Saturday, March 25, 2017

Modern Day Orentalism

We as a western culture have always felt so entitled to others. As though it is not bad enough that we have taken the right for others to express their culture away, we feel the need to make it "trendy". Edward Said addresses this same problem in a post-colonial time period in "Orientalism". Said's critique examines colonialism and how it affects not only the cultures being colonized, by how the colonizer approaches the culture in the aforementioned colonies. The colonizer is predominantly white and European. In his critique Said focuses on Britain because the United States of was not yet a large enough world power to colonize and while the French looked to colonize, they were not nearly as successful as Britain. However, modern United States has bypassed Britain in its colonizing ability and is now a perfect example of a place which is fully capable of Orientalism.

Cultural appropriation is a form of Orientalism, and a very popular form of orientalist cultural appropriation is Henna. Henna is an art form originating in eastern countries, specifically India, Africa, Pakistan, and the Middle East. Traditionally, it is a wedding tradition, used for decorative purposes and to invoke love in a marriage. Recently, it has been robbed of its cultural significance as it has slowly become a western trend. I have heard it most often argued that henna is worn as a symbol of appreciation for the culture, however, I cannot help but feel that cannot be true as most people who wear Henna do not know where it originated from. When I first saw Henna, I thought that it was a new trend, and had no idea of its origins. Without knowing about the culture a "fashion trend" came from, it is impossible to appreciate it, one must educate themselves about another culture to appreciate it, not embezzle their sacred practices because you enjoy their eastern look.

India: More Than Just Beauty

It is quite clear that Western culture has a major Orientalist mindset. It is clear that we have a this mindset mainly in the music industry. Coldplay created a music video for the song, “Hymn for the Weekend”. The video seems to be shot throughout India during the holiday, Holi. It is pretty clear to the audience that Coldplay is only using India as a setting for its beauty, not its culture. Sure, it is being shot during an Indian holiday so there is a cultural aspect there but is it a coincidence that the video is shot during the most colorful and widely recognized holiday. The answer is no and this is an example of Orientalism in Western culture.
The consequences of only viewing India is a “wondrous”, “mysterious”, “hidden gem” way discredits India’s rich history. It makes it seem as if India is only a place of beauty (don’t get wrong it is beautiful) but there is so much more than just beauty. There is a history that many Western cultures no nothing about and that is a shame. Western cultures are self-absorbed and only learn about our own history when there is so much more history beyond us.

To start breaking out of this mindset we need to start acknowledging that Eastern cultures have history that is beyond us. We need to understand that there is so much more than what Western news tells us. We need to accept that we are the ones who created this Orientalist mindset and understand that it is not how Eastern cultures actually are.

Friday, March 24, 2017


Just as Edward Said states, orientalism is a very complicated concept that has developed over so many generations and therefore cannot be fixed easily. We see orientalism in film, books, and the way media portrays certain events. Because we have all of this media surrounding us that is governed by orientalist views, it is hard for us to step out of this orientalist mindset even if we are aware that we are in this mindset. I believe it all stems from ignorance and the lack of a need to ask the questions "is this a true representation?" or "am I missing very important information?" or even "am I making assumptions?". I have had many moments where people will come up to me assuming my ethnicity. Most often is the assumption that I am Chinese, that I am a foreigner, or that my family is not very fluent in English. Although I don't think that this is exactly representative of orientalism, I do think that there is a similar problem in that people act on their assumptions without considering that they may be mistaken. I think that even this sort of small misunderstanding and small mistakes feed into the idea of orientalism. People make assumptions based on the little information that they have and I think that that is what is at the core of orientalism. If only people would inform themselves, they would not be making the same mistakes over and over again and eventually we could try to correct the mistakes made by orientalist views.

Lion and the Future of Orientalism

Lion, directed by Garth Davis is the story of a young mans struggle to find his way home after being lost for 25 years. This incredible film follows the journey of a young Indian boy who gets lost in a train station and soon finds himself thousands of miles away from home with no way of getting back. As he wonders the streets of this new and strange city he soon finds himself adopted by an Australian family, and brought back to there home in Melbourne. Saroo, grows up and comes to love his new family but soon realizes his obvious differences and longs to travel back to his origins from which he was separated from. Close to 25 years later he makes the decision to retrace his steps through his past to his homeland.
The film takes young Saroo's point of view as a young Indian child, caught up in a huge world full of strange people and places. In my opinion it does an incredible job of breaking away from the Orientalism that plagues our cultural views of the East. It has a unique and engaging story line told from a new point of view. It gives the audience an inside looking out lenses, from a young boys eyes who has no understanding of the world that surrounds him, both East and West. The film unlike past films like Slumdog Millionaire, has no extreme and bizarre cultural bias, of "forginism". It does show the polar change between East and West but does in a realistic and powerful way. Giving a human feel that focuses on the bonds between people and sense the main character doesn't fully fit into either world that surrounds him he gives a unique and unbiased view of the two worlds that surround him.

The Dominating West Mindset

In the eyes of the west, foreign countries of the east are seen as rigid lands filled with barbarous people. Of course this is not true, but it is common in our country since we never been to the east. This idea of orientalism is brainwashed into our brains through various outlets and some of it is our fault. Although the media, television, and other social networks or outlets makes us believe the east is uncivilized, it may be our fault for we do not question the credibility of our sources. Perhaps it's subtle in television but growing up in a country were the media and television dictates our lives it makes sense that this occurs. We can go to these countries where we make these accusations but how much are we actually going to see? Are we going to see what we want to see? How can we ever stop this view of the world? It is hard to find answers to these questions, if there's any. Its hard to stop this perspective since it started during an imperialistic age, that occur awhile ago.

The problem of finding a solution to the oriental mindset is that it has been occurring since imperialism. Meaning that since imperialism, those who conquered others saw how they lived and what their culture was. Instead of learning more about eastern people they compared themselves to them and drew conclusions that they were uncivilized. This mindset had not changed and that is the problem, it is static, and I wonder if it's to late to stop this mind set that has been hardwired into our brains growing up.

Modern Misconceptons

The relationship between western european culture and east has always been rocky. Wether it be diplomatic ranging police to trading, from the the silk road, ancient trading route between asia and europe, to modern embargos. Writing from an American point of view, the people of the west have never had a good connection. Edward Saids "Orientalsm" descirbes how the american people have a common misconceptions of the middle east as exotic, backwards and uncivilised. These misconceptons coming from media influence like the TV show Homeland, or the current Presidents view, lead for these misconceptions of orientalism to come to fruition.
Now from my perspective I think that this misconception goes both ways just not one way. People usually dont try and see from anothers point of view, but people in the middle ast probably have misconceptions about us, like we do about them, leading both of us unable to see eye to eye. For example when we invaded Iran in 2003, appearanlty for "payback for 9/11". THe iranians saw it as us stealing oil in there region, making a conflict, destablizing the region.
I as an American believe the best way to come to an understanding is to learn, or come to respect others cultures and traditions, that would take away many misconceptions. Traveling to so called "foreign instutuions may always help in addition. But other than that we will always have an orientalist mindset of each other beause of the current tension. We can only hope that this current tension can end in understanding and the intertwing of the two cultures to get rid of the misunderstanding.

Colonialism of the Stranger

Reading Edward Said's Orientalism, I couldn't help but flash back to the pivotal moment of The Stranger - where Meursault proves his individuality and disregard for society's rules - by killing a nameless Arab. I don't know if this qualifies as Orientalism since the book is set in Algeria, but it follows a very similar pattern to the one described by Said: white European asserts himself over a devious member of the "Other".

The total lack of recognition the Arab is given is incredibly apparent - we don't even know his name. He is just a vague threat that Meursault consigns to oblivion, a prop in a white man's story about philosophical fulfillment. In the end, Meursault's trial shows that even the larger French society is not as concerned about the fact that Meursault killed the Arab as they are that he did not seem sad at his mother's funeral.

While Camus mocks the stifling absurdity of this French society in many ways, he leaves its colonial mindset mostly unchallenged by his portrayal of the Arab as many of the stereotypes Said described - sneaky, threatening, and subordinate to the stories of Europeans. While society kills Meursault, he gets to tell his story and win the sympathy of readers. The Arab appears and vanishes without us ever hearing his perspective. Thus, it is worth wondering who is really oppressed in Camus' society, or in the real world.

