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Memoirs of a Whore in a Kimono By: Debbie Schlussel
FrontPageMagazine.com | Monday, December 12, 2005

Hollywood needs to change its name to Greater Absurdia.

It's not news that, these days, it's putting out movies in which the outrageous is the heroic; the heroic is outrageous; and prostitutes are our new moral heroes.

Except we're supposed to be fooled into thinking a prostitute isn't, in fact, a prostitute at all. Instead, she's a classy lady to be venerated, glorified, and even emulated.

That's the case with "Memoirs of a Geisha," out in some theaters over the weekend, with subsequent roll-outs in theaters nationwide. This movie is a case of the Emperor wears no clothing. Only she's a geisha. And she's wearing an eight-layer kimono, instead. Until she takes it all off for her wealthy Japanese patron of the night. This movie, based on the best-selling novel of the same name, could have been called, "How I Became a High-Class Prostitute."

Chinese Actress Ziyi Zhang:
Kimono-Clad Glorified Whore in "Memoirs of a Geisha"

But calling a spade a spade wouldn't sell as well to the elite, self-anointed culturatti crowd with whom a little exoticism goes a long way in excusing the inexcusable. (They couldn't even get the "exoticism" right, using Chinese actresses for all the Japanese women in this movie. They tell US it's racist to confuse these two Asian nationalities, but no prob when liberal moviemakers do it in the name of helping us understand the glories of prostitution.) Director Rob Marshall claims this film is a "women's epic." What's next--porn stars as the new epic heroines?

Besides, the theme of prostitute as misplaced moral heroine has been done before. It was called "Pretty Woman"--and was a whole lot more charming than "Geisha," a depressing chick-flick falsely posing as some moral love story fairy tale. It's the story of Sayuri, a young girl sold into slavery by her parents for grooming as a geisha.

In all media appearances, the chorus is the same: A geisha is not a prostitute. She's a high-class artist skilled in fan dances, delicate walking techniques, and exotic Japanese dances. But from what takes place in the movie, you could have fooled me. A hooker is a hooker.

The heroine of the movie, a geisha in training, has her virginity auctioned off to the highest bidder. The denouement of the movie is when her virginity garners the highest bid ever for any geisha in the history of Japan.

Selling sex for money--if that's not prostitution, what is?

Star Ziyi Zhang doesn't do much to dispel that she plays a prostitute, no matter how many false nuances she throws in. No, geishas not prostitutes, she told USA Weekend, because "they don't have their own lives." I suppose she's referring to the geisha house mothers--and this movie made very clear, they're no different than pimps (but for the kimono).

"They must walk a certain way, kneel and serve teas to men," Zhing tries to differentiate. "Their lives are sad." But those are distinctions without a difference. Prostitutes must walk streets a certain way and their lives are sad, too. But instead of a fancy kimono and white powder make-up, they're wearing sequined tube-tops and leather minis. Both have the slutty bright red lipstick thing down, though.

Director Marshall claims "Geisha were the supermodels of their day." Really? Did Cindy Crawford auction off her virginity to the highest bidder, too? "The word geisha means 'artist'," he told Vogue, "not prostitute." And the word "John" is a first-name, but we know that's an epithet for something else, too.

In case there's still any doubt that this movie is not glorified prostitution with a Japanese accent, compare "Geisha" to our own version, Donna Summer's "Bad Girls":

Zhang said geisha are not prostitutes because they are "sad." Hmmm . . . Summer's prostitutes: "Talking about the sad girls, sad girls."

Zhang's "Geisha" markets her body to the highest bidder in Japan. Donna Summer's chicks: "Picking up on all kinds of strangers,
if the price is right. You can score, if you're pocket's nice. . . . Hey mister, have you got a dime? Mister, do you want to spend some time? Oh yeah, I got what you want. You got what I need. I'll be your baby. Come and spend it on me"

Sounds the same to me.

Marshal claims geisha are "artists." Donna Summer's prostitutes: "Like everybody else, they wanna be a star." No difference.

Then, there's the "witty" dialogue from "Geisha," which I swear I'm not making up. In discussing sex and the need to preserve her virginity to the highest bidder, Sayuri's mentor utters these pearls:

"Sayuri, you know that men have eels and women have caves? Sometimes, a man's eel likes to visit a woman's cave. A man likes his eel to visit a new cave that has never been visited by other men's eels."

High-class stuff, isn't it.

In a national media campaign to--pardon the expression--pimp "Geisha," the movie has been gushed over by Oprah (on her show and in her magazine), "The View," and various celebrity and fashion magazines, like the December edition of Vogue, which features tips on geisha-style make-up and clothes in its TEN pages of glowing coverage of this prostitution movie. People Magazine has a two-page spread: "Geisha Style: Mementos of a Movie," featuring "official tie-in fashions, including gazillion dollar jewelry. Companies from M.A.C. to Banana Republic to prestigious L.A. jeweler Neil Lane are all pimping official "Geisha" products.

Gee, I think I have a new Oprah-inspired costume idea for your little girl, come next Halloween.

Can you imagine Tiffany & Company pushing a whore line of jewelry? The whore-chic thing general doesn't sell, but with a Japanese accent and locale, I suppose that makes it highbrow to the intellectual glitterati who are already making this horrid movie a big part of Oscar buzz.

It's as if Donna Summer was talking about this movie ahead of time in her '70s disco hit. "Now you and me, we are both the same. But you call yourself by different names." Indeed.

"Memoirs of a Geisha" is nothing more than the Memoirs of a Whore in a Kimono.

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Visit Debbie Schlussel's website at DebbieSchlussel.com. She can be reached at writedebbie@gmail.com.

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