The Case of the Invisible Buddhist

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The Case of the Invisible Buddhist

Postby dhammafriend » Sat Feb 01, 2014 1:45 pm

I think it's safe to say that the American media / entertainment complex is the most far reaching on the planet. Millions of people all over the globe have been exposed to shows like Modern Family, Boardwalk Empire, Keeping up with the Kardashians etc. What I've found particularly interesting in American television shows / sitcoms is the representation Asian Americans & religion. Although Asian Americans are a bit better represented than 10 years ago they are often culturally, virtually indistinguishable from anyone else represented. Having read up a bit on the history of Buddhism in the USA and just how long its actually been practiced there it amazes me that it's virtually invisible in Media representation (entertainment).

For example: You could have a show set in New York or wherever that depicts people of the a Jewish faith as supporting or main characters. Why haven't I seen a show say maybe set in California with a family who's neighbor is perhaps a Japanese Buddhist priest? Or an Asian American hipster chick who happens to be a Vietnamese Buddhist.

When issues of 'diversity' come up in US TV shows it's usually the Jewish faith that becomes the stand in for the multi-faith / multi-cultural 'lesson'. Are there any shows like that that I'm not aware of? Or are dharmic traditions still regarded as un-American, suspicious and alien?

A few years ago I stopped on our version of the Disney channel and sat through a TV movie called Wendy Wu. It depicted a Chinese American family going through an identity crisis of sorts when a cousin of the title character pitches up from China to teach her martial arts. (the cousin is a monk with a pony tail) I found the film a bit racist & offensive.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Wendy ... ng_Warrior

In my country we have representation of one particular Dharmic faith throughout or media. We have them depicted in TV serials, soaps, etc as fully formed characters. Is Wendy Wu really the best American media has to offer Asian American Buddhists? Or are they not American enough to warrant representation? Any thoughts?

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Re: The Case of the Invisible Buddhist

Postby chownah » Sat Feb 01, 2014 3:00 pm

On Thai TV usually the characters are not depicted as Buddhist at least not by any of their actions......you might see a shrine here or there but then again usually you do not. Buddhism is boring relative to other tv fare...it doesn't add much to a plot.....I think that when most Thai people think of emotional or interpersonal situations they do not think about Buddhism....I think the same thing can be said about Christians which is why in the US you don't see much reference to the characters being Christians or Buddhists.....it doesn't connect with the audience very well.
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Re: The Case of the Invisible Buddhist

Postby dhammafriend » Sat Feb 01, 2014 4:52 pm

Thanks for that bit of info Chownah, it makes sense, but my questions revolve around identity, visibility and representation of Asian American Buddhists in contemporary US entertainment media. Have you ever wondered why you hardly see characters of Native American descent in US TV shows? It's just that I wonder about these things sometimes. My impression (based on my limited exposure I will admit) is that some Americans seem virtually invisible. It's just an observation.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buddhism_i ... t_Buddhism

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Re: The Case of the Invisible Buddhist

Postby Mkoll » Sat Feb 01, 2014 5:07 pm

Or are they not American enough to warrant representation?


More or less.

I agree with your point that the media portrayal of minorities is generally lacking. The heroes in our movies and TV shows are usually white males.

I'm an Asian-American myself: my mother is Chinese and my father is White-Caucasian. I've lived in the United States my entire life. I was teased in elementary and middle school for looking Asian and always felt like an outsider; this was in a virtually all white and Christian town in Illinois. But I was never physically bullied. Regardless, I had identity issues for during my school years in middle and high school. To be honest, I had identity issues until I became a Buddhist. Then everything fell into place.

Now that I'm older, I've studied history, and I have the benefit of hindsight, the American media's portrayal of minorities seems par for the course. We Americans are as we are.
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Re: The Case of the Invisible Buddhist

Postby dhammafriend » Sat Feb 01, 2014 6:22 pm

More or less.

Sh*t, thats sad. Thanks for sharing Mkoll. I was bullied a bit in school too but I use it now as a dhamma lesson in compassion. Where I live we are currently being swamped with US TV programming, so along with that I just ended up with loads of questions of what I was seeing. Its basically Asian women are 'exotic and desirable', Asian men are the villians or non threatening geeks. That sucks.

