Dream of the Water Children: The Black Pacific

Vintage Japanese Film – Trailer: Konketsuji Rika 混血児 リカ (1972)

Konketsuji Rika  混血児 リカ (Mixed-Blood Rica), is another vintage Japanese movie that was fairly successful for its makers.  This movie was released in 1972.  It was proven so successful that it was  turned into a trilogy with two more films in its series. They are in the “exploitation” tradition.  More information here.

Rica, the main character, is the daughter of a woman who was raped by a White-American G.I.  The mother was a sex worker.  Then later, Rica herself is raped by one of her mother’s johns.  She lives in the tough Japanese “underworld” where the knife and violence via money, rules.

Along the way through her journey to survive, she forms a tight-knit bond with two other mixed-race girls, one of whom is of mixed African-American heritage.  As was the case for the earlier U.S. movies, her character is portrayed through exaggerated afro hairstyles and darkened skin, and fattened lips.  This is classic exploitation film.  However, in Japan, this wasn’t too far-fetched at the time.

As is the case in most of the global north nations, the dominant portrays its underclass in certain ways.  Even if one or two portrayals may differ, the prominent dominant stereotypes maintain.  Both the cause and the effect, and subsequent causes and effects, are often intensified and made normal through the few portrayals of the non-dominant.

Starting in 1945, with the beginning of the US-led Occupation of Japan, the presence of children fathered by Americans, Brits, Australians, New Zealanders and South Asians (who came with the British representatives), became an intense presence, bringing out the projections of color, gender, sex, nation, and race grown from US Occupation prejudices against blacks and asians, desires and friendliness, as well as Japanese prejudices against darker people within their own population.  In addition, mixed-white children were seen as tainted by the occupier, the former enemy, the conqueror, as well as the more desired.  Both internalized oppression and Japanese nationhood became a social question. After all, the Japan-as-single-race idea is new, beginning with the modernization of Japan its multicultural islands coming into contact with European race science and colonialism, then the slave trades and the defeat and occupation by the U.S. and America’s description of “the Japanese” as a single people, opposing the more nuanced knowledge and ideas of Japan put forth by Europeans.

Many mixed Japanese/U.S. white and Black babies were killed by family members, doctors and nurses, as well as by strangers.  Many were, of course, aborted before they could be born.  Many were given to orphanages where often, they were abused by orphanage administrators and caretakers in the worst case.  Some were fronts for trafficking and money-making, shipped to other lands for money to become prostitutes and labor.  Still, others, like those in this movie, survived in desperate circumstances in the streets or hidden away by a relative.  Others who were lucky enough to fit standards of beauty, entertainment talent or sports-talented, were funneled into those arenas of capital.  Mixed race bodies represented the best and the worst of a nation.  No less so in Japan.

You may notice, in this trilogy, that African-American mixed people are exaggerated in their features. Their lips are made fatter, their hair is made more kinky and afro-like, and their skin is made darker with make-up, made to look more “Black.”  Mixed people are mixed, persons that are different.  To be made “black” is another cultural production and says quite a bit.  The White-mixed are made more sexually provocative with more “skin” showing, although in Japan, the showing of skin and body-parts were not as taboo as they had been and still is in the U.S.  Still, it points to sexualizing women, in order to make certain statements, to maintain certain aspects of sex and gender that are made normal.

Certainly, there is both a modernizing Japan aspect, as well as the degradation of women here.  This makes it more desirable for many Japanese women to want to be her, to lift themselves away from Japanese male chauvenism and global patriarchy, yet at the same time, it is made unruly, other, degrade-able, lower, debased.  It is contradictory, as in many aspects of psycho-social conditions in film representation and real-life.

The ‘other,’ the mixed-kid, born tough amidst the mainstream violence, fends for themselves, surviving.  For Rica and her girl gang, they want revenge against those that harmed her.  This will make things okay.  Becomes plot, becomes a way for the mainstream Japanese who watch, to absolve themselves of the sentiments and dominant ideologies that trap their thinking into certain canals.

Criminality, entertainment, sports.  Manual labor, sex work, human trafficking.  In any case, the mixed-Japanese body, as is often the case of those of the margins of any society, are made to look and sound a certain way, then blamed for it.  Seldom do those who identify as “Japanese” or “White” or “Black” or “American” and whatever, question how the marginal is created by the mainstream and that the mainstream’s violence needs to be questioned, which when not questioned, maintains.  Perhaps this is why the “isms” of our global culture, continues to struggle with sexism, racism, nationalism, heterosexism, able-ism, maintained by adultism and age-ism.

Today, as has been since the postwar period in Japan, the mixed White/Japanese woman is sought after as models.  Often, in many public interviews on television and in magazines, when Japanese women and men are asked who is most attractive, the white-mixed woman or girl, wins out.  Why?  How?  What are the effects and causes?

I am hoping that you see these films with a similar lens, with social justice and complexity, history and politics, diversity and liberation in mind.  And at the same time, one can enjoy its entertainment value and realize how horrific that value is.

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