East Asian Popular Media: Maneuvering Between Discourses

Title: 1379 | East Asian Popular Media: Maneuvering Between Discourses
Area: Border Crossing and Inter-Area
Stream: Cinema Studies/Film
Presentation Type: Panel Presentation
Hongmei Sun, George Mason University, United States (organizer, presenter, chair)
Yu Min Claire Chen, National Taipei University of Technology, Taiwan (presenter)
Dandan Chen, State University of New York, Farmingdale State College, United States (presenter)
Ping Fu, Towson University, United States (presenter)
Douglas Eyman, George Mason University, United States (presenter)


In this panel, five presentations report on examples of East Asian popular media that represent traditional culture and demonstrate strategic maneuvering among ideological and cultural discourses. Speaker 1 (Hongmei Sun) examines three sets of animated series that share the task of introducing traditional Chinese medicine to young audiences, focusing on their use of myths to make traditional philosophical and medicinal knowledge attractive to modern viewers. Speaker 2 (Yu Min Chen) examines time travel TV dramas from China, Japan, and Korea, and analyzes the means by which these dramas draw their audiences: fulfilling their lost dreams and tackling philosophical questions related to temporality and existence. By examining the various discourses and the ambiguity of isms in contemporary Chinese historical conspiracy novels and TV dramas, speaker 3 (Dandan Chen) shows how Chinese popular culture engages in reevaluating the past and reshaping current mass ideology. Speaker 4 (Ping Fu) reports her research on Chinese reality dating shows that take the form of Chinese road-side marriage trades and present young people dating with their parents’ participation, analysing the reasons that Chinese media and social media revitalize these banned traditional practices. Using World of Warcraft’s “Mists of Pandaria” expansion as a case study, speaker 5 (Douglas Eyman) examines the interaction between cultures, players, and game design to evaluate questions of adaptation, influence, and cultural appropriation embedded in the translation practices of multiplayer games. Together, the panelists shed light on the negotiations between traditional and modern values in new forms of education, recreation, family formation, and imaginary narrative creation.

Panel Abstracts:
Traditional Medicine and Chinese Animation
Since the birth of Chinese animation, traditional Chinese medicine has been an untouched topic until recently, when three animated series were produced almost around the same time: “Bencao yaoling” (Herb spirits, 2016), “Hulu xiang didang” (little calabash talks of Chinese Medicine, 2017), and “Caoben jiazu” (Herb family, 2018). Each adopting varied animating styles and following different narrative strategies, these approaches to introducing traditional medicine with animation test different models of production and representation. Following the trend of yangsheng (health-keeping) and a rising public interest in traditional medicine in recent years, these series have to face the special challenges of representing a sophisticated body of knowledge for children and young audiences as well as audiences who are more familiar with modern medicine. This project compares the strategies that these animated series adopt to promote traditional philosophical and medicinal knowledge to their audiences. With the prevalence of modern medicine as the background knowledge for most, these shows all resort to myths to make topics of traditional philosophical and medicinal knowledge attractive to young audiences. The analysis focuses on the mythical motifs and structures these texts choose to use: how these mythical elements work in the story; whether they are effective for the representation of traditional medicine against the challenges of scientific medicine; and what this mythical move means to the relationship between traditional and modern medicine.

History, Temporality, and Transnationalism in East Asian Dramas
East Asian TV dramas have been preoccupied with the theme of time travel for the past several years. These popular dramas from China, Japan, and Korea are usually adapted from popular novels or have rewritten historical events for use as their basis. Although these dramas use time travel as a background setting, their contents vary. Palace (2011) and With Every Step a Startled Heart (China 2011), have rewritten historical family tragedies in the Qing dynasty in order to play out a modern Cinderella dream. Queen In Hyun's Man (Korea 2012), and Rooftop Prince (Korea 2012), feature high governmental officials or a heart broken prince traveling to the modern era, and discuss gender power reversals throughout time and history. In the Korean drama The Faith (2012), a modern successful female doctor travels back into history, whereas in the Japanese Dr. Jin (2009), a male doctor travels back in time making a journey of self-discovery. In general, the East Asian time travel dramas attempt to fulfill lost dreams for the audience. Whether it is to question the possibility of rewriting national or personal history, to examine identity in parallel universes, to trace the beginning and ending of the butterfly effect, or to find true love across time, these dramas distinguish themselves from other popular dramas because of the philosophical questions related to temporality and existence that they delve into.

