With the advent of the Internet revolution, the latest and greatest corporate war is clearly between Google and Microsoft. while that is no surprise to anyone, there are some interesting aspects of this battle.
One of the more humorous aspects of the war between Google and MSN is the concept of the favored party. many people, particularly webmasters, view MSN as the evil empire. In contrast, Google is seen as the plucky new player on the block, who is rebelling against the Empire. while this classical Star Wars scenario sounds great at first, it simply isn’t very accurate.
First off, Google has started acting more and more like a large corporate beast as it is grown bigger and made more and more money. This has taken some of the luster off the company and made it a bit less popular with Internet users and webmasters. More importantly, however, the issue of who exactly is who at Google is really making things hazy.
One of the little secrets about Google that most people don’t realize is the nature of its management team. most of them are former Microsoft executives For years, Google has been hiring executives from Microsoft. In some cases, Google has pursued very aggressive and controversial tactics to get these people. In one of the more blatant cases, MSN actually caught Google hiring away one of its Chinese search engine management executives — Kai Fu Lee. As the evidence came out, it became apparent Google knew that Microsoft would sue over the executive swipe. What evidence was this? well, Google assured Mr. Lee that it would pay all of his attorney fees when Microsoft sued to enforce a non-compete and non-disclosure agreement. To sweeten the pie, Google even agreed to pay his salary for a year if the court ruled Lee could not actually work for Google. Wow I wish I could get a job offer like that
As the battle wages on between Microsoft and Google, the war is about to grow much bigger. with Microsoft about to launch its new Vista operating system, Google is already making noises about claiming the system is too restrictive and thus constitutes antitrust by Microsoft. Why would Google care about the system? After all, it is clear that the system will allow people to choose different search engine systems. the reason is probably the Google is starting to stray into the operating system arena. A quick look at the Google labs as well as the products that have been released recently show a company that is trying to move away from the single revenue source of advertising. with companies as large as Microsoft and Google, it is hard to imagine an online arena in which either can do business without competing with the other. In short, we are talking about a battle royale in the very near future as they continue to expand into each others realms of influence.
At the end of the day, the obvious question is who is going to win out? Will it be Google with its domination of Internet searches, or will it be Microsoft with its domination of operating systems? the answer, my friend, is beyond you, me or anyone else. the only thing I know is this is going to be very fun to watch.
Here’s the pitch: the state forces kids into a death match where only one is left standing.
That’s “The Hunger Games,” right? Yes, but it’s also the storyline for “Battle Royale,” the brutal, harrowing and little-seen Japanese film that beat “Hunger Games” to the plot by 12 years. And that film was based on a 600-page Japanese novel published in 1999.
But with “Hunger” hysteria at a high point, “Battle Royale” — which Quentin Tarantino called his “favorite movie of the last 20 years” — might finally get the attention it deserves. this week, Metro Detroit-based Anchor Bay, hungry for some of that “Hunger Games” action, has just released a four-disc repackaging, “Battle Royale: the Complete Collection,” on DVD and Blu-ray.
Set in a near-future Japan where youth crime has spiraled out of control, Kenji Fukasaku’s tense, tragic and timely film focuses on a group of 42 students who are taken to a deserted island overseen by the bullying Kitano (played by the always steely Takeshi Kitano).
They’re given a deadline (three days), a duffel bag (each with different weapons and implements), and an order to slaughter each other until there’s just one survivor. If they refuse to cooperate, all will be killed.
Imagine “Lord of the Flies” with gunplay and sharp metal objects and you’ve got the idea.
But when “Battle Royale” hit the film market in 2000, it couldn’t have been released at a worse time. in Japan, where it was a hit, it was hotly debated in terms of glorifying violence. though “Battle Royale” played in at U.S. film festivals, it never received theatrical distribution and some speculated that — coming a year after the Columbine massacre and a year before 9/ 11 — that no one in the early 2000s wanted to go near it.
A decade on and “Battle Royale” has built up a fiercely loyal following after being released on video a few years back. They came out in force to see it at last year’s Asian Film Festival of Dallas. And there’s been a virtual war online as “Battle Royale” and “Hunger Games” fans go at each other like they’re the last two survivors in this ongoing teenage war that makes the whole vampire vs. zombie vs. werewolf thing so last year.
