MovieChat Forums > Gung Ho (1986) Discussion > Nothing in this film is authentic...

Nothing in this film is authentic...

...and that's FINAL.

Seriously, it pains me to see people believing they're looking at the difference between two cultures, when one is not even close to the actual thing - Japan.

Sure, Japanese may seem more serious about work than some countries (especially since this was the 80's), maybe even too much considering few people even die from stress at work, but you all have to understand that superiority can be more demanding in Japanese culture (of course you also have to understand that what one person says never applies to all, but trust me on this one). Someone older or higher in rank, you have to change most entirely how you speak with a different set of words. But that's Japanese culture.

This was obviously too hard for the filmmakers to grasp as they did an extreme interpretation of the so called "Japanese way". This is exactly why this film is so crazy! They didn't even use a single actor/actress who's first language was ever Japanese (oh my god, you wouldn't believe how much their Japanese didn't make any sense. I mean NONE OF THEM were legitimate Japanese actors).

Anyway, I don't mean to agree at all with anything in the film because the American culture's interpretation was done extremely as well. I also don't mean to dis' any side of either culture. I just mean to tell you all that, please DO SOME RESEARCH!!

I know Hollywood films can't ever be trusted, but by far "Gung Ho" is the worst and most painful stereo-typical films I have ever seen in my entire life. I'd say a 5 and a half star rating is already over-rated, but that's all your choice.

I just want to urge you all to not believe everything you see and make assumptions based on what you see, because nothing defines ignorance more than that.


Simmer down, Hyokano-san.

I understand your point of view on the authenticity issues, but I think you need to put this whole thing into the proper context. It's just a stupid comedy movie from the 80s that most people have forgotten about or never heard of in the first place.

I agree, it's an extreme interpretation. It pokes fun at both the Japanese and American work ethic during the 1980s. The Americans in the film aren't exactly portrayed in the most positive light either, my friend. Of course, you said that you agreed with the way the Americans were represented. So, you're just as guilty of cultural ignorance as anyone else. Aren't you?

As far as using Japanese actors, it's really hard to do that for English-language films. There aren't a lot of Japanese-born actors that can speak fluent English. That's why a lot of Japanese characters (ie Sayuri in "Memoirs of a Geisha") are played by Chinese or Korean actors.

At least they actually filmed some of the scenes in Japan. I'm shocked they took the time, to be honest.

But really, you just need to take it easy. I read some of your other posts for this film. You can't expect everyone to be experts on Japanese culture. So someone confused a lake with a hot spring. So what?

If you really want people to learn about Japan, why not suggest some films that depict the Japanese in a more positive way?

Ja mata ...


Yeah, your right... This post was a heat of the moment kind of message.
But I didn't say I agreed with the depiction of American culture.

"I don't mean to agree at all with anything in the film because the American culture's interpretation was done extremely as well"

When I said this, I meant that they depicted American culture in an extreme manner, ALONG with Japanese culture, as well (as well - which I meant to mean "also").

I'll try finding some Japanese films, or Hollywood films that portray Japanese more realistically. Thanks for your reply.


Whats even sadder is that NONE Of the Japanese language makes any sense either. Wish Ron would have paid a bit more money to have some dubbing done by someone who could speak the language.


It's true that this film is not at all realistic as far as its depiction of Japanese people and culture is concerned, but the first poster says that none of the "Japanese" actors were native Japanese speakers. That's not true. Yamamura So, who played Sakamoto-san in the movie, is obviously a native Japanese speaker who sounds like he memorized his English lines phonetically.

The scenes that kind of bothered me were the scenes where Gedde Watanabe would speak to his Japanese wife/co-workers/boss in English. Give me a break-that would never happen.

Even though I understand both cultures and both languages and found this movie unrealistic, I still enjoyed it. I took it for what it was-entertainment, not a study of Japanese culture in America.


Surely even the exaggerations in theatrical caricatures proceed from some shred of reality. Is there is any factual basis for the "shame training" that opens the film?


How realistic is the scene the day the factory reopens, and the new management begins with morning calisthenics?


Yes, shame training was actually used, don't know if it still is.


1st of all, lets all remember this is a comedy, and comedy tends to point out the absurdities in cultures, and shows extremes. Comedy is one of the LEAST realistic and LEAST flattering of genres when talking about cultures and sensitivity.

The Japanese were not painted in the best light, but surely the Amercians were portrayed in a worse light: The big guy not letting the Japanese woman shop for groceries, the entire town being gullible enough to fall for high school sports analogies.

Absurdities of both cultures were highlighted, as was done in most movies of the 80s, especially comedies and action movies.

Even more modern movies like "Lost In Translation" tend to focus on the absurdity, and not normal life and culture.

For the record, I've been to Japan, and it's a lovely country.


