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.
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.
Dennis “Kidd” Banda, the COO of the Zambian otaku community NerdOtaku, recently published an article on Anime News Network explaining the growing popularity of anime, cosplay, and videogaming in the East African country, located just north of Zimbabwe. The article articulates the quickly growing fan community, citing access to Netflix as the main provider since region-locking often means that other legitimate anime sources are unavailable. The article also includes a synopsis and clip of “Scuna Girl,” a Zambian horror anime that reimagines a local urban legend.
News of the Zambian community is spreading across US American anime circles. We can hope that the Zambian NerdOtaku community continues to thrive and more African anime communities gain awareness on the international scene.
Last week, Kpop band BTS (formerly known as Bangtan Boys and Beyond The Scene) and its fans made global headlines as they raised over $2 million in donations to the #BlackLivesMatter campaign. The band itself donated $1 million and has been vocal about denouncing racial oppression. On June 4, they tweeted, “We stand against racial discrimination. We condemn violence. You, I, and we all have the right to be respected. We will stand together. #BlackLivesMatter” (Source) James Corden even covered how BTS fans are diluting white supremacy hashtags by drowning out hate with their love of the band.
Reporter Yim Hyun-su points out in a Washington Post article that Kpop fans have a well-established history of social justice initiatives and wield social media hashtags with lighting strike power. Their social media campaigns have not only a global reach but also activate global collaboration in a matter of minutes. The online activism of Kpop fans is not to be underestimated.
Hyun-su continues to analyze why the many stories of Kpop fans mobilizing don’t get the coverage that similar stories of streaming/vlogging fans or videogame fans do. While acknowledging the often problematic landscape of fandom communities, he posits that the barrier to Kpop fans being recognized is classical sexism: the popular image of a “fangirl” is not in alignment with that of a social justice warrior.
Maybe one day, perspectives will mature to a more holistic comprehension of these fandom identities.
Earlier this week, the hastag #AintNoCinderella went viral in India following an incident of a young woman being harassed and then victim shamed. Varnika Kundu went out on the town on Friday night, August 4. At the end of the night, she was harassed by two young men who then followed her when she fled in her car, attempting to make her stop and trying to enter her car several times. She wrote about the harrowing experience in a public Facebook post, thanking the police who helped save her from being kidnapped and urged women to be vigilant against attacks. One local politician victim-blamed her by stating that she should not have been out late at night.
Public outcry against misogyny and classism was immediate, and only increased in fervor once it became clear that one of the two young men allegedly involved was the son of another local politician.
The viral hashtag #AintNoCinderella, often accompanied by selfies of young women in clubbing outfits, has become a rallying cry by young Indian women to exercise their basic human right to safety no matter what time of day. Every tweet is a micro-effort to battle violence against women, and the overall effect is bringing to light the persistent issues of classism and sexism in a country that had elected and reelected a female head of state in 1966 and 1980.
Acrush is a group of young Chinese women gathered together to appeal to the boy-band, pop-idol demographic that has previously been dominated by young men from Japan and Korea. China has long been trying to improve its public image and ameliorate the reputation of having a staunchly conservative and controlled artistic sphere.
Acrush, however, is not the first androgynous women on the music scene. In the early 2000s, Han Hong crossed over from folk music to pop charts with her song Heaven’s Road (天路 ), about the trans-Tibetan railroad. Hong’s signature masculine/androgynous style caused a very negative reaction, which can be partially attributed to rumors of her being a homosexual. (Homosexuality was officially attributed to mental illness until 2001.)
Acrush’s agent and publicist has been very careful to remark that the young singers in the group are not attracted to the women whom their image is designed to attract. While Acrush may be challenging traditional sexual identities that have confined Chinese women, they are simultaneously reinforcing traditional sexualities.
Acrush promotional photo from their American Twitter account.
Update 4/7/17: Many news sites are referring to Acrush as “genderless.” It’s important to note that the band are calling themselves “meishaoshian” 美少年, which is denotatively a gender neutral term for “beautiful young person,” but connotatively refers to beautiful young boys. It’s also noteworthy that the Mandarin terms for he (他) and she (她) are phonetically identical (tā).
Update 4/8/17: As much viral attention Acrush has been getting, China’s major news network, CCTV, has not mentioned Acrush in any articles.
Today, NHK and BBC are running stories about young adults in politics, but the pictures are very different. In the UK, Millennials are feeling the Brexit burn, while 20-somethings in Tokyo are disengaged from politics and passive towards policy changes.
A Taiwanese, ethnic minority, children’s choir is disinvited to China after they sang the Taiwanese anthem at (Taiwan’s) President Tsai Ing-wen’s inauguration in May. The Puzangalan Choir was to travel to China in an endeavor to garner funds and visibility for a trip to an international singing competition in Hungary this fall. President Ing-wen has pledged a little over $15,000 USD when she heard about the cancellation.
Taiwan and China have a varying opinions on the sovereignty of the small island 110 miles off the coast of mainland China. However, that short distance is misleading, as Taiwanese government, freedoms, and art are leagues away from the People’s Party strict mandates in mainland China. Asian drama fans will note that television from mainland China is often overregulated to the point where the plot and characterization suffers, while Taiwanese dramas are rather enjoyable.
This political maneuvering is another example of a long string of contentious relations between Taiwan and China. It’s truly unfortunate, if not appalling, a children’s choir was the target.
ForeignPolicy.com today published a beautifully written inspection and reflection on the US’s role in shaping Japan in the 20th century. In “Hiroshima, My Father, and the Lie of U.S. Innocence,” freelance writer Jerry Delaney details his journey through memory and research of the post-WWII Tokyo trials: as a boy, Delaney lived with his father who served as a judge in the historical trials that were woefully incomplete, inadequate, and politically motivated. As a man, Delaney searched through first-hand accounts of the war crimes committed by both the US and Japan in the early 20th century to answer his daughter’s questions of familial involvement in this dark chapter of history.
This article gives new insights to those already knowledgeable of that era while being presented in plain yet artistically structured narrative for those unfamiliar with these histories.