“‘Hunger Games’ is like another ‘Twilight,’ taking a (great) concept and (weakening) it with a love triangle that bores the (life) outta me,” charged one “Battle Royale” fan on a You Tube “Battle Royale Vs. Hunger Games” page.
“In every ‘Hunger Games’ post, a ‘Battle Royale’ fan has to pop up and claim it’s a ripoff,” moaned one “HG” loyalist on another blog.
Now, with “The Hunger Games” finally hitting theaters and “Battle Royale” getting a renewed push, movie fans will be able to make up their minds about which they prefer.
Whatever the outcome, it will be good to see “Battle Royale” — which, it should be noted, is not for the very young or the faint of heart — move out of the shadow world of word-of-mouth cultdom and into the broader daylight of wider circulation. though Fukasaku may not be consistent (his “Battle Royale” sequel, included in “The Complete Collection,” is widely derided), for at least one film he managed to imbue a modern-day horror story with an electric sense of drama and dread.
Here’s hoping that is one “Battle” that keeps on raging.
Hollywood’s next likely blockbuster, the Hunger Games, is set to open this Friday, March 23. this work is unique from past remakes or adaptations of Asian stories in that its creator denies any knowledge of the classic 1999 Japanese book and movie Battle Royale, with which it shares extraordinary parallels.
Both movies feature a corrupt totalitarian government that places children on an isolated island to fight brutally to the death, until one last winner emerges. they implant tracking devices into the children and fill the island with cameras, which are observed by a control room that airs the competition to the general population. a female protagonist ultimately triumphs with the help of a boy with whom she develops a relationship. Author Suzanne Collins claims she never heard of the Battle Royale book or movie prior to writing the Hunger Games in 2008, and claims that she came up with the ideas independently after watching late night television and clips of the Iraq War. maybe, maybe not. Collins has already profited handsomely from her Hunger Games trilogy of books, which have been US bestsellers for the past few years. on the other hand, most Americans are unaware of Battle Royale since it was blocked from US distribution until recently.
This isn’t the first time Hollywood has made minor modifications on an Asian story and marketed it as a novel piece of art. Akira is currently being remade and re-set in neo-New York. the screenwriter for the Departed won an Oscar for basically translating the film Infernal Affairs into English, and changing the setting from Hong Kong to Boston. aside from a few plot and character changes, many of the scenes in the Departed were direct scene-for-scene copies of the Asian film, including literal translations of some jokes. At least the Departed gave some credit to Infernal Affairs as a remake and has the excuse of paying homage. though, a general question remains of the American public’s awareness of how many recent Hollywood films have been remakes of Asian movies, or how even a popular American television show like Wipeout is a remake of the popular decades-long Japanese show. Related to this, I found it interesting that a recent CNN teaser article had this to say about the Hunger Games:
Casting the right actors is imperative when adapting a novel for the big screen … It’s no secret fans want popular characters to look a certain way, specifically how they envisioned them while they were reading the book.
Wow, you couldn’t make this stuff up. There’s an irony in their emphasis on staying true to the original characters while so many whitewashing casting practices and remakes persist.
Suzanne Collins’s claims that Battle Royale had no influence on her books and its film adaptation is a major step back from recent remakes of Asian stories because, in those cases, at least there was a minor acknowledgement to the original characters or stories from which they were adapted. Even in recent whitewashing cases like 21 or The Last Airbender, at least the fans had some knowledge that the original characters in the films were Asian. Collins’ claims sound even more hollow when comparisons can be made in exact movie scenes between the two films. the film review community has also done a disservice by downplaying this issue. Most mainstream reviews I have read do not acknowledge any Battle Royale influence in the Hunger Games, and those who do mention the film deliberately bundle it with other movies like Running Man in order to gloss over the striking similarities to Battle Royale. Other reviews strain unconvincingly to explain how dissimilar the two films are. I find the coverage especially hypocritical given the same film community’s heavy criticism of Justin Lin’s previous Annapolis movie release, which critics blasted for its similarities with past works.
Now, art and innovation do certainly build on top of other works, and influence of past works on future creations occurs all over the world. the reason the downplaying of any credit to past Asian creations matters, is because a stereotype and perception exists that Asian cultures (and Asians and Asian Americans) are not creative, and that Western civilizations have been the main drivers of innovation through history.
