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Woke Disney Faces Backlash in China Over Little Mermaid

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Woke Disney Faces Backlash in China Over Little Mermaid

China the world’s second-largest economy has emerged as one of the most important venues for big-budget Hollywood films, but a racially charged response against Disney’s The Little Mermaid is just the most recent reminder of the price film studios can pay if they upset Chinese sensibilities.

Chinese state media and netizens have condemned the casting of Black actress Halle Bailey as Princess Ariel, echoing some Americans’ outrage that the Atlanta-born actress does not resemble the light-skinned character from the 1989 animated film or the 1837 fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen.

The Global Times, in China known for its nationalistic coverage, accused Disney of making “classic tales into’sacrificial lambs’ for wokeness” by casting non-white performers in classic tales in an op-ed last month.

“When the beautiful stories that have accompanied countless children’s childhoods become arenas for racial conflict, they lose their meaning and become devoid of romance and fantasy, replaced by arguments about skin colour,” said the tabloid, insisting that such casting controversies were driven by “lazy and irresponsible storytelling,” rather than racism.

The backlash, many of it explicitly racist, has also played out online among regular Chinese filmgoers.

Some commenters have attacked Bailey’s appearance and her Black face traits on social media platforms such as Sina Weibo.

disney china

Race portrayed in Hollywood films

Other Chinese internet reviewers were more enthusiastic, with one poster on the film site Mayoan noting that Bailey’s appearance made little difference to youngsters and that she successfully embodied Princess Ariel’s most important character characteristic – a brave spirit.

While China does not have the same racial history or politics as the United States, Chinese-born YouTuber Yao Zhang, who follows Chinese and Taiwanese news and culture from Canada, believes that consumers are nevertheless sensitive to how race is portrayed in Hollywood films.

According to Zhang, traditional Chinese beauty standards highlight pale complexion and large round eyes, and some viewers – as well as government officials – want to see Chinese values mirrored on the television.

“There is no correct way to look at [the film] in the United States,” Zhang told Al Jazeera. “However, in China, there is only one correct way to understand it.”

Zhang compared the backlash to the public’s reaction to supermodel Lu Yan, whose small eyes and high cheekbones were deemed unattractive in China but earned her renown in the West – despite some Chinese bloggers claiming Lu’s success was a Western ploy to make China look bad by elevating “ugly” women.

The Little Mermaid has performed poorly at the Chinese box office, collecting only $3.6 million in the ten days following its May 26 debut, according to Artisan Gateway, an international film consultant.

According to the advise, live-action remakes of Disney classics regularly gross between $40 million and $85 million in China.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3 and Fast and Furious X, both released in May, have grossed approximately $80 million and $120 million, respectively, since their debuts.

disney

Little Mermaid latest Disney Flop in China

The failure of The Little Mermaid is only the latest illustration of how tough it has become for Hollywood to negotiate one of the world’s largest and most lucrative theatrical film markets, which used to have an insatiable demand for American pictures.

China is extremely competitive since Chinese censors only allow a few dozen foreign films into the country each year. As of May, just 39 foreign films had been released in 2023, including 18 Hollywood titles. Unlike in previous decades, Hollywood now faces competition from a strong domestic film sector that creates its own blockbusters.

Studios are also faced with the option of accepting alterations to fulfill Chinese censors’ demands or risk being blackballed from the market.

Sony notoriously revised the 2012 remake of Red Dawn in post-production to incorporate a North Korean invasion of the United States rather than a Chinese invasion, costing the company millions of dollars.

In 2016, a screenwriter for the Marvel action film Doctor Strange indicated that the character the Ancient One’s origins had been changed from Tibetan to European in order to avoid upsetting China.

Spiderman: No Way Home, one of the highest-grossing pictures of all time, was denied a 2021 release in China as Marvel refused to edit the film’s “patriotic” ending filmed at New York’s Statue of Liberty, according to the news site Puck, costing the studio an estimated $170 million to $340 million in missed sales.

