Archives About Staff BagNews is dedicated to visual politics, media literacy and the analysis of news images.
April 20, 2005

Chin Up

Saveface

Do you think this picture has enough stars?

With large scale demonstrations being planned for May 1st (Labor Day), the Chinese government has decided to put the brakes on anti-Japanese protests.  Apparently, party leaders don’t want to see things get out of hand (or let organizers start feeling too independent).

Having spent time a few weeks ago analyzing the protest images from Lebanon, I’ve been planning on giving more attention to the emerging drama in Asia.  As I sift through the visuals, I’m impressed by something many of you pointed out while commenting on the massive Hezbullah demonstration in Beirut.  These regional protests are become so conscious of western media and the global audience, it’s now almost conventional to see signs that are either strictly English, or at least bilingual.

 

In the midst of studying the political wars at home, it’s interesting to appreciate how much the battles elsewhere can play on completely different terms.  Here in America, for example, it almost doesn’t matter how much face a politician loses as long as he comes out on top.  In Asia, on the other hand, it seems that keeping face is practically the whole point.

(image: Alex Hofford/European Pressphoto Agency.  April 10, 2005 in The New York Times )

  • http://home.uchicago.edu/~ashaw Al

    I’m not sure how tasteful your post title is, even if it does make for a good pun in context of the picture. I’m also not sure if the text on the poster ‘don’t save his face’ is meant in the same way you mean saving face, it may just be an instance of engrish with an unintended double meaning.

  • The BAG

    From my reading, current tensions between China and Japan seem to be spurred mostly by pride, brought into the open by the way the Japanese have allegedly “glossed over” the maltreatment of the Chinese during WWII in a newly released edition of Japanese history textbooks. Given this circumstance, my point about the political need to save face is not metaphorical at all. Sadly enough, I don’t think the poster’s implications are metaphorical either. If my comments or my use of language give that impression, that wasn’t my intention. When I see that the Chinese are so inflamed by this affront to their honor that they can hardly restrain themselves from breaking some chins (or delivering an uppercut to the entire Japanese population), it makes me wonder where this world is headed. Along those lines, “chin up” alludes both to the tendency of the Chinese to fall so low as to incite violence. At the same time, it suggests that “higher minded” individuals might see the actions of the Japanese from a more dispassionate perspective, realizing that a more confident people cannot and should not let their morale be determined by mere words.

  • Jon

    The caricature of the Japanese subject seems straight out of WWII American war propaganda, and the fist derivative of Communist agitprop. It’s a brutally ugly poster.
    I’d be interested to know if an archivist of US war propaganda could find a facsimile of the Japanese caricature. It could be a clue to finding out who made it.

  • aethorian

    Rule No. 1 for images that demonize the enemy: be sure to save face. Like bad fashions, someone will recycle the concept every generation or two.
    American propaganda posters of World War II, “…a series designed and displayed by Douglas Aircraft Company, Inc., under its material conservation program.“:

    Keep that morgue file up to date.

  • Lt. Bighorn

    The image on the poster is definitely US WWII vintage. The caricuture is typical, as well as the style of the typeface.
    “Don’t save his face” might seem a strange slogan for a US propaganda poster from WWII, but I don’t think it’s “Engrish”. There was a lot of “know your enemy” material out there at the time, and much of it would have mentioned the Japanese preoccupation for “saving face”. The US designer deliberately adapted the phrase for its impact.
    The Chinese-language banner is interesting too. “Oppose Japanese Right-Wing Revisionism…” is all I could read clearly. It’s a formulation that is typical of Chinese Communist Party propaganda from the Cultural Revolution. Its professional manufacture suggests that the government supplied it to the protestors.
    This gives these protests a taste of the 40’s and also of the 60’s. Somehow, the sepia tone of the black-and-white newspaper photo contributes to the retro effect.

  • aethorian

    Here is “Don’t Save His Face“, the original 1942 version. The fist is labeled “American Labor“.

  • aethorian

    Another shot of the current Chinese version—with commentary—is here. Poster translation, Lieutenant?
    More Hong Kong demonstration photos on flickr.

  • MonsieurGonzo

    aethorian: superb research.
    What a Difference an Enemy Makes
    such a happy happy joy joy, to be all angry. i simply can’t wait to see MayDay! to lose myself with all my comrades in our great cause celebre!
    For the benefit of Mr. Kite
    There will be a show tonight
    On trampoline.
    The Hendersons will all be there
    Late of Pablo Fanques Fair
    -what a scene.
    Over men and horses hoops and garters
    Lastly through a hogshead of real fire!
    In this way Mr. K. will challenge the world !

    pity the Yankees’ “War on Terror” ~ it is so difficult to demonize, whatizzit anyway ~ a transitive verb? what ever: they must long for their very own Tojo mojo.
    and it’s one, two, three
    what’re they fightin’ for?
    don’t ask me (I don’t give a damn)
    about old Uncle Sam…

    …where are the Yankees’ songs, their slogans, their sudden love affairs and spoils of war? their parades and protests? what are they going to roll down Main Street, when Johnny comes marching home, their empty barrels of oil?
    i think the Yankees have forgotten how to war.
    (that’s OK. we haven’t ;-)
    The band begins at ten to six
    When Mr. K. performs his tricks
    without a sound.
    And Mr. H. will demonstrate
    Ten summersets he’ll undertake
    -on solid ground!
    Having been some days in preparation
    A splendid time is guaranteed for all!

    And tonight Mr. Kite is topping the bill :-/

Refresh Archives

Random Notes