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MUST READ: “The True Origins of Pizza: Irony, the Internet and East Asian Nationalisms”

In Japan Focus, Stephen Epstein and Rumi Sakamoto discuss The Pizza Ad and the various reactions.

Here’s just a sample:

Irony can be a risky strategy in the absence of obvious cues to tip it off, as anyone who has ever had an intended attempt at humor in e-mail misconstrued knows well. This factor lies in part behind the striking differences in the like/dislike ratios of mirrored versions of the same video. Moreover, when in-group discourse such as that of 2-channeru leaves its immediate context, we encounter strong reaction against it by those who don’t share the same sensibilities. Even the same internet site can, as a result of contingent circumstance and circulation, develop different “cultures of commenting” on different mirrored webpages. We have made clear our own subject position in regard to this Mr. Pizza ad as New Zealand-based scholars who work on questions of East Asian nationalisms and national identity in the Web 2.0 era: we find it a stroke of genius. Many academic friends with whom we have shared it have agreed. Yet, we also recognize that our position is merely one possible reaction and can hardly be taken as authoritative. YouTube commenters are regularly asking each other “Is this a joke?” or “Should one find this funny?” Indeed, part of the humor is that for several seconds, we too, on a first viewing, were uncertain whether we were seeing an expression of East Asian nationalistic debates over product originsin extremis.

About the author: Just the administrator of this humble blog.

  • cm

    Whatever is, it’s being used as bait by Japanese netizens. Watch this video.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=3QTalw9wVFU

  • http://rjkoehler.com Robert Koehler

    I don’t know what I find more disturbing, that the video you linked is being used as bait by Japanese netizens, or that the guy in it reminded me of home…

  • eujin

    Surely the most relevant quote from the article is:

    “In addition to comments left on the YouTube site itself, the clip was discussed in over 100 posts at the Marmot’s Hole, the most widely read English-language blog on Korea, but one whose notorious comments section is often filled with vitriol, some of it racist (link). Commenters there were generally impressed with the ad but a debate developed, largely carried forth between two transnational Koreans (“Yuna” and “The Korean”, the latter of whom operates his own well-known blog, Ask The Korean), about satire in Korea, and whether the nation had the ability to mock itself collectively or its satire could only be directed at the Other (including internal Others, such as one’s political opponents). As “Nambangui horangi” (one of this piece’s co-authors) argued in the Marmot’s Hole comment section, following “Yuna,” for the first minute it is easy to be taken in by the ad’s matter-of-fact seriousness and to relate it to zealous expressions of Korean nationalism. What is unusual, though, in addition to the sending up of usually taboo targets, is the mode of the clip’s satire as, at least initially, it involves the use of very understated dry irony that relies on the shared knowledge of being in on a joke, which is not a usual mode of comedy in Korea.20 On this latter point “The Korean” agreed, but noted, fairly enough, that just because Monty Python-style humor is largely alien to Korea, it hardly means that its people are a humorless lot and incapable of self-satire even if certain topics, such as nationalism have generally been off-limits. Similar, briefer discussions occurred on James Turnbull’s blog The Grand Narrative and Matt VanVolkenburg’s Gusts of Popular Feeling.”

    Maybe it’s not just Nambangui horangi who should turn writing on THM into a full time profession.

  • frogmouth

    For what it’s worth…

    I showed this video to many of our Korean ESL students.

    Even the elemetary school kids (grades 5 and 6) had a good laugh.

    The format is really professional so it caught them off guard in the beginning. But when they saw the Bhudda with the “pizza box” on his head they either just laughed or had a “WTF?” look on their faces.

    I see the article mentioned Ponta (another hardcore rightwing lobbyist) from Occidentalism.

  • Benjamin Wagner

    The Marmot’s Hole, the most widely read English-language blog on Korea, but one whose notorious comments section is often filled with vitriol, some of it racist.

    In case the “Korea… in Blog Format” tag gets tired.