Also, blatant racism towards Asians still seems to be socially acceptable there. Have you been to the blogs Angry Asian Buddhist and Angry Tibetan Girl?
Some posts there really opened my eyes.

angrytibetangirl.tumblr.com/

www.angryasianbuddhist.com/

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Re: The Case of the Invisible Buddhist

Postby binocular » Sat Feb 01, 2014 6:30 pm

I suppose a Buddhist programme would go something similarly like this -

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x8KQv7kZatQ
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fkKLwguues8
This above is about/from the Hare Krishnas.
Requires a lot of knowledge of specific terminology and iconography. Without knowing all that, it's probably impossible to watch and is dull.

I think a Buddhist programme would "have" the same problem: it would require such specific knowledge that it would be unwatchable for those who don't have it, which is the majority of people in the US and Europe and in many other countries.

Although I'm curious whether something similar was done by a Buddhist about Buddhism, something like a tv-programme version of Dharma the Cat http://www.mahabodhi.net/dcat/.
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Re: The Case of the Invisible Buddhist

Postby suttametta » Sat Feb 01, 2014 7:10 pm

dhammafriend wrote:I think it's safe to say that the American media / entertainment complex is the most far reaching on the planet. Millions of people all over the globe have been exposed to shows like Modern Family, Boardwalk Empire, Keeping up with the Kardashians etc. What I've found particularly interesting in American television shows / sitcoms is the representation Asian Americans & religion. Although Asian Americans are a bit better represented than 10 years ago they are often culturally, virtually indistinguishable from anyone else represented. Having read up a bit on the history of Buddhism in the USA and just how long its actually been practiced there it amazes me that it's virtually invisible in Media representation (entertainment).

For example: You could have a show set in New York or wherever that depicts people of the a Jewish faith as supporting or main characters. Why haven't I seen a show say maybe set in California with a family who's neighbor is perhaps a Japanese Buddhist priest? Or an Asian American hipster chick who happens to be a Vietnamese Buddhist.

When issues of 'diversity' come up in US TV shows it's usually the Jewish faith that becomes the stand in for the multi-faith / multi-cultural 'lesson'. Are there any shows like that that I'm not aware of? Or are dharmic traditions still regarded as un-American, suspicious and alien?

A few years ago I stopped on our version of the Disney channel and sat through a TV movie called Wendy Wu. It depicted a Chinese American family going through an identity crisis of sorts when a cousin of the title character pitches up from China to teach her martial arts. (the cousin is a monk with a pony tail) I found the film a bit racist & offensive.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Wendy ... ng_Warrior

In my country we have representation of one particular Dharmic faith throughout or media. We have them depicted in TV serials, soaps, etc as fully formed characters. Is Wendy Wu really the best American media has to offer Asian American Buddhists? Or are they not American enough to warrant representation? Any thoughts?

Dhammafriend


Watching a show like "Vampire Diaries" killing, adultery, etc., is laudable, and when it's not lauded, it's accepted as normal. American media is a psy-op to condition people against love and compassion. If one watches too much American media one will become jaded, cold and uncaring about others and will celebrate when they are treated with cruelty. If one is a real dhamma man and cares about kamma, one should not watch American television. I live in California and I know how this culture is. People hate one another while pretending to be "nice."
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Re: The Case of the Invisible Buddhist

Postby Mkoll » Sat Feb 01, 2014 8:54 pm

suttametta wrote:People hate one another while pretending to be "nice."


That may be the case for some people but to apply that as a hasty generalization to everyone is going too far, IMO. Cynicism hurts oneself and others; I say this based on my own experience of practicing it for years. The very views one holds about others can burn oneself.

~

dhammafriend,

Please don't get the impression that I think Americans are generally racist or that I think ill of Americans. It's just that the media skews everything and is corrupt in so many ways. It's a complex situation based in part on a complex history that I don't have the required knowledge to elucidate upon.
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Re: The Case of the Invisible Buddhist

Postby suttametta » Sat Feb 01, 2014 9:03 pm

Mkoll wrote:
suttametta wrote:People hate one another while pretending to be "nice."


That may be the case for some people but to apply that as a hasty generalization to everyone is going too far, IMO. Cynicism hurts oneself and others; I say this based on my own experience of practicing it for years. The very views one holds about others can burn oneself.


Yes. Very good point. Oh, but no one has gotten rid of ill will. Samsara people have it big. In the US the competitive social structure breeds it in. Of course, I can't say "everyone" but its a bad problem.
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Re: The Case of the Invisible Buddhist

Postby dhammafriend » Sun Feb 02, 2014 4:37 pm

...Please don't get the impression that I think Americans are generally racist...