Orientalism Still Exists

Orientalism, being a stereotypical depiction of the East, is actually more common than most believe. Through outlets such as movies, television shows, and social media, many false interpretations about the East are made. For instance, in the popular Disney film Aladdin, middle eastern culture is displayed as riding on flying carpets, rubbing magic lamps, and everyone wearing baggy-white clothing. These generalized depictions of Eastern society are quite shocking. Obviously, their culture cannot be as simple as it's portrayed in the film. What might be even more shocking though, is how little backlash Aladdin has gotten for supporting Orientalism. Disney makes the stereotypes quite blatant, which unfortunately, is a prime example that Orientalism still exists in modern society.

Aladdin and Orientalism

Throughout my lifetime there have been many occurrences of orientalism I have never noticed or even thought twice about. Said's theory of orientalism can be seen in our society in movies and songs that have been produced. Western society, especially here in America, portrays the middle east as something much different and even barbaric. This view can be clearly seen in movies directed towards children such as Aladdin.

In the movie Aladdin, there are many stereotypes in place from what is worn to how the characters act in this exotic land they live in. With this movie being so popular for children, there is a false depiction of Middle Eastern countries for many American children who have no other experience of Middle Eastern culture. All of the characters carry swords and are dressed in turbans throughout the movie. The stereotyping does not stop here though, even in the first song of the movie the lyrics have a terrible depiction of the Middle East.

Oh, I come from a land, from a faraway place
Where the caravan camels roam
it's flat and immense
And the heat is intense
It's barbaric, but hey, it's home

These lyrics perfectly show how Aladdin falsely interprets the Middle East. These movies have terrible effects on our country due to the false images flowing into the minds of children watching a seemingly innocent movie. There needs to be more movies created to correct these problems we face, but nothing will ever truly be able to completely fix the mistakes Disney made by creating Aladdin.

Disney and Orientalism

Edward Said describes how Europeans defined themselves in opposition to Orientals. They defined their culture as ordered, civilized and rational in contrast to the irrational, mysterious, and backward. For Europe in a colonial era, the East served as the other for the West to establish the superiority of their culture and way of life. Said describes the prevalence of the myths and stereotypes about the East even when presented with realistic portrayals of even first hand observation of the East.

Because of the prevalence of Orientalism in out culture, even today, our first experiences of the East are through an orientalist perspective, presenting the East as exotic and strange. Most children watch countless Disney movies countless times. For most of us, movies like Aladdin, The Lion King, and Mulan are our first times seeing Asian or African culture, or what we thought was Asian or African culture. These movies adhere to the old stereotypes of the East as exotic, undeveloped and present the culture of the East in opposition to our superior Western culture. Aladdin shows the middle East as mysterious, filled with thieves and animals and The Lion King portrays an Africa completely absent of people.

And although Disney movies are not realistic, as much as I wish I had a fairy godmother, when this is the first representation of something foreign, it sticks in your mind, especially as a child. The representations of the East based on such stereotypes especially directed to children, make it difficult to move beyond the underlying message that what is non-Western is somehow inferior. Orientalism is very much still present today and it is important to evaluate our culture and media to ensure more accurate portrayals of the East.

Orientalism and Me!

I’m sure I have an Orientalist mindset, even though I try not to. These stereotypes and generalizations are pervasive in our society and media: I’ve likely picked up some deep, unconscious thought processes just from the portrayal of Asians in TV and movies. It’s a similar effect that stereotypical and racist portrayals of African American men in media has on the adolescents that watch it. Even if the makers of television/movies/etc are putting an enhanced focus on to these issues, the problem isn’t fixed. People my age still are doused in media, like Homeland, that uses Middle-Eastern looking alphabets to give an intimidating and exotic effect instead of give a realistic picture of Middle Eastern culture.

It will take a consciousness of these stereotyped portrayals in society, actual effort to destroy the Orientalist stereotypes, open minds, and time. Time needs to pass because people are afraid of change, which makes perfect sense because change can be dangerous. But it also means that people will take longer (much too long in my opinion) to accept actual nuanced opinions about the Middle East and Asia. Everyone who’s capable needs to actively try to extinguish ignorance when it comes to “Orientalism”. An infinite amount of time can pass and nothing will be changed if people don’t do anything about the Orientalist thought process; hence, people need to get off their butts and do something. I would be ignorant to say that this problem will be solved immediately; hence, the need for time to pass.

If society just lets this happen… is that really the society we want to live in? This perfect equal dream that America (supposedly) stands for doesn’t exist (and likely never will), but it isn’t exactly something you should give up on. We should not allow ignorance to live freely just because we have the prerogative to let it.

The Modern Orientalism

While in recent memory we have done a great deal to become more aware of the true cultural nature of the world in many ways the west has changed little in its views of Asia. While almost all western nations have moved passed the blatant racism of our immediate past many still hold on to incorrect assumptions about the region as a whole.

One such example is the nation of Oman. While many assume this Middle Eastern nation is in a state of perpetual crisis filled with terrorists, this could not be further from the truth. In fact Oman is a rare example of a double stereotype as those who might know of the country known it is an absolute monarchy. This gives many the impression of tyrannical and power obsessed ruler when again little could be further from the truth. Oman is a modern nation that is ever rising in all respect with a deeply loved and revered monarch who is a major patron of the arts, tolerance, and modernity.

While we most certainly have come a long way from derogatory names and cultural theft the fact of matter is that Edward Said's theory of Orientalism is still alive just in a different context.

Orientalism Reflected in Cartoons

According to Edward Said (and my understanding of his point) Orientalism is a systematic unconscious categorization and representation of the "orient", Asia, and the Middle East, as foreign and strange. This representation then appears in everyday culture. It is also extremely relevant in American and European Cartoons.

Cartoons are really effected by Orientalism. When ever there is an older wise person who has some sort of involvement in magic or martial arts that person tends to be Asian. An example is Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle's master (the rat) who is dressed and voiced as an Asian. Another example is Master Fu from Miraculous Ladybug. The entirety of the Jackie Chen Cartoon combines the idea of Orientalism, with it's mistic protray of chinese artifacts as well as the main villain being a talking dragon carving, with a humanization of the characters through Jackie's niece attending a public school and Jackie's job in his grandfather's antique shop.

I find it so interesting to realize how much we (Americans) are surrounded and presented with the Orientalist ideal... Though cartoon only really touch on the wise, magical, and difference of the "orients" it still is so amazing how young people are when they are first exposed to this ideal. It makes me rethink the things I've read and watched, and also made my wonder if my own stories reflect this principle as well.

Laurence of America's Arabia

Laurence of Arabia is considered one of the most classic movies of all time. It features Peter O'Toole (as Laurence) as the protagonist, and of course there are the people of Arabia. I saw the movie when I was pretty small with my parents, maybe fourth or fifth grade. A couple of things I remember from the movie is that it was like five hours long and it took several sittings to finish, I also remember how foreign and crazy it seemed.
Looking back on it now it really had a strong influence on me and my perception of the Middle East as this crazy foreign place with all of these weird people with weird cultures and weird food etc. This is a perfect example of a movie from the 60's that portrays eastern culture through the eyes of the western stereotypes that Edward Said talks about in his book Orientalism. It is sad to see that since that time not a lot has changed in the film world. Movies like Aladdin still portray these western culture stereotypes today..

A Whole New World...Made Especially For Us

Edward Said's Orientalism examines the thought process behind the Western portrayal of legitimately the entirety of the non-Western world. American and British art, film and live performances that are meant to depict the Middle East or Asia (two vastly different parts of the world with a myriad of cultures within each) are in fact manifestations of entirely unfounded ideals that colonists created hundreds of years ago as they sought to seize control of countries in these regions. The most effective way to conquer a people, history has found, is to alienate them from what you believe is the 'right' way to exist, deciding that they are incomparably separate from you and in need of your salvation.
Middle Eastern and Asian cultures are displayed in Western entertainment as places where magic and mystery accompany barbarism filled with civilizations trapped centuries behind the advances of modern society. This thought, Said makes clear, could not be further from the truth.
As I am writing this, I realize I cannot even provide examples of what Eastern life is actually like because all I know of that part of the world is what I've seen in movies like Mulan and Aladdin. This glaring lack of accurate information serves to nourish the divides that exist between races of the West and East. And the perpetuation of negative and false stereotypes as the only available lens through which the Eastern world is viewed incites fear and prejudice towards people who do not have the capability to define for us their own identity by themselves.
The solution? Insisting that artists who elect to depict for us images of the Eastern world do so accurately with great adherence to the wide variance of culture and history. These false interpretations are not victim-less crimes - when one people are under/misrepresented at the expense of their success and agency, the whole world suffers as a result.

