From Chop Suey to Chop-Socky: The Construction of Chineseness in British Television Adverts
Cardiff University, GB
Paul Bowman is professor of cultural studies at Cardiff University. He is author of eleven academic monographs on a range of topics in cultural theory, film, media and popular culture, most recently Deconstructing Martial Arts, which is published free online by Cardiff University Press. His next monograph is The Invention of Martial Arts: Popular Culture Between Asia And America (forthcoming from Oxford University Press). He is currently researching self-defence discourses, narratives, representations and practices.
Edward Said’s theory of orientalism proposes that Western European culture has overwhelmingly tended to (mis)represent non-European cultures, societies, regions, and ethnic groups via mythic, romantic, simplistic and simplifying sets of binaries. This article asks whether orientalism remains present or active within contemporary media, by analysing the representation of ‘Chineseness’ in British television adverts between 1955 and 2018. It argues that a predictable, recurring, limited set of aural, visual and narrative clichés and stereotypes have functioned – and continue to function – as the principal resources to evoke ‘Chineseness’ in British television adverts. The analysis suggests that caricatures, clichés and stereotypes of China, Chinese people, locations, artifacts and phenomena are so common that there can be said to be a glaring seam of unacknowledged, uninterrogated orientalism functioning to maintain a kind of ‘invisible’ racism in British advertising.