Thanks Mkoll, thats not the impression you gave, so no worries. Thanks for being so honest though. I just think issues of representation of POC in US entertainment media is very interesting and worth exploring. (not directly related to Dhamma I know but it will become an issue as Dhamma communities of colour grow.)

Watching a show like "Vampire Diaries" killing, adultery,...

I totally agree Suttametta, lots of anti-dhamma content to get hooked on in American TV. But that's kind of universal at this point. We should never stop critiquing what we are exposed to though. That way we can stay on top of the BS and see how it negatively affects us.

I suppose a Buddhist programme would go something similarly like this -...

I Binocular, I never actually thought of this actually. My post was more about representation of Americans who are kind of 'invisible' as far as pop culture goes.
They do exist, they are neighbors, co-workers, friends, but are non-existent as characters on TV etc. Have another read through my OP and if you'd like tell me what you think.

Thanks all for the posts. :smile:
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Re: The Case of the Invisible Buddhist

Postby Babadhari » Sun Feb 02, 2014 4:44 pm

it shouldn,t be any surprise that Buddhists are non-existent on mainstream TV networks whose broadcasts are concerned with satire, sex, violence, drugs and rock'n'roll

Buddhists just wouldn't be 'fashionable' enough would they?? :zzz:
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Re: The Case of the Invisible Buddhist

Postby Justsit » Sun Feb 02, 2014 7:58 pm

Anyone remember this? Ran in prime time on American TV, 1972-1975, and was well received. Geared more toward martial arts, and maybe not the most accurate portrayals, but definitely brought Eastern spirituality into mainstream consciousness.

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Re: The Case of the Invisible Buddhist

Postby m0rl0ck » Sun Feb 02, 2014 9:40 pm

In america, minorities get respect to the degree that they can:

1. Affect the economic health with their buying choices.

2. Disrupt trade (protests, sit ins etc)

Thats one of the reasons that this insulting racial caricature survives into the 21st century
Image

So unless there are enough offended viewers to affect the sale of goods, the misrepresentation is likely to continue.
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Re: The Case of the Invisible Buddhist

Postby binocular » Mon Feb 03, 2014 1:26 pm

dhammafriend wrote:I Binocular, I never actually thought of this actually. My post was more about representation of Americans who are kind of 'invisible' as far as pop culture goes.
They do exist, they are neighbors, co-workers, friends, but are non-existent as characters on TV etc. Have another read through my OP and if you'd like tell me what you think.

Sure. I think that Buddhist characters, in order to pass for acceptable characters on tv, have to be quite simplified, sometimes almost caricaturized.

But off the top of my head I can think of some (somewhat) Buddhist characters in some mainstream American programmes and films:

Steven Seagal in at least one of his characteristic roles as villainous good guy is sometimes wearing Tibetan Buddhist prayer beads and talks a bit about Buddhism. (But I really couldn't remember which film, because they all look the same to me, sorry.)

In the series Life the main character has adopted a Zen Buddhist outlook. There is some reflection throughout the series on how he practices this outlook and what difficulties he has.

In the film Anger management with Jack NIcholson, there's a caricatured scene about Buddhism.

Anna and the King has scenes with Theravadin Buddhists, and a (westernized?) love story between a nun and a monk.

In What's Love Got to Do with It there are scenes of Tina Turner performing some Buddhist practices and some commentary on it as to what this religion meant to her.


- - -
kitztack wrote:it shouldn,t be any surprise that Buddhists are non-existent on mainstream TV networks whose broadcasts are concerned with satire, sex, violence, drugs and rock'n'roll

Buddhists just wouldn't be 'fashionable' enough would they??

Actually, I think Buddhism is very fashionable - as long as it remains superficial, and/or focuses only on those aspects of Buddhism that modern Western culture doesn't consider controversial.
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Re: The Case of the Invisible Buddhist

Postby Babadhari » Mon Feb 03, 2014 1:47 pm

binocular wrote:
- - -
kitztack wrote:it shouldn,t be any surprise that Buddhists are non-existent on mainstream TV networks whose broadcasts are concerned with satire, sex, violence, drugs and rock'n'roll

Buddhists just wouldn't be 'fashionable' enough would they??