Angering Chinese filmgoers can have a knock-on impact on other films or stars, perhaps dampening Hollywood’s zest for defying Chinese censors.

Anti woke china

Push back from China

According to Chris Fenton, a former Hollywood executive and author of Feeding the Dragon: Inside the Trillion Dollar Dilemma Facing Hollywood, the NBA, and American Business, Disney’s 1998 animated film Mulan was famously delayed in China due to the studio’s backing of another film, Kundun, about the Dalai Lama.

“They blackball everyone involved in a particular film, including the studio involved,” Fenton explained to Al Jazeera.

“Sometimes the blacklisting is only temporary, as with Sony following Red Dawn or Disney following Kundun.” Sometimes it’s nearly permanent, as with [Dalai Lama supporter] Richard Gere or possibly Brad Pitt – though we never know for sure if actors are banned or not. There is only evidence that the films in which they are involved are never approved.”

Hollywood’s recent push back against the trend will only be effective as long as the dollars and cents stack up, because China is simply too large a market to ignore, according to Fenton.

“Money drives doing the right thing or doing the wrong thing, mostly, but the good news is that doing the right thing can be more profitable now,” he said.

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Reddit Hasn’t Turned A Profit In Nearly 20 Years, But It Just Filed To Go Public Anyway

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Reddit, the discussion board site noted for its constantly online user base and for sparking much internet debate, filed for its long-awaited initial public offering on Thursday.

This would make Reddit the first social media business to go public since Snapchat in 2017. The offering will include a twist that may allow some of the most ardent of its more than 70 million daily users to purchase shares in the IPO — something generally reserved for institutional investors.

reddit

Reddit Hasn’t Turned A Profit In Nearly 20 Years, But It Just Filed To Go Public Anyway

The company  claimed that top users can buy shares based on their “karma,” a term the network uses to describe its users’ contributions and reputation on the website.

“Our users feel a strong feeling of ownership over the communities they form on Reddit. We want this sense of ownership to translate into real ownership — for our users to be our owners’, co-founder and CEO Steve Huffman wrote in a Thursday filing letter. “Becoming a public company makes this possible.”

The company’s registration comes amid a dip in the overall IPO market, with Wall Street hoping that a blockbuster offering will help revitalise dealmaking.

According to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing, the San Francisco-based company plans to list on the New York Stock Exchange under the “RDDT.” The filing comes nearly three years after Reddit recruited its first CFO, and officials, including co-founder and CEO Steve Huffman, began publicly discussing the potential of an IPO to raise the company’s visibility.

Reddit, which has not been profitable, plans to expand its revenue through advertising, offering more e-commerce options, and licensing its data to other companies to train their artificial intelligence models.

“Our work to make Reddit faster, easier to use, easier to moderate and govern, and simpler to navigate and find relevant communities is driving growth today and will continue to be our focus into the future,” Ms. Huffman said.

The company was sold to media giant Condé Nast in 2006 by its co-founders Alexis Ohanian, who left the company in 2020, and Huffman, who now owns 3.3%. According to the IPO filing, the company’s top shareholders are currently Advance Publications (30.1%), which owns Condé Nast, Tencent (11%) from China, and OpenAI CEO Sam Altman (8.7%).

History of the ‘Front Page of the Internet’
The company, dubbed the “front page of the internet,” is a social media veteran; the firm was founded in 2005, the year college buddies Huffman and Ohanian graduated from the University of Virginia. It was the same year that Facebook became Facebook, YouTube released its first video, and Twitter (now known as X) launched.

Reddit’s 18-year history as an online social hub has witnessed tremendous growth, occasional controversy, and sometimes market-shifting pranks.

