Wednesday, April 17, 2019

A Romantic Scavenger Hunt

Inspired by Romanticism, I have written Romantic poems on sheets of paper, put the poems in envelopes, and left them around Oak Park. The letters appear as below.

I will be posting intermittently on the blog about new locations of the letters. Each location will given through a photo from the perspective of the letter. So, please, get out there and find Romanticism in the world. If you find a letter, read the poem, appreciate it and the world surrounding it, and put it back for others to find.

With all of that being said, here is the first image from the perspective of the letter.

Happy hunting. Don't forget to dance with the daffodils


I believe that the Western world views Orientalism in a negative light. It has made a bad impact on American views and society, especially since 9/11 and recent terrorist attacks. Due to the Eurocentric mindset, many people believe in similar versions of one ideology. I believe that all cultures and ways of life should be recognized and respected and no manipulated from Eurocentric mindset. I think that I have some part of an orientalist mindset but I also have some part not and more accepting. Society has, unfortunately, sculpted my point of view into a more Eurocentric, but I have learned from the new changing society to be more open and understanding. Living in a more liberal town has helped me gain a wider span of acceptance.

Monday, April 8, 2019

Musical Theater's Impact on Orientalism

As a child musical theater has always been a joy to me. Shows like The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast and Newsies have always held a special place in my heart. I have learned valuable lessons from these shows and they have influenced the way I have thought since I was little. The show Aladdin, set in the fictional city of Agrabah, has extremely impacted my perception of the Middle East. I believe from this show alone I have developed an orientalist mindset. To get rid of this mindset I believe that one must not only visit the Middle East but talk to people from there as well. I believe that developing this orientalist mindset can be changed if one has an open mindset.

Orientalism in Modern Pop Culture

Orientalism is the representation of the Eastern World in a stereotyped way. Orientalism can be seen in film, music, art and literature especially from western civilization, like Europe and the United States. These predisposed ideas of people and the culture of the east, like the middle east, dates back to when the Europeans came in contact with the lower class of the east. This has carried on since than and stereotypes about Asia and the Middle East are very present in today's society.

Orientalism has been present in recent hip-hop music, video games like call of duty and many types of movies. I am going to focus in on one movie called The Dictator. The Dictator is a comedic-satirical film that plays on extreme exaggerations and general stereotypes to do with the Middle East. For Example, there were no modern type of buildings in the film and the orientalist idea that Middle East women are mistreated is acted upon, as the wife of "The Dictator" is smothered by the doctor after she gives birth. The Dictator is one of many pop-culture examples of Orientalism.


I think that Western world and culture views Orientalism in a negative way, when really it is just a different way of life. It is unfortunate in the way that we are predisposed to view Orientalism this way. A majority of the world has a Eurocentric views on life and they way it is to be lived, which affects peoples views, including my own, of other cultures. I think that there are many different cultures that are viewed as negative or different, and that people need to have an open mindset when it comes to learning about and accepting the way that different people live. Other cultures and ways of life should be recognized and respected in the way that people view Eurocentric cultures. Society has shaped specific cultures into being acceptable and "normal", while others are looked down on in society, which is a problem and has to be changed.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Taking on Orientalism as a Westerner

It is easy to fall into an orientalist mindset. The Oak Park/Chicago area has a lot of diversity, but our community does not have many people from the Middle East. Therefore, our main exposure to these people and cultures is through the stereotypes presented in the media. We see countless images of Middle Eastern people as terrorists or dangerous. The women from the region are depicted as submissive, and all the people are portrayed as not having the capability of the complex thought that we, as Westerners, supposedly come by naturally. 

These stereotypes could not be further to the truth, but the only way for us to fully understand the truth is to educate ourselves. Few people in our community maintain racist or sexist ideologies once they are exposed to the depths and diversity of people, cultures, races, etc that they had never met before. My sister is adopted from China and I have spent much of my life taking on stereotypes that people make about Chinese people, as I knew they were false first hand. Simply because we might not have direct access to people from this region or live there ourselves, that is no excuse for us to take a backseat in dismantling this outdated ideology of Orientalism. 

Orientalism In American Culture

Do we, as United States citizens have an Orientalist mindset toward the rest of the world? To have an Orientalist mindset means to a stereotyped view of certain Middle East and Asian countries. I believe that in hindsight and in the present day, we do have an Orientalist mindset, especially in our American culture.

Here is an example of a Time Magazine article cover from 2010 asking the simple question "What Happens if We Leave Afghanistan? The question seems simple enough, however, it is the picture of the cover of the magazine that really makes me question whether or not we have an Orientalist mindset. The woman in this picture, Aisha, went through a terrible tragedy in which her abusive husband cut off her ears and nose. However, the Time Magazine cover almost portrays the image as if American's leave, Afghan men will start abusing their woman. The magazine cover doesn't even pose a question. It states that this girl's traumatic injury is the direct result of "What happens if we leave Afghanistan." The idea that American troops have the sole power to be the physical and moral protectors these women because all Afghan men are barbaric, is insulting and a prime example of an Orientalist mindset in American media.