Actually, I think Buddhism is very fashionable - as long as it remains superficial, and/or focuses only on those aspects of Buddhism that modern Western culture doesn't consider controversial.



true, i forgot abot Lisa becoming Buddhist in the Simpsons after she turned vegetatian :smile:

Aflame with the fire of passion, the fire of aversion, the fire of delusion.
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Re: The Case of the Invisible Buddhist

Postby dhammafriend » Mon Feb 03, 2014 3:43 pm

But off the top of my head I can think of some (somewhat) Buddhist characters in some mainstream American programmes and films:


Thanks for the list Binocular, but do you notice that Asian Americans are missing? (Barring that old Kung Fu show with David Carradine) The lead character was 'mixed race' but played by a white person. It's also interesting that when Buddhists are portrayed in US media they are depicted as distinctly 'other', exotic, mystical. In other words: un-American.

Whereas we know that in contemporary America, you find Buddhists from all over the planet who are integral part of their respective communities. Some even helped to build American railroads. My question was actually answered by Mkoll a few posts back about representation.

I don't mean programs about Buddhism, or Buddhist themed films & shows, just actual Americans (who are Asian or of color) who are Buddhist.

So unless there are enough offended viewers to affect the sale of goods, the misrepresentation is likely to continue.

Thanks Morlok, agree here.

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Re: The Case of the Invisible Buddhist

Postby chownah » Mon Feb 03, 2014 3:52 pm

How are we going to know that they are Buddhist.....I really don't see how you are wanting the buddhistic aspect of the characters to be presented. I have worked with Asian American Buddhists and ther is really no way to know that they are Buddhist unless you happen to know......Asian American Buddhists don't go around talking about their Buddhism in my experience.
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Re: The Case of the Invisible Buddhist

Postby dhammafriend » Mon Feb 03, 2014 4:26 pm

How are we going to know that they are Buddhist.....I really don't see how you are wanting the buddhistic aspect of the characters to be presented.

How do you know someone is Jewish / Muslim / Christian / a barber / a chef in a TV show Chownah? :smile: How do you know any character's backstory? Through character development I would hope.

Am I being too obscure here? Please note, I do not want anything. Its something that I've come away with having been exposed to US television programing most of my life. Representation or lack their of is often a reflection of what the broader culture's views are about itself and its sub-groups.

I just think that what you don't see is just a interesting as what you do see. If there are any POC members who'd like to join in and continue this thread, be my guest.

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Re: The Case of the Invisible Buddhist

Postby binocular » Mon Feb 03, 2014 7:58 pm

You mean like how come that in a show like, say, "Two and a half men" or "Grey's anatomy" etc., there are no Asian Americans who are characterised as Buddhists ...
No wonder I couldn't figure out what you mean in the OP - because I just can't think of any such characters as I don't recall seeing any!
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Re: The Case of the Invisible Buddhist

Postby Schaublin » Mon Feb 03, 2014 9:14 pm

dhammafriend wrote:I think it's safe to say that the American media / entertainment complex is the most far reaching on the planet. Millions of people all over the globe have been exposed to shows like Modern Family, Boardwalk Empire, Keeping up with the Kardashians etc. What I've found particularly interesting in American television shows / sitcoms is the representation Asian Americans & religion. Although Asian Americans are a bit better represented than 10 years ago they are often culturally, virtually indistinguishable from anyone else represented. Having read up a bit on the history of Buddhism in the USA and just how long its actually been practiced there it amazes me that it's virtually invisible in Media representation (entertainment).

For example: You could have a show set in New York or wherever that depicts people of the a Jewish faith as supporting or main characters. Why haven't I seen a show say maybe set in California with a family who's neighbor is perhaps a Japanese Buddhist priest? Or an Asian American hipster chick who happens to be a Vietnamese Buddhist.

When issues of 'diversity' come up in US TV shows it's usually the Jewish faith that becomes the stand in for the multi-faith / multi-cultural 'lesson'. Are there any shows like that that I'm not aware of? Or are dharmic traditions still regarded as un-American, suspicious and alien?

A few years ago I stopped on our version of the Disney channel and sat through a TV movie called Wendy Wu. It depicted a Chinese American family going through an identity crisis of sorts when a cousin of the title character pitches up from China to teach her martial arts. (the cousin is a monk with a pony tail) I found the film a bit racist & offensive. Oh, you poor dear.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Wendy ... ng_Warrior

In my country we have representation of one particular Dharmic faith throughout or media. We have them depicted in TV serials, soaps, etc as fully formed characters. Is Wendy Wu really the best American media has to offer Asian American Buddhists? Or are they not American enough to warrant representation? Any thoughts?

Dhammafriend


Anyone watching "American" television is exposing themselves to the most unwholesome "propatainment" imaginable. The Frankfurt School agenda is now not even concealed.
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