The network is well-known for its “subreddits,” which are distinct, user-generated discussion boards where users establish communities around various topics ranging from sports to politics to religion and everything in between. the company  users frequently post anonymously in these areas, debating topics ranging from memes to big news events.

reddit

Reddit Hasn’t Turned A Profit In Nearly 20 Years, But It Just Filed To Go Public Anyway

In 2021, Reddit created widespread market disruption when a community of day traders on the WallStreetBets platform began buying up GameStop shares in an attempt to harm hedge funds that bet against it. Many Redditors who joined the craze late suffered big losses.

Still, the episode highlighted the power of the company communities. Following the WallStreetBets incident, Reddit announced a fresh $250 million investment round, valuing the firm at $6 billion. It also declared plans to grow its workforce and enter overseas markets.

A significant user outcry earlier this year over a proposal to charge some third-party apps millions of dollars in fees to continue using the network brought the company back into the public eye. As a result, hundreds of the platform’s most popular subreddits were offline for weeks. The protest ended after Reddit threatened to expel forum moderators if the blackout continued.

Thursday’s filing provides the most extensive look yet at Reddit’s business, which aims to expand beyond the traditional ad-supported model on which other social networks still rely heavily.

The company  says it had more than 73 million daily active users in the latter three months of 2023, up from 52 million in 2021. In its filing, the company stated that the platform would have over 100,000 active communities by December 2023.

The company’s revenues in 2023 were $804 million, up 21% from $666.7 million in 2022. Reddit recorded a net loss of $90.8 million in 2023, less than the $158.6 million loss it experienced in 2022.

reddit

Reddit Hasn’t Turned A Profit In Nearly 20 Years, But It Just Filed To Go Public Anyway

While the company estimates its total addressable market in advertising to reach $1.4 trillion by 2027, it also stated in the filing’s risk factors statement that it has “a history of net losses and we may not be able to achieve or maintain profitability in the future.”

The company  also announced intentions to increase revenue by selling data to AI startups and focusing on the “user economy.” The filing outlines a future goal to enhance e-commerce on the site and increase user incomes through the Reddit Contributor Programme and Reddit Collectible Avatars Creators Programme. According to the filing, these systems allow users to earn monetary gifts and prizes, from which the corporation may receive a share.

On Thursday, the company also announced an expanded cooperation with Google, which includes access to Reddit data to train Google’s AI models and improve the display of Reddit content across Google platforms.

SOURCE – (CNN)

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2024: Bridgit Mendler, A Former Disney Actor Turned Space Startup CEO, Is Reaching For The Stars

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Bridgit Mendler, known for appearing on Good Luck Charlie and other Disney productions, is venturing into new territory: space.

Disney has effectively launched the careers of major stars such as Miley Cyrus and Selena Gomez. However, one former child actor who starred on the network is pursuing a different venture: a space corporation.

mendler

Bridgit Mendler, A Former Disney Actor Turned Space Startup CEO, Is Reaching For The Stars

Bridgit, a 31-year-old singer and actor best known for her role as Teddy Duncan on the Disney Channel original series Good Luck Charlie, announced this week on X (formerly Twitter) that she is venturing into uncharted territory by launching Northwood Space, a California-based satellite data startup.

Bridgit will lead the company as CEO, while her husband, Gryphon Cleverly, whom she married in 2019, will serve as chief technical officer. “Expect the unexpected!” she posted on X, reacting to a CNBC reporter who broke the story.

According to Ari Eisenstat, the space programme director for the upcoming Texas Eclipse Festival, Bridgit’s venture into science “is a great example of space moving from the domain of governments to becoming accessible to everyone”. Eisenstadt adds that we should all look to “younger generations to see diverse entrepreneurs create social, economic, and environmental impact in the space community”.

According to Bridgit’s post on X, investors have already provided $6.3 million (£4.9 million) in preliminary funding for the startup to create “a data highway between Earth and space.” Mendler said, “We have a lot of work ahead of us, but that’s the fun part.”

