The Gate of Heavenly Peace – Reaction

February 17th, 2009

The Gate of Heavenly Peace was a very long film. I have to say this first because I honestly was disapointed when the second tape had to be put in.

Although it was very long, I found no trouble being engaged by it. The interviews of actual participants were very moving. I especially enjoyed hearing different perspectives from teachers, students, workers, and pop artists (all involved in the movement in some way). Above all else – I felt that this documentary really confirmed that my limited knowledge of Chinese government action and history of China has been well guided – censorship, corruption, and unwillingness to allow its people to form their own opinions are just a few negative aspects that can be taken from this film. I am also reminded that history can be changed by those currently in power… this incident is not recorded as it was to the students – it is how the party wants it to be remembered. Everyone else is punished to think or say differently.

One aspect that I found particularly interesting was the involvment of musicians. My own research has led me to believe that music (Hip Hop specifically related to the 2000s) does have a profound effect on people. Music represents freedom of expression and allows individualism. I felt that this point was made in this film as well, and I like that Pop artists could serve this purpose. Today, from my hip hop resources, it seems that most pop artists are conforming and self-censoring to be compatible with government ideals – and not to be restricted by the government. I had read about Rock performers being influential and standing up to the government – but that is not all that surprising given the history of Rock and Roll. Rebellion and teenage angst is something that comes to mind. Hip hop to me also represents a sense of rebellion and individuality – fighting against the odds. Pop on the other hand doesn’t tend to (stereotypically at least in my own mind) fight the power and break the rules. I enjoyed learning about an exception to this preconceived notion I had.

Topic Change

February 6th, 2009

So I have decided that I’m changing my topic to the underground hip hop movement in China. There are a lot of non-traditional sources (blogs, music videos, short documentary film segments, lyrics, etc.) and I feel much more excited about this new topic. Basically I am going to still be researching censorship – but in the music industry instead. I am going to be narrowing this weekend so if anyone knows anything about Chinese Hip Hop, or runs across and information on the topic – please let me know. -Elle

Visual Analysis – Proletarians of the World Unite!

February 2nd, 2009
Text reads "Proletarians of the World Unite" and "Down with the American Imperialists and Russian Revisionists!"

"Proletarians of the World Unite"

This particular poster stood out to me because of it’s incorporation of three different races defending the same cause. The image is very strong – the red and the black are particularly eye catching, not to mention representative of Red China. It appears that each of these soldiers is carrying the same doctrine, Chinese red lettering is on each of their pamphlets. From the left, there is a Caucasian-looking soldier, a Chinese or Asian soldier (though it is probably safe to assume Chinese here due to it being their positive propaganda), and a black soldier (assumed by me and the describer from the kaladarshan arts site to be an African). The brief information given from this site seems insightful. It states that these three soldiers represent an international community that is unified against its “oppressors.” It is assumed that this message is implying that all races and nations should join the fight against American imperialism and Russian revisionism. By standing united, these soldiers represent the harmony that could be acheived if China could lead the way into the future. The Chinese soldier stands in front of the other two men, and is also in the central-most position of the poster, representing leadership, power, and superiority. Despite the Chinese soldier’s superior positioning, the cartoon image of both the Caucasion (“American”) and the Black (“African”) are well defined and flattering. They are strong soldiers with sharp muscular tone and serious demeanors, serious to the cause that they are defending side by side with the Chinese soldier (pamphlets in hand). They are also equipped with the same guns, which can deemed to be another sign of their equality and unified effort. They are one army with the same goal in mind – each soldier looks determined and faces the same direction staring.

The Red globe behind the soldiers represents a communist world led by the superior Chinese, spreading their message abroad and allowing minorities and all countries to join in the cause. According to the website where this poster can be found, the Chinese writing across the top reads “Proletarians of the World Unite!” while the bottom reads “Down with American Imperialists and Russian Revisionists!”

I personally found it odd that this propaganda is implying semi-equality between races. I guess I assumed that the Chinese, like most nations, assumed superiority. At the same time, that superiority is still somewhat intact due to the Chinese soldiers positioning as afore mentioned, and the fact that the whole world is changing its ways to those of the Chinese. This just serves as a reminder that cartoons and pictures can be analyzed in many different ways – it depends on the biases and knowledgability of the analyzer (who in this case is me, and I have some more Chinese studying to do).

