Is it racist for a World War 2 film to refer to Japanese soldiers as "Japs"?

I’ve noticed a modern trend with a bunch of different movie review shows/podcasts produced within the last 5 years to claim any movie set in the Pacific Theater of WW2 that has American soldiers refer to the Japanese soldiers as Japs as an examples of racist filmmaking, either as being racist for the period (1940s and 50s) or being unnecessarily racist for modern films.

Listening to somebody review Pearl Harbor (2001) and claim the film was being racist for having a character say “The Japs are attacking!” and then hearing another review mention the exact same thing makes me wonder if this is an example of knee-jerk modern reactions to any form of perceived racism and that they’re wrong or if maybe I’m the wrong one here if everyone is saying it.

If it’s what the people of the time used to refer to them, then it’s what they used.

The recent movie about Jackie Robinson featured a whole lot of N-words. Not because of racism (the movie was anti-racist,) but because that’s what people said at the time. Historical accuracy.

Or “Nigger Jim” in Huck Finn, or “The Sherrif is a nigger” in Blazing Saddles. You can’t fight racism without first acknowledging racism’s existence.

I always wondered how rough the part of Ben Chapman (the coach who yelled slurs during the game at Robinson) was to portray by the actor in that movie

Standing on the field yelling “N***** N***** N*****” seems like it would be hard.

I think it’s fine to use the language that was used at the time by the characters being portrayed. It wouldn’t surprise me that a lot of dialog from previous eras would sound offensive to our modern ears. That does’t make the film “racist.” How could you make a movie about Hitler and his crew without having them say offensive things about blacks and Jews?

It is amazing how thoroughly fucked up the world has become in the last fifty years, isn’t it?

Alan Tudyk. He had some very interesting things to say about it.

It certainly would have been common usage at the time. “Jap” was probably the politest term used for the Japanese during WWII. My father served in the Navy in the Pacific at Iwo Jima and Okinawa, and I have a copy of his ship’s Yearbook. It’s full of references to Japs and Nips, and more insulting terms.

terentii, surely the world was even more fucked up fifty years ago?

No, it wasn’t. And don’t call me Shirley.

Personally, I’ll take a few people complaining about racial epithets in movies over a lot of people actually using those epithets, seriously, in real life. I remember 50 years ago, and 50 years ago can suck my dick.

No because it’s a matter of record that Americans called them that. Abbreviating the proper noun doesn’t make one racist. Just disrespectful.

I think the use of such “abbreviation” these days would rightfully be considered racist.

But, 75 years ago (or so) we were at war with the Japanese. It would seems strange if they refereed to the Japanese (or Germans, or Italians) with any kind of respect.

It will only be racist if the Japanese insist it is, and people take it at face value. In any case, it’s not. I could call them “J’s” for all I care.

WWII tended to make a distinction between German and Nazi (or Italian and Fascist) while lumping all Japanese together. The Japanese-American community was treated very differently than the German-American and Italian-American communities. The Japanese weren’t white, which made them easy to be singled out and dehumanized in a way that other Axis members weren’t. Going by most Allied propaganda the Japanese may has well been an alien species. A film would not be racist for having a White character say “The Japs are attacking!”; racist would be depicting the Japanese in the same manor actual films made during WWII did.

Fifty years ago was 1968. You sure you can’t think of anything going on in the country in 1968, in terms of race, that’s worse than people getting a little wound up about antiquated racial slurs showing up in period films?

Boy…sure is a good thing we weren’t involved in a brutal war with the British, then, isn’t it?

Thanks for that link!

I think it would be hard but well within the wheelhouse of a good actor. Actors are called on to do all kinds of challenging things. One example, and it’s maybe not the best: Having to repeatedly kiss another actor passionately who you personally find repugnant (I’m thinking personality-wise, not physically, but both would be tough).

It speaks to the necessity of having experienced professionals on the set. Folks who understand what is going on and won’t bat an eye at the repeated “N***** N***** N*****.” It’s not a good place for naifs who need a trigger warning before discussing bitches having puppies.

I remember 50 years ago, and 50 years ago can suck my dick.
…needs to be a bumper sticker. :):):eek::):slight_smile:
ETA: It’d be AWESOME if the bumper sticker was on a car driven by a woman who 50 years ago HAD a dick that you could have sucked.