The scenes that kind of bothered me were the scenes where Gedde Watanabe would speak to his Japanese wife/co-workers/boss in English. Give me a break-that would never happen.

But you have to admit that's a pretty funny scene where Oishi and his wife are having an argument in English, then they switch to Japanese, then Oishi says in English, "You leave my mother out of this!"

All the universe . . . or nothingness. Which shall it be, Passworthy? Which shall it be?


The scenes that kind of bothered me were the scenes where Gedde Watanabe would speak to his Japanese wife/co-workers/boss in English. Give me a break-that would never happen.

You obviously didn't pay attention to the scene because he chides his about speak in English as practice. How did you miss that?

That's probably the reason he speaks in English the rest of the time: to keep in practice.

*** The trouble with reality is there is no background music. ***



The point of this movie is that both sides were depicted as extreme versions of their real-life counterparts. Japanese people aren't that crazy and obsessed with work, just as Americans aren't that lazy and apathetic. If the depictions were more realistic, the clash wouldn't have been as enjoyable. The movie is improved by the exaggeration, on both ends of the spectrum.


The theme of "Work" and being the company instead of an individual is pretty authentic.

Look up "KAROSHI". It still happens in Japan


Seriously, it pains me to think anyone would seek to study and learn about Japanese culture by watching a comedy like Gung Ho. Wouldn't that be like watching King Kong to learn about behavioral habits of gorillas in the wild, or watching the Benny Hill Show to learn about British culture, or Hogan's Heroes to learn about German military history? I'm pretty sure the producers of Gung Ho weren't thinking "Hey, let's make this movie as a case study of American autoworkers in a Japanese automotive plant so sociology grad students can get ideas for their college theses."

Eagles may soar, but weasels don't get sucked into jet engines.


It's funny you mention that, because I am a graduate in Japanese Language and Culture, and for my Business Japanese class, this movie was an extra-credit assignment. We were required to watch it, and write an essay (in Japanese) of how this movie stereotypes Japanese culture, especially business culture. I managed to watch the whole thing without cringing, but there were some parts that really irritated me.

I like Micheal Keaton as Batman much better.


As someone who has lived and worked in Japan for the last 6 years, I think this movie is actually a surprisingly effective portrayal of American/Japanese stereotypes.

A good case in point: At my office the hours technically end at 6pm, which is when almost all of the Westerners in my office will leave, but all of the Japanese staff typically stay until 9 or 10 (or even later and with no overtime pay!) While this is just one example, the work ethic from my experience in America/Japan is quite different, as are the expectations when working for a company.

While this movie is very exaggerated and silly on both sides, the basic premise about the cultural differences does have some real truth to it. Japanese culture tends to value teamwork, and put a sense of duty on the worker to place his/her company above themselves. Some companies still even have their own songs for gods sake!
And it's true that Americans/Westerners can be individualistic, and at times selfish.

What makes this movie great, IMHO, is it's message. It doesn't take a side, and suggests in the end that both cultures can learn from each other. And that is exactly how I feel! It is depressing at times in Japan how hard some people work, and it is a real issue with many younger people not having the time to start families, which is causing such a drop in the birth rate. Conversely, the sense of harmony and pride that many Japanese workers have is admirable, and the sort of "me first" attitude I see too often back home is a serious problem with America too. I hate the selfishness I see back home, the disgust towards universal health care (for example) and looking out past simply ourselves and even our families and wanting the best for everyone around us.

So the point at the end of the movie really rang true to me. Two very different cultures that can learn a lot from each other!

It is the nature of man to confuse genius with insanity


"As someone who has lived and worked in Japan for the last 6 years, I think this movie is actually a surprisingly effective portrayal of American/Japanese stereotypes. "

I'm surprised I had to read so far down the thread to find a like mind.

When this film came out I was working for JVC in Atlanta, Ga. and ALL of my co-workers (both Japanese and American) thought it was a hilarious movie and almost perfect in its bending of very real realities.

Working for the Japanese was enlightening.

Yes....they would not leave until the boss left and pretty much fought to be the last one out of the office.

But when work was was OVER!

You have never had such a wild evening after the ties are loosened and the saki & scotch is downed. And some of the guys (my boss Taki Takahari, for one) were so "Americanized" that they would never go back to the homeland. Taki was so good he could make a quick witticism in English that was actually funny!

And the small touches were spot on...such as the flurry of business cards handed out. Absolutely true.

And gift giving....I once attended a management seminar in which Hank Aaron spoke and at the end, he signed brand new baseballs for all the attendees.

It so happened a week or so later, some high level muckety-mucks were visiting from Yokohama and I decided to show the baseball to the biggest cheese. He spoke no English, I spoke no Japanese, so I kept saying "Baseball.....755 home runs"

He, of course, thought I was giving it to him as a gift, so he gave me some nice pen and I was left having to hold my tongue as my Hank Aaron baseball went bye-bye.

