Disney’s colors of the wind – POC presentation and Disney movies

“Encanto” is the newest animation movie produced by the Walt Disney Company. With its release date set on the 21st of November 2021, Disney fans can look forward to a humorous addition to the list of impactful and love-filled 3D animation movies. Especially one country is celebrating the announcement of “Encanto”: Columbia. With the story taking place in the beautiful and culturally diverse South American country, Columbians are ecstatic to see themselves being represented on the big screen. But why exactly is it important to have diverse representation in media, and why is it especially impactful that the movie is a Disney product?

The ever-changing entertainment industry

With the rise of social media came a new way to amplify your own voice online, which is especially important for minorities and people of color (POC). While today’s media landscape might seem colorful and representing a wide variety of people, this wasn’t always the case. White people were dominating the movie industry, which meant the media they produced were heavily focused on white people as well. If people of color were included in movies or shows, they often were subject to stereotypes. For years, however, the industry has been changing and is becoming more inclusive. More and more movies and shows are being directed and written by people of color, and more POC actors are shown on screen.

Mirror, Mirror on the wall

Why exactly do we need POC representation in our media? The answer is simple: it’s a more accurate reflection of our world. There isn’t just the British or American culture and there are not just white European people. There are more cultures in the world than many can even imagine, and they have the same right to see themselves being represented in media as anyone else. A Columbian child growing up and only seeing European or North American culture being portrayed in their favorite shows might lead to them missing out on their own culture.

Disney, the media giant

The Disney company owns many big movie studios and popular franchises in the industry, among them Pixar and Marvel. With their movies being the more successful ones on the market, they have a huge influence on what, and more importantly who, we see on the screen. As many superhero movies in Disney’s arsenal already state: with great power comes great responsibility. Disney arguably has a huge responsibility to bear when it comes to accurately representing POC and different cultures. There are, of course, older movies that already made attempts, for example Aladdin or Pocahontas. However, these movies often succeeded only partially, and their representation is subject to criticism. With “Encanto” Disney has granted themselves another try at satisfying their diverse fanbase, and hopefully they won’t disappoint their Columbian fans.

Author: Oskar Kartasinski

Dear Diary …

Writing as a way of learning about yourself

The way we document the events of our lives has changed from a way of saving our private thoughts and memories to an action that is shared with the world. We switched from pen and paper to smartphone cameras and social media. However, there are still benefits to writing in a journal and expressing the mind with pen and paper.

… they said: “stop taking pictures”

Nowadays, with being constantly connected to others through social media, some people tend to think that the events in our lives, our greatest memories, are meant to be seen by other people on the internet. Other people also share pictures of their vacation, so we should do it as well, right? The answer is: it is up to you. The important thing is not to put pressure on yourself. Don’t allow the thought of taking the perfect picture for the internet to distract you from gaining pleasant memories.

Sitting down in the evening and writing in a diary is a good way of raising awareness of your actions throughout the day. Writing about your conversations can help to reflect on your relationships with others. Sometimes, we have to remind ourselves how much impact our environment has on us.

… I think I haven’t done anything today

Through writing regularly, we can also track our productivity and overall, how we are living. Having nothing to write about can mean that we spent a lot of time doing something that might not be worth mentioning, like browsing through the internet for most of the day. We can reflect on that and figure out if it was just procrastination or exhaustion after events or tasks of the past days. Flipping to prior pages is enough to find out. While reading through those entries, we can also see if we spend most of our days living exactly the same or take the necessary time to meet friends, travel and make memories. Writing almost every day that we’ve spent eight to twelve hours working or studying and only having the energy left to lie around afterwards is what makes the contents on social media so interesting to us. Instead of experiencing certain things for ourselves, we rather watch how others do it.

… I’m feeling better now

Writing can be calming and ease the mind. We can be honest with ourselves and let our emotions flow into the paper. As already mentioned, diaries raise our awareness, not only of our actions but also of our feelings. Sometimes, we might think that the issue that is bothering us is not important to us. “Let’s forget it and not bother others with talking about it.” Our diaries will never be bothered. These abstract emotions get a physical form on paper and become visible. If the same issue is mentioned several times, we can do something about it.

The diary gives us the opportunity to learn about what makes us happy, what is overwhelming, and what should be changed in our lives. We get to know ourselves better and that’s why documenting daily events in your diary has way more advantages than sharing it online.

Author: Merve Cevic

Is Cancel Culture working?

Why Cancel Culture is Problematic

Cancelling people has become a widespread phenomenon in the last decade. Not only celebrities, but journalists, politicians, professors, artists and across the entire media and political landscape are affected. Cancelling an individual, however, often goes beyond simply pointing out mistakes they made. It is often imbued with ideological beliefs, posing a huge threat to constructive criticism and real progress.

