Oracle of History

Guiding you through the ages

Archive for the tag “history”

Did Mulan Really Defeat the Huns?

With the popularity of Frozen I thought it would be a good idea to take a step back and look at one of the most badass Disney Princesses out there: Mulan.

Mulan

Is she real?

Well, unfortunately the only “proof” we have that she existed was an ancient Chinese ballad/poem that we think was written sometime between 386 and 533 A.D. (Wei Dynasty).

Since it is a folk tale, there are countless interpretations of the story. In simplistic terms you can say it’s China’s version of the story of the fall of Troy.

No one knows if it really happened, but it’s a nice story with a moral lesson.

So what is the Legend of Mulan trying to teach us?

Like any good folk tale, the story of Mulan is meant to impart an important moral lesson. In this case, honor your family and your country, preferably at the same time. Not everyone will have the courage to join a war to save their father, but it does make it clear what the values were at the time.

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The original poem has an obvious sexist tinge to it that isn’t as present in the Disney movie, which is a good thing. For one, Mulan’s name is rarely used in the poem. She is referred to as “daughter” most of the time. The story also opens with her weaving and ends with her doing similar female approved activities, returning to her role as female of the household.

This wouldn’t have upset as much if it weren’t for the fact that she supposedly spent 12 years in the army without being caught – yes, 12 years and was only discovered because her old army buddies came to visit her later.  You would have thought that she would have had issues with re-adapting to female life, but it was as if she were unchanged by the experience.

I don’t know about Mulan, but when I hang around guys a lot I develop similar mannerisms and habits – as you would with any group of friends.  So, excuse me as I suspend my disbelief for a second.

That being said, in the legend, Mulan is already versed in martial arts and horseback riding thanks to her father. So she didn’t really need to be whipped into shape like in the Disney version, but it did produce a kickass song!

Of course, this is meant to tell little girls that you can bring honor to your family, as long as you go back to your assigned gender roles once you’re done.

I think the big draw of the Disney movie is that it gives a positive role model for young girls without being preachy. Mulan chooses to go to war to protect her father, but she also grows as a person through this experience.

The poem is obviously revolutionary, telling the story of a girl who disguises herself as a boy and is successful, but the character feels fairly static. A vessel to teach a moral lesson. It’s a common storytelling tool from the past, mostly because this was the only way to really ram in a point. Most people wouldn’t have had enough education to be able to read so ballads were an effective way to spread stories and create popular culture.

In the end, I hope it’s true and if it’s not…

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Making Anime History

I’ve recently gotten back into anime. Maybe it’s the long hours spent in front of the computer, but there is something satisfying about being able to watch a comprehensive story arc in the space of 15 mins or so.

It may also be that I am suffering from a serious case of wanderlust and I’m desperately trying to immerse myself in an other culture.  Subtitles for the win!

Let me preface this by saying that I’m no expert. This is a combination of what I’ve read and what I’ve seen. No hate please!

Anime, Japanese animated films and T.V. shows, are very different from their western equivalent.

Why you may ask?

Well, because their society and culture is entirely different. It also has a very specific style that is supported by an entire industry.

So, where did it come from?

My research has led me to believe that the beginning of the anime industry was during World War 2 when Japanese animators were influenced by the comic strips and cartoons of the west.

Thus Japanese illustrators began to serialise their stories in newspapers. This would later lead to the creation of the manga, which is the Japanese style comic book that is so popular today.

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Soon after, in the 1950s and 60s, animation studios began to appear in Japan with the aim of producing  films that could rival Disney.

Over the years, the style and stories became more refined. Like any industry there are some good ones and some bad ones, but it’s also such a big industry that you can basically find anything you could ever want….and I mean anything….*shudder*

The official “boom” came in the 1980s when many anime T.V. shows were brought to the U.S. and became incredibly popular.

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Sailor Moon is the one of the most obvious examples. I still remember watching Sailor Moon as a kid in the 90s and I lived in France!

What I find the most interesting is that, although the Japanese Anime Industry is independent of the U.S. animation market, there are moments where they are dependent on each other.

For example, the creation of the sequel to Full Metal Alchemist, Brotherhood, was partly attributed to the huge success of the original series in the U.S.

The Japanese studio then realized that success = money.

That being said, it is an entirely different culture. Western parents often think that anime = cartoons, which isn’t necessarily the case. A lot of the time adult themes are openly addressed in these shows.

Currently, I am watching a show called Diabolik Lovers. It’s about a young girl who was groomed by her father, a priest, to serve as a sacrifice for a house full of vampires. She is then sent to live with them.

Yes, yes, I know it sounds awful, but what shocked me the most was the almost rapey nature of the show. These incredibly “attractive” vampires basically force themselves on her while saying things like “I know you want it” and “you can’t get away from me.”

N.B. they are referring to blood sucking and not other things, but the vibe is still super creepy. I wonder if there are any studies on the psychological impact of something like this…

This is in contrast to a show like Vampire Knight, which is about a school that is separated between Day Class students (who are human) and Night Class students (who are vampires). Somehow it’s less creepy. I think it’s because these vampires are shown to have redeeming qualities, distinguishing between “good” and “bad” vampires.

You can already see the difference in the openings!

On the other end of the spectrum, you’ve got shows that are very positive and fluffy. They make you want to puke rainbows!

I’m thinking in particular of something like Uta No Prince-Sama or Brothers Conflict. Both based on Visual Novel games. It’s a reverse harem plot, which means there is one girl surrounded by many guys.  Although the plot lines are always ridiculous, I enjoy watching them because it’s something that is never done in western animation. It’s exotic to me!

Either way, it’s an industry that is very unique. It completely suspends your disbelief.

Guy with green hair? Seems legit.

Love hexagon troubles? Create a boy band.

The cultural heritage of animation is very interesting since it influences children and adults alike. It has even greater power when you think of how it can spread through the internet.

And so, I leave you with one of the more epic anime intros I’ve seen:

Welcome to my website

ImageWhat do you get when you combine one’s interest in history and all things digital? You get a historical website of course!

As a lover of history, I have yet to see a platform, other than videogames or T.V shows/movies, that makes our past relatable and interesting. Odds being that if you don’t/didn’t like history in school then you probably won’t like it in life unless it’s hidden under a pile of fun.

I’m here to change that!

With my experience in the communications and museum world I hope to transport you to many different times and places through a multimedia time machine.

So, are you ready to begin?

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