On this episode we talked about #NeymarChallenge and other internet challenges.
Perhaps the most famous internet challenge is the #IceBucketChallenge, which went viral around mid-2014. The purpose of the challenge was to raise awareness of ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) and encourage donations to research; those who were challenged had to either post a video of themselves getting a bucket of ice water poured over their heads, or donate 100 dollars, then nominate three more people to take the challenge. Once celebrities started to join in on the challenge, it spread quickly and became a global phenomenon. In this way, internet challenges often involve posting something to social media to serve as the seed for spreading social awareness of an issue, and challenging other social media users to participate.
Of course, not all challenges are so for social causes. Many challenges are about clowning around, pure and simple. Case in point, #NeymarChallenge, an internet meme where participants posts videos of people falling to the ground and holding their knee in an exaggerated display, as if they were injured—just like the Brazilian soccer player himself when he is lightly pulled or is grazed by an opponent.
*An internet meme is an action, picture, video, or other media that is spread from person to person over the internet.
*A meme refers to the traditions, customs, common sense, knowledge, and behaviors that form the basis of human culture, and which are transferred from person to person through conversation or other means.
Another one is the mannequin challenge, which went viral in 2016. The challenge involved posting video of everybody in a certain location completely remaining still, as if they were a mannequin. The challenge quickly spread worldwide, and even Hillary Clinton made a video with her staff inside her campaign plane that was posted to social media the day before the election.
In this episode of our show we also attempted a number of new things. For the latter half of the episode we had our MC Kato-san’s first interview in English, where she got to meet Henry Cavill from the film Mission: Impossible – Fallout. So going with that theme our intro sequence for this episode was done in Mission: Impossible montage style. As a massive fan of the series, when I heard the beginning notes of that iconic theme, I got goosebumps.
We also tried our take on the sequences where Tom Cruise is given his mission from the IMF. Naito-sensei started the episode as a disembodied voice, giving Kato-san and sidekick Hide-san their mission—to learn English. Unfortunately, with our show being taped inside a studio, we were unable to do anything fancy like the “this tape will self-destruct in five seconds” bit, but Naito-sensei seemed to be enjoying himself throughout. Naito-sensei, mission accomplished!
This may or may not be an urban legend, but I heard somewhere once that when Japanese convenience stores were having trouble with customers leaving their toilets in a bad state, they took down signs that said something to the effect of “keep clean” “do not make messy” and instead went with something more indirect: “Thank you for always using this toilet so cleanly.”
There’s something about this story that rings true. After all, the Japanese will say yoroshiku onegai shimasu (“I’m looking forward to our future dealings”) to someone they’ve just met. (This is one of the more difficult Japanese phrases to translate.) And they will say osewa ni narimasu (“thank you for everything in advance”) to someone they have just started a working relationship with. They use these sorts of “pillow words” to present themselves as humble and modest, but this behavior would never fly for a Westerner. From a Western perspective, it’s unclear whether these expressions are an embodiment of positivity and gratitude, or just a way to put indirect pressure on the recipient. Furthermore, it’s also unclear if the Japanese are moved to cooperate when there is a humble gesture, or if they are inclined to do someone a favor when that person butters them up. These questions remain, but setting them aside, from a behavioral psychology perspective, these are important things to understand in order to get along with Japanese people.
How then, can you motivate an American to action? The answer is to be aggressive. This has held true throughout American history, such as with the duel between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr, or the provocative pose of Uncle Sam, or just the Wild West as a whole. That culture remains alive and well today. If an American (especially a man) is challenged to a duel, he cannot refuse. And it’s not just a simple matter of protecting one’s pride—when someone essentially says to you “I’d like to see you try”, you want to show them and shut them up.
※ The duel between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr: when then Vice President Aaron Burr decided to run for New York State governor, his longtime rival in the courtroom and in politics Alexander Hamilton made a speech defaming Burr’s character, and in response Burr challenged him to a duel. Hamilton ended up being shot in the lower abdomen and died the following day; Burr’s political career effectively came to an end as a result of the duel.
The United States of America is a country that was founded on the frontier spirit. In that sense, an American without courage is seen as not an American at all. There is something in the sentiment that can be seen as similar to the Japanese code of the warrior—that if someone picks a fight with you, you must always take up the gauntlet. Side note, the spaghetti western classic A Fistful of Dollars is said to borrow liberally from Kurosawa Akira’s Yojimbo. (And further side note, the Japanese term for spaghetti westerns is “macaroni westerns”, coined by the film critic Yodogawa Nagaharu, who thought that spaghetti sounded too thin and frail.)
