While teaching English in Japan from 1998 to 2006, Canadian Larry Rodney created and published the comic strip / character Charisma Man. When I read a recent Los Angeles Times article about the cartoon, Rodney’s motivation for creating it, and how it will be revived with a follow-up book covering 2002 to 2006, website and comic strip in Japan, I just had to laugh:
“… to lampoon what he saw as the absurd hubris of many Western men in Japan. Capitalizing on their novelty status, they prowled for cheap thrills, an easy paycheck and sex — not necessarily in that order. Many were slackers posing as teachers (a job for which they were underqualified) to continue the charade of their low-wattage celebrity… In the presence of Japanese women, Our Hero is a muscular he-man. Readers only see his true loser self when Western Woman shares the frame. Likewise, the Japanese girls in Charisma Man’s arms are all Barbie-like — until someone else shows up. Then they’re often rather plump.”
This reminded me of the rise of Japan in the late 80s & early 90s prior to the “lost decade,” the popularity of learning Japanese, as well as the popularity of teaching English in Japan, especially through the JET program for graduating college seniors in the United States. And now that more Americans are seeking work in China, I’m sure the Charisma Man equivalent will be established there as well; China is the new Japan, after all.