American Realities Revealed by Daily Writing

In the story My Year of Meats, the author Ruth Takagi introduces some works of Sei Shonagon at the beginning and between each chapter. Sei Shonagon was the person who inspired Jane Takagi, the main character, to become a documentarian on a TV industry (15). The most famous work of Sei Shonagon is called The Pillow Book and its style is daily writing, and without modern technologies now we have, stories of daily writing should have been like documentary for people in Heian Period. Like Takagi says that she was inspired by Shonagon, the author uses daily writing in My Year of Meats. As an “I” fiction, Takagi’s narration tells what she felt, her situation and what happened to people around her on a daily base during the days of shooting a show in America. For advertising beefs to Japanese people, the TV show, My American Wife! show an “American family” but Takagi describes gaps of the show and realities in America through her daily writing.

Takagi’s daily writing reveals that the life of an American family is not perfect like My Year of Meats showing. The show was shot to tell Japanese audiences that the life of American family with meats is happy and attractive, but Takagi describes realities of behind the show. As Takagi says “It’s Pepsi, Kenji. Not the real thing at all….”, Suzie used Pepsi in the Coca-Cola Roast (30). Production team of the show knew that Japanese audiences would not recognize the visual difference between Pepsi and Coke. However, of course the taste would not be the same as the real Coca-Cola Roast but the show faked it and shot like Suzie cooked and the family ate dinner happily. The team also knew that this perfection of the American family would adore Japanese audiences to have a perfect family as well and lead them to cook meats more even though it was manipulated. The realities were not important for the team since their goal was to succeed in shooting “wholesomeness” (11).

Takagi’s daily writing also shows a gap of an image of American race and class, which Japanese people have, and a reality of race and class in America. According to Takagi, there is a study showing that most Japanese women have a stereotype of an “American wife” as middle-to-upper-middle-class and has two or three children (13). So an ideal American family for the show was inevitably a Caucasian middle-class family, however, non-White Americans like Takagi and low-working-class exist in American society. The production company wanted to avoid using these non-White and low-class Americans to advertise meats in the show because the company considered that they do not look “American” and not attractive to the audiences based on a Japanese stereotype. By using an E-mail form, the author tells us how Takagi added additional explanations because she knew that the E-mail Takagi got was a little offensive to American crews (11-13).

The production team which shoot My American Wife! is desperate to follow orders for advertising meats by using a White middle-class American family which can attract Japanese audiences. However, the show is modified by the team and not reflecting realities. As Takagi was inspired by Sei Shonagon, her daily writing tells readers the reality of American families and the reality of race and class in America like she is a documentarian who tells truth.


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