Orientalism in the Battle of Algiers

The Battle of Algiers, widely regarded as one of the greatest foreign films of all time, is an Italian-Algerian film from 1966 about the Algerian war, which pitted Algerian guerrilla warriors against the occupying French government. The movie itself is pretty progressive in terms of its portrayal of the Middle East, because the Algerians are the main protagonists, and, unlike many other war films from that time, it doesn't glorify warfare.

While the movie itself doesn't really perpetuate the Orientalist mindset, the film was banned in France for five years following its release because of its portrayal of the French forces and government. This ban allowed Orientalism to grow because it enforced a bias the French people already have given the war and perpetuated the stereotype of savagery and cold-bloodedness. 

Eventually the movie was released in France, but the damage for stereotypes was already done. If you're interested in foreign films or history, it's a great movie and I highly recommend it.

Orientalism In Film

Orientalism is a term used to criticize the West's colonialist view of Asian countries. The Oriental mindset is Westerners' belief that Eastern countries are mysterious, dangerous, and exotic. This traces back to the 1800s when Western nations were first colonizing in the East, and countries like Britain and France viewed Asia as an uncivilized region that existed only to be ruled and dominated. The West did not understand or know about Eastern culture and depicted the East as a bizarre place in order to justify their superiority, and to draw a boundary between the East and the West.

In Orientalism, Edward Said examines the Oriental views held by the West and works to state why these beliefs are wrong. Similar to Said, the movie Argo subtly reveals and criticizes the Oriental mindset that is prevalent in the media, particularly the film industry.

Argo is a movie based off of real events during the Iranian hostage crisis in the 1970s. In the movie, Ben Affleck's character must rescue six Americans, and does so by coming up with an elaborate plan involving a fake movie. Affleck's character pretends to be a movie producer and disguises the hostages as Canadians who are involved with the movie. While entering Iran, Affleck tells a guard that he is in the country because he needs an exotic setting for his science-fiction film. The guard bitterly says to him that he must be looking to film in specific parts of Iran because they more accurately depict Orientalism. This part of the movie shows that the guard and Iranian people are aware of Orientalism and its prevalence in Hollywood.

Orientalism does have a strong presence in films and it alters the way people view Asia. I never thought about or realized my preconceived notions about the East until learning about Orientalism. It may be impossible to completely get rid of the Oriental mindset, but we can begin by putting in an effort to learn more about the cultures in Eastern countries and to stop distancing ourselves from the East.

Orientalism in Music

Orientalism is far more present in current media then I would have ever thought. After reading Said's article about Orientalism I had not really thought much of it. After being exposed and really learning more about what the concept is, I have noticed this occurs very much in films, but also in music.

In Nicki Minaj's 2010 song "Your Love" she is seen dressing as a Geisha. This passes over the line of cultural appreciation and she has stepped foot onto cultural appropriation. Especially when this outfit and Oriental "attitude" is paired with the lyrics to the song.

When I was a Geisha he was a Samurai
Somehow I understood him when he spoke Thai "

This is not really relevant at all to what the songs message is. It keeps up with her rhyme scheme but has nothing to do with her. This is also interesting because (and she does use the word somehow in the line after) geisha's are traditionally in Japan, and in Japan they do not speak Thai. Not totally sure what language Samurai's speak but it still stands to show how she added these lines to her song moreso to keep up with her rhyme scheme.

This song is a solid example of how much Orientalism is in our present day media and life. While there is a fine line between cultural appreciation and appropriation, this song definitely falls into the appropriating side of things. Not only does she take a formal attire and change it to reveal more skin (make it more Western?) but she also generally references a culture to keep up her rhyme scheme.

 (at about 35 seconds is the shift into the Orientalist perspective)

A Whole New World

Orientalism is a western idea the east Asian countries are mysterious, dangerous, and obscure. Culture in America fosters this idea by portraying the Middle East and Asia as exotic, and uncivilized. Americans are not always conscious of this portrayal. Instead most people think that is just business as usual, which is how the idea of orientalism continues.

Throughout my childhood I unknowingly fell into the trap of orientalism. I used to watch Aladdin and not once did I think that its portrayal of the Middle East could be offensive. I thought the movie was just normal, and that everyone wore turbans. Without any prior experience a child can't know any better than what they see.

Hopefully America starts to address this issue more. Then pop culture could stop portraying the East as exotic and mysterious.

Orientalism in Movies

The classic Disney film Aladdin was for many young Americans, including myself, one of their first times seeing a representation of middle eastern culture. Although this movie came out 25 years ago, it still has an influence in our culture and in how we view the middle east. As Edward Said explained in his theory of Orientalism, this can be extremely problematic.
Movies and other forms of media like Aladdin portray the "East" as a backwards and exotic place based on centuries old stereotypes. These stereotypes are reinforced in people every time they watch a movie like Aladdin and even if you think you are impervious to being influenced by an animated children's movie musical, remember that it is a children's movie. By showing a movie like this to impressionable children, we are putting these stereotypes in their heads for a long time.
Slowly, we are finally beginning to move past these stereotypes and the Orientalist mindset described by Said. However, we still have a long way to go as seen in the fact that every time a movie portrays middle eastern or Asian culture with accuracy, it's big news.

Raiders of the Lost Advertising

Many people have yet to notice the kind of impact Orientalism has had on the modern world. A lot of the settings for movies and TV shows have been seen to describe the middle east as exotic and wild place through companies such as Disney and Lucasfilms. They are just some of the groups that show these kinds of stereotypes and unique mindsets.

As a kid growing up during prime time Oriental films such as Aladdin and Indiana Jones, I was often exposed to witnessing Orientalism. Many Indiana Jones movies, in this case, were about going on adventures in wild mystic places that seemed crazy to Jones and his team. They overcame all these obstacles that you were to think would be there but it's was all rather just an over-exaggeration. The whole plot for Steven Spielberg´s movies he made for Indiana Jones were about finding hidden treasures, escaping booby traps, and learning the history and philosophies about some south american and eastern worlds.

Some of the sets portray these countries as being psychotic when actually they're just like any other place in the world trying to survive. If you were to walk around the sets of Indiana Jones then you´d realize what these places portrayed themselves as. They often were wild violent towns and jungles but in real life they´re actually peaceful. This representation continues a pool of false advertising that continues to grow the Oriental mindset.

Overall, Indiana Jones is a good representation of Orientalism. The producers did a good job at making sure these places seemed the most extreme. Using these developing countries as the mecha of all exotic civilization helped them gain attention but further strained the stereotypes of Orientalism.

Unmasking the Ghost In The Shell: Orientalism's Phantom Pains in Film Adaptation

As a film enthusiast and past student of many film classes here at OPRF, the art of adapting a film to a new time period, stylistic direction, or audience seems equal parts intimidating intriguing. The director's task of competently utilizing a remake's source material while also attempting to give the film a distinctive identity is a daunting game of balance. Remaking a film, in short, is an artistic, risk-versus-reward question that only the director can answer. While critics oftentimes consider a bad remake to be a poor or inaccurate reflection of the original source material, accuracy, to me, should be the last thing that any filmgoer should look for in a film adaptation - the first thing they should see is a competently made film.

The current stigma of Western filmmakers warping or "Westernizing" any source material originating from the East, while still relevant, is grossly misinterpreted and decontextualized to a point where the film itself loses relevance in the controversy. Note that when I talk about "Westernized" films, I'm not referring to movies that depict Eastern culture in a traditional, bleak manner, like The Great Wall (2017) or arguably the Karate Kid film series, but movies that seek to adapt films of Eastern origin or with strong Eastern influence, such as The Last Airbender (2010) or live action adaptations of Japanese manga series. These two approaches to bringing Eastern media or elements overseas, despite seeming similar in the context of the definition of Orientalism, are distinct from one another. As the former's target material for adaptation is Eastern culture as a whole movies of its type can easily be classified as reinforcing Orientalist mindsets, usually the result of the filmmaker lacking a sufficient, multi-cultural background to properly portray the East within its own context. On the other hand, the former has the capability and excuse to tamper with elements of its source material to satisfy the filmmaker's style or artistic view. Such changes, in my opinion, cannot and should not be association with the perpetuation of Orientalist portrayals of the East, as they tamper with how a piece of media should be adapted and not an entire culture. Film adaptations should not be targeted as appropriations of the region of origin's source material, but as strong or weak films.

