Babysan's Burden: an analysis of the American Occupation of Japan through cartoons

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Asian History | Japanese Studies


Babysan appeared in 1951, arguably intended as an everywoman in Occupied Japan, yet a uniquely American abstraction. Babysan offered a humorous take on the Occupation by one of its own serviceman. But she became a way to approach an indigenous and occupied population and a representation of what occupation does to a former enemy. With enough cartoons to fill multiple volumes, Bill Hume entertained his compatriots in peacetime. His was a Japan devoid of starvation and devastation. Rather, it was a thriving society of attractive women, enthusiastic to interact with the occupying American servicemen. Indeed, by creating an innocuous and eager feminized image, American soldiers could find postwar Japan nonthreatening and even welcoming in the face of defeat in total war. Yet Babysan was not just a racist and misogynist portrait. What Babysan now tells us about relations between two unequal powers in the aftermath of destruction is far more than that for which her broken English could then account.


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