Monday, 15 August 2011

PD and Comedy

Last week I read about this upcoming research piece on the Beijing Olympics in American TV Comedy, and what it means for China/PD issues:

I'm really looking forward to seeing the full report, as political comedy is one of my favourite things in the world. I instantly knew the two shows they were talking about--South Park's episode "The China Problem" and The Daily Show. I thought South Park was particularly brilliant--Cartman was terrified by the opening ceremony, telling his friends "They outnumber us like a million to one!" Cartman is the outlandish and prejudiced foil to the voices of reason, Stan & Kyle (and presumably the rational audience members, as well?). His fear of China is a satire of very real views held by some Americans, and South Park writers put those words in Cartman's mouth to show how ridiculous the fear is. Of course, given America's newly downgraded credit rating and apparently imminent "decline & fall", maybe I need to watch that episode again...

I thought of another example of the Beijing Olympics in U.S. comedy. It's just one line, not significant enough to include in the paper, but still very funny:

I absolutely loved Michael Sheen as Wesley on 30 Rock, and this line was brilliant. I was just thinking about it recently amid all of the rioting. "We don't have that sort of control over our people..."

And funnily enough, China was thinking the same thing during the London riots!
China's reporting of the London rioting showed that they doubt London is up for the security challenges of hosting the Olympic games.

In terms of PD, the Olympics are obviously a good thing. They raise your nation's profile and give you a chance to show off the positive aspects of your culture to the world during the opening & closing ceremonies. Watching the last Winter Olympics, I was really quite impressed with Canada's ceremonies--the emphasis on First Nations, the Canadian celebrities (Neil Young? How did I not know that?), Mounties and dancing lumberjacks, etc. (The giant inflatable beavers were a bit over the top, though). I grew up about halfway between Seattle and Vancouver, and I had no idea Canada had that much going on.
Hosting the Olympics is a giant nation-branding, PR exercise (with an athletic competition taking place on the side). Beijing did the same thing before Vancouver did it, and London will do the same thing again...Can't wait to see which aspects of British culture they choose to highlight!

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