Category Archives: Culture

Catwalk Collapse: UK Fashion Industry Faces Brexit Massacre!

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Oh, Vienna: Top Ballet School Mired in Abuse Allegations!

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Why Asians (Still) Can’t Play Football: the US$45tn Rhetorical Question

As YouTube attains a certain level of commercial maturity, we at Mediolana continue to be impressed by the output from the team at COPA90, one of the very few independent channels to successfully bridge the gap between basement video creation and recycled ‘legacy’ media clips. One of their most recent (and perhaps controversial) offerings is well worth under fifteen minutes of any football fan’s time.

In Why Do British Asians Never Make It Pro?, host Adam McKola poses one of the more discomfiting socio-cultural questions of our time: how it is possible that in 2019, there are not enough professional footballers of British Asian ethnic origin in the first four levels of the English soccer pyramid to even come close to filling a single match day squad?

A particular strength of this piece is that it correctly underlines the inadequacies of conventional theories – parental preferences, cultural proclivities, middle-class economic aspirations – which seek to explain this stark lacuna. Ultimately, there is no shortage of football-mad, working-class people of Asian heritage in the United Kingdom; ceteris paribus, it defies all rational expectations that there has not been a single ‘breakout’ player emerge from a broadly-defined community numbered in its millions.

However, at the end of McKola’s mini-documentary, our Creative Director & CSO was left slightly unfulfilled when it came to both the historical treatment of this issue and prescriptions for a remedy.

The question of why British Asians have enjoyed only the most marginal of successes in the country which codified the modern form of the beautiful game was being asked by anti-racism campaigners at least as far back as twenty years ago, when it became clear that the coming of age of second-generation UK Asians was not being accompanied by their acceptance into what is arguably the nation’s single most important cultural experience; the fact that only the slightest of progress has been registered in all this time evinces just how stubbornly positive change is being resisted.

As uncomfortable as it is to articulate, the only plausible explanation for this dynamic is the existence of a form of structural discrimination which is so profound that it shapes interactions on a much more powerful level than most of us would like to admit. The legacy of colonialism – which involved the heisting of at least US$45tn from the Indian subcontinent, surely one of the greatest acts of de-development in history, recorded or otherwise – means that in England, pseudo-nationalist demagogues and well-meaning liberals alike are curiously united in regarding British Asians, in this particular context and perhaps others, as essentially invisible; additionally, a media which simultaneously portrays South Asian males as night-time economy predators and sexual sub-incels is doing nothing to promote an objective perception of their attributes, sporting or otherwise.

Once this truth has been accepted and internalised, the path forward for the British Asian soccer stars of the future is clear: they must seek their fortunes in systems which have actually demonstrated that they do value players of South Asian descent equally. Holland, Norway and France have all recognised footballers of subcontinental origin with caps at full international level; this fact alone should be enough to end the collective British Asian fixation on a Premier League which evidently has little place for their type.

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Desperately Missing ‘Marissa’: Was Mischa Barton the Last Great American Icon?

Moments of transcendence in the context of the act of purchasing a consumer fashion magazine are usually rare to the point of non-existence, but back at the start of 2005, the person who was to become Mediolana’s Creative Director & CSO experienced precisely one such episode on seeing Mischa Barton grace the cover of the short-lived Elle Girl. Barton – at the time, the ace face of a certain California-based teen soap opera – was an it-girl with a difference: namely, an unusual depth of being which was almost totally incongruous to the rapidly-decaying US media environment she found herself inhabiting.

With the best part of a decade-and-a-half has passed having elapsed since this point, we at Mediolana have recently been troubled by a question to which we have no satisfactory answer: with no female (and almost certainly no male) remotely of Ms Barton’s stature having emerged from Hollywood and its domestic satellite media markets in the intervening period, was this remarkable actress the last great American icon?

This question is not merely an academic one. Particularly in the post-1945 era, the projection of US dominance has been inextricably linked to its national brand; in turn, the ability to create personas worthy of emulation and adoration is a key element of this vital ‘soft power’ element. For decades, Brand America enjoyed peerless reach, and globalisation was presumed by many to be synonymous with Americanisation.

However, since the increasingly catastrophic moral and geopolitical failure that constituted Operation Iraqi Freedom – in 2018, Chinese and Russian oil companies are operational in what was until at least the late 1980s a US client state – the United States has apparently been unable to engage in cultural reproduction with anything like the same degree of success (with seemingly even post-Season One installments of The O.C. suffering). Indeed, it has been losing market share in the domain of scripted content to nations such as South Korea and Turkey for some time now.

