I love a lot of things about the manga Banana Fish, and one of them is the fact that it’s set in the USA. I particularly enjoy that the character of Ash, like me, is white American. The reason is basically this: a character like Ash helps me spring free of imaginative false dichotomy between American Exceptionalist master narratives and their Jungian mirror: that we (especially white) Americans suck. Americanness in Banana Fish represents neither of these things.
The United States is a county founded on denial. Its existence is based on slavery, racism, dispossession, genocide, and ecocide, yet to this day, it has not apologized for most of this or even acknowledged much of it. It desperately needs a Truth and Reconciliation Commission but is nowhere near having the internal cultural pressure to get one. Instead, the mainstream culture continues to trumpet the idea that the US is a beacon of democracy and opportunity and the greatest country in the world. Though the US, in my view, does deserve some credit for being a trailblazer of modern democracy, at least today, none of those things is true.
Like anyone in denial, the US collective conscious overcompensates. In popular action narrative, this typically means that the white American hero is set up as the hero savior of the world. Though there are many exceptions to this, it’s persistent enough to be powerful trope. Historically, figures like Superman and Captain America come to mind—and, yes, I know both these characters have been widely reinvented and nuanced, but the originary images still hold iconic power. Captains Kirk and Pike are in this mold. (I like them both, but they fit that mold.) Buck Rogers. Pick your John Wayne character. (Light spoilers follow for Farscape and heavier spoilers for Babylon 5, only in the next paragraph.)( Read more… )