Friday, October 31, 2014

Tapson on Tales and Totalitarianism

Over at Acculturated, Mark Tapson discusses how American pop media helped one North Korean teenager survive totalitarianism. Excerpts:
Park Yeon-mi was nine years old when she and the rest of her school were forced to attend the execution of a classmate’s mother. The poor woman’s capital crime was that she had lent a smuggled South Korean movie to a friend.

Under the brutally repressive regime of the insane Kim Jong-Il (now succeeded by his son, the insane Kim Jong-Un), “there were different levels of punishment” for such a crime, says Park. “If you were caught with a Bollywood or Russian movie you were sent to prison for three years but if it was South Korean or American you were executed.” ...

As a teenager, it was Hollywood love stories that opened Park’s eyes to the literal and spiritual impoverishment of her native country, she told The Guardian. Among her favorite movies were Titanic and Pretty Woman. “Everything in North Korea was about the leader, all the books, music and TV,” she said. “So what was shocking to me about Titanic was that the guy gave his life for the woman and not for his country -- I just couldn’t understand that mindset ...

“All the foreign movies we saw about love affected me and my generation,” said Park. “Now we no longer want to die for the regime, we want to die for love.”
Read the whole thing. I grew up in a household where pop culture was, if not exactly a problem per se, hardly the best way to spend one's time. And you know what? I completely understand that sentiment in an age where ballads about butt size and blendings of gospel music with one-night stands manage to top the charts. Still, still, still, even the shallowest songs, movies, and music can't escape a salient fact: All communication is charged with propositions, with truth claims about what is good or ugly, right or wrong, worthy of praise or ridicule. Such propositions -- however trite they may seem -- inspired Park Yeon-mi to resist tyranny. In the end, I'm not sure there's such a thing as utterly inconsequential art.

(Picture: CC 2007 by (stephan))

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