How Does a Disney Movie Become Political?

Author: Alifa

Remake of the classic 1998 film, Mulan, is one of the most highly anticipated film set to premiere in 2020. The film brought up many conversation topics on social media for having an all Asian cast, the new direction Disney is taking for this remake compared to the original, and most surprisingly, the Hong Kong protests[1]. The Hong Kong demonstrations itself began in March 2019 when Carrie Lam, Hong Kong Chief Executive, proposed a bill that would allow the extradition of criminals from Hong Kong to mainland China. Since the proposition of the bill, protests have erupted in Hong Kong. The protests started peacefully but continued to become increasingly violent due to clashes with police forces and usage of tear gas, batons, and pepper spray from the law enforcement’s side[2].

Controversy started surrounding the film when the lead actress casted as Mulan, Liu Yifei, reposted an image that reads the quote, “I support the Hong Kong police. You can all attack me now.” The reposted image was followed by Liu’s own remarks expressing her support for the Hong Kong police. Her post received positive responses in Weibo, a popular social media platform in China but extremely negative responses in other social media platforms banned in China, especially Twitter[3]. The hashtag #BoycottMulan started trending shortly after her post became viral.

There are two reasons why her comment gained such severe reactions from the public. First, Liu Yifei is a Chinese born actress who then became a naturalized American citizen[4]. Many viewed her comment as coming from a place of privilege and tone deaf. As an American citizen, Liu does not face the oppression that the Hong Kong citizens are facing. While she enjoys freedom, she looks down upon those who are risking their life fighting for their own rights and democracy. Hong Kong protestors face excessive use of violence and abuse of power from the Hong Kong police during the demonstrations, violence which have been condemned by large institutions such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch[5]. People of Hong Kong rightfully took offense of what Liu said and started to call for the film’s boycott.

Second, Mulan is also one of the most popular legend originating from China. Its values represent the nation and the people, not only those in mainland, but also in Hong Kong. The legend tells the story of fighting back against oppression and doing what is right. Having the lead actress publicly showing support towards the Hong Kong police in the demonstrations unsurprisingly felt like a slap on the face to the citizens of Hong Kong. To the Hong Kong citizens and many others supporting the protest, her support for the Hong Kong police meant she supported the brutality and excessive use of violence committed by the law enforcements.

Her portrayal of Mulan could have been the voice of justice for the people experiencing cruelty in Hong Kong. Instead, Liu’s remark was seen as a betrayal towards the character she depicts in the film which resulted in the hashtag calling to boycott the film to trend on Twitter. Portraying a character as influential and popular as Mulan comes with certain responsibilities. Her comments aren’t just comments. She has a platform and a large following who listens to what she has to say, especially when it comes to delicate political issues like the Hong Kong demonstrations. Her words have impact. And yet, she chose to use that platform to support an institution displaying brute use of force.

References:

[1] “Liu Yifei: Mulan Boycott Urged after Star Backs HK Police,” BBC News (BBC, August 16, 2019), https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-49373276)

[2] Daniel Victor, “Why Are People Protesting in Hong Kong?,” The New York Times (The New York Times, November 13, 2019), https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/13/world/asia/hong-kong-protests.html)

[3] Jessie Yeung, “Hong Kong Protesters Call for ‘Mulan’ Boycott,” CNN (Cable News Network, August 16, 2019), https://edition.cnn.com/2019/08/16/asia/china-mulan-actor-protests-intl-hnk-trnd/index.html)

[4] “Liu Yifei: Mulan Boycott Urged after Star Backs HK Police,” BBC News (BBC, August 16, 2019), https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-49373276)

[5] Daniel Victor, “Calls to Boycott ‘Mulan’ Erupt After Star Voices Support for Hong Kong Police,” The New York Times (The New York Times, August 16, 2019), https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/16/world/asia/boycott-mulan.html)

Politics and Profit in the Cure for Pandemics

Author: Emily Zaza

There’s a common concern surrounding the global citizens of how a sickness can be cured. It is not enough, however, to explain how a sickness finds its vaccines by only using a bio-chemical approach. In the means to find a cure, hurdles including the political priorities and market strategy are present.

In retrospect, the world has suffered from the deathly pandemics, sickness that spreads globally,[1] such as Ebola, SARS, and MERS prior to the emergence of COVID-19. But status quo has not yet seen a major victory in one true vaccine that could perfectly cure each pandemic. The question is, why is it so hard to find a vaccination for a pandemic

The leading figure in a research to develop vaccines often lies in the hands of pharmaceutical companies. The problem is they tend to have their main priorities in the end goal of profit and financial recompensates.[2] This can be shown, for example, in 1976 during the outbreak of swine flu in the United States, when four drug firms; Merck’s Sharp & Dohme, Merrell, Wyeth, and Parke-Davis refused to sell the government their manufactured doses of vaccination until they were reassured they would get full liability and profit.[3]

