaining any knowledge of a foreign culture is a good thing, especially when the show is aimed at children. Something like Django Unchained where black people are shown to be lesser (due to historical attitudes) deserves an offence warning because of how bad things were.

It seems that we’re living in a world where people are so afraid of offending someone else that we can’t have respect for other cultures. Disney’s notice makes the episode seem completely terrible but it’s surprisingly respectful to the Japanese. I want to share and learn accurately, being English I usually get the pip-pip-cheerio; fish and chips; let’s all speak in a silly, posh accent which suits a hundred or more years ago. Modern English is better represented by Game Of Thrones with everyone mimicking Sean Bean’s great, proud accent. It’s all good because it’s all well intentioned fun and we shouldn’t shy away from it.

I’d like for the world to be honest and culturally aware, rather than so scared that a well done children’s programme needs an offence warning.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s