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What is everyones take on Mao as a pop icon?


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I spent the summer in China last year and am looking forward to returning again this summer. In the mean time I am doing some research into Mao as a pop icon. Basically my idea is this: Somehow, probably due to the Cult of Mao and relating factors Mao was transformed from a Cultural Revolutionary to a Popular Icon. My reasoning is the younger generation... basically they are young enough not to recognize the turbulent times the Cultural Revolution was. I have a slew of other contributing factors but I wanted to hear everyone elses thoughts.

If you want evidence as Mao's pop icon status you just have to look around. His statue and portrait is still everywhere, cab drivers have him dangling from the rear-view mirror, they sell Mao shirts, buttons, bags, etc etc. Hell, even some rock concerts have students and young people waiving Mao posters and slogans.

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I'd say the statues and portraits of Mao seen in China are there as tokens of respect. A lot of people in China still respect and revere Mao. However, Mao as a pop icon, wasn't it down to Warhol's print of Mao?

After Warhol's print of Mao, pop art images of Mao become kind of trendy in the west. In the meantime the Chinese style of depicting Mao began to be seen as kitsch in Western eyes, making it cool and collectible. After a few years, the image of Mao as a cultural pop icon got imported back into China via stores like Shanghai Tang and the shopping habits of tourists, and basically once they discovered tourists buy stuff like Mao shirts and Mao badges, the factories are only going to increase production.

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I don't think China's building more Mao's statues. Many cab drivers have his portrait in their cars because they believe he could protect them from accidents. The drivers, among other people, believe Mao is half-man-half-god. Of course Mao is not the only one who is believed as half-god by people. Guan Yu is another example. He was a great warrior in Three Kindoms period, who's repected for his power, loyalty and integrity. I believe you've been seeing him everywhere as well.

We can try to categorize the people who love Mao,

* Those who benifited from Mao. Peasants, hundreds of millions of peasants.

* Those who believe Mao is half-god, like the cab drivers.

* Youth who are attracted by his theories.

* Foreiners

Mao was indeed quite charismatic. I found it interesting that those who are severely against him often quote his words too. If you ask me, I think he's controversial. Given his time has long gone, I have no bad feeling on him. I love him most for his unparalleled sense of humor.

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  • 4 weeks later...

It's true that Mao put chinese into horribly turbulent time, but he was also the leader who constructed new identity to chinese, united them, gave them strong sense of nationality and confidence of being chinese.

When the demise of communism in China make the generation feel lost, chinese --young or old--may feel comfortable with the selective revival of Mao's value.

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"When the demise of communism in China make the generation feel lost, chinese --young or old--may feel comfortable with the selective revival of Mao's value."

Along with the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution? China would be alot further along if it hadn't been for those Mao-initiated actions.

60 million dead later and people still haven't learned. :conf

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That's why it should be selective.

Obviously, China would be better off if it hadn't been for the Cultural Revolution, to name but one. But that was not all Mao did.

Similarly, in discussions in Germany there is a train of thought I came across frequently these days, wondering what the world would think of Hitler if he had died in/before 1939...

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  • 2 weeks later...

The latest lunch-time advertising push in Shanghai is for 人民便当, "The People's Box Lunch", which uses Mao's famous handwriting of wei renmin fuwu and the socialist style of art to advertise their product.

But they don't go so far as to use the actual image of Mao to advertise. I get the feeling that that is a line they are not willing to cross.


Their boxed lunches are pretty... un-tasty.

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