The biggest example of this idea as of late is the upcoming film Ghost In The Shell, which adapts a Japanese manga that was previously adapted as one of the most successful anime films ever made. One of the major controversies surrounding the release of the film's first trailer was the casting of Scarlett Johansson as The Major, a character who many critics thought should be best portrayed by an actor of Japanese descent, as it was heavily implied that the manga version of the character was Japanese. Johansson and director Rupert Sanders were effectively being accused of white-washing the character of The Major and, to an extent, the beloved story of the Ghost In The Shell manga. However, this controversy has recently become an open-and-shut case in favor of the director's artistic view on the source material -  straight from the mouth of the original anime film's director, Mamoru Oshii. In an email interview with IGN, he stated his belief that Johansson was chosen not with an Orientalist intent, but because she was simply the best possible actress for the role. According to him, "[i]n the movies, John Wayne can play Genghis Khan, and Omar Sharif, an Arab, can play Doctor Zhivago, a Slav. It's all just cinematic conventions...If that's not allowed, then Darth Vader probably shouldn’t speak English, either ... I can only sense a political motive from the people opposing it, and I believe artistic expression must be free from politics." To sum up, Rupert Sanders was essentially passed down the torch to adapt the next film adaptation of the Ghost in the Shell franchise with whatever creative liberties he sees fit. Film adaptation is a transformative art, and the dangers of associating ideas like Orientalism with creative freedom, while not paranoid, risk severely limiting the adaptation process. As stated by Oshii, "[i]f this is to be a remake of the anime, I don't think it's necessary to remain faithful to the way things were expressed in the anime. The director should exercise his directorial freedom as much as possible. If he doesn't do so, there would be no point in remaking it." 

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Movies and Orientalism

Edward Said states that because Western world was in power and dominated the East the myth they created about East influenced their judgment of culture and people from those regions which Said calls an Orientalism.
Movies in our society are mostly dominated by western cultures therefore Orientalism can be seen almost in every movie produced. For example The Great Wall(2017), The Mummy(1999), Kung Fu Panda(2008), Doctor Strange(2016) to list few.
In The Great Wall movie Chinese people are perceived as mysterious and incredible fighters in warrior armor. As well as Kung Fu Panda and The Great Wall idealise Chinese women to be very elegant, beautiful, good fighters and violent as well.
The Mummy is stereotyping Egyptians as if all of them have a camel and machete.
In the Doctor Strange he visits the Kamar-Taj city which depicts Asian country specifically can be inferred to be India. It proves this stereotypical idea of what they wear and how they talk did not change in the past fifty years.
Orientalism is still in our everyday lives because we are so used to seeing it we do not realise how wrong it is until someone points it out.

Do Not Eat Trolls

20th Century Fox and Dreamworks' movie Trolls depicts how some people are trying to find an easier way to get happy by feeding off the happiness of others. As Trolls are the happiest creatures in the movie's universe where they are eaten by Bergens to gain happiness. The main character, Branch, who became the unhappiest Troll because he blames himself for the death of his grandmother. The creators used irony, hyperbole, situational humor and sarcasm to depict the unhappiness of a character and constant happiness of the other until the very end. It also aspires little children to find happiness inside of themselves rather than feeding off other people.
When Poppy's friends were kidnapped by Bergens she rushes to find Branch who is supposedly knows everything about bargains she uses hyperbole:
Poppy: Branch, we just got attacked by a Bergen.
Branch: A Bergen
Poppy: It took everybody!
Branch because of his sad and negative nature uses a lot of sarcasm and irony everytime Poppy has a positive attitude or uses hyperbole as above.
Branch: Why don't you try scrap booking them too freedom?
She gets annoyed with him and asks him if he will stay in his bunker forever. Branch replies with hyperbole:
Branch: Forever? No. Yeah, I really only have enough supplies down here to last me 10 years, 11 if I'm willing to store and drink my own sweat, which I am. You all said I was crazy, huh? Well, who's crazy now? Me, crazy prepared!
Later in the story we find out that Branch's singing was at fault of his grandmother's death. Every time Poppy starts to sing his response is:
Branch: Do you have to sing?
Poppy: I always sing when I'm in a good mood.
Branch: Do you have to be in a good mood?
Poppy: Why wouldn't I be? By this time tomorrow, I'll be with all my friends. I wonder what they're all doing right now.Branch: Probably being digested.
He uses sarcasm again to cover up his emotions. The whole movie consists of Poppy trying to force Branch to be happy and hearing sarcastic or ironic responses from Branch. Branch is the character that is supposed to be represented to be the person that find happiness inside from guidance of his friend Poppy. Bergens on other hand just straight up eat Trolls every year to stay happy. 
Then there is some adult jokes that were quite out of place such as short conversation between Branch and a minor character. Such conversations were most likely used to keep adults also interested in the movie or something to internally laugh at and ignore kid's demands of explaining the jokes.
Branch: You don't get sarcasm, do you?
Cooper: I think I had a sarcasm once.
In the end it shows two kinds of people that seek happiness from others. One kind is the one that swallows happiness of the other person to become happy like Bergens do and another kind is the one that finds happiness inside with guidance of other happy people.
Link to the trailer:

Growing Up With Orientalism

It is pretty unanimously accepted that stereotyping is dangerous, and Orientalism is just one large example of this. Orientalism is a mindset widely conformed with, and was characterized by Edward Said. Children are exposed to this mindset in the media, and thus it becomes an idea that many continue to hold until it is challenged.

Children's movies such as "Aladdin," "The Lion King," and more adult-oriented movies such as "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" instill and reinforce these orientalist values throughout stages of life.

Without the heavy influence of Orientalism and the need to define the unknown, people would overall be more understanding, respectful, and aware of what different cultures are actually like, which would be beneficial to everyone.

Executive Orientalism 13769

In Orientalism, Edward Said argues that Europeans defined themselves by defining Orientals. Said states that the ¨Orient was almost a European invention.¨ Said contends that many Western countries have traditions of coming to terms with Eastern countries in a way that reduces those countries to their role in the Western experience. An orientalist viewpoint has helped define Western identity by being an ¨other¨ that they can compare their culture to. Western culture defines its values as moral and just by defining the Eastern culture as malicious. Although Said wrote this study in 1978, the ideas present are still very relevant today. In my opinion, his theory can be aptly applied to the modern day political atmosphere.

Said´s main argument is that through a history of colonization and imperialism, Westerners have established stereotypes and myths about the people from Eastern countries. These stereotypes are usually negative, and oftentimes dehumanizing. Said focuses on how the stereotypes appear in art and literature throughout history, but these dangerous myths about Eastern politics can also be found shaping American politics. For example, the very nature of the president´s Executive Order 13769 can be partially attributed to an Orientalist mindset as Edward Said defines it. The president drew on myths about people of Middle-Eastern descent to order a travel ban to be enacted, barring people from six countries from entering the US. Specifically, the order used an Orientalist viewpoint to falsely and dangerously perpetuate stereotypes about Muslim people. The president stereotyped all people from these six countries as a danger to the American people to further the divide between ¨us¨ and ¨other.¨ By widening this gap, the president is able to easily misconstrue America as completely distinct and inherently superior to Eastern cultures.

But defining America through separations and bans does not elevate out culture, it does not ¨make America great again.¨ Instead, it transforms America into a place that is stuck in racist trends of the past, unable to move forward. I think that we as a country should do as Said would suggest and open this subject up for discussion and analysis, and through that, we can move forward.

Legally Blonde

Aristotle states that comedy is a meaningful form of art. There is a lot of examples of comedies that prove his statement. One example is from character comedy, Legally Blonde. The movie might seem absurd and even childish at first. The movie brings many issues women used to encounter in satirical way. When Elle, main character, got into Harvard law school her ex boyfriend was shocked because she is blond or in other words being pretty.
Elle: This is what I need to become.
Old Lady at Manicurist: What? Practically deformed?
Elle: No, a law student.
Once she became successful he wanted to get back together. Her boss wanted her to perform sexual favors to get the job.
She was stereotyped based on her looks but the movie made them humorous and she kept her high confidence.


