Another Cultural Difference

September 5th, 2008

Yeah, yeah, that’s all us expats write about.  Sorry.

I was listening to SModcast (a podcast by director Kevin Smith and producer Scott Mosier), and I had a big chunk of reverse culture-shock (that is, being shocked by your own culture because you’ve been away from it for so long that you forget parts of it).  Kevin Smith was talking about how he got a big bag of weed and thoroughly enjoyed it.  Not when he was a kid, but last week.

This would NEVER happen in Japan.  Never.  It’s inconceivable.  It’s about as likely to happen as a US President is to jump up on the presidential podium at a press conference and defecate.

Sure, celebrities use drugs here.  That’s obvious from the fact that occassionally someone gets busted (always, always with amphetamines).  But there is only ONE way to admit drug use in Japan: when you’re apologizing, after being arrested.  That is IT.  If you were to say it any other time, you’d be blackballed for at least a year, if not indefinitely.  If you’re a musician, your record company would cancel your tour and stop putting out new albums.  No other record company would hire you either.  If you’re a director, same thing, just substitute “tour” with “current project” and “new albums” with “new movies”.  Etc. etc.

Not only would a celebrity (director, producer, actor, singer, writer, etc.) never say “Yeah, I smoke the occassional joint”, but the following things, which are even more accepted in the US, would either never or vanishingly seldom happen in Japan:

– Admitting to trying drugs as a youth, in any way other than discussing how you were a terrible problem youth with emotional problems and (the entertainment business/a hard-but-fair teacher/the death of a relative) saved you.  In other words, you can mention them if they happened a long time ago and you think they were horrible, but you can’t just say “Oh, yeah, I smoked a few bowls when I was a teenager”, or “I used to like getting high, but I outgrew that”

– Admitting that you’re entering rehab (again, unless you’ve been arrested, in which case this step is now mandatory)

If it helps to reframe this, imagine a US without gangsta rap.  In fact, forget the music industry, and just think “film, tv, politics, athlete”.  Now replace “drugs” with “murder” (and I don’t mean as part of a war, I mean “I killed the neighbor, and it wasn’t self defense”).  Would a person casually mention that they murdered someone when young?  No.  Would they as part of a retrospective on how they were a horrible person but have since atoned?  Maybe. Depends how many years have passed, how contrite they are, etc.

Would someone go on a podcast and say (not joking, and not clearly delusional), “Yeah, last week I killed a few people.  It was awesome”, and still have a career?  Not damn likely.

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