Open Thread: Red Scare 2.0

What’s that, my fellow Americans? In this time of economic turbulence, global ecological turmoil, increased military activity, and political WTF-ery, your greatest fear is….

THE RISE OF CHINA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Not, say, increased military spending, the decrease in funding for public schools, the rising cost of food, the unsustainability of American standards of living, or even the political and active assault on women’s lives and bodies? The consolidation of economic, political, and military power in the hands of the less than benign?

There’s a lot to pull out here, so here are my initial thoughts:

1. Conquest is explicitly racialized — this Red Scare commercial is really focused on the bogeyman of a yellow peril — where hordes of Chinese men are trying to bring down the US. This “yellow menace” is lurking just outside US borders, waiting for an opportunity to strike.

2. Fear is profitable.

3. Fearmongering is distracting from the roots of other problems like the mis-steps on Wall Street and the assault on women’s bodily sovereignty.

What say you, Hathorians? There’s a lot to unpack from this commercial — to be honest I’m flummoxed at where to start.


  1. sbg says

    I think it’s a very easy fear to play on. Have you ever looked at how much of what is in your home says “made in China” on it? All you have to do is tell people the takeover is sitting right in their kitchen cupboards, and bam! The fear is there.

    When I see the Made in China sticker on all my stuff, I get angry at the companies that were more interested in the bottom line than in keeping jobs in the US. The people making crap like this are the ones we should be afraid of.

    We’re the ones we should be afraid of.

  2. Dani says

    Ew. I saw this commercial last night, and didn’t pay much attention to it until the very end, and then I was like…”wait…was that really about what I think it was about?” Watching it now, I’m even more disgusted. The painfully obvious “be afraid, be very afraid” winks and nods (the photo of Mao Zedong, “massive changes to healthcare”, the evil looking professor (complete with a “muahaha!” laugh!)) would be amusing in their absurdity and tackiness if they weren’t so, and weren’t contributing to something so, horribly and disgustingly racist and xenophobic! The fact that the creators of this commercial are listing things that the US government is doing wrong, and then blaming the Chinese for it is just…I have no words.

  3. Jenny Islander says

    Yes, it wasn’t as though a bunch of Chinese supervillains came swooping through our economy on hoverbikes going ALL YOUR JOB ARE BELONG TO US MOOOHAAAHAAAAAA. American corporate executives chose to send these jobs overseas.

  4. Chai Latte says

    This reminds me a bit of an episode of BBC’s “Sherlock”. While I like the series in general, the second episode relied heavily on the ‘yellow peril’ trope that appeared in a lot of Victorian-era penny dreadfuls. The problem is, the new Sherlock is set in modern times! I was facepalming through most of it. I thought that schtick was old even when it was being featured in the post-WWII Agatha Christie novels. When oh when is this nonsense going to end?

    • says

      Hmm, that episode struck me very differently, and I’m bringing this up not because I want to debate, but because I’d like to learn from it.

      The episode included many reminders that China has a breathtaking history of arts and, well, true civilization. The two women of Chinese descent – Soo Lin and General Shan – were courageous and determined (Soo Lin’s work on the code actually saved the day). The story of the crime syndicate didn’t feel to me like… well, I’ve seen similar stories involving white American characters (forced into prostitution, or killed for crossing some organized crime group), though perhaps they were all Italian and I had the privilege not to pick up on that or something. To me, it felt like a story about a great historic nation that has crime like everyone else… but maybe I’m projecting my own view of China onto the story or something?

      • Chai Latte says

        I’ll agree with you on Soo Lin, but General Shan was completely incompetent. She didn’t even know what her target looked like! (She mistook Watson for Sherlock, which, for a badass syndicate of crime, doesn’t reflect well on them.)

        There’s a long history of ZOMGEVILYELLOWPERIL, also, unfortunately….and this episode just rehashed old stereotypes while bringing nothing fresh or new to the mix.

        • says

          I thought Moriarty was the incompetent. Shan had only just arrived in the country. If Moriarty not only failed to give her a pick of Sherlock, but didn’t even think to warn her he might get involved, Moriarty was the fool, not Shan. It never crossed my mind to blame Shan for that.

          There’s a long history of ZOMGEVILYELLOWPERIL, also, unfortunately….and this episode just rehashed old stereotypes while bringing nothing fresh or new to the mix.

          *nods* Okay, well… I guess I don’t know those stereotypes, and still don’t, so the ep didn’t read that way for me.

          • Chai Latte says

            It’s possible it was Moriarty at fault here, but as General Shan had near-superhuman assassins at her disposal, I find it *really* hard to swallow that she couldn’t have found out where Holmes lived, and gotten his picture etc. that way. But mistaking Watson for Holmes? I could only see that being the case if they resembled each other, but they don’t.

            A lot of people didn’t see the racism in this episode–as a white woman, I didn’t see it either, at first. Chalk that up to white privilege, I guess. Until I got a load of the use of YELLOW PAINT by the Chinese gang. (Yellow=absolutely atrocious racial slur referring to the hue of Asian skin color.) After that, my jaw hit the ground. And it just went downhill from there. (As someone who loved the first episode, I watched to the end to see if it would redeem itself. It didn’t.)

            The reason I know a lot of these words/stereotypes in general is because I read a lot of Victorian-era literature, including some of the original Holmes novels. They are RIFE with Asian/Indian gangs/cults/what have you causing trouble, and the Brave White Heroes who fight them. (It was a favorite theme for quite some time, I’m sad to say.) Even the Agatha Christie novels from the 1930s through the 1950s are laced with words that are now considered to be unutterable in public. But then, that was 1897/1945/whatever. In 2011, though….it’s just mind-meltingly racist.

            Here, Madam Miaow, aka Anna Chen, breaks it down much better than I could:


            • says

              Thank you!

              This comment and that article you linked help a lot. The “yellow” paint went right past me. And while I did see “The Talons of Weng Chiang” that one commenter mentions, I think I blocked it out of my mind because it was so over the top with racist cliches. I think the perspective I originally shared here helps shed some light on where the white British writers may have been coming from, and why they probably thought they did a pretty good job: because they do depict China as a varied an, in many ways, wondrous place. It IS an upgrade from Weng Chiang, and white privilege – without another racial perspective (which white privilege often prevents us realizing we even NEED) – makes it hard to see beyond that.

              I was also troubled by Soo Lin’s depiction as so passive and defeated (her most courageous act happens offscreen), but I wasn’t quite getting that this was an “Asian woman” stereotype as well as a “woman” stereotype. But I can see that now. I was also troubled that both the Chinese women in the story died. I disagree with the writer of the other article on one point: I thought Sarah was portrayed better than women generally are in those situations, though that is sad because she just handled certain things like a human being might, and that shouldn’t be a step up from the typical depiction.

  5. Nicky P says

    Hmm. You know, I think I remember there being a video game in production that had the exact same theme- where China is invading the U.S., or something like that. And you fight them. And then it’s awkward because it’s set in modern times. I can’t remember what it would have been called though.

    BUT YEAH. There are many aspects of this commercial that confuse me. It’s apparently sincere but it seems a lot like parody.

    • UbiquitousGrue says

      “Homefront”, perhaps? Except there it’s North Korea in the role of invading force, I believe. They even promoted the game with fake protests against the Korean occupation. 😐

      I saw this commercial a while back, and it took me a while to realize that it wasn’t going to be satirical. At least folks have since made some nice, biting parodies of the ad itself.

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