International Activists Known as the Milk Tea Alliance Reignite “Mulan” Boycott Calls
- 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)
Swifties Rally Outside Los Angeles Courthouse Amid Ticketmaster Lawsuit Hearing
Over 300 fans are suing Ticketmaster over the “disaster” they experienced while attempting to purchase tickets for Taylor Swift’s latest tour.
Taylor Swift fans rallied outside of a Los Angeles courthouse on Monday as the first hearing for a lawsuit they filed against Ticketmaster took place.
Swift’s fans, dubbed “Swifties,” sued the ticket giant late last year after the presale for the singer’s Eras Tour left many fans empty-handed. Swift herself called the ordeal “excruciating” after her fans were kicked out of the virtual queue, lost tickets they thought they had purchased, and experienced technical difficulties for hours on end.
Dozens of fans, including virtual attendees, spoke at Monday’s hearing, which largely centered around the status of the suit. There are over 300 plaintiffs represented in the case, though attorney Jennifer Anne Kinder, the self-proclaimed Swiftie leading the case, said she does not plan on pursuing class-action status.
Fans are seeking at least $2,500 each in damages, though as one fan told CNN: “It has nothing to do with the money.” Swifties really want to take aim at the alleged monopoly Ticketmaster and its parent company, Live Nation, hold over the entertainment and live event industries. Live Nation is currently the subject of a Department of Justice investigation over potential abuse of power.
Swifties traveled from across the country to attend the hearing and rally. Roughly a dozen stood outside the courthouse carrying signs using Swift’s lyrics to take aim at Ticketmaster. One sign featured a broken heart with “Ticketmaster” and “Live Nation” written on either side. “Are you ready for it?” the sign asked.
Others used lines like “my pennies made your crown” and “can’t shake it off.”
What’s In The Lawsuit?
Kinder’s firm made a website called “Take Down Ticketmaster” to lay out issues fans had with the Swift presale and with the company as a whole.
“We monitored the Taylor Swift sale in real time of what was happening to fans across the U.S.,” the website says. “Collectively, fans’ experiences with Ticketmaster indicated a potential pattern of fraudulent behavior and antitrust violations by the company.”
The site also encouraged music fans across genres and artists to fight back against Ticketmaster and take “back our power in the live entertainment ecosystem.”
In their lawsuit, Swifties accused Ticketmaster of “anticompetitive conduct” by imposing higher prices on the sale, resale, and presale markets. It also claims the company gave out more presale codes than demand allowed, and “intentionally and purposefully mislead ticket purchasers by allowing scalpers and bots access” to the presale.
According to Ticketmaster, the incredibly high demand, coupled with an onslaught of bot attacks, forced the platform to slow sales down. The company delayed sales in certain cities and canceled the general sale altogether before it started slowly releasing pairs of tickets to fans with presale codes who did not have tickets in their accounts.
The Eras Tour kicked off in Arizona earlier this month. Swifties are not the only fandom Ticketmaster has to worry about though, as just last week, Drake fans slapped the company with a price-gouging suit.
See what others are saying: (CNN) (The Los Angeles Times) (Rolling Stone)
Twitch Tightens Policies on Explicit Deepfakes
“The creation, promotion, or viewing of this content is not welcome on Twitch,” the company said in a blog post.
New Rules Regarding “Synthetic NCEI”
Twitch is cracking down on explicit deepfake content and will indefinitely suspend users who share or promote it after a first offense.
“The existence of this content, and its presence and distribution on various sites, is personally violating and beyond upsetting. Deepfake porn isn’t a problem on Twitch, but it’s a terrible issue that some streamers (almost exclusively women) may face on the internet at large,” Twitch said in a Tuesday blog post, explaining it wants to “help streamers protect themselves” in any case this issue arises.
Twitch referred to this content as “synthetic non-consensual exploitative images,” or “synthetic NCEI,” but many of the platform’s users have casually referred to it as deepfake porn. Synthetic NCEI involves someone taking the face of another person and editing it into a pornographic video to make it appear as though that person filmed themselves demonstrating those sexual acts. The new rise in access to this technology has concerned many, as it is easy to use it to exploit others.
