We Must Ban the Rising Sun Flag in the Media

Imagine that you are wearing a T-shirt with the Swastika symbol and walking down the street. You would feel uncomfortable and want to take it off as soon as possible because people are staring at you, and some are even confronting you aggressively. However, nowadays, we can see many clothes with the rising sun flag symbol, which is similar to Swastika. Most people do not know the true meaning of the rising sun flag. If people knew the truth, they would never want to wear clothing with the rising sun flag, since they would treat it like the Swastika.

According to the Wanderer Online, the rising sun flag was the symbol of the Japanese empire during the 19th and early 20th century. That means, Japanese used the flag when they are fighting in the World War II (WW2). Just like the Nazi Germany, Japan committed atrocities against the humanity. During the war, the Japanese colonial administration brought females from other nations and made them sex slaves for their soldiers. Also, they conducted medical experiments on living bodies under compulsion. In addition, Japanese soldiers massacred and raped more than 200,000 defenseless civilians.

The problem with the rising sun flag is that it since people do not know the meaning behind the symbol, it keeps coming out through the media. For example, Ronda Rousey and George St. Pierre, who are famous Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) fighters, wore a uniform with an inscription of a rising sun flag during their televised fights. Furthermore, The Federal Internationale de Footbal Association (FIFA) published the rising sun flag on the cover of its October 2014 magazine. This is not the end, Beyoncé, a worldwide pop star, wore a dress with the rising sun flag in her music video Video phone, and the Air Jordan, a shoes and athletic clothing brand, released the “Air Jordan 12 Rising Sun edition.” On the edition, the rising sun flag is printed on the bottom of shoes. Media treats the rising sun flag as just oriental design. Through the exposure of the rising sun flag by the media, publics could absorb the rising flag as familiar design of Asia.

the rising sun flag edition from Air Jordan

the rising sun flag edition from Air Jordan

Beyoncé wore the rising sun flag dress in her music video

Beyoncé wore the rising sun flag dress in her music video

Even though media provided opportunities to give a familiar and oriental image to the rising sun flag, it still has chances to bounce back. According to the Associate Press, Andy Hurley, the drummer of Fall out boy, sincerely apologized about his outfit at the Victoria fashion show. Andy wore a T-shirt with the rising sun during the show. From this happening, many public had chance to get inside of the incident.

The role of media is to send information to the public, and the public is easily get influenced by the media. The media must inform the meaning of he rising sun flag so the publics stop dishonoring those who suffered under the Japanese colonial administration a century ago. In the future, I hope that I could find the rising sun flag only in the history book, not in the media.

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Racial Face Mask: Media’s Race Portrayal Through Make-up

What’s the borderline between entertainment and racism? This has been a question that has been asked for years, and as with most questions regarding issues around race and representation, there is no easy answer. America has had a long and tough history surrounding race. With the rise of media and technology came a form of entertainment called blackface, along with other variations including whiteface, yellow-face, and brown-face. Blackface involves using makeup to darken the complexion so white or non-black actors can take on black roles; the other variations involve a similar process.

Screencap from YouTube Popchip Advertisement

This isn’t just a thing of the past, although a lot less common, this practice is still visible in today’s entertainment. And we can’t stop at just movies; it’s also present in television broadcasts, video advertisements and also print advertisements as well. Stereotypes are commonly used as a way to present easy humor, but it can be difficult to portray that humor without being offensive. Ashton Kutcher received much backfire for his advertisement campaign for popchips in which he was given a darker complexion and played a Indian character named Raj. Kutcher used a racist accent and referenced stereotypes to portray a Bollywood movie producer looking for love, there was no reference to the actual product, at first glance the viewer would not realize it was a advertisement for popchips. Aside from the Raj character Kutcher also played other stereotypes including a Hippie, a biker, and a diva. Many people used social media to express their concerns, but others failed to see any racist elements.

Examples of blackface & whiteface in the 21st century [Pics: Huffington Post]

Examples of blackface & whiteface in the 21st century [Pics from Huffington Post]

After Julianne Hough wore a blackface Halloween costume, A Huffington Post Article was published to address the history of blackface portrayal and how offensive they can be in the film industry starting from the 1915 to today in the 21st century. In regards to the 21st century two movies stand out in the list presented, 2004’s White Chicks and 2008’s Tropic Thunder. In Tropic Thunder Robert Downey Jr. plays a method actor who gets his skin surgical darkened. The movie White Chicks is about two black FBI officers who go undercover as white females, the movie also contains stereotypical elements of white females. Despite criticism both movies made profits at the box office, people found it funny and worthy of their money. Are we so used to media portrayals of this nature they go unnoticed to us as we consume media?

Something that concerns me is that there are many people out there that don’t find these makeup portrayals as offensive or racist. I think skin complexion changing in media is rarely okay. The start of these portrayals all were a result of racism and poking fun at certain groups. It may be a thing of the past but if we continue to say it is okay for these portrayals to be made the past is at risk to be repeated. Whether it’s in TV, movies, advertisements or even as Halloween costumes, It is never okay to change your complexion and play on racist stereotypes to get a few laughs.

