Strawberry Cake

One of my students is doing an honors thesis on kissing. Specifically she is looking at a series of articles from Ling Long that explain what kissing is and why Shanghai women of the 1930’s should be doing more of it if they want to be modern women. One of the interesting things about Ling Long is that there are lots of pictures of scantily clad women (usually foreigners) in it. She suggests that the pictures (like the text of most of the issues) was intended to present modern, western ideas about sexuality and the role of women to Chinese people in a way that was both intimate and at the same time foreign enough to not be threatening. Thus foreign movie stars were great subjects.

It is an interesting thesis1 in part because it is interesting and in part because I think it offers an insight that helps us to understand some aspects the modern Chinese press. Even fairly serious Chinese papers tend to have a lot of cheesecake shots (almost always women. sorry) like this set of photos of Jessica Alba2 Part of it is just the idea that this will sell papers, but I find the text fascinating, as they seem to be dressing it up as something that will help us (Chinese readers) to understand the West. Here is the caption

中国日报网环球在线消息:Jessica Alba在出演电影《甜心辣舞》中,用热辣的舞姿,加上漂亮的脸蛋,赢取了“美国甜心”的称号。一组Jessica Alba的内衣泳装照,甜蜜诱人好似草莓蛋糕,解释了秀色可餐一词。

An overly literal translation might be: Jessica Alba in the film Honey? used her hot and spicy dancing and  and a beautiful face to win the title of “America’s Sweetheart”3 In this set of photos of Jessica Alba in her underwear and swimwear she is as sweet and tempting as a strawberry cake, looking both sexy and tasty?

Very weird, in part because it is always hard to really translate some types of language, but also because the ‘serious’ American press does not dress up its pictures of movie stars this way. But as long as it helps you to understand Americans I guess it is o.k.

  1. Which she explains much better than this 

  2. No, I have not done a comparative study of the frequency of scantily clad women in the Western and Chinese press 

  3. This is the hook for the ‘story’ and it seems quite wrong 

1 Comment

  1. We’ll look forward to hearing about the introduction of kissing into Chinese public discourse. There might be some interesting comparison with Japan.

    Kyoko Hirano, in her _Mr. Smith Goes to Tokyo: The Japanese Cinema under the American Occupation, 1945-1952_ (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institute, 1992) has an interesting section “Kissing and Sexual Expression.” In 1931, a director slipped a kissing scene past the censor (who was a friend), but when the film opened in a downtown Tokyo theater, the screening was stopped and the film confiscated. Japanese family members tended not to show affection in public or kiss, so that “kissing was for all practical purposes invisible in Japanese culture.” In 1946 an American censor required a film to include a kissing scene, and one scholar says that the censor suggested “we believe that even Japanese do something like kissing when they love each other. Why don’t you include that in your films?” [pp. 154-57] Americans encouraged such scenes to force the Japanese to express publicly actions and feelings that had been considered strictly private, ever since Pearl Harbor had felt that Japanese were “sneaky”: “if Japanese kissed in private, they should do it in public too.” [162]

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