Signal Boost: Haute Couture and Sailor Moon

US American reporter and translator Angelica Frey posted an article yesterday on “Sailor Moon’s Fashion from Christian Dior to Theirry Mugler” on Jezebel. This is a great read on the intersection of East Asian storytelling and graphic novels, European fashion, and the US American market in the 1990s. If just one of those topics interests you, I highly recommend her article on Jezebel.

Link:https://theattic.jezebel.com/the-haute-couture-history-of-sailor-moon-1844488914?utm_campaign=Jezebel&utm_content=1598886989&utm_medium=SocialMarketing&utm_source=facebook&fbclid=IwAR2uAsHH8vdbHWB7sklYKZbG1gB-8whTy69wU595Xu5apsZlqdI6NQdWcWw 

A stylized drawing of Sailor Moon wrapped in pink ribbons

“Hate Commentary” in the German Language

"Hasskommentar" facebook ad from Duden

Last week, Duden (the Merriam-Webster of Germany) upped their social media game with their ad campaign for the latest edition of the comprehensive dictionary. “Hasskommentar,” which translates to “hate-commentary,” has officially been added to the German language. Their website defines this new word as “commentary containing hatred and threats, characterized by strong rejection and hostility, especially on social networks.”

As German speakers are more empowered by their linguistic tradition to create their own words and compound words, the German language is quick to adopt new words (especially technological terms) into its formal lexicon. For example, Germans used “ich google”/”du googlest” about two years before it became common practice to verb the proper noun in American English. (I noticed this personally while living there in the 2000s.)

Hopefully, the adoption of this new word does not start a trend in other countries, as formalizing such concepts makes them more valid and stable in culture and society. On the other hand, having a formal term for this oppressive behavior may help in creating practices to deconstruct it and policies to restrain and restrict it.

Thai Protesters use Harry Potter Symbols to Rebuke Government

Image of Thai protesters with Wands Up Harry Potter gesture from The Guardian

Image from Photograph: Sopa/Rex/Shutterstock via The Guardian

A series of protests and rallies have spread across Thailand, condemning the government. The protesters, many of them high-school and university-aged young people, are using art to circumnavigate the lèse-majesté laws in place, making it a crime to defame, insult, or simply criticize the royal family. By using the images, symbols, and narratives in Harry Potter and the Hunger Games, protesters can critique a government which has acted in eerily parallel to the books’ plots:

  • King Maha Vajiralongkorn was crowned King Rama X of Thailand in 2016, and later the Palace led a campaign that changed the constitution to give the king increased emergency powers.
  • The Thai Crown is closely linked with the Thai military, as the king now has personal control over several influential army units and the Prime Minister previously led a military coup
  • Police have increasingly harassed activists
  • Nearly ten dissidents who have fled the country have “disappeared,” and at least two are confirmed dead
  • Public school students face stricter behavior and personal appearance guidelines set forth by the government.

The imagery and language of Harry Potter are being used by the protestors to call out their government. Many protesters use “Wands Up” gestures using prop wands or glowing cellphone flashlights to evoke imagery of the final battle for Hogwarts against the Deatheaters in the penultimate book. Some dress in Gryffindor colors or witch/wizard robes. A few dress as Deatheaters and hoist gilded gold framed images of Lord Voldemort– gold being the color of The Crown in Thailand.

The youngest protesters also use other art forms to tell their stories. The New York Times published a photograph of high-school-aged children performing the Mockingjay Salute. Their article also explains a piece of performance art by one such child protester: she was tied to a chair, a pair of scissors on her lap. Audience members (fellow protesters) are instructed by a nearby sign to cut her hair to the government-mandated crop length– even with the bottom of her earlobe.

Hundreds of young protesters use pop culture iconography, imagery, and narratives to indirectly criticize their government that limits free speech. It is indisputable, at least in Thailand, that art continues to be a powerful tool against oppression.

 

Sources + Read More: 

 

Presenting Panels…again

Greetings Folks!

I’m presenting  2 panels at Awesome Con this weekend in Washington DC.

#1 Friday, 4:00 PM – “Good Omen’s Good Theology” room 140

#2 Saturday, 5:00 PM – “Supernatural: Bible Canon vs Bible Fanon” room 140 again.

Both are with Rev. Will Green from Foundry UMC. (wgreen@foundryumc.org )

Hope to see you there!

