Scholarship and education

A blatant display of media imperialism

When undergraduate students call you an "imperialist", you know you must be doing something right.

The below is excerpted from the blog of Charlie Beckett, the director of the public media forum at the London School of Economics:

Sexy Beijing: What’s in a name?

In the latest of our guest blogs by students, Kaberi Chowdhury reflects on 'Sexy Beijing', a series of films made by some Americans living in China which seeks to explore the strange and sometimes groovy side of life in the world’s newest superpower. But is this global communication or cultural imperialism?

Sexy Beijing is a show made in China by a group of Americans who speak Mandarin and have been living in Beijing for over a decade. The show currently caters to the local Chinese and the Chinese diaspora and US TV networks have expressed keen interest in airing the show. This clip, ‘Lost in Translation’ was recently featured in a panel discussion on media imperialism at the LSE, as an example of ‘counter flows’ of media today. A heated debate ensued. In agreement with a Chinese student in my department, Leung, I would say that Sexy Beijing is, contrary to what it claims, a blatant display of media imperialism...

The offending video is below:

UPDATE: The Useless Tree defends Su Fei: Su Fei is Not an Imperialist

There are currently 21 Comments for A blatant display of media imperialism.

Comments on A blatant display of media imperialism

Um? I don't really know what to say.

Maybe they are taking this too seriously?

There's so many things wrong with this oversimplified "critique" that I don't know where to start. I'm kinda wondering if Chowdhury even watched the video... was Su Fei mocking Chinese names? One might (might) make an argument that she's making fun of Chinese for choosing strange sounding English names, but she clearly points out that her own Chinese name sounds just as odd if not more so than any of the English names her interviewees chose. (My own Chinese name falls into this category as well, but I'm sticking with it) In fact his whole point seems to really want to be something about India coming out from the shadow of colonialism, but that has nothing to do with Chinese people adopting English names, which in turn has nothing to with media imperialism. 1,000 thumbs down.

if they had the tons of corporate cash bankrolling them, maybe the charge might stick... or lots of pure, brute power, that would sell me... with enough of either, i think at least Jeremy might give media imperialism an honest effort. Sufei I am not so sure...

But I hardly think the CNNs and Fox TVs of the world are up late at night, worried Danwei is edging them out of their niche.

And I do think Jeremy, Sufei and Luke have done a great job of doing what they do, in the unique spirit they do it. Their means to doing so is about as democratic as it gets (another strike against the media imperialist label) -- so, if you don't like it, roll your own...!

“Media imperialism”?! Yikes, what a “big hat’! If we are going to get picky with words and names (and have some fun), this term reminds me of those “ism”s that were readily handed out in the cultural revolution days. I agree with Jenn that the LSE folks are taking an amateur video clip too seriously, but there will always be academics who scrutinize everything for hidden insights-:)

I think this “big hat” brings a valid concern that, as this site and its content gains publicity, its content will be interpreted beyond the original intention of the creator and be turned into political/cultural debates…while, I guess that is precisely the point for having a site like this.

Personally, I saw the video clip as an affected (failed?) attempt at video-journalism since it barely brought any insights… it is borderline trash media as most of the media is but sure fun to watch…once.

A brilliant little video that raises questions concerning a Beijing trying to come to grips with where it belongs in the global village.

Contrary to Kaberi Chowdhury's comments, Sophie has done the opposite. What she has done is explore, expose and counter the trivial, blatant use of foreign language and names (her name "Sophie" corresponding to female heath care products, "hello, hello", Smacker's fake "foreigner" accent) and identified them as an example of cultural imperialism.

But really, that's probably thinking into it too much.

Rock on Sophie. Great video

hey, Chinese tones are hard to get, so us "waiguoren" often have to over emphasize then, making us sounds like bambling bafoons and often times send out the wrong message.

I know FOX is over-using the recent O'REILLY vs. RIVERA brawl...I never thought the DANWEIESE would stoop so low as to drum up some nonsense controversy.

There is one basic fact that is being overlooked. The DANWEI Chief is not a Yank, he is from South Africa. Some of the rest are from elsewhere. Maybe the British dude was only referring to the "cool" DANWEI peeps...then he would be 100% correct.

If I am mistaken in his intention however...

That settles it...this guy from England talking trash needs to do some fact-checking.

If you are interested, I blog it here: link

What does "media imperialist" mean? I think I am confused...

because chinese people (obviously she picked some illiterate chinese) failed to pronounce her english name, she decided to adapt a chinese name that she cant pronouce?

i wonder, when she makes fun of chinese's bad accent, has she ever thought about her terrible accent when she is speaking chinese? she doesnt even know how to pronouce BEI---JING.

have you ever thought about how terrible the chinese names chosen by those expats in china are? arent they as bad as the english names chosen by chinese people? come on, it is just for fun. why makes it a big deal?

btw, great article

>> "...have you ever thought about how terrible the chinese names chosen by those expats in china are? arent they as bad as the english names chosen by chinese people?"


And your point is?

I always knew there was something wrong with you Danwei guys.

Trying to impurify the precious bodily fluids of the Chinese with your media imperialism.

Shame on you!

Hi everyone,
Thanks for your comments on the guest article on the Polis weblog. As Director I don't necessarily share the views of the poster (a woman, by the way, Fritz - I think you need to check your facts!). All I would say is that some of the above posts sound a teeny bit defensive which indicates that it's, at very least,a good debate to have.
Thanks for getting some global dialogue going and I look forward to seeing you in person at the LSE in London some day - have a look at our Global Journalism Summer School for 2007 here!! (that was the commercial break...)
best wishes
Charlie Beckett

Speaking of media imperialism, tonight Danwei took over my TV.

Jodi had just hopped out of the shower and I was at work on her ear with a Q-tip. The TV was tuned to Hunan TV's 晚间, and the host started talking about Li Yuchun. I antipated another report on the Super Girl's fans when he switched subjects to another 玉米, 金玉米! I couldn't believe my eyes when Jeremy appeared on-screen and invited us to his house and to meet the Danwei crew. I actually got to hear Joel speak, and Sufei steal the spotlight with an extensive set of clips from Sexy Beijing. So cool. I hope this was recorded and can be put up on the site.


have a good day in China

to shan, my point is what the point is for su fei to make this video to make fun of terrible english names chosen by chinese? just because she feels she is smarter than chinese for picking foreign names?


Is what you talking about on any of the online video sites? If you can find the clip put it on youtube please!

I want to see this.

Charlie: from what I can garner from the responses, the reaction has not been one of wanting to debate the issue, but one of disbelief. It could only take an undergraduate student perhaps to actually put the words 'media imperialism' next to a clip of Sexy Beijing. Ridiculous rather that thought provoking. What have you been teaching those kids?

I suggest you cancel summer school and send your students on a field trip to Beijing where they can see for themselves that Sexy Beijing is a sideways but affectionate look at a city of huge contradictions and not a part of the evil global media needing to be given the PC treatment. Really, you are giving british undergrads such a bad name.

I searched for it this morning on Tudou, but it's not up. Looks like it's driven some traffic to the site though.

Sufei, nice to see U in Hunan TV(nigthnews)

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