  • http://www.sperwerslog.com Sperwer

    Today, Prof. Epstein also delivered a very interesting paper @ Kyujanggak on
    “Daughter of the Wind: The Travel Writing of Han Bi-ya”.

  • http://rjkoehler.com Robert Koehler

    I like it — The Marmot’s Hole: Vitriol and Racism, Since 2003.

  • cm

    “I don’t know what I find more disturbing, that the video you linked is being used as bait by Japanese netizens, or that the guy in it reminded me of home…”

    Robert, this video is propaganda that was in cooperation between right wing Japanese, and their well known American Youtube Japanese apologist.

    The Japanese guy holding the microphone, is a well known Rightist Nazi, Nishimura Shuhei who is seen here protesting, and physically attacking an elderly Korean tourist to Japan.

    http://mlbpark.donga.com/mbs/fileUpload/201111/1320257098.jpg

    I guess this was just too good for them to pass this Mr. Pizza advertisement by without being used to further their agenda. I’m sure this is going around Chinese internet as well, as further proof of Koreans are crazy irrational. Not a big surprise there, but add one more rumor to the growing list of phony charges laid against Koreans ridiculously claiming someone else’s culture as their’s. So some Korean’s who lamented that this, although it’s just a joke, will come back to bite as more venom from Japan and China, are not totally wrong.

    But just laugh at this clown. Unfortunately, he’s an American from Texas.
    http://mlbpark.donga.com/mbs/fileUpload/201111/1320257110.jpg

  • http://askakorean.blogspot.com thekorean

    But just laugh at this clown. Unfortunately, he’s an American from Texas.

    Gerry?

  • frogmouth

    Hey I think I know that guy!!

    I’ve seen him post on Youtube bashing “Koreans” for killing pheasants when they protested against the Japanese claiming Dokdo (Takeshima)

    He also supports Japanese whaling.

    He goes under the handle “Propaganda Buster” I think.

  • http://www.xanga.com/wangkon936 WangKon936

    Rob,

    You didn’t link to my original post… :(

    http://www.rjkoehler.com/2011/10/11/pizza-is-originally-korean/

  • http://www.xanga.com/wangkon936 WangKon936

    Btw… very interesting article, but a bit on the long side. More than I ever thought could possibly be written on a 1:30 minute commercial…

  • nambangui horangi

    @WangKon,

    Small correction: actually, the commercial is over 3:30. I was originally trained as a classicist. Believe me, I know people who have written far, far more over far, far less……

    Also, @cm: re the point on the Chinese internet, surprisingly, no, at least from what we’ve been able to ascertain so far. It was uploaded on Youku, but the views have been limited and there haven’t been any comments: http://v.youku.com/v_show/id_XMzEzOTY4NzMy.html#replyLocation

    If anybody has info to the contrary, I would be interested to hear. But I totally agree that those who showed concern that it would be misconstrued and come back to bite Korea were certainly (unfortunately) not totally wrong.

  • Ssamzi

    cm is right on. The American guy is an amusing case. The Japanese right wings sure do love to collect foreign mouthpiece clowns to make it seem that they are getting support from the “world”. It’s a truly pathetic state. We cannot even joke about anything like that without getting flamed by bunch of Asian nationalists who stalk Koreans 24/7 to manufacture propaganda.

  • Arghaeri

    Why would anyone protest killing pheasants, are they nationalist animal right activists?

  • http://www.xanga.com/wangkon936 WangKon936

    The Japanese right wings sure do love to collect foreign mouthpiece clowns to make it seem that they are getting support from the “world”.

    Ssamzi,

    I find it rather amusing when the same foreign mouthpieces don’t really use Western thinking (or a convoluted version of Western thinking) to support Japanese right wing propaganda, but merely mimic translated versions of that propaganda.

  • Koreansentry

    This was expected behavior from insecure Japanese netizens, they’re probably butt hurt or incredibly dumb. Korea should start claiming entire Japanese history as greater Korean history. After all Korea was too generous to these islanders.

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