Monday, January 30, 2012

Unleash Chiang/Chang/Shang!!!

By far the funniest thing of the day is the revelation that, through the Bush family, Chiang Kai-shek has morphed into "a mythical conservative warrior." That's a link to Dan Larison's fine discussion, which will also link you way back to Brad DeLong's original catch on this from way back in 2005. There's some question as to whether Jeb Bush knew the origin of the phrase "unleashing Chiang" or not, with Tim Noah believing that Jeb did but Marco Rubio didn't. Click over and read the whole, wonderful, story.

All I can say is: Shaka, when the walls fell.

I'll also add, for whatever it's worth, that Li Shang is a hero in the excellent 1998 Disney movie "Mulan." He's not exactly a mythical conservative warrior, but he is a warrior, and it is a myth, although Jeb's kids were a bit too old to have gone with him to see it. Despite singing like Donny Osmond.  Could Disney's Shang have somehow combined with G.H.W. Bush's Chiang? I sure am curious.

Less relevantly, I see that Grandmother Fa in that movie was voiced by June Foray and sung by Marni Nixon. Wow! You're not going to get better than sense is that Mulan hasn't quite been as successful as some of the others of that era, but in my view it's right in the first tier with Beauty and the Beast and Little Mermaid.


  1. The "Unleash Chiang!" story is in George Plympton's essay "Horseshoes", about playing the titular game with George H.W. Bush between his election and inauguration. I have often used it since reading that essay--did I not unleash Chiang to beat your daughters at ping-pong?

  2. Totally agreed! Too bad Disney decided not to care about non-Pixar products right around the time "Mulan" came out. I'm sure the lack of effort by their publicity machine is a big part of why it's taking "Mulan" a little time to establish itself in the canon. Because awareness (not necessarily opinion once aware -- but awareness) follows the money, and the money follows the decisions of a few people as echoed through the media by lots more people with various sorts and levels of connections to the most influential people; and those people follow what the most recent trends suggest will be a safe and profitable choice. -- I might be talking about politics accidentally now.

  3. This is amazing! At least they aren’t summoning general tso and his delicious chicken to fight their battles again Kenyan socialism. I am noticing the trend of goofy cultural icons taken totally out of context and actually playing a role in the governance of the country through the right recently. I mean only a little while ago the Majority in the House’s legislative strategy was highly influenced first by a heist movie starring Ben Affleck and then Braveheart and 13th century military tactics. Now this sort of stuff is floating around in the head of a man who could be vice president? You can’t make this stuff up. Just wait tell these guys get their Game of Thrones DVD’s, they’ll be coming up with family mottos and carrying painted shields around in no time!

  4. I look forward to 2065, when someone's modern-day trashtalk about being greeted as liberators morphs into the myth of the great liberator, who spread conservative values of freedom throughout the land.

  5. Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra.

    I would be lying if I said that I had to look that up. I feel no shame.

  6. Mulan is a hideous parade of stereotypes and cliches which is rendered doubly embarrassing when you consider the original,which was a rather good piece of classical Chinese poetry. Whether Mulan is the worst piece of dreck ever produced by Disney is hard to say, but it deserves a category of its own in the history of American comic stereotyping of Asian people.

    1. Anon -- I feel you and respect your sensitivity. Worth noting however that exactly the same is true of "Pocahontas" for Native Americans, and "Aladdin" is much worse on Arabs (because the stereotypes involve casual bloodlust). Of course this is not counting older Disney movies -- "The Jungle Book," whose ape chief sings in Louis Prima's voice about wanting to be a full human being; "Peter Pan," whose Native Americans are worse than even a 1900 British nursery would have imagined; the notorious "Song of the South," which was apparently so much more racist than the above that even Disney shame-facedly refuse to distribute it. And the Huns in Mulan are quite inhuman, like the Persians in "300" or the Africans in Peter Jackson's "King Kong" (who closely resemble his orcs), or in the other (patronizing) direction the blue Magic Natives in "Avatar" who must be saved by a white man so that they can teach him lessons about nature, or ......... And I won't even get into the hideous gender politics consistently on display throughout. So again, I completely see refusing to show Disney movies to one's kids. Go read them some nice classic literature instead, like "Oliver Twist" or "The Tempest." Show them non-animated classics, like "Breakfast at Tiffany's" or "Cabin in the Sky" (the first all-black Hollywood musical ... you can probably guess what that's like), and cringe when Cary Grant thanks someone with "that's very white of you" in "Bringing Up Baby." There's no end to it.

  7. Ummm... Gilgamesh and Enkidu at Uruk!

  8. No, George H.W. Bush was making a joke conflating the silly "Unleash Chiang" GOP slogan of the 1950s, the 5'7" 1989 French Open champion Michael Chang who didn't have much of a power serve, and the 6'3" President's own declining power game. I would imagine Jeb Bush is aware of all the elements of his father's joke, and has created a story around it to keep this family joke alive while sidestepping accusations of political incorrectness. Rubio, however, is probably clueless.


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