While it may come as a surprise to her followers, Mendler has always had interests beyond performing. She graduated from the University of Southern California in 2016 and began working at the MIT Media Lab in 2017. She enrolled in the graduate programme in 2018 and will begin her doctorate in philosophy at MIT in 2020. The next year, Mendler enrolled at Harvard Law School.

mendler

Bridgit Mendler, A Former Disney Actor Turned Space Startup CEO, Is Reaching For The Stars

Then, Mendler told CNBC that the seed of the Northwood idea was planted while she was in New Hampshire during the COVID-19 lockdown. “While everyone else was preparing their sourdough starts, we created antennae from whatever we could find at Home Depot. For me, the ground side is important because it brings the effects of space closer to people. However, it wasn’t until she started working at the Federal Communications Commission in 2022 that she understood her new path: she told CNBC it was when she “completely fell in love with space law”.

Mendler’s big news has her admirers excited to follow up, and her X announcement currently has over 23,000 likes. Northwood Space, which plans to mass-produce massive terrestrial antennas that connect to satellites in space, says: “The one-lane rickety road for space data needs to adapt to a ten-lane highway routing continuous traffic across the globe.”And, as a woman in science who changed careers to pursue her ambition, Mendler is likely to inspire other women to make timely career changes.

mendler

Bridgit Mendler, A Former Disney Actor Turned Space Startup CEO, Is Reaching For The Stars

Laurie Bardon Syphard, an environmental science educator, says she’s impressed by Mendler’s credentials and is already excited about her new business. “My gut is telling me that she is going to go really far with this career in science and technology,” she adds, adding that the young scientist’s Disney admirers would most certainly keep an eye on her, especially given space is “one of the areas that just is exciting and inspires people”.

Mendler’s followers appear to agree and have taken to X to celebrate her continuous success. One fan wrote, “She’s Barbie. Like 12 different careers. Singer/songwriter, actor, Harvard PhD in law, MIT PHD student, startup CEO.”

SOURCE – (BBC)

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Soccer Star Dani Alves Found Guilty Of Rape, Sentenced To Four And A Half Years In Prison

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Barcelona, Spain – Dani Alves, one of his generation’s most accomplished soccer players, was convicted of raping a woman in a Barcelona nightclub and sentenced to four years and six months in prison on Thursday.

The former Brazil and Barcelona right back was convicted in Spain under a new sexual liberty law that emphasizes the victim’s lack of agreement as the most important factor in assessing sex offences.

alves

Soccer Star Dani Alves was Guilty Of Rape, Sentenced To Four And A Half Years In Prison

A three-judge bench at the Barcelona Provincial Court convicted Alves, 40, of sexual assault for the event on December 31, 2022.

The court ordered Alves to pay the victim 150,000 euros ($162,000) in compensation and refrain from entering her home or workplace and communicating with her in any way for the next nine years.

“I still believe Mr. Alves is innocent,” Alves’ lawyer, Inés Guardiola, said. “I need to study the ruling, but I can tell you that of course we will appeal.”

Guardiola stated that Alves was “calm and collected” when he heard the verdict in court.

“We are satisfied,” David Sáenz, a member of the victim’s legal team, said, “because this verdict acknowledges what we have always known, that the victim told the truth and suffered.”

On Wednesday, Ester García, the victim’s lawyer, stated that she and her client would not be present for the verdict.

On the morning of December 31, 2022, the victim claimed Alves raped her at a Barcelona nightclub’s toilet. The court determined that the victim did not consent to sex and that, in addition to the defendant’s testimony, she was raped.

During his three-day trial last month, Alves denied raping the woman, telling the court, “I am not that kind of man.”

State prosecutors sought a nine-year prison sentence for Alves, while his accuser’s lawyers sought twelve years. His defence requested for his acquittal or, if found guilty, a one-year term and 50,000 euros in compensation for the victim.