PS Once the formal copyright comes through, we’ll have the material from these presentations published on this site.

Webcomic Tackles White Supremacy in the aftermath of Christchurch

“This is us” proclaims Toby Morris, a white New Zealander graphic artist. His most recent comic dissects precipitating microaggressions, political actions, and popular inaction and purposeful ignoring of the growing Islamophobia, xenophobia, and white supremacy in their country. “This is us” is a rallying cry for a truly inclusive unity that requires a mindshift of every level of society.

A cropped sample of the This is Us webcomic.

A cropped sample of the This is Us webcomic.

Read “This is Us” here: https://thespinoff.co.nz/society/18-03-2019/this-is-us/  

Marvel Partners with ABC News to Raise Awareness of Syrian Siege

ABC News has been monitoring and reporting on the situation in Syria since peaceful protests, inspired by the Arab Spring, escalated into civil war in 2011. More recently, concerns of the impact of war on the civilian population, particularly children, have been the focus of international media and war journalists. Despite a call for increased transparency into war torn areas and the need for aid organizations to be permitted there, many times foreign entities, including press or NGOs, are turned away at the border.

Since this past January, ABC News has been texting with a 30 year old, mother of five who lives in the sieged town of Madaya. This “Madaya Mom” has been an informant for ABC News, giving journalists glimpses into her daily life via text message as she tries to secure food for her children, waits eagerly for UN involvement, and simply tries to ensure the survival of her family in devastating circumstances.

After their video crews were turned away from Madaya a final time, ABC News decided to go a different route to bring visual representation to the story of “Madaya Mom,” which has been documented like a diary on their website. The news conglomerate reached out to Marvel Comics, the graphic novel company who is responsible for the Avengers, Iron Man, and Captain America franchises, to create a visual accompaniment to Madaya Mom’s story. Instantly invested in the idea, Marvel was eager to go “where the cameras can’t.” They recommended Deadpool and Avengers: Civil War artist Dalibor Talajić, who survived the Yugoslav wars in the early 1990s and currently resides in Zagreb, Croatia, to draw the scenes from Madaya Mom’s life “with skill and authenticity.”

Continue reading

“Snapshots of American Culture: Japanophilia and the Otaku” now on Amazon

Learn more about this subculture that lies in the intersection of internationalism and fan culture. Now available in paperback directly from the printer (and higher royalties to the author- https://www.createspace.com/5262447 ) and from Amazon ( link ).  In exchange for some promotional marketing, I’ve secured a 90-day exclusivity contract with Amazon for the ebook version, available here.

front cover

 

Book description: Why do we love Japanese culture? What inspires hundreds of thousands of Americans to travel to anime cons each year? What are cons? What role does fanfiction play for the anime-loving community? How does Japanese culture influence our own? Can we predict what stories will be popular both in the US and Japan? This book answers these questions and more, offering insight into this unique and trendsetting facet of American culture as our world enters into an era of global art exchange unrestricted by geography.

The Barbie Book Everyone is Talking About

barbie to delete

The social media sphere is lighting up about “I can be a computer engineer” book from the Barbie franchise, so here’s my two cents.

Rachel Zarell’s sarcastic but thorough look at the book on buzzfeed.

Pamela Ribbon’s caustic gizmodo review.

Slammed on Daily Dot.

Book listing on Amazon.

The title of the book Barbie “I can be a computer engineer!” is a misnomer, as the story progresses, we see that Barbie is merely brainstorming ideas for a game, she gets a computer virus, and has to call her male friends to fix the issue.

The quote that sums up the book:  “It will go faster if Brian and I help,” offers Steven.

At first, I thought, “Oh, this must be a hoax.” But no, the listing on amazon looks legit. The book was published last year by an author that works with random house.

For writers, there is a dilemma of which “other” group to choose to promote. You can promote progressive gender ideals, but race will be put to the side in order for the product to be commercially viable on a mass scale. Here, we see a great mixed representation of different races, but gender takes the backseat and put into the ultra-traditional binary idea. Maybe in another ten years we’ll have mass distributed media that shows characters to be intelligent, valuable, and have agency no matter color or sex; even then, we’ll see other identity characteristics slammed into the backseat (sexual orientation, non-gendered folk, etc.)

Overall, it is a rather deplorable example of “female empowerment.”

