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.


[1] “Liu Yifei: Mulan Boycott Urged after Star Backs HK Police,” BBC News (BBC, August 16, 2019),

[2] Daniel Victor, “Why Are People Protesting in Hong Kong?,” The New York Times (The New York Times, November 13, 2019),

[3] Jessie Yeung, “Hong Kong Protesters Call for ‘Mulan’ Boycott,” CNN (Cable News Network, August 16, 2019),

[4] “Liu Yifei: Mulan Boycott Urged after Star Backs HK Police,” BBC News (BBC, August 16, 2019),

[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),

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.


[1] “What Is a Pandemic?” LiveScience. Purch. Accessed March 19, 2020.

[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;

[3] Posner, Gerald. “Big Pharma May Pose an Obstacle to Vaccine Development.” The New York Times. The New York Times, March 2, 2020.

[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.

[6] “COVID-19, MERS & SARS.” National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Accessed March 19, 2020.

[7] “What’s in President Trump’s Fiscal 2021 Budget?” The New York Times. The New York Times, February 10, 2020.

[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.

[10] Tirumalaraju, Divya. “Covid-19 Vaccine: Inovio Secures Funds for Delivery Device.” Pharmaceutical Technology, March 13, 2020.

[11] Daily, Investor’s Business. “Gilead Sciences Rating Rises Amid Coronavirus Study.” Investor’s Business Daily, March 12, 2020.

[12] Hamblin, James. “You’re Likely to Get the Coronavirus.” The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, March 10, 2020.

What Is Populism and How to Mitigate It?

Author: A. A. Gede Basawantara

The 2016 US Presidential Election, Brexit, and Daenerys Stormborn of House Targaryen

Ever wonder how politicians like Donald Trump gain supporters? In ways that seem unusual, Donald Trump is widely known for his controversial presidential campaign, mainly his racist attitude. Yet, why are there people that still voted for him? Scholars called this phenomenon as ‘Populism’. Traced back since as early as Julius Caesar, populism, as according to Ganon et al. (2018), is defined as “…[T]he invocation of “the people” who are betrayed, wronged, or otherwise left vulnerable to forces outside their control.”

Based on the aforementioned definition, populism has several main traits. First, populism involves a homogenous group of people that feel “angry” and “resented” by the government. Second, populism is “… typically a reaction to a deep crisis, real or perceived.” These crises include economic crises (i.e. financial crisis, job losses), security crises (i.e. terrorism, climate change), and sovereignty crises (i.e. immigration). Finally, populism is typically an instrument of politics in a form of identity politics – where populists raise the notion of The Pure People vs. The Corrupt Elites.

In order to visualize these traits, let us take a look at a character from the Game of Thrones series, Daenerys Stormborn of House Targaryen, the First of Her Name, Queen of the Andals and the First Men, Protector of the Seven Kingdoms, the Mother of Dragons, the Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, the Unburnt, the Breaker of Chains. After witnessing the horrific condition of the people in the Slaver’s Bay, the Dragon Queen pledged herself to liberate all slaves in the area; encouraging them to stand against their ‘corrupt elites’, toppling down the elites, taking power, ruling over cities, and promoting “No More Slaves” notion. Similarly, Donald Trump’s presidential campaign promotes how the people should rise against the corrupt political elites while simultaneously taking advantage of his supporters’ emotions that are against immigrants, promoting “Make America Great Again” notion.

With that being said, does populism always come like that? Müller (2016) and Gagnon et al. argues that there are two types of populism, which are Right Populism – imbued with emotions, addressing crises through acts of racism, xenophobia, neonationalism, and sexism – and Left Populism – focuses on protecting democracy, upholding egalitarianism, and open to immigration. A very vivid example of these types of populism are Donald Trump – whose behavior depicts a Right-wing populist – and Bernie Sanders – whose behavior depicts Left-wing populist. However, Gagnon et al. (2018) disagree that populists can only be categorized into two polar. Gagnon et al. offer six cleavages in order to analyze a populist more comprehensively, which are: (1) Authoritarian vs. Democratic; (2) Market Fundamentalist vs. Redistributive; (3) Exclusionary vs. Inclusionary; (4) Xenophobic vs. Cosmopolitan; (5) Electoral vs. Participatory; and (6) Nostalgic vs. Aspirational. Through this, Gagnon et al. argue that even though Trump and Sanders are respectively authoritarian and democratic populists, both of them are also electoral populists (gain power in the government through the vote of the people).