The penalty of four years and six months is close to the minimum punishment for a rape conviction under Spanish law, which ranged from four to twelve years at the time of the incident. That has recently been changed to six to twelve years. In its punishment, the court stated that it favoured Alves since he had “before the trial paid the court 150,000 euros to be given to the victim without any conditions attached.”

alves

Soccer Star Dani Alves was Guilty Of Rape, Sentenced To Four And A Half Years In Prison

Sáenz stated that his legal team disagreed with the application of the extenuating situation, claiming that the money did not compensate for the harm done to their client. During the trial, medical experts testified that she had experienced post-traumatic stress.

“Clearly (it does not compensate), but that is what the court decided,” Sáenz told the court. “We have to examine the sentence to see if its contents are adequate for his acts.”

The state prosecutor’s office said it will review the verdict and decide whether to appeal.

Spain’s Deputy Prime Minister Yolanda Díaz expressed hope that the verdict “serves as an exemplary measure for all sexist behaviours that women suffer in all areas of our lives.”

The Alves case was the first high-profile sex crime after Spain revised its rules in 2022 to make consent key to defining a sex crime in response to a surge in protests following a gang rape case at the San Fermin bull-running festival in Pamplona in 2016.

The legislation, known as the “only yes means yes” law, defines permission as an unequivocal declaration of a person’s choice, emphasizing that silence or inactivity do not constitute consent. The statute, however, initially resulted in decreased terms for hundreds of sex offenders since it established lower minimum penalties, such as the one imposed on Alves, before being amended.

Irene Montero, the former equality minister who championed the “only yes means yes” statute, praised the decision.

“The sentence against Dani Alves plainly indicates that he committed sexual assault without the victim’s consent. It is the result of the feminist fight for sexual liberation and putting consent first,” she wrote on X, which was once Twitter.

alves

Soccer Star Dani Alves was Guilty Of Rape, Sentenced To Four And A Half Years In Prison

Guardiola’s defence during the trial was based on the film from nightclub security cameras, which she claimed showed the lady dancing “with sexualized movements” that “showed her interest” in Alves before the alleged attack.

García, the victim’s lawyer, stated at the end of the trial that the new statute rendered her client’s previous behaviour with Alves meaningless.

“I don’t care (how she was dancing); when she said ‘No’, she meant ‘No.’ “That is why the law was changed,” García explained. “The debate is no longer whether the victim put up resistance.”

Alves has been in jail since January 20, 2023. His bail requests were denied because the judge considered him a flight risk. Brazil does not extradite its citizens, who are condemned in other countries.

The woman told state authorities that she danced with Alves and willingly entered the nightclub bathroom, but when she wanted to leave, he refused to allow her. She claimed he slapped her, humiliated her, and forced her to engage in sexual encounters against her will.

A police officer who testified at the trial stated that the victim had to overcome her concern that “nobody would believe her” before formally accusing Alves. Another officer reported that the woman told him, “I don’t want money, I want justice.”

Alves changed his defence during the investigation while in detention, initially denying any sexual contact with her before confessing to consensual sexual intercourse. He claimed that not admitting to the encounter initially was an attempt to save his marriage.

During the trial, his defence concentrated on proving that Alves was drunk when he met the woman. However, the court did not consider this an extenuating circumstance in its ruling.

His conviction shatters Alves’ reputation as one of soccer’s greatest players.

Alves won titles with top clubs, including Barcelona, Juventus, and Paris Saint-Germain. He also helped Brazil win two Copa Americas and an Olympic gold medal at 38. He competed in his third World Cup, the only major trophy he has not won, in 2022. He played for Barcelona from 2008 until 2016, helping the club win three Champions and six Spanish titles, before briefly returning in 2022. He still has a home near the city.

He was detained while with the Mexican team Pumas. Pumas terminated his contract immediately.

Three days after his arrest, Alves was transported to the Brians 2 prison, located approximately 45 minutes northwest of Barcelona, for safety reasons. He has remained there ever since.

SOURCE – (AP)

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