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

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

OK Millennials?

How the online fight between Gen Z and the Millennials escalated

Not far ago, in 2019, millennials were mocking the baby boomer generation by using the phrase “OK Boomer“. Now the tables have turned, and the Millennials are no longer the revolutionary generation making fun of the old established attitudes. Millennials are now the target of online jokes regarding their fashion by the younger generation, Gen Z. 

Would you describe your clothing style as trendy? If so, it is likely that you can be considered as a part of Gen Z. Or do you still love to wear your skinny jeans and side-parted hair like a typical millennial? These simple preferences regarding different fashion choices have divided the internet and led to a generational conflict on various online platforms. Whereas some Gen Zs have claimed that skinny jeans are now out of fashion and should be “cancelled“, some Millennials have fought back, protesting that no one can prescribe what to wear. This whole conflict escalated quickly, leading to hate songs and mocking videos. In my opinion, the people who took part in this online fight damaged the reputation of their generation. Especially for the Millennials, regarding their age, an online fight about fashion was not the most mature idea.

Millennials vs Gen

According to the Pew Research Centre, anyone born between 1981 and 1996 is a Millennial. The generation afterwards, Gen Z, is classified between 1997 and 2012. This categorisation implies that you share experiences with other people of your generation, like major political events, the economic situation of your country or the cultural and social influences through popular culture. Millennials were often criticised in newspapers as lazy in their career, unable to commit to their relationships and even as Facebook addicted. Yet, they are seen as adaptable, tolerant and open-minded. If you compare these to the stereotypical characteristics of a Gen Z, many are relatively similar. Like Millennials, Gen Zs are connected through social media, using Instagram and TikTok. Critics perceive their multitasking abilities as a lack of focusing. Additionally, Gen Z shares the liberal tolerant political view but appears more vocal and active, as seen in the “Fridays for Future“ movement. Another difference is Gen Z’s preference in working, where not flexibility but independence is favoured. As you can see, these two differ in some areas, like fashion, but are not oppositional. 

Do you identify with your generation?

After the controversial online dispute, I asked myself if I really identify with my generation. Even though I am part of Generation Z, I often understand references only for 90s kids. So, it is possible to share certain attributes with the other generation. Especially for people born between two generations, it can be hard to be sorted into one. Besides this, you sometimes don’t want to be associated with your generation because your opinions aren’t mainstream. Of course, a generation unites lots of people, each individually and differently. It is important to remember that your generation doesn’t determine you. It is just a construct to analyse the social structures and the influences of the time you were raised.

Author: Sandra Haupt

Who run the world?

A special kind of girls!

Hollywood is changing. Movements like #metoo or the Weinstein-scandal prove that actresses are still facing sexual harassment and discrimination in the show business. So, while female artists start to challenge their position in the movie metropolis, how come the characters they so often embody are still tied to old-fashioned clichés?

“Diamonds are a girl’s best friend.” vs. The Tomboy

First, we have the beautiful, pink, lipstick loving, girlie girl. She is totally into fashion and … well, that’s about it. Sometimes portrayed as a bit silly, always very superficial and definitely hyper-sensitive like Gossip Girls’ Serena van der Woodsen or Legally Blondes’ Elle Woods. Mean Girls’ Regina George was at least given the potential to be the villain of her movie by creating the proto-typical evil first cheerleader who embodies all the clichés and is simply unlikeable. However, this cliché does not apply to all girls and even Hollywood realized it so they decided to widen the field of female characters by creating the absolute opposite of the girlie: the tomboy. Mulan and Game of Thrones’ Aria Stark are probably two of the most prominent examples. This type of woman is portrayed with traits that society usually attributes to men, like fierceness and a thirst for adventures. Sounds like a cool character! Well, if you enjoy wearing men’s clothes and being friend-zoned by all the boys, it is. This character is nearly always bold and funny, but never anyone’s crush or even allowed a bit of sexiness. You say they are totally different? I say they have a few things in common… Sure, their interests and character traits differ massively but they have two things in common: First, every female character always looks effortlessly stunning. And second, their whole existence serves one purpose: make the female lead look better.