-Elena Sayasen

Let’s Get Down to Business: The Casting for Disney’s Live Action of Mulan

With Disney’s live actions of Cinderella (2015) and Beauty and the Beast (2017), it was exciting to hear when the studio announced its intention to release a live action version of Mulan as well. Mulan was one of my favorite Disney animations growing up and while the release date hasn’t been revealed yet, there has been much discussion about its potential cast members including BuzzFeed.

But why is it so important that Mulan have an Asian or Asian-American cast (furthermore, of Chinese or Mongolian descent)? The original story comes from the Chinese tale the Ballad of Mulan and though Mulan was real, the story has been retold to epic proportions. Although there are differences between the original ballad and Disney’s version – such as Mulan being a skilled warrior and was actually in the army for at least 12 years – I think it’s pretty safe to say it would only be right that the live-action film highlight an Asian or Asian-American cast.

Except multiple times, Disney has been accused of “whitewashing” (white actors cast instead of relatively unknown actors of color) – including Johnny Depp as Tonto in The Lone Ranger and Rooney Mara as Tiger Lily in Pan. As a result, I believe the (unfortunately) recent history of “whitewashing” has made it understandable that fans would want to petition against a whitewashed Mulan before the cast has even been announced.

This is even more important when considering an Independent article that revealed only 12 percent of the top 100 films in 2014 had women as the main characters and only 4 percent of all female characters were Asian or Latina. So is there reason to worry that Mulan might be cast with a white actress? With the current track record of the lack of representation, definitely. But that isn’t to say an entirely Asian cast would be impossible – ie. ABC’s Fresh Off the Boat.

So what are some cast ideas? Many are vetting for Ming-Na Wen (the original voice actress for Mulan), but BuzzFeed also has several great ideas of its own. Constance Wu (from Fresh Off the Boat) seems like a great alternative to Ming-Na Wen, and I am a huge fan BuzzFeed’s cast of Jackie Chan as Mushu. Though the original voice actor was Eddie Murphy, I loved growing up with Jackie Chan Adventures. Another possible actor (of my own suggestion) might be Chow Yun-Fat who was played Captain Sao Feng in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End.

Yet regardless of how the cast is ultimately made up, I believe the most important factor in deciding the actress for Mulan is keeping true to her heritage. As a Chinese hero, wouldn’t it make the most sense that the actress is Chinese as well in order to accurately represent the legend’s ethnic origin?

Breaking the Mold: A New Generation of Superheroes

Superheroes are often symbols of American ideology – defining what America considers good and what good should look like. At the time of their conception, each superhero embodies the current cultural and social values and become characters children can pretend to be in mock battles, rescue missions, and etc. In valuing these characters, it then becomes important to consider how much society has or hasn’t changed.

Consider this small anecdote by Djimon Hounsou who played a minor role in Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy: “One day [my son] looks at me and says, ‘Dad, I want to be light-skinned so I could be Spider-Man. Spider-Man has light skin.’ That was sort of a shock.”  As shocking as this is, it really makes me consider how important it is to have a greater diversity of superheroes for children to connect with and relate to.

Some of the most iconic superheroes are: Batman, Superman, Spiderman and Captain America. While many characters have been left out, the general stereotypes still follow: white and male. As a result, white and male superheroes embody American ideology and sense of ‘good’ — which is why it is important to prove that you don’t have to be white and/or male in order to become a superhero especially when these characters are capable of becoming positive role models for children.  This is why characters like Cindy Moon (Silk), Sam Wilson (Falcon), John Stewart and Simon Baz (Green Lanterns) are significant.  However, embracing this new diversity is still a work in progress.

Take Simon Baz, for example.  Simon Baz is a Muslim-American and DC’s latest human to join the Green Lantern Corp. Initially he is introduced as a car thief who picks up a van filled with explosives during a job. In an attempt to save lives, he ditches the car at an abandoned construction site. Unfortunately, he is labeled a terrorist and is captured and interrogated by the FBI. As Shoshana Kessock points out in her article: “Introducing Simon Baz, the First Muslim-American Green Lantern”, Simon Baz’s introduction is far from perfect.  Kessock raises questions concerning Geoff John’s method of introducing Simon Baz and choice of giving him a criminal background. Furthermore, she felt that Baz’s backstory of intolerance and discrimination was stereotypical and failed to battle the negative stereotypes towards Muslims despite Simon Baz ultimately becoming a superhero.

Although I agree with Kessock’s questions, I find Simon Baz’s introduction to be refreshing. It is great to see a new wave of superheroes that are joining other main cast superheroes. Though Baz’s introduction did seem to use already existing stereotypes about Muslims, allowing Simon Baz as a superhero is already a step forward. It shows that anyone can become a superhero, enables children to find a character they can better relate to, and will hopefully improve public opinions towards minority groups as well.

After all, isn’t it only right that superheroes of color also embody American ideology and sense of ‘good’ too and for superheroes to become a better reflection of modern day society?