Then, what are the impacts of populism? Let us take the case of Brexit as an example. In 2016, around 51 percent of population in the United Kingdom (UK) voted to leave the European Union (EU), mainly due to the voters’ resentment of immigrants in the UK. This phenomenon sparks the rise of racially-motivated crimes in the UK, reaching up to 70,000 reports in 2017-2018. Consequently, Brexit has resulted in the decline in the UK’s GDP by 2% in the first quarter of 2019 and has created uncertainty towards its international partners.

How do we mitigate populism? Cas Mudde and Antonio Argandoña offer several ideas to mitigate the issues caused by populism. First, political parties (established and emerging) should seek to propose inclusive visions and programs that deliver benefits for all citizens, not only for a part of the voters. Second, social media should be regulated and held accountable for damaging a pluralistic, fact-based and hate-free political debate, in the same way as traditional media. Third, participatory and deliberative platforms and initiatives (citizens’ assemblies, juries, forums) should be embedded into the decision-making processes to balance the oligarchic tendencies of electoral democracy. This could help to minimize a government to be out-of-reach and the people to feel being resented by the government. Finally, revising macroeconomic, taxation, industrial and commercial policies – for policies that are seem to create inequality among the people.
As the cherry on top, one question remains: is populism good or bad? We leave that for you to decide.


Mietzner, Marcus. Reinventing Asian Populism: Jokowi’s Rise Democracy, and Political Contestation in Indonesia. Honolulu: East-West Center, 2015
Müller, Jan-Werner. What is Populism?. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016

Argandoña, Antonio. “Why Populism Is Rising And How To Combat It”, Forbes, January 24, 2017. Accessed July 10, 2019,
Gagnon, Jean-Paul, Emily Beausoleil, Kyong-Min Son, Cleve Arguelles, Pierrick Chalaye, Callum N. Johnston. “What is Populism? Who is the Populist?” Democratic Theory 5, no. 2 (2018)

Mudde, Cas. “How Can Liberals Defeat Populism? Here are Four Ideas.” The Guardian, February 13, 2018. Accessed July 10, 2019,
“Brexit ‘Major Influence’ in Racism and Hate Crime Rise.” BBC, June 20, 2019. Accessed July 10, 2019,
“What Effect has Brexit had on the UK Economy?” BBC, February 10, 2019. Accessed July 10, 2019,

Automation and Artificial Intelligence: Friend or Foe?

Author: Graciotto Van Handriyanto

“Will I lose my job?”

Millions of labors asked the same questions to their employer, government, and ultimately to the future. The rise of automation, be it by a simple robotics or a more complex artificial intelligence seems to make blue collar labor an ineffective means of production. Martin Ford, an American Futurist writes in his book Rise of Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future

“As robotics and advanced self-service technologies are increasingly deployed across nearly every sector of the economy, they will primarily threaten lower-wage jobs that requires modest levels of education and training. These jobs, however, currently make up the vast majority of the new positions being generate by the economy…”[1]

This issue transcends the concern of United States and developed countries and it even resonances throughout the globe inquiring states to decide a stance, are robots and AI a friend or foe?

