So. This post was planned a few weeks in advance. More on this in a sec; largely because it has to do with where I am when this post goes live. (Delays on comment responses will be inevitable, I’m afraid.)
With The Forest‘s recently released, there’s been a spike in talk about Aokighara Forest in Japan — the setting in which the movie is based.
You might have heard of it before, as it is featured in Kendare Blake’s follow-up to Anna Dressed in Blood: the sequel to the series, Girl of Nightmares. Maybe you’re a fan of Atlas Obscura (I sure am) and came across it once before. Maybe the trailer for The Forest messed you up as bad as it messed me up and you went and did some research, you intrepid, bold soul, you.
It’s that same forest that has led to a discussion about othering and exoticism in horror. A lot of debate about cultural appropriation. A lot of uneasy feelings about exploiting the lives lost each year within Aokighara to make a horror movie. Okay, my uneasy feelings. Uneasy for the fact that this is the site of multiple travesties being used for entertainment, and I’m not sure what’s more horrifying.
I have mixed feelings approaching the film — feelings considerably more pronounced now several years after having been exposed to Japan’s suicide forest in young adult fiction first. Maybe it’s just the fact that I’m in the Costa Rican jungle right now and there is no internet but lots of trees and very large, very flying insects. And it’s very isolated. And there are trees. Did I mention that? Very tall, very ominous trees. And I’m in a tent. And it’s DARK. And all I have is a headlamp and a flashlight. So the very flying insects? You know what they do? THEY FLY AFTER MY LIGHT.
You see why I scheduled this weeks out? Yep. No internet. Forget a cellphone signal.
Accordingly, I very lightly perused for related articles. Very lightly indeed.
Welcome to Curious Things Found on the Internet: Part the Third.
Curious Things Found on the Internet: Part III
“Have you ever been out camping and heard some weird noise coming from the other side of the tent walls? What about the weird tree and rock formations that kept popping up throughout your hike? You’re not alone. Read this Reddit thread for more stories.”
Seriously? Some of these are just… yikes. Not a hundred percent clean either; be warned.
“The Forest is part of a long tradition of narratives that play off of the foreign as exotic, exciting, dangerous, and scary. These stories are, at best inaccurate and juvenile, and at worst, highly offensive and racist. The trend of using foreign spaces and foreign tragedies as backdrops for white protagonists is one that needs to die, like, a century ago. Joanna Sing at gal-dem points out that a American horror movie capitalizing on “a site of trauma and tragedy” seems to be in horribly bad taste, especially by placing a white women at the center. Sing notes that Aokigahara is the second most popular suicide destination in the world; second to the Golden Gate Bridge. If Zada had selected the Golden Gate Bridge as his setting, she asks, would a western audience react more critically than if it was in “exotic, alien Japan?” Zada’s whitewashing of Japanese suicide, Sing argues, not only “[continues] the dehumanization of east Asians onscreen, he dehumanizes east Asians in real life.” Prioritizing a white character in a Japanese setting that’s as culturally significant as Aokigahara gives me the message that people don’t empathize with non-white characters and the stories of the actual people aren’t worth telling (or worse, inspiration for entertainment).”
Check it out: The Geopolitics of Horror: Natalie Dormer and The Forest
“Called “the perfect place to die,” the Aokigahara forest has the unfortunate distinction of the world’s second most popular place to take one’s life. (The first is the Golden Gate Bridge.) Since the 1950s, Japanese businessmen have wandered in, and at least 500 of them haven’t wandered out, at an increasing rate of between 10 and 30 per year. Recently these numbers have increased even more, with a record 78 suicides in 2002.”
Check it out: Aokigahara Suicide Forest at Atlas Obscura
Until next time, I’ll see you when I see you.