I was never that into Coldplay. Not now, and certainly not back in 2002 when my Mum gave me a CD for Christmas. Admit it, Mum, A Rush of Blood to The Head was more for you than it was for me.
Moving on… This weeks topic, orientalism, is something that I’ve always held close. Edward Said was always an interesting character to me and orientalism was one of the first theories I learnt about and really engaged with at university.
Do I believe that Coldplay video was an orientalist perpetuation? Yes and no. Yes, it subscribed to a romanticist notion of the occident and yes, at least to some viewers, it will promote an orientalist perspective. On the other hand, if we are to believe the director, Adria Petty, the music video was meant to be an homage to Chinese martial arts film, specifically the grandiose, over-the-top aspects some of them boast. If the music video is indeed trying to invoke the image of chinese film, is it orientalist or is the film it references itself the example of orientalism? Most importantly, this leads to a further question; can a film perpetuate orientalist ideal if it is made in and by ‘the orient’?
As Kenneth Chan, working out of the University of North Dakota in asian film, wrote in 2004 on the orientalist appearance of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,
“On the one hand, a kind of cultural nationalism lured Chinese viewers to root for the film… On the other hand, the films success evoked suspicion of stereotyping, exoticism, traditionalism and orientalism.”
Later, Chan would go on to conclude that the film could definitely be considered orientalist if seen alone, but the origin and creators of the film allowed it a proviso. If the film was meant for western audiences in order to exploit its orientalist image, then it was orientalist . But, and this is important, if the film was designed by the those it represented and was intended to propagate an accurate reflection of the creators culture, it wasn’t (Chan, 2004, p. 15).
More research on the topic produced more writing, interestingly not related exclusively to Chinese film but also a concerted economic effort. Chinese tourism adverts have been brought under an orientalist lense and found lacking. Specifically, a short film advert, ‘China Forever’, was found to auto-orientalise in order to make a holiday to china seem more appealing (Santos & Yan, 2009, p. 314). By the stressing orientalist factors like mysticism, romanticism and exoticism, Chinese tourists boards have appealed to the orientalist perceptions of western audiences. Though relatively harmless in itself, this practice undeniably perpetuates orientalism.
So, not only is orientalism rampant in main stream media, it does so as well in advertising media. Not only is orientalism perpetuated by the west, it is also possible to be propagated by those it seeks to dominate the image thereof.
And that’s what I learnt about today.
Chan, K 2004, ‘The Global Return of the Wu Xia Pian (Chinese Sword-Fighting Movie): Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’, Cinema Journal , Volume 43, Issue 4, pp. 3-1
Santos, C & Yan, G 2009, ‘“CHINA, FOREVER”: Tourism Discourse and Self-Orientalism’, Annals of Tourism Research, Volume 36, Issue 2, pp. 295–315