A little more on project ideas

January 27th, 2009

Project Possibilities Spring 09 PRC Seminar

  1. I am interested in censorship in Chinese literature. I would really like to study a few specific female authors. One that has come up a lot in my searches is Can Xue. I was thinking I could use a few of her writings and also investigate censorship as a whole in the modern PRC.
    1. Central Questions: What specific qualifications are there for a book to be banned in the PRC? Are there any perks to this system for obedient writers that follow the rules? How easy is it to get a hold of these banned books in China (merely an inconvenience like the internet or harder?) Do authors face political/physical danger for their banned productions?
    2. Research Leads:

i. Interview with Xue about her writing and censorship,

ii. her writings (Yellow Mud Street, Old Floating Cloud, Hut on a Mountain),

iii. Stubborn Weeds: Popular and Controversial Chinese Literature after the Cultural Revolution. Ed. Perry Link. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1983.,

iv. Between Discourse and Reality, review by Barbara Mittler

v. Perry Link – Roses and thorns : the second blooming of the Hundred Flowers in Chinese fiction, 1979-1980.

vi. In the Red – Geremie Barme

  1. I also would be interested in looking into censorship of Chinese film. I have been less successful with this topic as of yet, but did find a few things on MCLC.
    1. I am thinking along the contemporary lines and would really like to find a few films and see the governmental reaction/censorship (if in fact there is any). Central Questions might be: What type of films or directors or actors are acceptable to the Chinese culture? How are US movies viewed? Are there any laws or restrictions as to what can be produced in film?
    2. Research:




iv. So far I have found little scholarly works on this, but I have scheduled an appointment with my film professor to see if he has any leads.

Potential Topics – rambling to hopefully make sense

January 22nd, 2009

This research project is actually somewhat daunting to me – I really feel like the open ended nature of this assignment is somewhat crippling to me. While YES I like to have flexibility as to being able to choose what I find the most interesting, OFTEN (and by that I mean always) I find myself choosing obscure topics that have NO primary sources and very limited information on them. Example 1: Heifer Project (what is this? yeah…that’s what everyone in my 299 said and no wonder – there is no information anywhere about it) Example 2: James Dean’s romantic life (senior thesis which turned into a secondary source literature review compilation due to the lack of sufficient relevant info – mainly caused by the taboo nature of his bi-sexual experiences, but bad news none the less). So seriously – pick a good topic Elle.

Option number 1: I am really interested in looking into governmental censorship – particularly literature or cinema in modern (ish) china. I was thinking that this way I have some primary sources in the books or films themselves, but the problem there is are there english translations? How do I go about finding the books that China wants to disappear? Tough stuff.

Option 2: Not too sure – I, like Zane, am really interested in sports. I equate China’s gynastics team to that of a Russian polevaulter trained from birth (or insert other insane country hand-picking young ones for national glory in the sports arena). I don’t want to step on any toes though, so I’m trying to veer in a different direction… more to come for sure. Maybe an entirely different idea.

History 471 PRC China Self Introduction

January 14th, 2009

I’m Elle, Pisces senior graduating a year early. I’m pretty involved on campus – I mentor weekly with the program I founded -Young Women Leaders Program, I’m co-captain of Women’s Club Soccer, I’m a Washington Guide, & the Mortar Board Publicity Chair. I enjoy being busy and I tend to be pretty opinionated.

Academically, I am a history major. I wrote my senior thesis last semester on James Dean and the history of sexuality of the 1930s-50s. I really enjoy that pop culture look at history, so this was a good fit for me. I am really uncertain as to what I will want to study for this class. Possibly education. I watched a video from the Global Voices website that was a film of a dozen or so school children reciting a anti-all countries that are not China poem, which I found to be scary and surprising. I don’t know much of anything about the Chinese culture but I think it would be interesting to investigate what Chinese children are learning in their schools. If not that, I would be more than happy to look into some popular icons or music or something fun like that. I need to do a bunch more research before I decide.

Born on the Fourth of July

November 23rd, 2008

I have very mixed feelings about this movie. As someone who has personal experience with the aftermath of the vietnam war and how it affected veterans, it is hard to see this perspective of Kovic that was so dramatically different than my uncle’s. I felt that the movie does a good job of portraying the disillusionment of Americans with the war, but it is somewhat slanted simply because it is based on Kovic’s autobiography – his own experience – just one person and not representative of all veterans. It is safe to say that not all veterans returned and became anti-war protesters, many, like my uncle Bob, were proud to be Marines and stood by America’s decision to go to war (regardless of the poor results and pain that it cause him).  Two years ago, Bob died of brain cancer which has been attributed to his close contact with spreading Agent Orange in Vietnam. He died a proud military man.

The movie does a good job of demonstrating the jarring realities of war – civilian casualties, friendly fire, injured soldiers, VA treatment, returning home, etc. It was hard to watch at times because of the painful dealings that Kovic was put through. The style of the film was jarring as well, which I think added to the overall effect of the film. Overall, the film was pretty accurate… and while not enjoyable, a moving experience.

