As a kid, I was never really into Disney movies and princesses like lots of other girls my age. I had never seen Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty or Snow White, but it never bothered me much. The only Disney film I could ever get into was ‘Mulan’ (1998) who was hardly a princess – more an awesome, fighting war chick.
Every time I was bored, or my mum wanted a little peace and quiet, she would put Mulan on for me. It was one of my biggest comforts.
As I got older, the excitement about Mulan dissipated a little bit. I didn’t see it for years, then one day about two years ago I bought the DVD and was able to relive little Keely’s pure joy of seeing an awesome Chinese warrior princess saving China with her dragon sidekick.
In thinking about digital media culture, with a specific focus on Asian sources, it got me thinking about films such as Mulan. Although the story is based on and inspired by an ancient Chinese legend, and features a few Chinese actors and actresses for the voices, the film is ultimately a product from Hollywood and is not a traditional Asian media text.
This is one of the most common areas of cultural assumption that comes to mind when I think of such texts. The fact that as a child, and up until a few years ago, I automatically assumed that an animated film about a Chinese legend, and concerning Chinese characters must have originated in, you guessed it, China now seems a little rash and downright silly to me.
This highlights the way in which we associate certain cultures so easily with popular media texts that may feature aspects of said culture. After looking into Mulan more thoroughly, I found that many of the voice actors who star in the film are not actually Chinese, or even of Chinese descent. For instance, Donny Osmond voiced Shang, the major male character, alongside Mulan herself. Yeah, that’s right! The ‘I’m a little bit rock ‘n’ roll!’ guy!
This realization is important to note when researching Asian media and culture as it proves that yes, assumptions are often made about pop culture in certain genres, that are coming from Hollywood, but may not seem it.
After exploring Asian movie culture contrasted with Hollywood, I decided that I wanted to go in a different direction with my research into Asian media types – and I came up with Asian music. I was a little bit hesitant to do this to begin with, as genres such as J-pop and K-pop have never interested me in the same way others have. This is probably because I am so emotionally invested in the genres of music that I love to listen to – I’m a little bit of a music snob. This made me decide that I wanted to look into heavy, hardcore, industrial and progressive music genres, with a focus on artists that have originated in Asian nations!
I feel as if this would be such an interesting area of study and something completely new that I do not know much about. Now I am really excited to get underway with my digital artifact and finding all different types of music that exist out there.
I think you certainly make an interesting point. When I was a kid I thought along the same lines; that if the story was Chinese it must have been made by a Chinese company and have Chinese voice actors. The fact that in Australia we are brought up with so many Western (read: American) films and television shows, but often don’t realise that’s what they are, can be a bit of a problem.
For instance, until a few weeks ago my sister and I didn’t realise that Avatar: The Last Airbender was purely an American creation because it is styled after anime (though an argument can be made that anime doesn’t have to be Asian, but let’s save that for another time).
But I’m not saying that having access to American products is a bad thing, rather that the over-saturation of our media market with American products is a bad thing. We need more diversity and definitely more transparency. Future generations need to have access to as many different kinds of media as possible.
Also good luck with your change to music! Sounds like it should be fun.