Orientalism is a dangerous mindset, and one that has been embedded in much of the worlds view.  The media that is portrayed about the cultures and people in these areas is largely to blame.  For years they would depict different cultures with incorrect imagery that is quite insulting.  Even with a shift in the world view the damage has already been done.

When I was in first grade my parents sat me and my siblings down to tell us something.  We were moving to Africa for his job.  My siblings and I were absolutely distraught, mostly because of our ill informed idea of what Africa was really going to be like.  We'd grown up watching "The Lion King," "Tarzan," and "Curious George."  Of course when we arrived it was nothing like any of those movies.  I remember on the car ride from the airport my six year old brother asked our parents, "Where are all the elephants?"

Of course these are children's movies and without a certain amount of creative assumption they wouldn't be successful.  However the amount the media has managed to distort what a place and people really are, in such an insulting way,  is ridiculous.

An Empiricentric World View

In Edward Said's Orientalism, he says that one of the most important things to realize is that the Europeans defined themselves by defining the Orientals. In the same way, the Western culture defines its values as good by defining the Eastern culture as bad. An empiricentric lens captures the same ideas that Said defined.

An empiricentric world view recognizes only the directly empirical aspects of reality and misunderstands all other aspects of reality. It is a very subtle form of "common-sense realism" that assumes that because we experience the world, then it must be an absolute reality and it has been relied upon as the foundation for inquiries into the nature of reality. The empiricentric approach attempts to comprehend reality only through the lens of an empirical world view. When discussing issues within the empirical world, one can rely on Western assumptions about the world, but when discussing issues within the wider reality one must go further than Western minds are generally used to. Western culture has typically dominated the Eastern culture, and has the ability to continue its reign, even though the differences can be minuscule.

For example, in most Western cultures, maintaining eye contact while talking to someone is a sign of respect. In Eastern countries, however, eye contact can be seen as inappropriate. When we hear that eye contact is inappropriate and disrespectful in other cultures, our first reaction is to question it and immediately label it as wrong. Because the Western World has the ability to broadcast their beliefs, the Eastern culture can easily be devalued.

There are many differences between the Eastern and Western cultures of our world. Edward Said draws out these contrasting beliefs in his theory of Orientalism. Today, the consequences of having an Orientalist mindset can cause us to be closed off and not understanding of a different way of life. In order to move past this mindset, we must learn to be open and to not initially right of another's differing opinion as ¨wrong¨.

A Passage To Black Communities

As Said mentions in his book “Orientalism,” it is impossible to untangle from colonial influences, whether you are the colonizer or the colonized. He connected it briefly to American racism; when the history of a nation is saturated with racial prejudice, its people’s biases are inherently racist.

In the United States’ case, the Orientalist mindset extends beyond the colonized and colonizers. Those of European descent (whites) certainly perpetuate the exotic, spiritual, paganistic stereotype of Native Americans, but Black and Latino cultures are also painted with broad, generally harmful, and largely inaccurate strokes.

This American Orientalist mindset was clearly evident in President Trump’s campaign when he asserted that Black communities are in a worse shape than ever before, and that if you “take a look at the inner cities, you get no education, you get no jobs, you get shot walking down the street. They're worse -- I mean, honestly, places like Afghanistan are safer than some of our inner cities.” Said’s main problem with Orientalism - that it diminishes the diverse groups in the “Orient” by generalizing myriad cultures and presenting them as inferior to those in the West - has never been more applicable.

Most glaringly, President Trump failed to mention that the institution of slavery was integral in robbing Black Americans of their safety and liberty by sparking nationwide prejudice against Black Americans. This omission shifted the blame from the oppressors to the oppressed. It is not simply inaccurate to argue that no Black Americans have an education, a job, or basic security when taking a walk in their neighborhood; it illustrates all Black people as having inferior intelligence and financial stability to White people. It implies that all Black people are constantly engaged in senseless violence - not only the ones who get shot walking down the street, but those who shoot, who President Trump may not name, but certainly assumes are also Black. At the root of President Trump’s comment lies an argument that presents Black communities as inferior, uncivilized, and barbaric. Sound familiar?

Abstract Orientalism

Orientalism is a term used to coin the idea that Westerners (specifically Britain and the U.S.) misinterpret culture and social description of the middle east, while also falsely highlighting the differences between the East and the West-- ultimately creating an ¨us¨ and a ¨them¨.

One of the definitions of Orientntalism branches off of domination in which Westerners use Orientalism as a way of ruling over the orient by possessing the belief that the West is ¨better¨ than the East. Due to post-colonialism, Westerners had formed the idea that the East was inferior, and too different to be of equal importance and merit.

Growing up watching things like Aladdin as a child, it is easy to fall into an orientalist mindset. Only now that I have personally learned about Orientalism and just how prominent and built into the culture that it really is, I can . From novels, pictures, paintings, and the media, almost every contact we as citizens have had with the middle east has been Orientalist imagery. Through the constant depiction of the Middle East as somewhere with only deserts, belly dancers, and political unrest, Orientalism has a strong hold on U.S. beliefs.

Through configurations of power as well as false interpretations of the East, Westerners have developed a false impression of the Orient, that may, at this point, be irreversible.

Creating a Whole New World

Disney is known for creating stories about far away places full of magic and mystery. As a child these stories are enjoyed with a naive innocence, but as we've grown up there are plenty of red flags throughout these stories. Disney is guilty of orientalism and portraying Eastern culture as a wild and mysterious place to the West.

Take Aladdin for example. The opening song, Arabian Nights, uses the lyrics, "It's barbaric, but hey, its home." This word choice dehumanizes Aladdin and his home. The audience is supposed to be intrigued and curious about this wild place, but in fact the audience is losing a connection with the humanity of this story. The very first song creates a scene of the wild and inhuman world that Aladdin lives in. This is Western dominance at its finest.

It's difficult to be critical of the stories that we all grew up with. The musicals of these far away places that led kids to believe the East was a whole different world. Really these stories are just being used to promote the greatness of Western culture. The plot of Aladdin is very Western, the whole rags to riches idea. Everyone can pull themselves up by the boot straps and be successful. Orientalism is about taking the stereotypes of the East and using them to promote the "winning" qualities of the West.

Language and Orientalism

One of the most prevalent ways that Orientalism shows its face in the present day is through the simultaneous exploitation and ridicule of languages of Asia. From Arabic to Chinese, oftentimes these languages are conflated but at the same time exploited for their “exotic” features and then used as decoration.

One of the most common forms of ridicule of a language occurs when someone pretends to speak a language, such as Arabic, by uttering sounds that are stereo-typically associated with that language. These sorts of actions again in some ways create a false dominance of European Languages at the expense of Asian languages. In fact, many people do not realize that languages such as Hindi and Farsi are linguistically related to the vast majority of languages spoken in Europe, as they belong to the same linguistic family.

Furthermore, many of these languages receive further ridicule through other stereotypes that stem from the Orientalist mindset. For example, following terrorist attacks on the United States and increased xenophobia towards Middle Eastern countries, Arabic, as represented through the media and popular culture, has itself become associated with terrorism. This association takes away the cultural richness and complexity of the Arabic language, and only places it in one light. Again, this displays the mindset of dominance of European and Western language and culture.

While these languages are often placed in a stereotypical light, aspects of each are at the same time exploited. One simple example of this is typography. There are billions of fonts that try to represent an Arabic, Devanagari, Chinese or Japanese “style” by changing the Latin script to mirror those scripts. The problem with these fonts is that they take elements of each language because they may look “exotic” or “cool” but they fail to capture any cultural significance of the language itself. Of course, it would be unrealistic, in combating Orientalism and its stereotypes, to expect a person to become fluent in every language. However, having an understanding and appreciation for the cultural significance attached to language can go a long way.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Orientalism Now

Many people believe that Orientalism is a mindset of the past. However, there are many depictions of the East that are extremes or just a small part that is falsely representing the whole. Many theme parks, movies, and tv shows that illustrate an Orientalist perspective of the way of life. For example, many stereotypes are embedded throughout Disney movies such as The Lion King. Places in the East are often generalized and the cultural differences are lost among the stereotypes. The repetition of stereotypes only continues the Orientalist mindset.