Gerald Posner in his book Pharma : Greed, Lies, and the Poisoning of America, argues that one of the reasons pharmaceutical industries show little interest for the development of such outbreaks, is because the recipients were more likely be in Africa and Asia, that they think the financial returns were too small to justify any huge investment that would cost much money for the research.[4] The next barriers that we find in the discovery of pandemics’ vaccines is due to the nature of an outbreak itself. Jason Schwartz, an assistant professor at Yale School of Public Health, argues that pharmaceutical companies are prone to suspend the research for such pandemics once the phase of an outbreak ends.[5] COVID-19 should have been the test case for this because the virus has similarities with the previous pandemics, such as 2003-SARS and 2012-MERS, three of them have similar respiratory illnesses including fever and cough.[6] In fact, should pharmaceutical companies continue with their researches, they would have their basic research completed and that could be implemented in COVID-19 thus lessening the time needed to produce such vaccines for future inevitable viruses.

It would be unfair to say the only concern to find a vaccine is a mere economic thought because political agenda also plays a role. On February 2020, President Trump in his new 2021 fiscal budgeting plan appears to have reduced the overall funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP)  and National Institutes of Health (NIH) which translates into difficulties to fund a research for pandemics preparedness.[7] Political circumstances change per time being and per leaders andot every politician is fond of health issue. The next thing we usually see is big pharmaceutical companies will spend more money on the political lobbying, for approval on clinical tests for example, such difficulties is also one of the obstacles if the financial recompensate is not secured.[8]

However, everything always comes with a counterbalance. The world seems to move in a faster lane than it did during previous outbreaks. Firste see China’s fast response in identifying a particular genome of coronavirus that might help finding the vaccine.[9] Next we witness the birth of Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovation (CEPI) in 2017, which takes donations from public and private entities, including Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation whose focus is funding the development of World Health Organization’s (WHO) agenda to find cure for pathogens, including MERS and Ebola. It is known for funding Inovio Pharmaceuticals to begin testing for COVID-19 a few days ago.[10] Third, when the whole Wall Street market stock has purging due to this outbreak, pharmaceutical company Gillead has its sales rating move higher after it publishes a statement that Gilead is working on a COVID-19 treatment and would publish the report in next month, this might incentivize them for more research.[11] And last but not least, Trump’s $1 billion emergency fund as a response to coronavirus might also help such progress. [12]

The aforementioned initial hurdles are unlikely to disappear anytime soon, but this does not mean any beneficial progress would not appear in he midst of an epidemic crisis.

References:

[1] “What Is a Pandemic?” LiveScience. Purch. Accessed March 19, 2020. https://www.livescience.com/pandemic.html.

[2] Rottingen JA, Gouglas D, Feinberg M, Plotkin S, Raghavan KV, Witty A, Draghia-Akli R, Stoffels P, Piot P. New vaccines against epidemic infectious diseases. N Engl J Med 2017; 376:610-13; PMID:28099066; http://dx.doi.org/10.1056/NEJMp1613577

[3] Posner, Gerald. “Big Pharma May Pose an Obstacle to Vaccine Development.” The New York Times. The New York Times, March 2, 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/02/opinion/contributors/pharma-vaccines.html.

[4] Posner, Gerald L. Pharma: Greed, Lies, and the Poisoning of America. New York: Avid Reader Press, 2020.

[5] Hamblin, James. “You’re Likely to Get the Coronavirus.” The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, March 10, 2020. https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2020/02/covid-vaccine/607000/.

[6] “COVID-19, MERS & SARS.” National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Accessed March 19, 2020. https://www.niaid.nih.gov/diseases-conditions/covid-19.

[7] “What’s in President Trump’s Fiscal 2021 Budget?” The New York Times. The New York Times, February 10, 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/10/business/economy/trump-budget-explained-facts.html.

[8] Schubert, Louis, Thomas R. Dye, and L. Harmon Zeigler. The Irony of Democracy: an Uncommon Introduction to American Politics. Boston, MA: Cengage Learning, 2016. Pg 172-173

[9] Asian Scientist Newsroom, and Wildtype Media Group. “Chinese Scientists Sequence Genome Of COVID-19.” Asian Scientist Magazine | Science, technology and medical news updates from Asia, February 28, 2020. https://www.asianscientist.com/2020/02/topnews/china-coronavirus-covid-19-study/.

[10] Tirumalaraju, Divya. “Covid-19 Vaccine: Inovio Secures Funds for Delivery Device.” Pharmaceutical Technology, March 13, 2020. https://www.pharmaceutical-technology.com/news/inovio-covid-19-vaccine-delivery-device/.

[11] Daily, Investor’s Business. “Gilead Sciences Rating Rises Amid Coronavirus Study.” Investor’s Business Daily, March 12, 2020. https://www.investors.com/news/technology/stocks-to-watch-gilead-sciences-sees-relative-strength-rating-rise-to-92/.

[12] Hamblin, James. “You’re Likely to Get the Coronavirus.” The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, March 10, 2020. https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2020/02/covid-vaccine/607000/.