Long Walk Home

November 18th, 2008

Just aside note before I get rolling on the Long Walk Home – I didn’t post on The Best Years of Our Lives because of the fact that I was freaking out about my thesis and our projects. In a nutshell – I LOVED it. Probably because it was fictional characters with somewhat reasonable predicaments caused by coming home from WWII, but mainly because there was romance EVERYWHERE! My only beef with the film is that it really stunk in terms of gender roles – every woman had a male counterpart and wasn’t complete without that man. GUH gag me. That’s all.

The Long Walk Home was a powerful movie which I enjoyed very much. I felt that in the grand picture of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, it was right on the money. It also had subtle details that were dead on as well. I felt that the use of fictional characters as opposed to portraying already big named civil rights activists was a good choice by the film makers. It allowed them to have more artistic freedom, but also wasn’t contrived or corny in portraying the well known story of Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr., whom most people know exactly what they look like – it would just be strange to portray them as persons other than themselves. I know it happens all the time in movies – the one I think of first is Patton, and I feel that this is a good example for my point – we don’t want people to remember these amazing individuals by the actor that portrayed them (as most people do for Patton, heck, I don’t know what the real General looks like but I can picture the movie poster). I felt that in addition to grasping the race relations well, A Long Walk Home also portrayed gender relations well. White women were somewhat obsolete in this time – they had maids to do the majority of their work at home and mothering, and they didn’t work outside of the home, so they listened and obeyed their husbands. On the black side of things there was a good portrayal of how crucial black women were to both white and black families. Everyone was dependent on Odessa (Whoopi). Finally, I personally felt that the most intriguing part of this story is the dissension in the groups – not all whites felt the same about the boycotts, and not all blacks agreed with each other either. The black daughter doesn’t understand the importance of the boycott until her little brother is beat up in defense of her. There is an evolution (and good depiction of the passage of time btw) of how each character felt about the situation. It was very moving.

Overall, two thumbs up. Hey, if McClurken liked it – that says something.


October 31st, 2008

Matewan is an interesting movie. From our study and discussion it is apparent that it is one of the most historically accurate of the films we have seen thus far. It does however revolve around two completely fictional characters, Joe and Danny. This is only somewhat disconcerting because they both represent well a certain view in labor history. Joe is a pacifist who embodies a true union supporter – wanting the union to accept blacks, immigrants, etc. so that they can work together to achieve their objectives. Danny (according to Professor McClurken) can be associated with those individuals who shared their first hand experiences of this massacre with director John Sayles. Many of them would have been around Danny’s age at the time of the event.

Overall there is much more to compliment about the film than there is to pick apart.

On the topic of whether or not the degree of historical accuracy of a film directly correlates to how “slow” or “boring” the film is… In a way I agree that there is a correlation. I immediately think documentary and cringe. But if you really think about it there are decent films (entertainment wise) that do portray a section of history very well. Matewan wasn’t my favorite movie, but it did fit into both categories – entertaining and historically accurate, so maybe it is one of the exceptions to our rule. AND maybe it is due to the lack of industry pressure that Sayles is able to create such a film… I like this explanation.


October 26th, 2008

This movie doesn’t really deserve to be talked about in great detail, at least not in a historical context. I agree with many peers’ references to Pocahontas. Wyatt and Pocahontas are much the same in that they are both historical characters whose stories have been completely mangled into myth from the perspective of ONE very wrong side of the story. Pocahontas was English-ized and turned into a classic tale of romance and the integrating of cultures. Wyatt was warped into some hero who was ‘just passin through’ when an unfortunate sequence of events happened to his brothers. The key to this story is that Wyatt and his brothers were the victims of the story, when in reality it doesn’t seem to be so. The real travesty for the story is the death of James – inspiring Wyatt to take the law into his own hands and avenge his lost cattle and dead brother. Sigh- not at all what happened. It does make for an interesting story (as did Pocahontas’s reworking), but it is certainly not something to dwell long on given that our purpose of viewing it was to find it’s historical-ness.

We did manage to find a few somewhat accurate portions – the thin line between female entertainer and prostitute (as demonstrated by Chihuahua (GREAT name by the way)), the landscape and garb seemed pretty accurate (they filmed in the desert and wore a lot of the same clothes as was common in that time – the one exception being Clementine), AND to me, most importantly there was a sense of taking the law into the hands of average citizens, which as demonstrated in numerous readings is pretty accurate.

Overall – not a very entertaining movie, and not at all a historically accurate one. At least it was pretty short.