Taking into account the American disposition, it becomes evident why internet challenges are effective in spurring them to action. With Americans, it is more effective to present them with a difficult task or crisis than to implore them to act on their good nature. That being said, I’ve been to public restrooms in the U.S., and I’ve never see a sign reading “If you think you can leave this toilet in clean condition, I’d like to see you try.” But we do live in an age where apparently it’s become acceptable to record the racist words and actions of other people, post them online, and publicly shame them. In that sense, perhaps it would be effective to post a sign that simply read “#CleanBathroomChallenge”.
[Films that feature a key duel scene] [決闘シーンがキーとなるオススメの映画]
Since this show started, I’ve challenged myself to expand my style vocabulary and wear the kind of fashions ~~~ like colorful socks and summer jackets. And if it’s gone well, it’s mostly because I haven’t tried to do too much at once. I incorporated new elements one at a time—if I was doing something new with my socks, then socks were it for that outfit. In that way I slowly learned to wear and pull off new styles. (I hope.)
Around July, Scarlet suggested that I try out resort wear—specifically an “aloha” shirt, linen shorts, and bangle. Up until now I’ve never been the type of guy to wear accessories—bracelets, bangles, etc.—but I took a leap of faith and bought a shin silver bangle from Tiffany’s (42,120 yen tax incl.) These days you usually see wider bangles or leather bracelets, but I’m not enough of a rock star to pull off a wide bangle, and as the summers here can get very sweaty, Scarlet advised me to stay away from the leather ones.
According to Scarlet, the key to resort wear is to go without a wristwatch. Her reasoning is that people go to resorts to get away from father time. So this past summer, I wore my resort wear to several of the script meetings we had for the show, and lo and behold, I found myself having an easier time coming up with ideas. Up until now I would check my watch often and put myself in the mindset of time closing in on me, but with this outfit, each time I’d look down at my wrist, time would not be staring me in the face. It was liberating, and made me feel at ease. When wearing resort wear, it’s also a good idea to look at your smartphone as little as possible.
The Japanese usually use the English loanword charenji (challenge) to mean “try to...” or “do one’s best at...”. It’s common in Japanese to say 〜にチャレンジする (literally, I will challenge... ) But challenge is not used this way in standard English.
As a result, when Japanese people try to use the word challenge in English conversation, they will say something like this:
I want to challenge this job.
This sentence, however, does not mean that you’ll do your best at this job, but that you have a problem with it, and would like to raise an issue with someone about it. In English you would say something like this: I want to do my best at this job.
I want to try to do my best at this job.
I want to give this job a shot.
How is challenge used in English? One key difference is that a challenge is often not something you do but something that someone else imposes on you (or that you impose on yourself). As a verb it is used thusly:
I challenge you to learn one new English word every day.
She should challenge herself more.
I challenged myself to go one week without meat.
Of course, there are instances where a challenge is something you do :
challenge someone to a fight
challenge someone’s assertion
challenge someone to realize their dream
challenge a line call
Basically, all of this is to say that I’d like to challenge the use of charenji in Japanese.
Speaking of challenging something, these days I often hear Japanese people using the word “objection”.
When used in an American court of law, an objection is a formal protest raised during trial, specifically when a witness is being asked a question. The judge then decides whether the objection is sustained, in which case the person doing the questioning has to ask a different question, or overruled, in which case the witness has to answer. In a more general sense, to object to something means to be opposed to it, or to not allow it. In both uses it is a strong expression of disapproval, and it always feels a little off when a usually reserved Japanese person uses this term without warning and without fully understanding its meaning.
So what is the difference between to object and to challenge? While to object to something is to clearly voice your opposition to it, to challenge something means to voice your doubt as to the validity or accuracy of something, to suggest that it be looked at again. In other words, while the former is a unilateral expression of your thoughts or feelings, the latter is an effort to improve a situation or to right a potential wrong. In that regard, Japanese society has plenty of people who like to object, but perhaps too few people who like to challenge.
日本語では、よく「〜をやってみる」「〜に挑む」という意味で、「何かにチャレンジする」という言い方をします。しかし、こういう使い方は英語の“challenge”の使い方と少し違います。英語で「〜に挑む」は “try to...”や“do one’s best at...”という言い方が一般的です。