A Historical Take on Orientalism

It would be extremely hard to make a convincing argument that Western culture does not perpetuate a eurocentric narrative. Through everything from pop culture to history books, the West makes sure it's lens clearly defines the other, making sure that the white man is always on top. Edward Said's theory of Orientalism is just another wrench in the West's toolbox.

It's very easy to say that Said's 1978 book doesn't apply anymore. In the age of political correctness, how could we get away with perpetuating biased and sometimes (more often than not) racist notions of Asia and the Middle East? But surprise, we aren't living in a post colonial world. And honestly, I don't think we ever will be. Colonialism is part of world history, there's no denying that. What we can change, however, is the way the past oppressors portray those they oppressed.

Take Great Britain, for example. One of the emblems of the Western world, the empire which the sun always kisses, the birthplace of industrialism. Britain's prosperity came from their colonization of India, which served as a market for their textiles. As industrialism swept the nation, mechanization of production cause a mass surge of goods with no market except for, of course, their colony. Thus, they thrived.

Ignoring this colonization is equivalent to ignoring Britain's prosperity, which, I assure you, no Westerner is wont to do. In fact, ignoring the colonization and its effects reduces the agency of the colonized. But our mainstream culture does just that. Mystifies the Orient, dehumanizing those who live there, those who call it their home.

Aladdin, Mulan, The Jungle Book -- all seemingly innocent movies that, in fact, perpetuate a dangerous narrative which ignores an entire portion of world history. How can we claim post-colonialism when we're still acting like we're the ones in charge?

Political Satire in Memento

This past weekend I watched Christopher Nolan's Memento. Through two separate storylines (with one moving forward in time and the other moving backwards) Memento depicts the struggles of Leonard, an ex-insurance investigator plagued with short-term memory loss as he attempts to find the murderer of his wife. A mystery-thriller, Memento is by no means a traditional satire. Memento subtly comments on several political issues currently facing the United States. Namely, Memento addresses the topical issues of health-care and gun control.

About halfway through the forward moving storyline of Memento, Leonard recalls experiences he had as an insurance investigator working on the "Sammy Jankis" case. After a car accident, Sammy Jankis was affected by short-term memory loss. In order to cover the expensive costs of Sammy's treatment, Sammy's wife filed an insurance claim with Leonard's company. Eventually, Leonard was called in to assess the validity of Sammy's claim. After conducting numerous tests on Sammy, Leonard determined that Sammy's condition was psychological not physical. Sammy's claim was then turned down on the grounds that he wasn't covered for mental illness.

Leonard acknowledges throughout the course of Memento that Sammy's wife was crippled by the costs of supporting Sammy and appealing the decision of the insurance company. Still, Leonard, who received a promotion after closing the Jankis case, maintains his innocence, claiming that he "never said Sammy was faking. Just that his problem was mental, not physical." Leonard serves as an apologist for insurance companies.

The Sammy Jankis story line is a prime example of satire. In order to compel governmental reform, abuses made by insurance agencies are spotlighted. Leonard's approval of insurance companies, who regularly turn a blind eye to human suffering, represents a form of intense sarcasm. In fact, the producers, writers, and director of Memento vehemently disagree with Leonard's opinions. Put another way, Memento laughs at insurance agencies, not with them.

Along the backward moving storyline of Memento, Leonard is tricked into pursuing a man by the name of Dodd. After brutally interrogating Dodd, Leonard comes to realize that Dodd is not his wife's killer. To keep Dodd from going to the police, Leonard threatens Dodd with a gun he happened to find in the hotel room he was staying at. When he discovers the gun in his room, Leonard remarks, "A gun? Why would I have a gun? It must be his. I don't think they'd let someone like me carry a gun. Fucking hope not." These lines of dialogue pointedly criticize the United States government for maintaining the rights of mentally ill individuals to bear arms. The scene makes use of dramatic irony - the audience knows that the gun belongs to Leonard - in demonstrating that certain individuals should be prevented from obtaining a gun. The scene serves as a call to action for reasonable gun control reform.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Orientalist Mindsets from as East as Possible

I definitely think that Americans, and most of the Western world, is still suffering from their ancestors' Orientalist perception of the world. While Edward Said was more focused on what we now called the Middle East in his discussion, I am better acquainted with East Asia myself. Regardless, I see similar Orientalist mindsets toward that area.

I cannot deny that I have noticed myself and my family and friends thinking lesser of people from the East. The biggest example to me was actually the byproduct of my mindset: When I went to Japan for 6 weeks, I was surprised when I realized that my host family was just like my American one. As strange as it sounds, my surprise is what surprised me! Of course my family would act like a family! I came to realize that my expectations for living in Asia had been way lower than I thought. I was surprised that everyone treated each other with respect and that my new lifestyle didn't feel oppressive in any way, just different.

I had always considered myself as above that kind of thinking before my exchange, but then I realized how blind I had been. Upon my return, a big thing I noticed was Western people commenting on the Japanese language when they heard me speak it or saw me write it. Once, a family member overheard me talking on the phone to my host mother and said that I sounded "like a goat, bleating." And if I had a dollar for every time I've heard "Mira, your brain just must be different! I could never write like that!"

While I don't think that it's as damaging as literally conquering countries was in the heyday of Orientalism, these kinds of comments/attitudes still reinforce a divide between us Westerners and, in this case, East Asia. Comparing the language to animal sounds or saying that Japanese brains simply must be different can hardly be defended as perceiving us as equal. Spoiler: The way Americans say "yeah" sounds like a goat too. And if you grew up in Japan, you'd learn to read and write it just fine.

But because of how subliminal these messages can be, staying in the Western world can easily warp them to appear as the truth/correct way of thinking. I think the way to break out of it is really encouraging people to keep open minds and exposing them to different cultures and experiences from an early age. If Westerners have the opportunity to travel, I'd highly encourage them to take it and go somewhere where they are the minority.

That realization I had in Japan was truly life changing. It allowed me to understand more about family dynamics and the human experience in general. Going to Japan and finding a family that loved me and each other all the same shouldn't have come as a surprise to me. And all languages were born from the innate human desire to communicate with each other. Despite what the Orientalist mindset may tell you about the intelligence, character, or trustworthiness of people in the East, I can assure you now there is not that much difference!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Where, exactly, is this supposed to be?

When people think of the Universal Studios theme park, post-Orientalism is probably not what comes to mind first. When I entered the park last November, I wasn't expecting to find what I did: an entire section of the park devoted to an "Arabian" theme. Looking around the "Arabian market" with blankets hanging from the ceiling and rugs adorning the floor, it became clear that Disney's Agrabah was not the only Oriental stereotype in Orlando. There were advertisements plastered on the walls for a performance of Sindbad's Eighth Voyage (despite there only being seven original stories) complete with colorful new characters added to the legend, like Sindbad's sidekick, "Kabob". The photographs of the characters were complete with turbans, small vests, baggy pants, and pointed shoes. Shoppers could purchase food from the "kebab hut", souvenirs from "mythical metals" or a psychic reading. Tired park-goers could take a rest by the "Mystic Fountain", an attraction that told offensive jokes in a racist Chinese accent for children. English signs were written in a font that seemed to imitate Sanskrit, jungle-like plants surrounded the paths, and stereotypical flute music with plenty of harmonic scales played throughout. Overall, the layout gave me the impression the planners just tried to cram every Orientalist stereotype possible into one section of the park.
Image result for the lost continent universal
Walking through the park gave me a bit of culture shock, especially because the park isn't leftover from a long time ago: it opened in 1999. Reading Edward Said's Orientalism gave me a lot of insight into how stereotypes manifested in this form. The stereotypical appearance of the park paired with its constant references to magic crossed my mind several times while I was reading through Said's paper. The park completely cashes in on the commercial aspects of Orientalism: how it's often used to sell exciting books or movies. Westerners, especially Americans, love to be cultural tourists in whatever way is most convenient. By having the "best" of Oriental culture at our fingertips without even leaving the states is the pinnacle of Orientalism: all the wild magic and mystery with none of the actual expansion of your horizons.

Mulan: Set in China, Japan, or Who Cares?

