Is the Western accurate and fair in its way of portraying Asia through the lens of media?

Introduction

From the past till today, between the West and the East, there always exists a gigantic barrier which creates an extensive distance and decrease the fondness for each other. Said (1978) stated that Orientalism process had created some specific image about the Oriental in the Western mindset, the West portray Asia through their scientific studies, researches, media source. By doing so, they would create a bias attitude and wrong perception of the West towards the Oriental. Regardless of all time, mass media has such a huge impact on human being as it informs public, updates information, provides and reports data, facts, strengthen public’s knowledge and even relates to political purpose (Khouri, 1999). Thus it leads to the mistaken perception of the West when trying to deliver the wrong image of Asia through the lens of media. My answer is the Western media is inaccurate and unfair in its way of portraying Asia image. The aim of this paper is to give a deep analysis to answer the above question and give supportive evidences to show the unfairness and inaccurate of the Western media.

Background and Reasons why Western media is unfair and inaccurate:

According to Said (1978), Orientalism was established when Europeans started their journey of colonization; Orientalism was created for European to study and research about Eastern culture and civilization.  The West found that Eastern culture and civilization are quite exotic so they decide to study and research about it, the science of orientalism was created. They found ways to interact with lesser grown countries in the East in order to offer help. They want to civilize the uncivilized world (Eastern countries – Asia). Based on Said’s research (1978), the West believed on what they observed and studied about the East. It leads to the problem that Western people have the same mindset when thinking of Asia however what they think may be distorted or untrue. After World War I, the term of Orientalism move from Europe to USA (Said, 1978). The use of Orientalism is extremely important because it helps Western people to define themselves by defining Orientals. Western people define people from Oriental as silly, lazy, irrational, uncivilized, terroristic, xenophobia, crudeness. Based on that, Western individuals define themselves as smart, elegant, active, logical, civilized, and sophisticated. The Western countries ambitiously desire to guide the East to the exact direction that they want. By that, the West one more time strengthen their mindset that they are better and they always go one step ahead the East. It leads to the concept of Media Imperialism by Tomlinson (2003). He claims that, based on the definition of media imperialism, which is a concept that developed countries negatively affect and have bad, huge impact on smaller nations which leads to the loss of smaller countries’ national identity through mass media, the East cannot define itself, the West enter and help to define the East. Tomlinson (2003) also mentioned about a one-way flow of media products from the West (developed countries) to the East (developing countries) which meant the East received and followed the flow of media from the West. However, this is not true. The East does not follow the West; The East defines themselves based on the own root: “Asian Values”. According to Emmerson (1995), Asian Values contribute to strengthen Asian culture. Asian values emphasize the sovereignty, self-determination of the society, priority for social harmony, hierarchy, loyalty and respect for the Government, communist and collectivist are priority. Asian deserves to be treated equally like Western people. Asian people are hard-working, logical, active, gentle, friendly, and loyal. Asian values help the East to define them and to prove the world that they do not rely on the West. However, in term of the West, they still want to manage and control the East, the West still believe they go one step farther than the East so they think they have power to define the East. The media plays an important role in this world; it delivers message, introduces individual to the whole world, inform public, widen public knowledge of specific affair. Once more time, The West use media to portray image of Asia as the way they want and it is unfair.  It damages Asian reputation and causes sad and hurt for the whole Asia community. Thus to protect the country reputation, some countries create their own boundary and keep distance with the West (Chadha & Kavoori, 2000): China has created gate-keeping policy aiming to limit or prohibit the flow of media productions from the West so they can protect their own national identity and culture. However, the West remains to define the world using mass media, thanks to freedom of speech; they can express their thinking straightforward. This is an unfavorable situation for the East.

Evidence to prove the unfairness, incorrect of the West media to the East:

1.

Dior advertisement:

Photos above are advertisements made by Christian Dior Company before Dior launches its new store in Shanghai. This advertising campaign has caused a lot of controversies. People can see the term of the “superior” western identity in the Dior advertisement (Abraham 2010). Looking closer to the advertisement, we can see the white model is glorified with elegant clothes with blonde hair and professional make up, the white model’s position in the ad is arranged to be in the middle of the photo, become the center of every glance (Yang, 2012). In contrast, Asian women appear with the dowdy, old-fashioned clothes and are placed around the white model. Asian women are identical, same faces, which mean all Chinese women are the same, dowdy, frumpy, unfashionable and Chinese women here in the ads are simply the background for the white model. Dior is the famous brand from France and the way it delivers its image to Asian countries is inaccurate and it leads to many negative opinions that go against Dior. However, Dior’s original message from this advertising campaign is to make Chinese women feel elegant and gorgeous like the West when wearing Dior. The problem is they do not understand clearly about the Chinese culture. This ad is too offensive and it reminds the miserable past with death and famine in the war with French colonization. The West remains to keep in mind that they are superior and civilized than the East; they want to show the power they have through the media.

Avril Lavigne: “Hello Kitty” song:

2.

This is a scene, cutting from Avril Lavigne video music named “Hello Kitty”. As we all know, Hello Kitty represents a part of Japanese popular culture – “Kawaii” tradition. Hello Kitty becomes a phenomenon in 2010, teenagers around the world start to get addicted to collect Kitty stuffs such as skirts, T-shirts, shoes, bags, even scissors, table, cup, pillow, blankets, all in Kitty. Kitty represents for cute, pure and young feature. However, the image of Kitty has been distorted by Avril Lavigne. We can see from the photo above, again, the white singer is in the center of the picture, wearing colorful costumes, trying to act like Japanese. In comparison, Japanese girls are arranged to stand behind and follow the act of the white singer. One more point is that through the whole video, Japanese girls do not have any expression on their faces and they act like robots, they obey and follow Avril Lavigne’s act. According to Duberman (2014), this video is considered as disregarding Asian women, especially Japanese women. Duberman(2014) gives his point of view, he stated that Japanese women are not props, or accessories for any amusement. Asian women are not cute accessories for American to play with. The video of Avril borrows the cute image of Kitty to disregard Asian women.  Avril Lavigne is 29 years old and she sings Hello Kitty songs and acts cute. Some criticizes that she delivers the message that 29-years-old Japanese women usually act cute and dance crazily. This delivers a wrong image and inaccurate information about Japan culture; actually Hello Kitty image is only for kids and teenagers. Avril Lavigne is trying to show the East that she is cool; she understands Japanese culture and does her best job. In fact, this scandal really damages her image and reputation.