Understanding the Debate

Cancel Culture can be seen as a position of moral high ground which is used by an individual or a group of people to oust someone from social or professional circles. It’s often connected to social media, as it poses as an easy way to publicly point out mistakes people have made. An example where social media was predominantly involved is the #MeToo movement of 2017, in which women were encouraged to come forward with stories about sexual harassment they have experienced. A prominent figure that was – justly – cancelled was Harvey Weinstein. The case of Weinstein clearly shows one of the advantages Cancel Culture provides: successfully seeking and often rightfully pointing out grievances.

The Shortcomings of Cancel Culture

Even though there are many instances where Cancel Culture came forth as useful, inspiring entire movements, it shouldn’t be treated uncritically. Especially on social media, cancellations can happen almost at lightspeed. Earlier that day someone was a genuine, down-to-earth celebrity and from one moment to another, they are someone to avoid. Cancellation instead of conversation seems to be the mantra of such debates. James Gunn, for example, was called out when a right-wing media personality discovered offensive tweets that he posted in 2009 and 2010. The outcry on Twitter was tremendous, leading Disney to fire the director in a response to the outrage. The media backlash was mostly led by progressive leftists despite having originated from the opposite side of the political spectrum. All of this happened without taking into consideration how Gunn’s position on the matter has changed since then, rendering his personal growth in the past ten years practically invisible. Even after having apologised for the tweets that he posted a decade ago, it took a lot of effort from various actors and actresses to get him rehired by Disney. Judging people based on things they did throughout their lives doesn’t always paint an accurate picture of what they stand for today. Another shortcoming is the actual lack of reach and consequences for people that have been cancelled. Kanye West, for instance, faced a massive backlash as well after publicly supporting Donald Trump and calling slavery “a choice”. Yet the outcries have had very little consequences for his career, his music, and his fashion.

What Cancel Culture Misses

Cancel Culture can be problematic because it’s often used as a weapon more than it’s used to point out grievances. However, this isn’t to say that it can’t be used to hold people accountable. The way it is often executed is just missing vital parts of any discussion: constructivism and engagement in good faith.  Sometimes, it can be more about destroying a person and making way for personal beliefs rather than constructive criticism based on facts.

Author: Samuel Brand

The story behind garden gnomes

Cultural heritage or just a funny German tradition?

Walking through a German suburb, you often get to see some little red-capped and white-bearded creatures, smiling or staring at you. Garden gnomes. “Oh no”, you think while passing by, “this is so typically German”. In fact, an estimated 25 million garden gnomes live in Germany’s gardens. So, no wonder that they became a part of many people’s imagination of a German stereotype. But do you actually know where this trend comes from?

What are garden gnomes?

Garden gnomes are small statuettes that are used as garden décor. Most of them look like squat little men with white beards and red pointy hats, so-called Phrygian caps. You can spot the typical gnomes doing leisure activities like gardening (while holding their garden tools, of course). However, a current funny part of this trend is that some gnomes portray stereotypes of certain groups or carry uncommon attributes. So, a real garden gnome collector may be in possession of figures with biker suits, a German football jersey or a bathing suit and sunglasses. People might even give them names – there really are no limits to creativity!

The origin of garden gnomes

To discover how these little guys actually came to end up in our gardens, we have to travel back to ancient Rome, when decorating already was a huge thing. Back then they put statues of their fertility god in gardens to defend them from evil spirits. During the Renaissance era, the folklore around gnomes grew thanks to German fairy tales and myths. Inspired by stories portraying gnomes as little creatures living in forests, people put the statues in their gardens as well by the beginning of the 18th century. However, at this time only wealthy families could afford that, as the first gnomes on the market were made of terra cotta. Nevertheless, the trend soon spread across Europe and the production of garden gnomes flourished in Germany. Thanks to new and more economical options for material, gnomes also became affordable for lower classes.

The mystic part behind it

“Garden gnome” comes from the Greek genomos meaning “earth-dweller”. As I already said, the popularity around gnomes emerged from myths and legendary tales. Gnomes were believed to have magical powers and to live underground or deep in a forest. Traditionally, people believed that gnomes could help humans in their garden, but only during the night when nobody could see them – as in the light of day they would again transform into stone. We might probably never know if this part of the story was really true – or have you ever spent an entire night in your garden looking to see if anything was moving?