To answer this question, we need to look back to the past and see how this very question has been perpetuated for decades. Thanks to innovations, machines and technologies has been constantly replacing human, and most of the time it is rather unpleasant.  The creation of digital camera for an example, renders the service of photo development shops useless. During the 1950s and early 1960, the concerns over automation and joblessness was so strong that the in 1964 President Lyndon B. Johnson creates the “Blue-Ribbon National Commission on Technology, Automation, and Economic Progress” to confront the productivity problem of that period. [2] Matthew Yglesias argues that apparently despite of all the tragedy of innovations, the society as a whole always thrive. Innovations leads to a huge leap forward and on average, job growth continued and living standard rises.[3]

So, what happened? For starters, automation allows people to work less. Historically speaking, people work less hours and the economy doesn’t fail. Take employment to population ratio as an example, it grows from 55% in the 1950 to an average of 60% in 1980[4]. Wages also rose faster than inflation, generating wealth and welfare for the society in general. This too reduces inequality due to the fact that advance technologies are accessible to everyone instead of only limited to a small group of elites.

What’s next? The technology has evolved, creating changes beyond basic mechanical function. The rise of A.I leads to advance automation such as self-driving car or home assistants like Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant. Frey and Osborne wrote in their working paper that as technology advances and goes forward, low-skill workers will reallocate to tasks that are non-susceptible to computerization such as tasks that requires creative and social intelligence, and as such creative and social skill are necessary to win the race.[5] But in order to be utilized by the general public, technological advances needs to be accompanied by companies that can use them and the creation of practical products of the technology. Vox’s Ezra Klein argues that “developing technology turns out to be a lot easier than getting people – and particularly companies – to use it properly.”[6]

Friend or Foe? Changes would always be surprising for some, but in general it’s necessary to understand that it’s a step toward the future. Automation and artificial intelligence take our job, but jobs change throughout the years. Understand that all these technological developments are no foe, they assist us on daily basis and makes life easier for everyone. Man needs to adapt to the new form of jobs that requires creative and social skill and create companies that makes these advancements be used by and benefitting everyone. So, embrace technology as your friend and utilize its never-ending potential.


[1] Martin Ford, Rise of Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future (New York: Basic Books, 2015), 26

[2] David H. Autor, “Why Are There Still So Many Jobs? The History and Future of Workplace Automation,” Journal of Economic Perspectives Vol. 29, No. 3 (2015): 3-4

[3] Matthew Yglesias, “The automation myth,” Vox, published on July 2015, and accessed on April 8th 2019,

[4] “Database, Tables & Calculators by Subject: Employment-Population Ratio,” Bureau of Labor Statistics, accessed April 28th 2019,

[5] Carl B. Frey and Michael A. Osborne, “The Future of Employment: How Susceptible Are Jobs to Computerization?” Technological Forecasting and Social Change No. 114 (2017):269

[6] Ezra Klein, “Technology is changing ho we live, but it needs to change how we work,” Vox, last updated September, 2016, and accessed on April 8th, 2019,

Climate Change and The Fall of The Mayan Civilization: Are They Connected?

Author: Natasya Fila Rais

Climate change, also called global warming, refers to the rise in average surface temperatures on Earth.[1] There has been a few debates on whether climate change is real or not. There is a broad agreement that says climate change is real. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration concur that climate change is indeed occurring and is almost certainly due to human activity.[2] An overwhelming scientific consensus maintains that climate change is due primarily to the human use of fossil fuels, which releases carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the air. The gases trap heat within the atmosphere, which can have a range of effects on ecosystems, including rising sea levels, severe weather events, and droughts that render landscapes more susceptible to wildfires.[3] Human activities, such as deforestation and agriculture, are believed to contribute to climate change.

Climate change can cause the rising of the Earth’s temperature.  The earth’s average temperature has gone up 1.4° F over the past century and is expected to rise as much as 11.5° F over the next.[4] The temperature rising can cause the polar ice caps to melt, which will lead to the rising of the sea level. Such rising will cause more frequent and dangerous storm, rapid intensity of rainfall, flood, and threaten animal habitats and endangered species.