Movie: The Interview (2014) – Assassinate Kim Jong-Un

3.

Recently, this movie causes many controversies because of its plot. The Interview is a comedy movie. The scenario of The Interview is built based on a celebrity TV show in America with a host (Franco) and his producer (Rogen). Franco and Rogen have succeed to connect with Kim Jong-Un (North Korean Leader) and they agree to let them interview. Franco and Rogen are assigned a duty: Assassinate Kim Jong-un after having an interview with him. In the movie, Kim Jong-un image is distorted and becoming ridiculous: Kim Jong-Un is a liar, he tells lies about himself and about the economy of the country. In the movie, there is a scene that shows a fruit store and Kim Jong-Un says to Franco and Rogen that North Korea is always prosperous and affluence. In another scene, Franco finds out the Fruit store is fake, all of fruit are made by plastic and cement. In another scene, Kim Jong-Un presents as a dissipated person, play chicks, drink beer, do crazy stuff. Sony Pictures Company has been hacked by unknown hackers and facing terrorist threats before releasing the movie (The Guardian, 2014). North Korea has its first response to the movie, Kim Myong-chol – Director of The Centre for North Korea-US Peace – says the film content is too “dismissive” and the storyline of the movie is so offensive (Goodman, J 2014). Kim Myong-chol also give  his response cleverly and ingeniously. He says that the plot shows the hopelessness of America Government and American public. A film goes around the idea of murdering a foreign leader, this is the same thing that US has done in Afghanistan, Iraq, Ukraine…He also warns President Obama to be careful in case the America military plan to slay him as well. Moreover, when we look closer to the Film poster, there apparently appears unfairness: Franco and Rogen are above with big images while Kim Jong-Un is at the bottom and with small and vague image. Once more time, I want to restate Said’s view (1978) that the West wants to define them as superior and high-civilized.

Solutions

Personally, I think the best way to avoid damaging others image and identity is to have ‘Respect’.  There also needs to have mutual understanding to ensure an accurate and fair portray of others culture. Showing respect is quite important because it reflects you as a responsible and serious person, reflects your society as a responsible and civilized society. However, the West didn’t really show their respect for the East, they just pretend to be nice; this is a serious problem that needs to be solved in order to bring peace and harmony to Asian countries. In order to make the West show their respect to the East, first thing first, Asian countries must try to strive to become developed countries, conserve and improve traditional and cultural values of the countries. Secondary, in order to receiving respect from the West, Asian countries should inform the West, raise their awareness of how important of Asian Value and Asian culture affect Asian countries. The image below that I find is one specific example, but one is not enough, Asian Governments should plan to make a huge campaign which aims to raise their own voice and gain some respects from the West.

4.

(WordPress, 2013)

Word count: 1922

References

Abraham, T 2010, ‘Christian Dior slammed over ‘racist’ images designed for Shanghai store launch’, Mail Online, viewed on 31 December 2014, <http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-1309512/Christian-Dior-slammed-racist-images-designed-Shanghai-store-launch.html>

Chadha K., and Kavoori A. 2000, “Media Imperialism Revisited: Some Findings from the Asian Case,” in Media, Culture and Society 22: 415 – 32.

Duberman, A 2014, ‘Avril Lavigne, Asian Women Are not Your Props’, Huffington Post, viewed on 31 December 2014, <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/04/23/avril-lavigne-hello-kitty_n_5198199.html>

Emmerson, DK 1995, ‘Singapore and the Asian Values Debate’, Journal of Democracy, vol. 6, no. 4, pp. 95 – 105.

Goodman, J 2014, ‘North Korea Regime Already Criticizing ‘The Interview’, Huffington Post, viewed on 31 December 2014, <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/06/21/north-korea-the-interview_n_5517579.html>

Khouri, R 1999, ‘The Role and Power of Mass Media’, Media and Communication Skills, Passia Seminar, Passia <http://www.passia.org/seminars/99/media_and_communication/rami2.html>

Said, Edward W. 1978, ‘Orientalism’, London: Penguin, pp.1-28

Tomlinson, J. 2003, “Media Imperialism,” in Parks, L. and Kumar, S. (eds.) Planet TV: A Global Television Reader (New York: New York University Press), p. 113 – 34.

The Guardian, 2014, ‘Christmas Release of The Interview Cancelled by Sony’, the Guardian, viewed on 31 December 2014, <http://www.theguardian.com/film/2014/dec/17/sony-pictures-cancels-christmas-release-the-interview>

Yang, J 2012, ‘Why the Rise of Asia in Fashion Isn’t as Beautiful as It Seems’, The Wall Street Journal, viewed on 31 December 2014, <http://blogs.wsj.com/speakeasy/2012/09/17/why-the-rise-of-asia-in-fashion-isnt-as-beautiful-as-it-seems/>

Word Press, 2013, ‘Brace Yourselves, Racist Halloween Costumes are coming’, viewed on 31 December 2014, <https://arainyday.wordpress.com/2013/10/11/brace-yourselves-racist-halloween-costumes-are-coming/>

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