A lofty goal for any writer is finding and reaching your audience. As writers, we start out with a great idea, nurture it and grow it until it sprouts. Once it attains full growth we release into the world much like the seeds of a dandylion. Some stories reach across cultural boundaries and some fall short.
A good example of stories reaching beyond cultural boundaries are the Lord of the Rings trilogy. When JRR Tolken sat down and penned those stories, he was writing for a British audience. Over the past 75 years or so, those stories have been adopted by audiences worldwide. Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings movies have also crossed those barriers and gathered a worldwide audience.
An over night explosion was the Harry Potter series, regardless of where you stand with it’s author. Children and adults the world over were sucked into those books. Book stores couldn’t keep them in stock when they were first released. Midnight openings with thousands of eager readers flocked to bookstores to get their shiny new copy of the latest book. I came much later to the series, and I have read them all. My personal favorite is Book 3, but that is a tale for anthor post.
An example of a story that should have crossed barriers was the Keanu Reeves film, 47 Ronin. On the surface this movie had everything and then some so why did it fail? Because the western audience it was intended for didn’t understand the Japanese culture it came from. I was one of those folks. I was wholly into the movie until the ending, and it killed the whole movie for me.
The Associated Press did an interview with the director before the movie was released and he expected the movie to do great things.
Rinsch said he took on the film subject and sat down with Keanu Reeves about two years ago. They wondered how they were going to take on a popular Japanese tale and do it justice. Rinsch said they decided to make the story their own, making “it a Hollywood blockbuster and see it through that lens.”
“These themes of revenge, loyalty, perseverance, were things we knew from the very beginning were universal,” said Rinsch. – Yuriko Nagano, Associated Press, Nov. 18, 2013
While the themes are universal, the presentation was very much Japanese. And it takes an understanding of that culture and it’s history for the ending to make sense. My husband, who is very much into anime, Japanese culture and grew up watching the samurai movies of the ’80s, wound explaining the way of honor and why it had to end the way it did.
As I was researching for this post, I found this is actually loosely based on historical events. I read some of the Wikipedia article and I may do a deeper dive just to satisfy my curiosity.