The next example is from a movie known as "The Dictator" which stars Sacha Baron Cohen as a Middle Eastern dictator. Throughout the movie, Cohen sends a message that Middle Eastern leaders are barbaric, uncontrollable, unable to control their people, stupid, and simply insane. Outside of the movie, Cohen performed press events and media appearances in character, bringing the character of an insane "oriental" leader to the front row of American media and entertainment. A number of times, jokes were made about terrorism such as when one character suggests Cohen visits the Empire States building before he or one of his cousins "brings it down." He also chants "Death over America" and "Death to the West" during the film.

Finally, for the last example, the film Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom represents examples of Orientalism. In the film, Indiana Jones finds himself accidentally arriving in India after fleeing from China. An Indian tribesman discovers the group and brings them back to his village. Upon arriving, the group learns of a Kali-worshiping cult that has taken the village children as slaves, ruling from a palace nearby. After the arrival at the palace, the food served to the right included monkey brains, a snake with beetles cooked inside, and many other foods that are represented as cultural food when in fact, most Indians do not eat anything remotely similar to monkey brains. In the film, the palace is secretly hiding a cult still practicing inhumane rituals involving the removal of a live person's heart for the Hindu goddess Kali. Not only are ritual victim's hearts removed by hand, but they are also then lowered into an underground pit of lava. To portray Indian's in this way unfairly and inaccurately represents the actual lives and beliefs of Indians.

Friday, April 5, 2019

Post-War Orientalism in the 1950's

Last year when my family and I were going through my grandfather's Korean war records we came across one document that took us all by surprise. It was a letter from the U.S. government to my grandmother and it was telling her what to expect when my grandfather came home. The letter warned that he may be a changed man with strange cravings for Korean food and they treated it almost as if he had contracted some sort of cultural disease in Korea.

This is the most direct experience that I have ever had and its so shocking that this letter was sent by the U.S. government. The letter really treats Korea and Korean culture as something unfathomable and completely ridiculous. It really shows how ingrained Orientalism was and still is in our society and how harmful it can be especially if the western public has no substantial knowledge about eastern culture and life

Orientalism Loves Company

It's no secret that the concept of Orientalism has made a large impact on American culture and society. It shows itself heavily in films, a well-known example being Aladdin. The movie, while highly praised and loved by audiences of all ages, is the earliest work I can think of that has influence my own view of Orientalism.

The term that comes to mind when thinking about Orientalism and its effects, is "exotic." We as Americans tend to be fascinated by cultures that are different than ours in the same way we are fascinated by the different exhibits at a zoo. Movies such as Aladdin "cartoonize" Middle Eastern culture into something whimsical and fun, but most importantly exotic.

A more modern example that comes to mind is the tendency for men to fetishize women from foreign countries. Women from Middle Eastern countries, among Latin American, African, and more countries, are labeled as sexier because their background makes them "exotic," and therefore more attractive. We see this on social media, as well as the main focus in the content of a lot of music. It is rare to listen to a mainstream rap song without hearing something related to women from different countries. As far as Orientalism goes in America, it is like most outdated concepts such as racism and sexism. While it may not seem to be at its peak, it is clear that this is not the case. It has simply adapted to the way we receive our information and is prevalent in new ways such as media.

Crazy Rich Asians

The recently extremely popular movie Crazy Rich Asians was a monumental movie release for the asian community in not only America, but for Asian communities all over the world. Hollywoods lack of asian roles and asian presence has been extremely noticeable within their films and has been a growing issue over the years. In 2018, with the release of Crazy Rich Asians, people felt that Hollywood was making a statement that with this movie's release they would change the issue of asian presence and support those communities more. Wrong.

I felt that the movie Crazy Rich Asians was a way to appease the general public on the lack of asian presence in Hollywood films. I personally did enjoy the movie and felt that it was a step in the right direction, however the level of orientalism present within the movie is astounding.

The movie revolves around a couple in love, Nick Young and Rachel Chu, who travel to Singapore to visit his family who are crazy rich asians, extremely family oriented, and very traditional. Throughout the movie there are exotic parties, a tropical wedding, and an array of colors throughout the movie. The movie really highlights the craziness of rich asians and portray it materialistically along with the personality and actions of a crazy rich asian. All in all, throughout the entire movie I felt that orientalism was at work because it made asian culture look bad.

