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Saturday, August 11, 2012

Japan In Books 3

I am using this 'niche' to provide example of Japan or the Japanese mentioned in some way, shape or fashion in fictional books.

It's not to poke fun at the Japanese - never really my intent - rather it's to present a view on how some people look at the country or people or culture. Kind of what I do in this blog.

Like the previous to examples, I am going back nearly 90 years in time to 1926... to a Charlie Chan detective novel entitled The Chinese Parrot written by one Mr. Earl Derr Biggers.

Charlie Chan is a Chinese detective living in Hawaii. In this, his second novel/adventure, Charlie is California helping out a family friend. He goes undercover as a cook in the California desert and puts on that horrible Chinese stereotypical accent: "Oh boss - ce'tiflicate - allight, boss."

I cringe just reading it.

But then I read Charlie taking a poke at the Japanese, who are all over the island of Hawaii and obviously not a respected people.

Here's what Charlie had to say:

Chan nodded. 'True enough that I was planning a modest repast,' he returned. 'Cooking business begins to get tiresome like the company of a Japanese.'
Holy crap! That's nasty Mr. Chan! And, in case you are wondering, the author was born in Ohio in 1884 and was a Harvard graduate.

Usually, Charlie speaks English in a fanciful way, sometimes butchering the language, but still flowery and colorful. While dozens of movies were made of him - and were quite popular back in the 1930s and 1940s. There was even a TV show in 1950s, with six-issues tied-in by DC Comics. I just found that out. Now I have something else to try and find. Ugh.  

Charlie Chan novels - good luck finding them... they've been out of print for decades (though I still find copies of old Perry Mason novels in hardcover) and yet, why did I know of him? Probably because I read a Gold Key comic book in the early 1970s that was a tie-in with a short-lived animated cartoon series (in the same mode as Scooby-Doo).

But holy smokes... the Japanese in the 1920s sure had zero respect in these Charlie Chan books - though to be fair, the author has other characters who treat the Japanese with more respect. You can see an example of that HERE. Though... if you want another incident of Charlie's distaste, check out THIS one.

Man... I'm glad its 2012...
Andrew Joseph


  1. Hey Andrew,

    There were a few Charlie Chan movies made in the 40s too... He made these kinds of comments in those!... Now you know why those films have dropped into the memory hole!

    1. It is awful... despite the feeling of the people at the time, the books themselves are quite entertaining. It's like Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn and the words contained within. Sign of the times.
      However, if I had not lived in Japan, I wonder if I would have felt the same dismay I feel now from the Charlie Chan books?