I Survived a Japanese Game Show
What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this high-concept reality series trades heavily on cultural stereotypes. The show takes 10 Americans to Japan and makes every effort to make sure they're exposed to the most unusual, "foreign" parts of the culture. Not surprisingly, the Americans find plenty to complain about and are quick to call attention to things about Japan that they find strange, offensive, or just "gross." And while the physical contests that make up the game show part of the competition are funny, they often have an undercurrent of humiliation, and the audience and the hosts are clearly laughing at the contestants.
What's the story?
I SURVIVED A JAPANESE GAME SHOW presents a classic fish-out-of-water situation. Ten Americans who've signed on for an unspecified reality program are whisked to Japan, where they discover that their "show" is actually a Japanese game show, Majide (Japanese slang for "You've Got to Be Crazy," we're told), where they must compete in a series of physical challenges, ranging from the silly to the humiliating. As they play along, they're also forced to adapt to a culture that seems very foreign to them.
Is it any good?
Shortly after arriving in Tokyo, one of the contestants declares that "we are some loud, rowdy Americans." In fact, it seems like the entire cast was selected primarily for their lack of cultural awareness and inability to blend in. Half the time they're proclaiming that Japan is awesome (usually after winning a challenge and receiving some reward), while the rest of the time they're complaining about the cultural differences (cue obligatory shots of people gagging on unfamiliar food and laughing at the hyper-engineered toilets, complete with remote control). These people are stereotypical "ugly Americans," straight from central casting. Consequently, the show borders on insensitive as it plays to the most basic of stereotypes of both America and Japan.
The tables are turned a bit by Rome Kanda, the manic host of Majide, who encourages the contestants to do their best in the wacky events, then makes fun of them in Japanese -- to the great delight of the studio audience. Japanese game shows are famous for their oddball activities, and this one is no exception. In one challenge, the characters wear diapers; in another, they dress as bugs and try to bounce off a trampoline and splat themselves against a giant windshield. Though some of these activities are so silly you can't help but laugh, many of them incorporate an undercurrent of shame, which can be difficult to watch. The reality show trend has become so pervasive that people now seem willing to endure almost anything for a shot a small-screen fame. When Kanda turns to the Japanese audience and slyly notes that "they will do whatever I say," it seems like his comment is directed not just at the 10 contestants on this show, but anyone else who's considered signing on to a reality program.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about cultural awareness. Most of the contestants have spent little time outside the United States and quickly find things to complain about in Japan. How would you characterize their comments? Do you think they offer a fair representation of America?
Do you think the producers purposely sought out people who would be uncomfortable abroad? If so, why?
Some of the show's Japanese hosts also make derogatory comments that the contestants don't understand. Do you think the contestants deserve such treatment, or is it just as rude as their own behavior?