The traveling gnome prank

If you’ve never heard about the Garden Gnome Liberation Front, this game will probably amuse you. The community originating in France made it their mission to liberate garden gnomes from their owners’ servitude and take them with them on their travels. The owners then received pictures of their stolen gnomes in front of famous places – and when the gnomes were returned after their journey, they often carried a travel diary documenting their newly gained freedom.

So, a German cliché?

As you’ve seen, there’s much more behind the story of garden gnomes than you might have thought. Their stories date back to ancient mythologies about gnomes and dwarfs, which were told through generations. Today, apart from a handful of serious garden-gnome-collectors, people certainly regard them as funny. However, they’re still part of Germany’s cultural heritage.

Author: Marie Peter

Garou, the Tragic Monster

Justice from the Point of View of an Antagonist

Being the strongest character is the ultimate goal for the protagonist of any Shōnen anime – but what if that ultimate power is also a curse?

The anime One Punch Man starts off by handing us a protagonist, Saitama, who’s already the strongest character in his universe. In fact, he’s so strong he can defeat any enemy with a single punch – hence the name. This power is his ultimate curse, as it leaves him bored and depressed. He simply doesn’t get excited about anything anymore. Now, my favorite character from One Punch Man is not Saitama, but Garou, a 19-year-old human with martial arts skills. Garou is not a friend of Saitama’s; he is, in fact, the exact opposite, an antagonist, who even calls himself a monster, despite being an ordinary human.

While Saitama is the protagonist of One Punch Man, every character has their own unique background story, circumstances, and motivation for what they’re doing, and Garou’s are what make him my favorite antagonist in all of anime history. His story starts as a little kid, when he’s playing with his classmates. Every kid has watched TV shows about heroes fighting bad guys, but Garou, unlike the other kids, is always rooting for the monsters, who get so close to defeating the heroes, but can never succeed. When playing with the other kids, he always plays the villain, and he gets bullied and beaten up in return. Whenever he stands up against a “hero”, other kids come and help that kid defeat Garou. In the light of these events, Garou decides that he wants to be different: he wants to be a monster that breaks the cycle of the heroes winning. He wants to become the ultimate monster that will defeat every hero.

Because he’s getting bullied and beaten, Garou quits school and joins a Martial Arts dojo run by S-Class heroes, who are the highest-ranked heroes on the fictional planet of Silverfang. He trains every day to become stronger and more powerful, but his Sensei has no idea about Garou’s actual intensions. When he turns 19, he realises that he can´t learn anything at the Dojo anymore, so he leaves. Before leaving, however, he defeats every other student and almost kills them all. Garou thinks he’s now ready to end the constant defeat of villains and monsters, so he declares war on the Hero Association. He defeats a few heroes with ease; however, many more follow and try to stop him. Although struggling, Garou manages to strike them down. Now, in most movies and TV shows, the villain first overpowers the hero(es) and comes really close to winning. In the last possible moment, the hero(es) get that one, critical extra boost of power through friendship or love and manage to hold their ground. With Garou, it’s the exact opposite: at the start of each battle, the heroes overpower him, and he needs to find some extra strength to defeat the heroes.

What’s interesting is that I found myself rooting for him every time, because to me, he feels more like a misunderstood hero. Even though he’s the antagonist of the anime’s actual main character, whenever he is on screen, he becomes the protagonist. After all, we’ve learned his backstory, seen fights from his perspective, heard his thoughts, know his ideas and anticipate his tricks. Those are all features usually reserved for the main character! So Garou is presented to the viewer as the protagonist, even though he is a villain. To me, that makes him the best antagonist in all of anime.

Author: Chris Schneider

Stolen years

The two definitions of “child marriage”

According to Wikipedia, this term is defined as a marriage or similar union, between a child and an adult or another child under a certain age. This formal approach creates a ‘’distance’’ from the problem. The vocabulary does not reflect the reality of this common practice.

Instead of this academic explanation, we could focus on real stories, narrated by the countless victims of this phenomenon. “I was supposed to be in school at the time I got married”, says a 12 years old girl; or “This man came to my house to ask my parents to marry me and they accepted”, says another one two years older. These testimonies transfer the desperation that these children experienced when they were forced to give up their childhood.

Which gender is mostly affected?

As UNICEF claims, child marriage is the result of a settled gender inequality, making girls excessively affected by this practice. Globally, only one sixth of boys get married as a child, which is extremely low compared to girls.

Causes

The factors which can lead to child marriage are several and diverse. A really common one is the patriarchal society, which is common in many countries (e.g. Yemen, India) and controls all the aspects of people’s lives. The leaders of these societies are always men, and their “target” are usually young girls. The value of the girls is determined by their virginity. There is also an unreasonable and extremely conservative dress code for them. They must follow a certain behavior and marry the man that was chosen for them.