The Maya Empire, became an influential ancient civilization in the sixth century A.D. It was located on the Yucatan Peninsula and region that is now known as Guatemala. The Maya excelled at agriculture, pottery, hieroglyph writing, calendar-making and mathematics, and left behind an astonishing amount of impressive architecture and symbolic artwork.[5] The declining of the Mayan civilization was claimed to be one of the most mysterious declining processes among other ancient civilizations. One by one, the Classic cities in the southern lowlands were abandoned, and by A.D. 900, Maya civilization in that region had collapsed.[6] Prior to the development of the drought theory on Mayan civilization’s demise, researchers had suggested soil erosion as the cause of the civilization’s downfall.[7] Soil erosion happened as a result of the Mayans chopping down forests in order to create farmlands. The environment where the Mayans lived could no longer sustain the lives of the people there. Extreme and intense period of drought was believed to be one of the reasons why the Maya civilization collapsed. Other Maya scholars argue that constant warfare among competing city-states led the complicated military, family (by marriage) and trade alliances between them to break down, along with the traditional system of dynastic power.[8]

Looking at the cause of the declining of the Mayan civilization, it is believed that climate change is the primary reason why the aforementioned collapsed. Scholars, scientists, and historians who are experts on the Mayan civilization are still arguing on the fact. The declining of the Mayan civilization is suspected to be caused by soil erosion, drought, deforestation, and warfare. During the modern day, soil erosion, drought, and deforestation are considered as a few factors that contribute to climate change. From such perspective, it is believed that the Mayan civilization collapsed because of the climate change. The Yucatan Peninsula, where the Mayans were located, is a seasonal desert. The region depends on heavy summer rains that provide as much as 90 percent of the annual precipitation.[9] Precipitation happened rapidly across the peninsula. Surface water often dissolves the limestone bedrock of the Yucatán, and also creates caves and underground rivers.[10] David A. Hodell had proposed the idea of the drought theory in 1995 after analyzing sediment records in Lake Chichancanab. The lake is located in Yucatán, Mexico and possesses gastropod and ostracod shells with varying levels of the isotope 18O. A small percent of H218O naturally resides in the lake water, but when temperatures rise, the proportion of H218O becomes greater.[11] Douglas Kennett’s data also show particularly long droughts between 200-300 C.E., 820-870 C.E., 1020-1100 C.E., and 1530-580 C.E. Short but very severe droughts also occurred in 420, 930, and 1800 C.E.[12]

From the data provided, it could be possible for the Mayan civilization to collapse because of the climate change, as the phenomenon that happened during those times was similar to the cause of climate change in this era. However, it is said that warfare also contributed to the collapsing Mayan civilization, so natural phenomenon is not the sole cause of the declining of the civilization. The warfare itself contributes to the death of the Mayans, not only through war, but also through extreme food shortage.

In conclusion, debates are still happening between scholars and the Maya civilization expertise whether the cause of the Mayan civilization to decline is because of climate change. However, looking at the history, phenomenon, such as deforestation, drought, and soil erosion, happened very often in the area. If we bring back those causes to the modern times, what happened during the collapsing of the Mayan civilization was aligned to the causes of climate change that we have known and scientists have concluded. It might not seem as though climate change is the primary cause of the declining, however natural disasters might contribute as the catalysts of the declining of the Mayan civilization.


  1. Staff (2009) “Maya” Retrieved April 22, 2018, from,
  2. Mott, Nicholas (2012) “Why the Maya Fell: Climate Change, Conflict – And a Trip to the Beach?” Retrieved April 22, 2018, from,
  3. Oh, Na Eun (2013) “Climate Change and the Decline of Mayan Civilization” Retrieved April 22, 2018, from,
  4. Takepart (n.d.) “What is Climate Change?” Retrieved April 22, 2018, from,


[1] Takepart (n.d.) “What is Climate Change?” Retrieved April 22, 2018, from,

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Staff (2009) “Maya” Retrieved April 22, 2018, from,

[6] Ibid.

[7] Oh, Na Eun (2013) “Climate Change and the Decline of Mayan Civilization” Retrieved April 22, 2018, from,

[8] Staff (2009) “Maya” Retrieved April 22, 2018, from,

[9] Oh, Na Eun (2013) “Climate Change and the Decline of Mayan Civilization” Retrieved April 22, 2018, from,

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid.