- Last year, Disney’s live-action film “Mulan” faced boycott calls after its lead actress, Lui Yifei, made comments supporting police who were violently cracking down on pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong.
- Those calls were reignited ahead of the film’s September 4 release date because of activists in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Thailand in a movement dubbed the Milk Tea Alliance.
- Thai activists are showing solidarity with Hong Kong and Taiwan as they fight their own freedom of speech movement against the nation’s strict lèse-majesté laws.
- Despite the controversy, it’s unclear just how much it will affect the film as accurate numbers are hard to obtain due to Disney’s distribution method.
The Milk Tea Alliance
Amid uncertain reviews and hidden streaming and VOD revenue numbers, Disney’s live-action reboot of “Mulan” faces on-going criticism by pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and now Thailand.
The calls to boycott the film ahead of its release on September 4 started last year when lead actress Liu Yifei voiced her support for police in Hong Kong. At the time, police in the city were accused of excessive force when dealing with pro-Hong Kong and democracy protesters; sentiments that haven’t calmed down in the intervening year.
Liu isn’t the only star from the film to face criticism over her comments. Donnie Yen, known for his martial-arts movies, also received backlash after posting in July, “[Today is] the celebration day for [Hong Kong] returning to motherland China 23-years-ago.”
The latest rounds of boycotts started to regain traction last month when Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Agnes Chow was arrested, leading supporters to call her the “real Mulan.”
However, if you go to Twitter, anti-Mulan activism is centered around the #milkteaalliance, a reference to the different varieties of popular milk tea in each area. For many, it’s understood why Hong Kong and Taiwan would want to boycott a film starring an actress with pro-mainland China sentiments, considering the two polities’ long-standing controversies and conflicts with the mainland.
Thailand seems like an outlier, but the nation recently had its own revival of pro-democracy and freedom-of-speech movements against its severe lèse-majesté laws that prohibit any negative speech about the monarchy or royal family.
Chayen Solidarity for Bubble and Silk
For supportors of the boycott, participation is a sign of solidarity. As Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal wrote on twitter, “I invite everyone to #BoycottMulan #BanMulan to let Disney and the Chinese government know that the state’s violence against people is unacceptable.”
Despite the social media presence, activists in Thailand have a big hill to climb. The institution of the monarchy there is extremely popular and highly revered by most Thai people, yet activists are buoyed by King Maha Vajiralongkorn’s waning personal popularity.
Before becoming king, he was seen as a party-goer and spent lavish trips abroad, often to the embarrassment of the royal family. Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, King Maha Vajiralongkorn has been out of the public eye, which to many has seemed callous.
His latest actions are what has sparked calls for the ability to even criticize the king when he reinstated his Royal Consort (the first in 100 years) after she was deposed over accusations of conspiring against the queen.
Box Office Smash or Bust?
Even with the support of the so-called Milk Tea Alliance, it’s unclear if “Mulan” will actually see a reduction on expected revenue. That’s partly because Disney is largely releasing the film on its Disney+ streaming platform. Doing so makes its extremely difficult to figure out how much money a film actually made at the box office since Disney gets to control the revenue information. For Hollywood, this could signify a major shift in how a film’s release is evaluated.
However, beyond distribution, it’s unclear just how much effect the Milk Tea Alliance will actually have on “Mulan,” considering the film is bound to draw in large numbers from China. Additionally, despite the views of the film’s stars, many support the project for casting actors less-known to Western audiences. Jon Chu, director of “Crazy Rich Asians,” praised the film Thursday by writing, “I am so excited to see all the Asian excellence on display TODAY. What a win for the @Disney fairytale!!!”
Despite one movement on Twitter disparaging the film, Disney seems to have partnered up with the platform. When a user “likes” any post that features the “Mulan” hashtag, falling petals and the logo for the movie quickly appear and disappear, driving conversations that can push the film in front of potential viewers.
See what others are saying: (BBC) (The Guardian) (Fortune)
Comedian Gives David Beckham Ultimatum: Exit Role at Qatar World Cup Or £10K in Donations Gets Shredded
“Not just the money, but also your status as a gay icon will be shredded,” Joe Lycett said in a video.
Pressure on Beckham
Comedian Joe Lycett posted a video on Sunday saying he would shred £10,000 if soccer star David Beckham does not pull out of his deal to be an ambassador for the Qatar World Cup.
Ahead of the event, which kicks off on Nov. 20, many have been raising concerns about human rights abuses in Qatar. The country criminalizes homosexuality, and it can be punishable by death.
Beckham’s deal to represent the country was reportedly worth £10 million, and many are frustrated that the athlete took such a big check from a country with known anti-LGBTQ laws. In his video, Lycett noted that Beckham has been openly supportive of his gay fans and was the first premiere footballer to do a photoshoot with a gay magazine.
In an attempt to get Beckham to bow out of his role, Lycett, who is pansexual, offered an ultimatum.
“If you end your relationship with Qatar, I’ll donate this £10,000 of my own money, that’s a grand for every million you’re reportedly getting, to charities that support queer people in football,” he stated. “However, if you do not, at midday next Sunday, I will throw this money into a shredder.”
“Not just the money, but also your status as a gay icon will be shredded.”
Beckham’s Reputation “Shredded”
Lycett said he would livestream the money shredding if that’s what the situation comes to. If Beckham does not back out of the World Cup, Lycett noted he will be forced to “commit what might be a crime,” as destroying legal tender is against the law in the U.K.
“Although even then, I reckon I’ll get off more lightly than I would if I got caught whacking off a lad in Doha,” Lycett quipped.
Lycett then linked to a website titled https://benderslikebeckham.com/, which includes a written version of his message, as well as a countdown to when he will either shred the cash or send it to a non-profit.
Lycett is not the only U.K star to raise concerns about issues in Qatar. Singer Dua Lipa shut down speculation that she would be performing at the World Cup over the weekend by saying she has no intentions to visit the country until “it has fulfilled all the human rights pledges it made when it won the right to host” the event.
Other stars, however, including BTS’s Jung Kook, are slated to take the stage.
See what others are saying: (CNN) (The Hollywood Reporter) (BBC News)
Federal Judge Dismisses Dave Portnoy’s Lawsuit Against Insider
The online personality called the decision “disappointing” but not “overly surprising.”
A federal judge in Massachusetts dismissed a defamation lawsuit Barstool Sports founder Dave Portnoy filed against Business Insider, several outlets reported on Monday.
According to a report from The Washington Post, Chief Judge F. Dennis Saylor IV decided that Portnoy did not successfully prove that the news outlet acted with “actual malice” or “reckless disregard for the truth” when it published two articles about his sexual relationships.
The first article, published in Nov. 2021, detailed stories from women who said they had “violent” and traumatizing sex with Portnoy. A second piece was published in Feb. 2022 and includes sources who said Portnoy filmed sexual encounters without consent.
Portnoy has repeatedly denied the allegations and maintained that the sexual encounters were consensual and positive. He sued Insider in February following the publication of the second article.
Per The Post, Saylor tossed the complaint because it did “not allege that Insider’s anonymous sources were fake, or that the articles misrepresented what the women told [Insider’s reporters].”
“Furthermore, plaintiff admits that Insider investigated its first article for months, requested an interview with him, sought his comment before publication, included his denials, and hyperlinked to his news conference and his lawyer’s full denial letter,” the judge’s decision continued.
Saylor also noted that Insider corroborated their sources’ claims with photos, texts, medical reports, receipts, and accounts from their friends.
While Portnoy argued that these stories were an invasion of privacy as they pertained to his private sex life and the women involved were not his employees, Insider held that their claims were relevant.
“When a rich, famous, and powerful person uses their power in a way that is harmful to other people, it is newsworthy,” Nicholas Carlson, Insider’s Global Editor-in-Chief, previously wrote in an editor’s note.
Saylor largely agreed with that, saying that issues of consent and power are part of “legitimate public interest,” including in instances that arise outside “the employment context.”
An Insider spokesperson told The Post that the outlet is “pleased and gratified that the judge dismissed his complaint.”
“We knew from the start that our reporting was careful, fair, and accurate, but it’s gratifying to see that validated in court,” Julia Black, one of the reporters named in the lawsuit, tweeted in response to the news.
For his part, however, Portnoy has criticized the judge’s decision, calling it “disappointing” but not “overly surprising.”
“Every single lawyer said it was an uphill battle, every legal expert said it was an uphill battle, that it’s almost impossible for a public figure to prove defamation,” he said in a video posted to Twitter. “The laws are stacked against me.”
Portnoy said that he turned in texts and other evidence he believed would prove the sexual encounters were positive but claimed “the judge didn’t even really look at the evidence.”
He later read an excerpt from the judge’s decision that said Portnoy “can’t seek to prove actual malice by challenging statements that defendants did not publish.”
“In other words: Business Insider did not publish any of my shit, I can’t talk about it, it’s not part of the case,” Portnoy explained. “It’s inadmissible.”
He said he could appeal the decision if he wanted, but added he was not optimistic about how that would turn out for him. He floated the idea of suing the sources themselves, noting he thinks he would stand a better chance in such a case.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Post)
Megan Thee Stallion, Drake, and More Sign Letter in Support of Restricting Rap Lyrics as Evidence
The letter claims the use of this evidence is a “racially targeted practice” that “punishes already marginalized communities and their stories.”
“Protect Black Art”
Megan Thee Stallion, Drake, and a slew of other major artists signed an open letter on Tuesday calling for politicians to restrict the use of rap lyrics as evidence in court.
The letter, titled “Art on Trial: Protect Black Art,” argues that “more than any other art form, rap lyrics are essentially being used as confessions in an attempt to criminalize Black creativity and artistry.”
It follows statements from other advocates who claim that police and prosecutors are eager to interpret rap literally instead of treating it as a creative form of expression. By doing so, critics say they ignore the storytelling techniques, figurative language, and hyperbole that are often used in the genre, and weaponize those lyrics against their creators.
Last month, California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signed a bill that aims to limit the use of rap lyrics in court by requiring prosecutors to prove lyrics meet certain criteria and do not display a racial bias before submitting them. State legislators in New York are also weighing a bill with similar goals, and on the federal level, a bill titled the “RAP Act” was introduced in Congress over the summer.
Tuesday’s letter urged state and federal politicians to pass these bills and others like it. It also encouraged prosecutors to drop the practice voluntarily.
Jack Harlow, Future, DJ Khaled, Camilla Cabello, Coldplay, Alicia Keys, Normani, Travis Scott, and Christina Aguilera were among the slew of other stars who signed the letter. Record labels like Warner, Universal, and Def Jam joined the list, as did platforms like Spotify, Tidal, TikTok, and YouTube Music.
Rap in Court
According to Warner Music Group, experts have found over 500 cases where rap was used as evidence, and that is likely an undercount as several kinds of cases and proceedings were excluded from that figure. On the other hand, those experts found only four instances since the 1950s where non-rap lyrics were used as evidence, and three of those cases were tossed while the other was overturned after conviction.
The letter used Young Thug and members of the Young Stoner Life label, who are currently facing dozens of charges, including ones that accuse the label of being a criminal gang, as an example of this issue.
“The allegations rely heavily on the artists’ lyrics, which prosecutors claim are ‘overt evidence of conspiracy,’” the letter said. “In the indictment, Fulton County prosecutors argue that lyrics like ‘I get all type of cash, I’m a general,’ are a confession of criminal intent.”
The letter claims that using an artist’s words against them in this manner is “un-American” and “simply wrong.”
“Beyond the obvious disregard for free speech and creative expression protected by the First Amendment, this racially targeted practice punishes already marginalized communities and their stories of family, struggle, survival, and triumph,” it continues.
Julie Greenwald, Chairman & CEO of Atlantic Music Group, released a statement arguing that the freedom for musicians to form characters and narratives is “essential to the creative process and the role of art in society.”
“The harsh reality is that Black artistic creativity is being threatened at an unprecedented level, and we must make every effort to stop this unethical, discriminatory approach to prosecution,” Greenwald added.