While synthetic NCEI is already banned on Twitch, the company took a more actionable step against it in its Tuesday post by creating an Adult Sexual Violence and Exploitation policy. The new rule prohibits the intentional sharing, promoting, or creation of synthetic NCEI and those acts can result in an indefinite suspension on the first offense.
Twitch also updated its Adult Nudity policy to include synthetic NCEI. Even if it is only shown briefly, that content will still be taken down and result in an enforcement.
In addition to the policy changes, Twitch made available a list of resources for those who might be impacted by or wish to learn more about synthetic NCEI.
“The creation, promotion, or viewing of this content is not welcome on Twitch,” the company said closing its blog post.
Growing Concerns About Explicit Deepfakes
Twitch’s updates come as synthetic NCEI and deepfakes have become a primary topic of concern for social media platforms. Earlier this year, Twitch was home to a major deepfake controversy after a streamer known as Atrioc was caught with an open tab to a website that hosted these videos. That site specifically hosted deepfakes of female Twitch streamers, some of whom were Atrioc’s colleagues.
Many women featured on the page spoke out against these deepfakes, explaining the trauma they endured knowing their face, image, and likeness were used in a sexual manner without their consent. It’s an issue that extends far past Twitch creators. Some fear they could be used for revenge porn, and there are already several cases where the technology is used to create sexual videos of celebrities.
On Tuesday, NBC News published a report finding that Facebook and Instagram ran suggestive ads featuring deepfakes of actresses like Emma Watson and Scarlett Johansson. The ads were for a deepfake app that told users they could “replace face with anyone.”
While the ads did not show explicit pornographic content, one ad featuring Watson was clearly meant to mimic the start of an explicit video, suggesting a sexual act was about to start. The face of the “Harry Potter” actress was seen looking into the camera before bending down.
The report found that 127 ads with Watson deepfakes and 74 with Johansson deepfakes ran across Meta’s platforms on Sunday and Monday, but have since been removed. The app in question was also removed from the Apple app store after NBC News contacted the tech giant for comment.
See what others are saying: (The Verge) (Engadget) (Kotaku)
Fans Defend Pedro Pascal After Actor Refused to Read Thirst Tweets: “It’s Sexual Harassment”
Pascal has been dubbed the Internet’s “daddy,” but many think the joke has gone too far.
Pascal’s Heartthrob Status
Fans are defending actor Pedro Pascal after he refused to read thirst tweets on the red carpet, arguing that it is inappropriate and disrespectful to ask him to do so.
Pascal, the star of HBO’s “The Last of Us” and Disney+’s “The Mandalorian,” has become a major Hollywood heartthrob. He has even been widely dubbed as the Internet’s “daddy” by those posting about his handsome looks. The running joke grew last year when he did a Vanity Fair lie detector test and said he considered himself a “bigger daddy” than “Star Wars” star Oscar Isaac.
“Daddy is a state of mind, you know what I’m saying? I’m your daddy,” he quipped during the interview.
Since then, TikTokers have started posting thirst trap edits of Pascal, journalists have called him “daddy” on the red carpet, and interviewers have shown him tweets where fans call him a “cool, slutty daddy.”
Pascal has been a good sport about the public displays of lust for him, but many think the joke may have crossed a line. During last week’s red carpet premiere for season three of “The Mandalorian,” an Access Hollywood reporter went viral for asking Pascal to read thirst tweets to the camera. Pascal politely declined.
“No. Dirty! Dirty!” he told the reporter after reading through the tweets.
“For your enjoyment only,” she responded.
“Thank you very much,” Pascal said before exiting the interview.
Fans Condemn Thirst Tweet Interviews
In response, many who watched the clip condemned this treatment of Pascal, arguing it promoted constant objectification.
“I think it’s time for the internet to leave Pedro Pascal alone,” one person wrote. “It’s sexual harassment, but no one seems to care bc he’s a man + is graceful about it. It’s really gross and I would never want to be treated like that.”
“These jokes have gone way too far and he’s visibly uncomfortable,” another fan added.
Some claimed that while the Internet’s love of Pascal “started as harmless fun…the constant public objectification and sexualization must be terrible” and should stop.
“Being attractive, banking on it, selling it, and even at times enjoying some of the attention, doesn’t give everyone wholesale permission to sexualize you,” someone else argued.