When Nick Young and Rachel Chu break up do to his family's tradition and family oriented beliefs, it makes it seem as if being family oriented is bad and prevents having a full life. In the ending scene when Nick Young does eventually acquire his mother's blessing and there's the scene where he and Rachel are reunited, it's further degrading asian culture and supporting western individualistic beliefs. This is seen in many scenes, not only in the love scenes. Another scene where they're representing asians badly is when Rachel is at the bachelorette party and the girls gang up on her and put a dead fish in her bed and write in blood "Catch this you gold-digging bitch". This scene plays into the theme savagery and portrays the asian women as savages. The orientalism is subtle and well hidden, however it's presence is there.

Once again, I'd like to reiterate that I did enjoy watching the movie Crazy Rich Asians and did appreciate the fact that Hollywood released a movie consisting of mainly an asian cast. However, from my perspective, Hollywood still has a long way to go in portraying Asians correctly and respectfully and breaking away from orientalism.

Orientalism After 9/11

Americans are raised with an Orientalist mindset, which disasters have amplified. One such catastrophe that has lead to both an increased awareness yet belittlement of their culture is 9/11. This incident has caused many in the west to look down upon the entire middle eastern region in a way that devalues and diminishes their individual accomplishments and cultures. Americans especially developed a stigma against all humans from the Middle East, fueled by the orientalist mindset. Because citizens have been raised learning of other countries as the “other” identity, it is easy for many to not appreciate those people. There are only select groups that commit terrorism, however, because the west tends to simply group together foreigners, the west consistently writes off the entire area as dangerous and violent people.

This leads to disunity between whites and middle-eastern Americans within the country. It also creates tension between citizens of the west and those of the Middle East.


Orientalism has clearly made a dent in American society. You see it in movies, TV shows, but also in music. One thing that I can think of that shows itself within it is Katy Perry's music video Dark Horse. The video has everyone dressed in Egyptian or Asian like clothing to represent a certain glamour or exotic fashion. Americans are very fascinated and aroused by different cultures. However, by imitating these cultures' looks and styles, it's almost as if they're poking fun without even knowing it.

Orientalism with Today's Culture

Unfortunately, I believe the world has a Eurocentric mindset which causes the world to revolve around one ideology. The way we view the world is the from where Europe is located, the West, the East, Middle East, Orient. It's frustrating seeing how the Western world views Orientalism. If people want to understand what occurs in the middle East they look to what was written previously, and that view is always skewed. Then if people want to view it on their own, they'll visit it for themselves, except with preconceived views of what's happening. This mindset is hard to eradicate only because it's been shaped around our society so much. I feel that if the world continues to communicate different views throughout, and not solely from television episodes or movies, real life events or situations, the Orientalist view could be changed.


THE WEST/other power structure is an essential portion of today's climate both politically and socially. This plays heavily into the exotification of Middle Eastern culture. Western culture displays bindis and henna as "new" and "bohemian" to pair with persons aesthetic. When the next trend comes along they will wash away the henna and put down the bindi soon forgetting all about them.

I have watched people tease students about intricate parts of their culture. Later the bully will find it trendy and begin wearing it themselves.

Westerners love Easterner's culture between their fingertips.

In Cardi B's Bodak Yello music video she wears a hijab in the desert while riding a camel. She did this for aesthetic not out of respect for culture. Similarly, Selena Gomez wore a bindi to perform her song Come and Get it. Pieces Middle Eastern culture is often displayed in popular music. However, there are no Middle Eastern popular singers in America.

Other side of Orientalism

Orientalism thrives on word of mouth. Without the generalizations of the Eastern area of the world, the normalized structured thought would have never been passed down through generations. These structured ideologies of being an “orient” are taught as facts, rather than opinions, which allows the western world to maintain their hierarchy which was created with orientalism. By establishing demeaning traits of these oriental people, the westernized culture has been able to create a prejudice view, of the eastern countries of the world. Modernized technology has created an even larger gap between the western world, and the supposedly inferior eastern countries.

American mass media shows the public the bad stories of the middle east. CNN will show the poor living conditions, and constant fighting of the middle east, which makes Americans believe that it is like that everywhere. These media outlets are doing exactly what Edward Said states about Orientalism, which is the power of turning myths to facts, which fuels the stereotypes of oriental people which should have never been established in the first place. After a trip to Lebanon I was able to understand the outside view of orientalism. When I was there, I noticed that none of my preconceived notions of these people that have always been pushed on me where true. I now understand that the myths of orientalism can be changed just from seeing the viewpoint of the other side. I would still have false understandings of their way of life, and other cultural actions they take, in which western media outlets falsely portray.

Orientalism and Media

Orientalism in media has greatly contributed to our society’s view of eastern cultures. Therefore, western media needs to be more careful with how they portray other cultures in order for harmful and racist views to cease. This cannot completely solve the issue of Orientalism, but can certainly help to do so.

