Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo on DVD and PBS
Westerners love bugs—dragonflies, butterflies, and ladybugs are frequently scene as elements of home decor, jewelry, and clothing design. Pictures of these colorful creatures illustrate books and greeting cards, and as long as we’re just dealing with images, we’re fine with insects.
Our eastern friends differ in their affection for insects. Yes, you will find them as elements of design, but in Japan a large variety of large insects are kept as pets and these aren’t the bugs you’d find in the yard. In an early scene in Jessica Oreck‘s documentary Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo, we see a child picking out an insect and buying it—for $47 (a single beetle recently sold for $90,000). He’d wanted a different bug, but didn’t have enough money.
Two weeks ago I was in New Jersey’s Liberty Science Center, using my hands as blinders so I could walk past the display of giant hissing cockroaches. My unease is such that I prefer not to use or hear the words “cockroach” and “maggots.” Need I say that Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo was a little out of my comfort zone? Entirely fascinating, the film (in Japanese with English subtitles) explores the role of bugs in Japanese culture—from the spiritual to the financial. To appreciate it, one must watch with eyes open—not an easy task for those suffering from entomophobia, acaraphobia, or insectophobia.
Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo weaves scenes of Japanese culture and the beauty of Japan’s landscapes (with visits to gardens, Zen temples, nature preserves, art museums, and Buddhist shrines) into its exploration of the respect, acceptance, and affection with which insects are regarded (those of us who stop at respect have lessons to learn). Philosophy and haiku that explain the relationship between man and insects are studied, “quietly challenging the viewer to observe the world from an uncommon perspective that will shift the familiar to the fantastic and just might change not only the way we think about bugs—but the way we think about life."
See Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo on Independent Lens (PBS), Tuesday, May 17, 2011, at 10:00 p.m. (check local listings); it is also available on DVD.