I laugh to think, though, that somewhere in Japan, there is a guy would probaby thinks he has Aaron's 755th home run ball.


Exactly: It shows that a company like this can have the best of both worlds.


Yes, if it were a serious film I'd be concerned but this a comedy movie and true to what seemed (to many people) to be happening to American culture at that time.


I occasionally see Japanese technicians and engineers at my job (I work for Sony) They don't talk to me much but what scares me is that Karoshi is prevalent enough in Japanese society that they have a single word to describe literally working yourself to death.

~My customary farewell would seem oddly self-serving, so I'll just say 'Good luck'~


Like the English language, it has a word for every single thing on earth.

English - literally working yourself to death
Japanese - karoushi

If "literally working yourself to death" exists in English language, does this mean it's prevalent enough for it to exist in English society as well?

Karoushi may be one word to you, it's not one word in Japanese. It's Romaji - which is designed for westerners who can't read kanji or kana - of a three-character phrase "過労死", which contains quite a few strokes. The usual translation is "death due to overwork" or "death from overwork", not "literally working yourself to death".

Does it really exist? Yes, but not in a way you seem to think it is.

Major causes of karoushi/work-related deaths: heart attack, stroke, fatigue that prompts industrial accidents (factory workers, for instance) and stress-related illnesses including suicide due to depression caused by overworking.

All this exists in other countries as well (such as affluenza), but the difference is Japan recognised it as a serious work-related issue. Up to then, there was a standard expectation for employees to work overtime and weekends. There was absolutely no moderation over employees who took it further than the rest. It had since added an amendment to Employment Act, putting a limit on working hours as well as the overtime, to ensure it wouldn't be so common again.

I'm sorry if this sounds so lecture-like. I find it very frustrating when people nurse misconceptions about Japan and whatnot, due to misinformation in western media. I hope you won't take it personally. Thank you.


Like the English language, it has a word for every single thing on earth.

English - literally working yourself to death
Japanese - karoushi

Firstly: There's no language which has a word for every single thing on earth. (My mother language, Dutch, doesn't have a word for sibling, for instance. And how many languages do you know which have a one word translation for the Inuit word iktsuapok: “that feeling of anticipation when you’re waiting for someone to show up at your house and you keep going outside to see if they’re there yet”. 28 words.)

Secondly: “literally working yourself to death” is not a word. It's a five word description, which you need in English, because there's no single word to indicate karoshi.

I guess Barrettm's point was that having a single word for “literally working yourself to death” in Japanese means it's important enough in Japanese culture to dedicate a word to it. If it were equally relevant in US culture (or western culture in general) they would also devise a single word for it.

Not saying karoshi doesn't happen in the US or Europe, but those cases are much, much rarer than they are in Japan.

BTW, kyoikumama (“A mother who relentlessly pushes her children toward academic achievement”) is another typical Japanese word which won't have an equivalent in most other languages.

Rome! By all means, Rome.


I've never understood why they used a CHINESE phrase for the title of a movie about Japanese.

"Qui conduisait la voiture?"


Gee, a movie stretching credibility. Must be a first.

Hyokono (if you're still around), you have to remember movie logic versus real logic. Filmmakers will exaggerate whatever elements they have to to tell a story. This script (by former television writers) focused on stereotypes of both cultures. It plays up to what the audience will buy, knowing that a majority of the audience will consist of average Joes. Is it funny? That's all the crowd will really care about. Would the stuffy boss -- in real life -- have a change of heart at the end? "You make me loff," in the real world?

And I guess Gung Ho was chosen because there is no Japanese word for...Gung Ho.


They used the title Gung Ho, because it means something to Americans, which this movie targeted. I don't think the movie was much of a hit in Japan.

I mean, a lot of my friends that have no idea about China or Japan, they think that Japanese language is about the same as Chinese, just because Japan uses the same Chinese characters, so it really doesn't seem to matter if you're accurate, because most people don't care one way or the other.


I don't think anyone ever presented this film as a shining example of the intricacies of the Japanese language. I do think it does an OK job of presenting a real cultural dichotomy. Yes, it is stereotypical. But stereotypes exist for a reason, and in this film they're really only a starting point anyway. The Keaton character and the Watanabe character actually have some strong shared values beneath the inevitable, stereotypical cultural facade. That's what the movie's really about.

You got hung up on the facade and missed this message. I don't really blame you. As a student of the Japanese language and its many intricacies, I'm sure this movie seems like pure poison. Please realize that most of us do not see it through this filter, though.


nonsense - in regards to what your critiquing. Were you around for this film in the 80's? Looking back NOW as opposed to when this film came out is the only reason I could see come one bashing this film. It was a product of it's time.


Interestingly enough, one of the main sources of Japanese views concerning manufacturing and business is American:

Also, there were two groups of Japanese managers who were in conflict with each other.