Orientalism is defined by Said (2001, p. 1991) as “a way of coming to terms with the Orient that is based on the Orient’s special place in European Western experience”, that is domination of Western ideals over the East. Disney movies were always such a huge part of my childhood, but I never realized the stereotyped ideals and Western perceptions of the East. One movie that shows these characteristics is Mulan.
Mulan showcases the idea that people of the Orient worship and are devoted to their ancestors. This is shown through Disney’s portrayal of Mulan’s ancestors, who characterize the idea of mystery and connection with the spirit often associated with people of the Orient. The film also has several Asian motifs throughout including cherry blossoms, chopsticks and Asian style costumes. It is as though the West considers China and Japanese cultures as one, which completely disregards the significant differences between the two worlds. Similarly, all of the characters in Mulan are characterized in the same way- yellow skin, thin lips, small eyes- even though real Asian people all have different characteristics. Also, they had set lots of prototypes which are so-called ‘Asian’ things. Characters eat with chopsticks, drink tea after the dinner, go around with bare feet. The problem is that some of those settings don’t make sense. For example, when they portray Mulan, her outfits and makeups are much similar to that of Japan’s rather than China’s. She wears the cloth similar to Japanese traditional cloth ‘Kimono’, and her hairstyle is the one which was famous in Japan at that time. Furthermore, the flower that is mainly used in the movie to emphasize the theme is cherry blossoms, which is the national flower of Japan. 
Also, there are items that don’t fit the time background; people wear glasses and the Great Wall appears in the movie even though it didn’t exist in the time period during which the story of Mulan took place. Mulan used dynamite as a major tool to defeat the enemies, but dynamite also was not invented at that time. Whether the directors knew this or not, this could be considered as one kind of Orientalism since they thought of Asian culture as one, and didn’t care if things became mixed.

Orientalism: The Western Mindset of Doom

As a quick review, orientalism is the Western imitation or depiction of certain aspects of Middle Eastern and Asian cultures.  The term began to surface shortly after European countries gained power.  They viewed these other countries as "exotic" and "mysterious" which resulted with their ethno-centric attitudes.

An example of Orientalism in Western cinema is Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.
In the film, Indian Jones finds himself in India after running away from China.  Once there, an Indian tribesmaid brings Indiana back to his village.  There, Indiana and his group finds a Kali-Worshiping cult that has taken over the village, enslaved it's children, and is serving food including monkey brains, a snake with beetles cooked inside, and many other foods that are represented as "cultural food" when in fact, it is nothing remotely similar to the accurate foods of Indian culture.  Not to mention, in the palace, it is discovered that there is a cult still practicing immoral activities such as removing a live person's heart for the Hindu goddess Kali.  May I add the victim's heart is removed by hand and then lowered into an underground pit of lava.

Cinema has been a giant enabler of orientalism throughout the years.  The stereoetypes created by Western cultures create these negative views of these other cultures only because they seem "bizarre" to them.  However, any way that is not there's will always be bizarre.  But, that of course does not make it right to create these motion pictures with inaccurate depictions of the Indian culture and beliefs. That goes for any other Middle Eastern and Asian cultures as well.

Life As an Asian American

I am half Indian and half American. My father is Indian and my mother is American. I have grown up in America my entire life and I have never set foot in India. However, I imagine that my reaction to India would be similar to the reaction I had when I visited South America: awe and amazement at the differences between western culture and other cultures. To me, India is an exotic place and extremely foreign to me. I see major differences between here and India, which is exactly how most of the West sees Asia. The west sees Asia as exotic and different and mysterious and somewhat less civilized compared to America. Although Asia is somewhat mysterious and different to me, unlike others, I have been exposed to Indian culture by hearing my father converse in Hindi, as well as by eating my grandma's indian food and worshipping the hindu gods during celebration.

I am confused by seeing India from my dad and grandparents point of view and being exposed to the western idea of Asia, which I know is wrong. I think both western thoughts as well as eastern thoughts, which makes me vulnerable to caving into the West's ideas of dominance to civilize the east with a democratic government and western ideals. I believe that the problem is the lack of publicized and televised culture of India. If America were to expose themselves to true footage and life in India (which is slowly occurring), then more people would understand the similarities and differences in our cultures and would acknowledge that because there was British colonization in India, India has many parallels with America and is therefore less mysterious.

King of the Orientalist Mindset

Disney's movie "The Lion King" is a favorite of many children in the United States and worldwide. The story of a little lion cub suffering through the death of his father and meeting new animal friends to help him conquer his evil uncle and become the Lion King is an uplifting one. The songs about letting go of worries, finding true love, coming to terms with death, and accepting responsibility teach the audience of the movie many valuable life lessons. So what's the problem with this an inspiring plot and beautiful soundtrack?

There are no people in sight. Surely, the movie is about the animal kingdom, but don't you think it portrays Africa as being deserted? The idea of the movie taking place in Tanzania, a highly populated African country, with no people in sight is slightly offensive. The imagery of animals roaming the land with jungles surrounding and civilization out of sight contributes to the idea that Africa is a place of wilderness.

Orientalism is the stereotypical representation of a unique or different place. One could argue that "The Lion King" is a good example of this. The movie adds to the stereotypes that Africa is far behind Europe and America in terms of development.  It makes the country seem inferior because of its lack of civilization and focus on the exotic animals.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

What? Noo

Generally, I think that we do have an Orientalist mindset. While some of these stereotypes may be true, we often over-exaggerate these stereotypes and use them to negatively depict our fellow human beings. From various media portrayals of the "exotic" East to preconceived stories about non-Western countries, I believe that we have fallen victim to the Orientalist mindset.

We can see the orientalist mindset portrayed in several films ranging from A Passage to India to Aladdin and in some TV series like Samurai Jack. In these media portrayals, the Eastern culture is depicted to be insanely different than Western culture. These media portrayals make it seem like crazy monkey people, mystical genies, forced marriages, and intense martial arts are daily life in the unknown land of the East. Growing up with Disney and such cartoons inspired our childhood minds into believing whatever the TV showed us. With TV being a significant part of our lives these days, all of these movies and TV shows make a dent in our originally fair idea of the East.

Additionally, the one big terrorist catastrophe of America has accentuated our Oriental views. In 2001, when Muslims bombed an American building, our mindset immediately switched from a decent outlook on Muslims to a completely impractical idea that all Muslims are terrorists. Our ignorance of Islam makes us more likely to construe these false ideas: exaggerating the jihad section of the Islamic religion. Furthermore, the recent travel ban has definitely showcased our Orientalist nature. Even if it is for our national safety, the idea that we want to place an immigration ban on all densely populated Muslim countries stems from our Orientalist mindset.

Personally, I have experienced the Oriental mindset from several people. This is a small thing, but by being Indian, I have been asked throughout my life if I am vegetarian (which I am not, I love my hot dogs). Many Americans believe that all Indians are vegetarian because of the small piece of Hinduism they heard-- the "sacred cow" belief (not that all of them are wrong, many Indians are vegetarian, but many are not as well). Also, numerous people have asked me if there are cell phones and cities in India. Yes, there are both cell phones and cities with skyscrapers in India. Our preconceived notion is that there are just billions of people on the side of the road struggling to get food. Just last Tuesday in one of my classes, I overheard these kids talking and one of them said, "thank god we don't live in India where it's so poor and overcrowded that they're just shitting on each other" (side-note: I have actually been to India and can safely say that people aren't doing that).

Overall, our Oriental mindset has left Easterns vulnerable to attack and defenseless in their own battle. When we press these ideas into our minds, we grow impervious to other interpretations-- even if that interpretation may be the correct one. As for moving beyond it, we probably just need to be more educated. With a better understanding of the world around us, then maybe we won't be so quick to form misconstrued opinions.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Hidden Meanings

The film Aladdin is well known for its claim to being one of the most popular Disney movies of its time. Indeed, it is easy to see how children would find its vibrant imagery, setting, catchy songs, and plot enchanting. However, these elements, among others, sneakily instill Orientalism into the minds of those who watch it, especially children. Whether they were aware of it or not, the creators illustrate the Middle East using worn-out, occasionally offensive stereotypes that maintains the long-held belief that the West is civilized and the East is barbaric, mysterious, and unfamiliar.

