alexa The Cinematic Orientalization of Tibetan (Tantric) Buddhism

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The Cinematic Orientalization of Tibetan (Tantric) Buddhism

In this paper I will just cite two American movies — Little Buddha and Music and Lyrics — to illustrate how (Tibetan) Buddhism (or Dharma) has long been misrepresented and Orientalized on American cultural landscape. Since its spread to the W est in the 19 th century, Buddhism has long been a target or source in the Westerners’ creation of Orientalism in the arts or even mass med ia. In mass media, Buddh ism (especially Tibetan Buddhism) has long been a source for commercial films (e.g. The Little Buddha , direc ted by Bertrolucci in 1993). Some of them may have been an attempt to present Buddhism as some Oriental spiritual practice or an Oriental mysticism that looks app ealing to the American/Western audience and thus satisfies the Westerners’ exotic taste. Rea sons of the Americanization or secularization of Buddhism may be caused by Buddhist diasporas that lead to the alienation and contestation of Dharma in a Christian context. He nce, misinterpretation is the way of understanding/interpreting a new culture. O n the other hand, the misrepresentation is an inevitable phenomenon when an idea or object is translated into a foreign culture in which there is no equivalent to the idea/obje ct. Since cinema is a ma in medium for public entertainment and commercial profi t in the contemporary postmodern world, it could easily reflect the mass consensus of some cultural phenomenon. Hence, the misinterpretations or stereotypes of Buddhism revealed on the Ameri can cinema at least highl ight the emerging need and popularity of the Dharma/Buddhism in western spiritual practice as well as its decline.

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