The latest, and final, chapter in the legal struggle for Sherlock

Many fan fiction writers have been following the legal efforts of a group of Sherlockians in their pursuit to publish an anthology of fanwork without paying the hefty fee the Estate of Arthur Conan Doyle alleged they were owed. The Supreme Court upheld their claim that the characters published in 1887 were outside of the 75 year copyright lockout. It is important to note that storylines and characters written after 1923 are stipulated to being still inside the copyright, and therefore not yet in the public domain.

Now the final chapter: The Court of Appeals has denied the Estate’s appeal of that decision.

More info/source: Free Sherlock blog November 2014: Petition Denied.

Disappearing Women: Part 3

Step Three: Gender Identity Displacement

When women and girls are confronted with role models that are only destructive to their psyche, the simplest solution is, oddly enough, to become men. Imagine parts of your identity as building blocks: one for assertiveness, another for demureness, one for pride, one for humility, one for social capability, another for gestures and physical communication skills, and so on. Some of these traits, society teaches us, are rewarded in men and others are rewarded in women. In this final category, a female target audience empathizes with a male-gendered protagonist (or sets of characters) with feminine identity components. Since these female stand-ins are in narratives for female audiences, the plot or major force driving the plot is often romance, and so we have two (or more) male-bodied characters in a romantic situation. In Japan, this genre is established in print and television media as “yaoi,”, but in the USA, “slash” is limited to the fanworks (fan fiction) and grassroots interpretative reactions to male -dominated character dramas.

Fascinatingly, yaoi and slash originated within years of one another in Japan and the US. In the late 1970s, doujinshi mangaka parodied the contemporary boy’s platonic love stories, spinning them into romantic and sexualized versions. Also in the late 1970s, female Star Trek fans began writing fanfic about the protagonists of their favorite starship. Stories would be about Kirk and Spock, abbreviated K&S if the relationship remained platonic, or Kirk slash Spock, abbreviated K/S if the relationship became romantic/sexual. This coined the term “slash” for the future generations of fan fiction writers to codify their works.

In Japan, yaoi has become a well-established genre, even becoming a major avenue for media exportation, reaching its most recent peak in international popularity in 2009-2010. There are thousands of yaoi titles, but I will review a couple here briefly. Yaoi follows formulaic character roles: the protagonist is almost exclusively the uke, the “receiver” or bottom of the sexual pairing, and the main romantic interest is the seme, or the “attacker” or the top of the sexual pairing. Ukes are drawn effeminately, with large eyes characteristic of female or prepubescent boy characters, and often have feminine personality attributes. In Junjou Romantica, Misaki (girl name for a boy character) spends much of his screen time cooking, cleaning, or thinking about dates. In Okane Ga Nai (1999-present,) uke Ayase becomes a domestic partner for the the seme Kanou in lieu of working a job. The roles these male (uke) characters play are traditionally facets of femininity.

Slash is harder to define as it remains a grassroots literary movement with, as of yet, no institutionally-backed artifacts. Like yaoi, slash is most often slanted through the point of view of the more effeminate, “bottom” character. These slash protagonists retain parts of their feminine identity while still being able to succeed in their professional lives and hold equal footing with their romantic partners.

Yaoi has been popular the world over, and slash is on an exponential growth of popularity over the past four years, gaining legitimacy by leaps and bounds over the past ten months. 

Disappearing Women, Conclusion:

In a country where a woman is shot and killed for talking back to a catcaller–in a country where a woman has to carry around her college mattress in order to get a fair acknowledgement of her sexual assault claim–in a country where there has yet to be a female president, American women are overburdened with the realities of a world set against them. They burn to fulfill their aspirations. In the quiet of their private lives, they turn to art to assuage the hurts of daily microaggressions and larger structural oppressions. Even in fantasy, they cannot fathom nor imagine a realistic female character that would believably solve the problems of micro-sexism and macro-chauvinism and accomplish their own personal goals and have a well balanced family life. Such a woman is unbelievable. Such a woman is unimaginable. So we turn to male characters, who wouldn’t have to deal with the problems we face. By displacing elements of our feminine gender identity, we are able to more easily process other elements of it. When we engage in these narratives, we suspend the feminine gender building blocks of “unhealthy beauty ideals,” “sexism in the workplace,” and “the dangers of travelling alone.” With these parts of our identity temporarily displaced, we can focus and process other elements of our lives and our feminine identities, like “sexual agency,” “building healthy, equal, and sustainable romantic relationships,” or “balancing professional ambition and personal life.”