Orientalist Commercializations: Tibetan Buddhism in American Popular Film

“Many contemporary American popular films are presenting us with particular views of Tibetan Buddhism and culture. Unfortunately, the views these movies present are often misleading. In this essay I will identify four false characterizations of Tibetan Buddhism, as described by Tibetologist Donald Lopez, characterizations that have been refuted by post-colonial scholarship. I will then show how these misleading characterizations make their way into three contemporary films, Seven Years in Tibet, Kundun and Little Buddha. Finally, I will offer an explanation for the American fascination with Tibet as Tibetan culture is represented in these films”.

“Orientalism is defined briefly as Western distortions, purposeful or not, of Eastern traditions and culture, distortions which ultimately can be patronizing or damaging to the studied cultures”.

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Article Overview:
The 3rd paragraph analyzes Orientalism in the novel Lost Horizon by James Hilton in 1933.
-The 4th, 5th and 6th paragraph explains what Orientalism is and how it affects peoples views on Tibet, India, China.
-The 7th and 8th paragraph analyzes Orientalism in the film Seven Years in Tibet.
The 9th and 10th paragraph analyzes Orientalism in the film Kundun by Martin Scorsese.
-The 18th paragraph analyzes Orientalism in the film Gautama starring Keanu Reeves as Gautama himself.
-The 19th paragraph discusses about an Oprah Winfrey interview with Carolyn Massey, the Seattle mother who gave up her son as the incarnation of a lama (*Very interesting).
-The 20th, 21st and 22nd paragraphs conclude and explain why the West creates these conceptions about Tibet

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