The Japander Conundrum

1. a western star who uses his or her fame to make large sums of money in a short time by advertising products in Japan that they would probably never use: Nicholas Cage is a hilarious Japander
2. to make an ass of oneself in Japanese media.

Everyone knows famous faces cash in on their international stardom by featuring in Japanese commercials. Who could forget Bob Harris (Bill Murray) in “Lost in Translation” enduring an acting gig that’s beneath him to pay for a kitchen remodeling to keep the old wife occupied while he tries to boink hot expats and whisper dirty threats into their ears (at least, that’s how I remember it).

Could Sean Connery be the inspiration for the Bob Harris character?

Before YouTube, actors who gave a toss about their reputation needn’t fear the wider world witnessing them sucking at the Japanese corporate teet. I’m sure Nicholas Cage didn’t think anyone outside of Japan would see his caricature of a mentally imbalanced hillbilly dancing with rejects from a Daft Punk music clip to flog Pachinko (a popular Japanese gambling machine, like an ADD lottery draw within a poker machine).

Now that their Nipponese nincompoopery is available for the world to see, are movie stars going to rethink these money-jobs? Movie stars are a brand, their earning power is proportional to their exposure in combination with their public respect and adoration. Could a bad Japanese TVC turn an actor’s audience off? Some of these TVCs are pretty cheesy with a very Japanese helping of insane behavior/laughter; exemplified by Antonio Banderas Subaru-driving glee.

But some of these TVCs may show the world a star that doesn’t take himself/herself too seriously.

The Governator even speaks Japanese, which is great for international relations.

I don’t think YouTube will cause stars to think twice about Japanese TVC work, they’ll just become more conscious of their public image (or brand identity) and make TVCs that are more restrained, cautious and ultimately boring, like any of the TVCs featuring Cameron Diaz or the Georges Lucas and Clooney at Japander.

No post on the Western perspective on Japanese TVCs would be complete without the Mr Sparkle ad from The Simpsons.



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