Syrians use Pokemon Go to Capture International Attention

Saif

Pokemon Go fever has lit up the United States and countries around the globe. Several Syrian graphic designers have manipulated scenes from the game to juxtapose the cuddly “pocket monsters” with the horrors of war.

At ground zero, the Revolutionary Forces of Syria is using the game to solicit Western aid. Their media office released a series of photos of children, holding images of pokemon with the caption, “I’m from Kafr Nabl in Idlib province. Come and save me.”

Syrian emigrants abroad are also using the game to bring attention to struggles of Syrian people. In Denmark, Saif Tahhan photoshops the game’s interface to draw a harrowing comparison of the the developed world’s challenge to capture digital images of Japanese fantasy creatures with Syria’s real challenge to capture resources for survival of its citizens. (Image at top.)

In Sweden, another Syrian emigrant, Moustafa Jano, inserts the pocket monsters into images documenting the refugee experience to inspire compassion for those struggling to escape Syria’s bleak and dangerous status quo, only to face barriers when arriving to Europe.

jano jano2

Source for article and graphics: “Pokemon’s Tears for Syria,” BBC http://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-trending-36859636 . Accessed 7/29/2016.

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Making of a “Cool Japan” in Mainstream America

 

 

“We are programming your websites, making your senior executives look smart, and getting into your schools for free! That’s right, raise the bar! …[We’re] bigger than Japanese in rap songs, and yoga!” from Beau Sia’s “Asian Invasion”  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=diNLPGHZbGM

While I was working as an English Teaching assistant in an upper-crust, exclusive French high school, one of my students asked “In France, learning about the USA and studying English is cool. What country do Americans think is cool?”

In that moment, the idea of Japan flashed in my mind, but I responded with a generic “no particular nation is favored by ALL Americans. Many enjoy British TV, but there are many other groups of Americans that like films and media from other countries as well.” Continue reading

Challenges to Otaku Culture: Conclusion

This is the concluding entry of a 5-part series on the threats to the cohesiveness and health of the Otaku community.

Top Five Challenges to Otaku Culture:

  1. Bullying of Adolescent Otaku
  2. Deletion of Racial Differences
  3. Body Shaming
  4. Reinforcement of Anti-Social Behaviors and Social Withdrawal: NEETs, Boomerangs, and Shut-in Hikikomori
  5. Misogyny and Madonna-Whore Complexes

Conclusion:

Politicians worldwide accept the power of media and artists. If one doesn’t respect them, one won’t remain a politician for long. There’s a reason why journalists and artists are the first to be imprisoned or killed when a dictator takes over.  Artists themselves tend to be wholly (blissfully) ignorant of the power they wield. Some are shocked into contemplating their effect on people’s psyches, a burden author J.D. Salinger grappled with after several murderers sited his fiction as impetus for their violence.

From what I’ve seen and experienced, all artistic creators face a dilemma: with each world or narrative you create, you either reinforce dominant paradigms or subvert them. If you write about a society free from racial differences, there will probably still be hetero-normality. If you create a story with nontraditional gender roles, you may ignore class. Higher up the food chain, major publishing houses and film production companies pick and choose which “progressive” elements to incorporate in each product, for taking all of them creates a story too slow in plot development or too much suspension of disbelief that it will no longer resonate with audiences. Art is powerful. It teaches us much about ourselves and molds our children. It can be the greatest unifier and the most destructive poison for our world.

Challenges to Otaku Culture: Misogyny

This is an entry of a 5-part series on the threats to the cohesiveness and health of the Otaku community.

Top Five Challenges to Otaku Culture:

  1. Bullying of Adolescent Otaku
  2. Deletion of Racial Differences
  3. Body Shaming
  4. Reinforcement of Anti-Social Behaviors and Social Withdrawal: NEETs, Boomerangs, and Shut-in Hikikomori
  5. Misogyny and Madonna-Whore Complexes 

Misogyny and Madonna-Whore Complexes (Note: This is now an edited version that has updated material 1/2015.) 