The Orientalism is evident from the very beginning of the movie. In the original opening song, there are several questionable lyrics masked by a catchy tune, including:
"Oh I come from a land, from a faraway place. . . It's barbaric, but hey, it's home."
"Where they cut off your ear if they don't like your face."
The second line, in fact, caused so much controversy that, after a costly lawsuit, Disney re-released the film with the line replaced. They did not, however, even touch the scene where Princess Jasmine, having escaped from the castle, nearly gets her armed chopped off by a merchant after taking a piece of his fruit to give to a hungry child.

Other stereotypical images in the movie include the Harem Girls during Aladdin's police chase and the general portrayal of the protagonists versus the supporting characters. The Harem Girls bring sexism to the table, with just a pinch of objectification. The scene portrays Arab women as very sexual, while at the same time maintaining the traditional stereotype of mysteriousness. The character of Jasmine also upholds this idea-the fact that she is dressed more scantily than the typical Western woman implies that Arab women are more sexual in general. The film's Orientalism is truly evident in the differences of its portrayal of main and minor characters. While Aladdin and Jasmine are very clean-cut and a relatively normal size, they shrink in comparison to minor characters, especially the villains. The police, for example, are huge in stature, with exaggerated facial features, clothing, and swords. This rings true for the previously mentioned homicidal merchant as well, who possesses similar facial features, as well as loose clothing and a sword. If appearances are not blatant enough, the movie clearly defines good and bad through accents. While all the main characters- Aladdin, Jasmine, the Genie, etc.- have American or Western accents, all the villains and minor characters have foreign accents. While the average Western viewer may not notice a thing, the film effectively instills the idea of Western superiority and Eastern savagery.

Aladdin, certainly, is not the only film that is guilty of implanting Orientalism into the minds of its viewers. However, it is an integral part of the perpetuation of Orientalism and xenophobia towards the Middle East in the West. Having said that, it is important to note that although Westerners may not directly support Orientalism and xenophobia- in fact, they might actively be fighting against it-, but they are forces that have shaped their upbringing and their lives today. As a result, many have fictional visions of the Middle East in their minds that they have taken for fact. This mindset has consequences ranging from simple ignorance to vicious hate crimes based on preconceived notions of the Middle East. The only way to move past these consequences is to be unwilling to accept ignorance and educate and diversify our society.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

The Onion Peels Back our Democracy

The Onion, a satirical news company, has recently had a much easier time collecting material due to our current political situation. In the Onion article, "Russian Officials Scrambling As Plan To Delegitimize Western Democracy Moving Way Faster Than Intended", the Onion uses understatement and irony to emphasize Russian involvement in the current presidency, and how it undermines democracy. The article starts off talking about how Trump's presidency is causing their "plan to delegitimize Western Democracy move much faster than expected". It goes on to talk about the causes, perjury allegations against Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and a possibility of Trumps impeachment. The article finishes by expressing concern for if Trump is impeached, "Lavrov went on to say he was deeply concerned that Trump’s impeachment would occur well before the president could cause the amount of damage to America that the Kremlin had originally intended."

This article gets at two present issues in our political system. The first is Russia's involvement. By taking a sarcastic tone and using extreme understatement, the article really attacks how much control the Russians have over the United States currently. The second issue is Trump's impeachment. By stating that Trumps impeachment could help stop Russian influence, it provides more incentive to get Trump out of power. Therefore this Onion article does not only satirically attack issues, it also provides solutions, which is different from other Onion articles I have encountered.

Don't Stop Me, It's Satire

Don't Hug Me, I'm Scared is a 6-episode, British web series made by filmmakers Becky Sloan and Joseph Pelling that satirizes children's televisions programs and how the television industry in general can contort simple ideas for a darker purpose. In order to fully understand this review, I recommend at least watching the first, third, and sixth episodes.
Episode 1:
Episode 2:
Episode 3:
Episode 4:
Episode 5:
Episode 6:
Each episode, with the exception of the last one, follows a formulaic pattern: the protagonists, three unnamed puppet characters, do a normal activity like playing a board game or having an picnic only to be strung into a musical number by the episode's "teacher". The topic each teacher focuses on can range from ordinary life skills like healthy eating or using the internet to broader, more subjective ideas such as creativity or love. However, each lesson, in one way or another, becomes more sinister and brutal as it goes on, often happening in short burst during the lesson and completely devolving at its closure.
Throughout the series, it is made painstakingly clear that the world that the protagonists live in is not real. The entire world of the series is made of felt and is brightly colored, which is heavily contrasted by dark imagery and sinister ideas. In the climaxes of episodes 1 and 4, there are shots that reveal things such as director's chairs, boom mics, and cameras.

The focus of each episode is not to satirize the lesson itself, but how it is taught. In the first episode, which focusses on creativity, the teacher makes great efforts to both force creativity into the lives of the protagonists and make creativity as subjective as possible. In a scene where the teacher attempts to show the protagonists how to look for shapes in clouds, the teacher tells them to "take a closer look" after they fail to find any shapes. After that line, the clouds rearrange themselves into shapes that are then sung by the puppets, implying that cloud shapes were actually made by the teacher and not the protagonists' creativity. The teacher continually attempts to limit the creativity of the yellow puppet in particular, telling him that his favorite color, green, was "not creative" and destroying a clown painting he made, telling him to slow it down. This behavior is eerily reminiscent of a dominant force giving the non-dominant masses a controlled form of freedom that completely contradicts freedom's true meaning - the teacher restricts creativity for the puppets to what it considers creativity, effectively manipulating them under the idea that they are in control.

The theme of teachers restricting typically broad ideas to specific, manipulative definitions is continued with the third episode's lesson on love. The teacher of this episode effectively forces his topic into the episode, stating that the yellow puppet's stomach was growling because he was not hungry, but lonely. He whisks away the puppet to see his "friends" who help perpetuate the lesson further. The teacher then forces his own dogma onto the yellow puppet, stating that he must save his love for his "special one", a character portrayed as a bastardized, feminized version of the puppet, and that love must be sealed with a ring, with a helper chiming in, "that's the way that all love goes", effectively teaching that heterosexual marriage is the only kind of sacred love. The teacher then guides the yelling puppet to come worship "Malcolm", a massive stone idol who the teacher and his friends call "the king of love" as a parody of religion. Soon after, the yellow puppet finds himself being indoctrinated into the cult of Malcolm, being told that his heart will find its home and that he will never lose his special one, jabbing at the hypocracy of religion's tendencies to indoctrinate followers under guises of community and love, whereas love can be felt in many different ways outside of what society associates it with. This episode, like the last one, forces a conformist, restrictive idea onto a very subjective element of life, satirizing both how easy it is for television to deliberately or non-deliberately misrepresent these ideals to maintain control over the masses and keep traditions from changing.

The ending of the series, to me, is what defines Don't Hug Me, I'm Scared as a satirical look at the possible corruption of the television industry and not a meaningless rant. After every character except for the yellow puppet has been removed from the "show", he is forced to face the episode's teacher(s) alone. However, the red puppet, after failing to come to terms with reality outside of the "show" discovers a dark secret: the show is actually a simulation implied to be created by a character named by the creators as Roy - a silent, brooding figure identified as the yellow puppet's father. The red puppet then cycles through a number of different teachers that eventually drive the yellow puppet mad. Roy stretches his hand over to the red puppet's shoulder in a sympathetic manner, seemingly trying to get him to understand his actions towards his son. The red puppet instead walks over to an oversized plug outlet powering the machine producing the teachers, intending to unplug. He stairs towards the camera asks the audience what will happen before unplugging the machine and cutting the video to black. However, the show seemingly restarts, with the three puppet characters in their exact starting positions from the first episode, but with their palettes swapped. The characters' new colorings directly parallel their favorite colors from the first episode, showing how the "show" has stayed the same, but with few, reflective changes. This idea coincides with a date emphasized throughout the series, June 19th, finally moving along to June 20th, implying that this reboot has made something in the world of the "show" fundamentally different.

To me, this ending emphasizes the message that Becky and Joe are trying to get through: while the television industry may appear to stay stagnate, it does change in subtle, meaningful ways. In this day and age, it isn't uncommon for control of the television industry to shift from those who use television for higher, more malicious purposes (Roy) to those who, despite still working within the boundaries of the industry, manage to give television heart and morals (the red puppet). Everything stays, but it still changes. Ever so slightly, in little ways.