And in case you’re wondering, that’s a myth. Brilliant Asian and Asian Americans in the creative arts include a long list of notable icons like Haruki Marakami, Ang Lee, Mira Nair, Chan Wook Park, Zhang Yimou, artists such as IM Pei and Maya Lin, and hundreds of other creative Asian Americans.
This myth extends beyond the arts to other areas such as historical commercialization and invention, which potentially share the same lack of attribution issues. Myths about innovation are widespread despite the fact that Asian countries like Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan (and others which have implemented intellectual property laws) currently lead the world in inventions and patents per capita. Additionally, the list of US inventions and innovations over the past 50 years is filled with Asian American inventors and co-inventors. the “independently invented” excuse that the Hunger Games claims has been used beyond the arts to include notable discoveries.
For example, to go back in time, calculus was invented in 14th century India and 10th century Persia hundreds of years before Newton and Leibniz claimed independent discoveries. Paper currencies and the printing press were invented in East Asia centuries before Europe claimed their independent invention. the list of discoveries and inventions from Asia prior to European “independent discovery” claims, is very long. Reputable publications like The Economist or the NY Times have asked in the past whether Columbus discovered the Americas first, and others have asked whether Columbus actually used Marco Polo’s Chinese maps of the world (which now reside in the British Museum in London) when he bravely sailed thousands of miles off the flat Earth. Most Americans are only aware of the Euro-centric narrative from which they were taught, and this narrative contributes to the disrespectful treatment, and appropriation, of art and innovation from other cultures.It’s frustrating that works like the Hunger Games have already and will continue to make gobs of money without any attribution to the Asian book and film it arguably draws from, not to mention the countless remakes of other Asian stories or Asian characters that consumers simply think of as American originals. the snub by the Hunger Games over Battle Royale shares a history that goes beyond film. Persistent lack of attribution, or appropriation of past ideas, fuel inaccurate myths about creativity and innovation. on the other hand, none of this should be too surprising, given past repeat behaviors, the idealized Western civilizational narrative around historical creativity and innovation, and also since we still live in a society which regularly celebrates the legend of a European for “discovering” a continent that was already inhabited by hundreds of millions of people.
The company I work for recently conducted some focus groups to determine brand awareness of our website and company as well as the brands that we carry. Now, I was not necessarily surprised that no one knew our company name but what did surprise me is that only one person in two focus group sessions, totaling about 20 people, could name a brand of window treatments. That company was Hunter Douglas which happens to be the biggest manufacturer of window treatments on the planet. they are headquartered in the Netherlands and have annual sales well over 2 billion dollars.
Now, I realize that a sample size of 20 people is not large but it still surprises me how little attention and awareness there is of this facet of consumer goods. we almost all have some kind of window treatments in our houses. just so you know there are many other brand names, there’s Levolor, Bali, Kirsch, Graber, Comfortex and a few others.
What is it in the nature of window treatments that is so forgettable? I do have theories. first, and most importantly, window blinds, et al are a very infrequent purchase. You could purchase blinds for your house and not think about them again for years and years. your infant child could be out of high school before you considered redecorating. secondly, I believe that people do not have an emotional attachment to window treatment brands. There is no, keeping up with the Jones’ aspect. it is not like your neighbor is going to notice that you bought a set of brand new Bali aluminum mini blinds for your living room and be envious. your neighbor might not even notice and if he/she did, the conversation would not be about the brand. it would only be a simple acknowledgment of something new within your home.
Let’s take this analogy a step further with a comparison of another infrequent purchase, automobiles. on average people buy a new car roughly every 3-5 years. The automobile industry has done a much better job of branding and selling an emotional attachment to their products. think back to the keeping up with the Jones’ analogy. I bought a new car a few months ago and my neighbors went out of their way to compliment me. I feel good driving around in my brand-name car. it tells people that, yes, I make decent money, whether that’s true or not. I bought new window treatments for my house and I don’t think any one even noticed.
If I were the marketing manager for, let’s say Hunter Douglas, I would spend a lot more money on branding. I would work to create an emotional attachment to the cache of owning their brand of window treatments. in the end, if consumers do not have an emotional attachment to a brand, especially with regards to something like window treatments, there will be little or no loyalty and catch-as-catch-can sales. I would work to make my brand the must-have, make-my-neighbors-covet my brand name window blinds. Then the next time your neighbor comes for a visit, he/she will say, Are those the new Levolor pleated shades? I heard about these, they are nice I gotta get me some of those.