If one lets Japanese media speak for itself, it appears that Japan’s society leans more toward the binary, traditional idea of gender roles than America. In media designated for a general audience, female characters are relegated to being a prize or a nemesis. When they are integrated as members of a team of protagonists, their distinguishing characteristics are often purity, gentleness, and beauty. The population acts in accordance to such perceptions of women by emulating role models put forth by media. Thus, one would expect the societal and economic role of women to remain more firmly tied to domesticity than ambition. The Economist published an article in May 2014 proclaiming, “Women’s lowly status in the Japanese workplace has barely improved in decades, and the country suffers as a result.” The article went on to include explanation of the term the “bamboo ceiling” that bars women from promotion to the top of corporations, after the American “glass ceiling.” The bamboo ceiling, by comparison, is not nearly as transparent as the American equivalent, and much sturdier. While the media portrayal of gender roles is not the singular factor in the shaping society and economy, it remains a salient contributor to the molding of such norms.

Japanese media’s influence does not stop at the Pacific Ocean. We have seen many examples of the strong trade and importation of Japanese art and the ideas that come with it. For Americans, the transmission and edification of ultra-conservative gender roles influences our culture in different ways. Once again, reaction to this is split between healthy and unhealthy individuals.

Some react in healthy ways. Otakus, especially adult women Otakus, emerge from the influx of varying ideas of societal and gender norms as strong, assertive, self-assured individuals. I see similarities between women in the Otaku community and women in STEM: they are so well-acquainted with sexism and boy’s clubs mentalities that their confident personalities are forged into a no-nonsense, straight forward manner to boldly face all challenges, whether they be gender-specific or not. On the other hand, less strong women in both communities conform and defer to the normal gender roles and biases, sinking into the background with more demure temperament rather than rocking the boat.

If one follows the idea that the mixing and superimposing one culture onto another can influence the macro-psychology of a population, we end in the very alarming of concept of two distinct rape cultures merging to transmit very destructive ideas on a group of people.

Rape is an issue in both cultures, and is increasingly incorporated into narratives in both Japanese and American media. Shoujo has used rape scenes in character development so often that it has become a trope. Hana Yori Dango has at least five attempted rapes, and even the positively viewed Ouran High School Host Club features an episode revolving around the necessity for the female protagonist to not “ask for” being raped by engaging boy bullies. As for American major motion pictures, we recently saw our first on-screen rape attempt in which a girl protagonist was pinned down and straddled by a man who held a position of power over her in the film Divergent. Using such scenes is a double-edged sword: some will walk away feeling less alone in the knowledge that there are other rape survivors, and others will believe the idea of raping someone is normal.

More often we see examples of less violent aggression against women. As the roles women play in media are flattened to a binary, so is the consumer’s expectation of women in real life, consciously or subconsciously. The objectification of women has been a problem for both countries at least since post-World War II. In Japan, there is the perception that many salary men seek out paid companions to appease sexual appetites that their honorable wives do not fill. In America, we have the term “madonna-whore complex” to describe a person who sees women as either pure and wholesome or sexual and debase. This psychological complex is often cited as the reason why serial rapists commit their crimes.

As two cultures that are oppressive of women converge on a population, we may expect to see individuals with very strong, toxically unhealthy ideas of gender norms. With two different cultures presenting varied, nuanced explanations for the objectification, infantiliziation, and sexualiation of women, an unhealthy individual could be socialized to be destructive force.  

The story does not end here. In the Otaku community, we have seen women, especially female cosplayers, fight back against unwanted masculine attention and objectifying behaviour at cons. “Cosplay is not Consent” is the slogan for a campaign of young women to gain recognition and respect from their fellow community members after fighting an increasing amount of privacy invasions, micro-aggressions, and personal assaults while wearing costumes of their favorite characters.