The Female Lead

We all know and love them: Hermione Granger, Princess Leia or Katniss Everdeen. The woman you really want to be. Obviously, they, too, look stunning and gorgeous throughout the entire movie. The difference is they are not aware of it and don’t even care about it. This character depends on its differentiation to the girls around her. She is prettier than the girlie girl without even trying, cooler than the tomboy without caring and also smart, funny and everything else. By highlighting her specialness, the other girls seem inferior, undesirable and even pathetic.

Is Netflix our Silver Lining?

To be clear, I like Hermione and Katniss as much as everyone else does because they are strong and fight for what is right. But would it be so terrible if they were shown ironing their hair in the morning? 3-dimensional characters like Jess Day from New Girl are rare: she’s a bit weird but embraces it, she is not cool about sex or relationships, she dresses funny and yet she doesn’t want to change. Her character is loved by her friends not because, but despite of her sometimes annoying habits. We need more female role-models like her and Netflix is giving them to us with Set it Up’s dedicated, hard-working Harper, who is truly interested in Baseball and too nice to the people around her, or with Love and Monsters’ Aimee. She also has an impressive personality, as she not only manages to survive the apocalyptic appearance of the monsters, but also serves as the leader of an entire colony of survivors. While those women are, again, of course breathtakingly beautiful they still are fantastic characters as they struggle with insecurities and make mistakes but prove themselves through hard work and their positive character traits. So, while Hollywood kind of fails to improve their girls, Netflix shows how character development is done.

Author: Anja Sonn

The rise of TikTok

Lockdowns and quarantines have taken their toll on all of us – on some people more, on some people less. In the beginning, some people started doing home workouts like crazy just to give up on them the very next week. Others, apparently, got keen on cooking and baking but, eventually, they only made banana bread once in a while instead of further developing this hobby. And then, there were people, including myself, who downloaded an app out of self-isolation and boredom – an app that had been, at first, so passionately despised! The app, we tried so hard to avoid, suddenly takes up most of our screen time per day. So, what’s happening here?

Why is TikTok becoming so popular?

TikTok is a Chinese video-sharing social networking service owned by the company ByteDance. In China, it is also known as Douyin and the platform is used by tiktokers who make a variety of short videos that aren’t longer than 3 minutes. It became globally available in 2018 after merging with the lip-syncing app Musical.ly, which had already been quite popular among teenagers before.

Since then, TikTok has been downloaded 2 billion times on the App Store and Google Play and a whopping 90% of tiktokers use the app multiple times during the day. The company targets especially Gen Z (people that are born between 1997 and 2012) and this generation will tell you that TikTok is a whole new subculture.

However, as social media becomes gradually involved in our daily life, statistics show that more and more adults, especially Millennials (people that are born between 1981 and 1996), find the app for themselves. If you ask them about TikTok they either hate it or they have a burning passion for it and here is why: a lot of Millennials still associate TikTok with Musical.ly. While you could mainly find videos of underaged teenagers lip-syncing and dancing to pop songs on Musical.ly, TikTok developed a wider range of content, including lifestyle and most importantly comedy.

What you will mainly find on TikTok: Trends and inside jokes also known as memes

TikTok makes you feel like you are a part of something big and if you don’t participate in this platform, you will have the feeling of missing out on something. The difference between TikTok and other social media apps like Instagram or Twitter is significant. While users on Instagram and co follow and consume content of certain people with no fixed algorithms, TikTok is more like an engine that uses your interaction data to automatically show you what you want without having to follow anybody. The engagement among users is high and the content never ends. It’s like an artificial intelligence which is highly personalised, and it tells you: “You should watch this, I know you’ll like it” – and it is almost guaranteed that you will.

Watching a two-hour long movie? No. Spending 3 hours on TikTok? Yes.

While it sounds great to be flooded with new, refreshing content and no boredom in sight, TikTok has also faced many problems: allegations of a failing data protection system, cyber mobbing, no protection of minors and it censors content that is considered sensitive by the Chinese government. It got to the point where the U.S. feared that the app is being used for espionage and, thus, poses a national security risk. On August 2020, Donald Trump even tried to ban TikTok in the U.S. All in all, it can be said that if TikTok remains government approved in most countries, its future will stay bright and its community will keep on growing.

Author: Judith Pütz