Of course, explaining this phenomenon requires a broad and sophisticated examination which is beyond the scope of a mere blog post. But it surely isn’t unrealistic to posit that one core reason behind this decline is the total, jarring absence of anyone who can enthuse viewers – particularly young consumers – from São Paulo to Istanbul in the way that Mischa Barton so evidently could. This is something for US policymakers – and not merely television and film executives – to contemplate in an atmosphere of profound sobriety.

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Europe’s New Iron Curtain: Old Continent Divided Over Basic Morals

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Musical Footnotes: Pro Evolution Soccer and Artistic Validation

With the Pro Evolution Soccer (‘PES’) series having struggled for so long – and in all plausibility, so needlessly, given the preexisting code – to regain its exhilarating essence, we at Mediolana have recently been reflecting on the Konami Digital Entertainment franchise at its imperious best: the years from 2003 to 2006 which gave the world what are still probably the greatest iterations of computer soccer ever created.

The strengths of Pro Evolution Soccer editions 3 to 6 inclusive were many, but beyond the oft-mentioned game dynamics and stunning replication of individual footballers’ playing styles, the sheer attention to detail and devotion to quality oozed from these products’ every pore. And while later versions simply did not contain the core of what made PES raise the pulse of every soccer devotee who ever had the privilege of experiencing it, certain more peripheral elements still contained traces of glories past.

One of these elements in particular – the credits music which would accompany PES’ long and illustrious list of contributors, headed up by no less a figure than fabled producer Shingo ‘Seabass’ Takatsuka – has long fascinated us, and set us thinking about how some artistic works end up being perceived as great works while yet others languish in obscurity.

The credits music for Pro Evolution Soccer 2010 is perfect illustration of this dynamic. A deeply melancholy and contemplative piece tinged with liberating aggression, it is built around a group of ten recurring notes of relative complexity. (Comparisons with the opening notes of Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 may prima facie appear far-fetched, but the parallels are nevertheless discernible.)

And yet the deeper paradox of this profoundly moving composition is that it is buried in an optional mini-movie within a video game which is the best part of a decade old. Someone has had the vision to upload this short film to YouTube, where it has amassed barely 1,000 views and will likely continue to exist as an unloved digital museum exhibit.

It is of course widely recognised – at least in some circles – that human systems often function in a highly imperfect manner; the world of culture is certainly no exception to this rule, and at best can be said to work as a semi-meritocracy. However, the chasm between the beauty of PES’ credits compositions and their frankly non-existent critical reception places even this characterisation under suspicion, and leads one to wonder how many more brilliant musical works are destined to remain – to all intents and purposes – anonymous.

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Virtual Inanity: the Rise and Rise of the Non-Player Character

The Internet meme has developed an unsettling and predictable proclivity towards lowest-common-denominator sensibilities, but recently we at Mediolana chanced upon an electronically-shared concept with a difference: the non-player character (‘NPC’). Precise definitions of this phenomenon vary, but the central idea is simply that in today’s world, a startlingly large proportion of the population is effectively acting like the ghosts in Pac-Mania or the unedited, identikit footballers in computer soccer simulations: robotically proceeding through a life devoid of critical thought, deeper analysis or complex emotions.

The idea of the NPC has attracted plenty of invective, partly because it is viewed as an essentially dehumanising tool with its origins in 4chan, a somewhat controversial and curiously rightward-leaning Internet bulletin board with a strong Japanese cultural influence. However, its instant success as a largely-organic cultural reference shows that the non-player character notion has struck a profound chord with many. After some contemplation, three reasons in particular stand out behind the mass adoption of the NPC:

  1. Social critique. Pointing to the existence of purported NPCs is a neat shorthand method of denouncing societal dynamics, specifically those relating to mass conditioning which are seemingly rendering people unable to break free of dominant narratives (Trump, Brexit).
  2. Reality bites. More broadly, the calling out of so-called NPCs also evinces serious dissatisfaction with contemporary life, constituting as it does the labelling of vast numbers of people as criminally boring.
  3. Extreme tribalism. With the world having been divided into an NPC majority and an elite non-NPC minority, the latter can take immense satisfaction in the fact that they perceive themselves as (at least relatively) fully alive. This in-group logic is enormously seductive, regardless of its exact correction with the increasingly nebulous truth.

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