Furthermore, an undoubtedly important cause of child marriage is poverty. If we take careful notice of the shocking percentages of child brides in the world’s poorest countries (e.g. Niger), we could easily understand why many families with daughters, or even the girls themselves, consider child marriage as a good option. According to their opinion, it seems like the best way to reduce family costs, while they gain financial security from their husband.

Another difficult circumstance that “helps ” to establish these customs is insecurity. It is well known that countries with numerous child marriages suffer from violence, outbreaks of diseases or hunger and conflicts (e.g. Somalia). Due to the typical absence of education, many families think that they can protect their daughters with a marriage.

Effects on each gender

Even though it’s generally accepted that the majority of the victims are girls, it would be rather unfair not to mention the negative effects of child marriage on boys. Scientists strongly believe that an early marriage, which is accompanied by adults’ responsibilities that a boy cannot take care of, could only add pressure and stress. Also, a marriage could prevent him from chasing higher education and better job opportunities.

A girl, on the other hand, is not only losing any access to education and the possibility of financial independence, but it can also create serious health problems. For example, there is a danger for sexually transmitted diseases, cervical cancer, malaria, death during childbirth and obstetric fistulas.

Ways to stop child marriage

These days many organizations like Girls Not Brides, CARE and Breakthrough fight to end the phenomenon. A combined effort from these organizations, along with the governments and people’s support, can deliver a drastic change.

Author: Chrysi Moysiadou

The Brave Coward

Understanding Strength Through Usopp from One Piece

“Romance Dawn” is the title of One Piece’s first chapter published in July 1997. While One Piece tackles many different topics, themes, and ideas, at its core it’s a story about romance. By romance, I refer to the wider notion of romance, the feeling of excitement and mystery beyond everyday life, the longing of following one’s dreams. In its essence, One Piece is the ultimate romanticised pirate adventure. The world of One Piece is inhabited by sea monsters, giants, humans with superpowers, talking animals, angels, and self-proclaimed gods. Amidst all of that, there is also Usopp, the sniper of the Straw Hat Crew. He is a weakling, a coward, a liar and most of the time, a crybaby. The polar opposite of what a great pirate is supposed to be, right? Except that I think, he is one of the bravest and most powerful characters in the entire series.

While the Straw Hat Pirates all travel together, they each have individual dreams they strive for. In Usopp’s case, this entails becoming a brave warrior of the sea, similar to the giants he unwaveringly idolizes. The only problem: he is neither as physically strong as a warrior nor is he brave in the common sense of the word. In fact, he often hides behind his lies and comrades when facing a superior enemy. As their journey progresses, it is only natural for their enemies to get stronger as well. After barely avoiding a near-death situation on Long Ring Long Land trying to protect Robin, he recognises his uselessness. Usopp convinces himself that he, like their ship, won’t reach their final destination. He leaves the crew because he doesn’t want to drag them down. His understanding of strength is ignorant. Strength isn’t limited to physical power. As Sanji points out later, he should focus on what he can do. Through the persona of Sniper King, he uses his lies as a source of internal strength, allowing him to stand at his comrades’ side again. While his strength isn’t remarkable, his reach as a sniper is, allowing him to play a crucial part in Robin’s rescue. The idea of strength gets perfectly contrasted by Spandam, the antagonist of this story arc who fittingly gets defeated by Usopp. Spandam has no power of his own. He only wields power in the form of the buster call and CP9 members, representing everything Usopp doesn´t want to be.  

By understanding his weaknesses, Usopp gains new strength. However, his understanding of Sanji’s words remained incomplete until the Straw Hats reach the island of love and passion, Dressrosa. Once more, he finds himself facing the aftermath of his lies while being the only one who can still complete their mission to knock out Sugar and break the country’s distortion. Overwhelmed by his anxiety and guilt over betraying the Tontatta Tribe’s trust, he realizes the greater meaning behind Sanji’s advice. Not do what only you can do but do everything you can do. He understands that he can’t hide behind his mask forever, dropping it and his lies with it. Through honesty, he pulled off a miracle so great the people who witness it literally titled him God afterwards. This development in character is represented by his bounty poster changing from Sniper King to God Usopp. For him to achieve his dream and become a great warrior of the sea, he must become an honest one.

There are many lessons we can learn by examining the character of Usopp but for me, it is oddly comforting to see a character in this larger-than-life setting struggling with the same mundane things I struggle with on a daily basis: battling with and ultimately overcoming his nature even in the face of great adversity.

Author: Michael Felber