Ideology and Utopia in Contemporary Chinese Historical Conspiracy Novels and TV Dramas
This paper examines the dialogue between ideology and utopia and the ambiguity of isms in contemporary Chinese historical conspiracy novels and television dramas, through case studies of Langya Bang (Nirvana in Fire, I and II), Qing yu nian (Joy of Life), and He li huating (The Royal Nirvana), all of which have both novel and TV drama versions. The four works set their backgrounds in fictional ancient dynasties and tell the stories of conspiracy, political struggles, and fights for power. While Nirvana in Fire I and II successfully portray the ideal images of Confucian scholar-bureaucrats and the Confucian utopia of Sagehood and Kingship, The Royal Nirvana shows the conflicts between the ideal Confucian kingcraft and despotic ways of ruling, and the interactions between central imperial power and military forces. When discussing the issue of throne succession, Nirvana in Fire I and II involve the discussions of legitimacy and the Confucian practice of li; The Royal Nirvana also includes discussions of ritual and music. A time-travel novel, Joy of Life depicts more clashes of various modern and premodern ideas and ideologies such as despotism versus equality and democracy, propriety versus individualism, authoritarianism versus free will, since the hero and his mother in this novel are both time-travelers from our modern era with modern consciousness. In conclusion, this paper investigates how contemporary Chinese popular novels and TV dramas consciously or unconsciously provide reevaluations of past values and political models, and participate in the reshaping of current mass politics, ideology, and utopia.

Road-side Marriage Trades and Mediated Dating in China
This paper presents first-hand research on Chinese marriage trades in parks and young people’s dating with their parents’ participation in Chinese TV reality shows, including Chinese Dating With the Parents and New Chinese Dating Time. These shows have drawn the audience's attention at home and abroad and won great popularity with the viewing public. As a counterpart of mediated dating shows, displaying dating advertisements in parks targets a growing customer base in the dating landscape. The advertisers include not only parents and relatives of bachelors and bachelorettes but also agents who are local dwellers and now the dating business vendors operating road-side marriage trades. Although arranged marriages were discouraged after the fall of the Qing in 1911 and banned by the Republican government in the 1930s, many Chinese young people today find themselves yielding to parents who are ready to play a powerful role in their son/daughter’s dating process. Roland Barthes states that love is a discourse that has restored its fundamental person. To him, love is not a psychological portrait but a structural one. This paper explores the love discourse prevailing in China and how its utterance has been staged and transformed from a “primary language,” as Barthes defines, into a metalanguage (media, business, etc.) against the Chinese contemporary social and cultural backdrop, and claims that Barthes’ absurd formula would help unpack the puzzle of why Chinese media and social media revitalize these banned traditional practices to please the viewing public today.

Translation and Appropriation of Chinese Culture in Video Games
This presentation examines the interaction between cultures, players, and game design to examine questions of adaptation, influence, and cultural appropriation embedded in the translation practices of globe-spanning multiplayer games and to highlight the bi-directional nature of game translation practices as distinct from the more traditional uni-directional translations of other forms of art and media. Using World of Warcraft’s “Mists of Pandaria” expansion as a case study, the speaker will examine the interactions among policy, (self)censorship, translation, localization, and appropriation as a well-known online multiplayer game designed in the US was made available to Chinese players and audiences. Drawing on recent theoretical frameworks from circulation studies and transnational rhetorics, the analysis examines three modes of translation: linguistic translation (text and speech), translation and transformation of visual design elements, and cultural translations that rely on the adaptation or inclusion of cultural heritage components as key elements of gameplay. In addition to analysis of these forms of translation, the presentation will also present a brief account of the different responses to the expansion offered by US and Chinese players

This panel is on Thursday - Session 02 - Room 2

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