Many towns are composed of entirely or almost entirely one race. The people in these towns would therefore have severely limited interactions with people outside of their racial groups. For these people, their interaction with different cultures would take place largely in the media. And when the media perpetuates harmful stereotypes, these stereotypes would be the sort of thing these people would come to understand as truth.

The profound effect media has on people needs to be treated with responsibility. The media should take care to accurately portray other cultures, something they quite often fail to do. In addition, different peoples need to be represented in a positive light. For example, Arabic characters should be able to be a hero instead of just a terrorist. Positive portrayals such as these will help white westerners to see people of color as people not just stereotypes.

Swallowing Orientalism at OPRF

Coming home after a long day of abrasive school hate crimes, I longed for something
non-Eurocentric. Something. Anything. Something that didn’t use a person of color as a tool for a white
character’s personal development. Something where a person of color wasn’t in the background.
Something where people of color exist. Where I exist.
Coming home after a long day of being pushed aside in the hallway because I don’t exist, I longed to
been seen. I flipped on the tv, searching for a comfort show. I realized then my comfort was not a soft
embrace, but a smother. A smother from all the whiteness around me. I was a stain on a feathery pillow.
I do not exist in Pretty in Pink. I am the brunt of the joke in 16 Candles. Comfort tv was too comforting,
it’s suffocating to the point where my only release has become another form of strangulation.
Coming home after a long day of reading King Lear, I felt hopeless. How many more days do I have
to exist in this Eurocentric school that tells my story or eats my story or forgets my story with the rhetoric
of “Why do you care?” “We’ll read this story where you are in it, Naomi.” “We told your story through the
way we see you, Naomi, because we see you.”

Stop saying you see me when you don’t.
I’ll take back my voice so I can speak.
For a person of color Orientalism is more than a theory, it is our life.
It’s why we don’t come to school.
It’s why we don’t speak in class.
It why we group together, strength in numbers. Maybe a collective whisper will make a sound to be

We struggle to find our voice, to escape from the hands OPRF, riddled with the Anglophile flesh of
former students of color, the lost skin of Left Behind kids. Surviving off of forced Orientalism.
Shoved down all of our throats.


Orientalism is the representation of Asia, especially the Middle East, in a stereotyped way that is regarded with a colonialist attitude. Our prejudice interpretation of the east came after European powers came into contact with the lesser developed people of the east. Though we would like to think otherwise, we've all been or are guilty of thinking in an orientalist mindset, which is embedded in our media and way of life. The common conception of Arab life and culture that's presented to us is seen as exotic, uncivilized, and dangerous. We are subjected to single stories about Eastern culture, when most, if not all of us have never fully experienced the culture first-hand. 

When we seen examples of misrepresented Eastern culture in movies, TV shows, magazines, etc., it's usually for entertainment, rather than instruction or actual realization. Unfortunately for our culture, entertainment versions of Eastern culture rather than accurate and informative versions make a deeper and fresher impression on us, which is one reason for thinking the way that we do. Aladdin, a widely known and loved movie, has been criticized for years for its offensive interpretation of Arab culture, through its barbaric lyrics, over exaggerated accents, and visuals. Arab societies are seen as mysterious worlds of barbarism and maybe as far as uninhabitable. Eastern culture is continuing to be inaccurately and offensively portrayed in our society, and some ways to put an end to it is just calling out daily Orientalism when you hear or see it or not supporting companies are manufacturers that present it.


Being from "the West" automatically gives someone an orientalist mindset because the way our society is built makes people from anywhere but here, who may look slightly different, the "other."  Orientalism comes from European power struggle to gain dominance and remain the powerful force. The West and white people mostly have Eurocentric outlooks on other people and the world at large, this absolutely impacts how we, myself included, view other cultures.  I think that we all could do better, me too, to recognize exactly where these views that we hold came from and work towards unraveling that.  We need to better recognize the true lives and cultures and praise them, not treat them like this completely other thing that should be recognized by two characteristics.  We are all more complex and dynamic than that, and every person and culture should be recognized for that.

South Pacific the Musical

A couple of months ago, my grandmother brought me, my sister and brother to the musical South Pacific. The musical centers around two relationships between US military and the native southern islanders or Orientals during World War II. Usually, when my grandmother takes us to musicals, I tend to really enjoy what I see. However, I didn't really enjoy South Pacific.

The reason wasn't because there was bad acting or bad music, but that the native islanders were portrayed in a very stereotypical "oriental" way. They were portrayed as mysterious, and seemingly always up to something, and didn't understand the "smarter" US officers. While the musical started in 1940, its success keeps it running to this day. To many including my younger brother and sister, this representation of the East, Asians, and islanders contributes to the Oriental view.