6 Flash Mobs That Generated Buzz in Asia
Shanghaiist recently published photographs of a real-life Plants vs. Zombies battle unfolding at a mall in Liaoning Province, China. The tower defense action game has certainly taken China by storm, but this reaches new levels of bizarre. That said, Asia has long been known for its theatrical flair. One only needs to recall such wonderfully large-scale demonstrations like the 2008 Beijing Olympics opening ceremony or the 1997 handover of Hong Kong to mainland China. Yet these seemingly spontaneous, public kind of theatrics seem even more impressive, in a way.
Say you’re walking through a mall or down a busy sidewalk with your lovely lady friend. Suddenly, before you get the chance to whisper sweet nothings in her ear, both of you find yourselves devoured by a throng of perfectly coordinated limbs. This is the flash mob, what Wikipedia defines as when “a group of people who assemble suddenly in a public place, perform an unusual and sometimes seemingly pointless act for a brief time, then disperse, often for the purposes of entertainment, satire, artistic expression or—in some cases—violence.”
Often organized through social media, flash mobs can be a great way to draw attention. They’re short, sweet, and easily go viral when shared on the Internet, making them fun events for generating social awareness or creating an effective branding message. Below, we’ve collected a few mobs in recent history that have stuck in our minds. So long as it’s powerful, it’s never too ephemeral.
1. The Clean Air Network Mob (Hong Kong S.A.R.)
The idea that particulate emissions from southern China are the main reason for Hong Kong’s pollution is pure myth. Hong Kongers, who love to defer blame onto the mainland whenever possible, should remember that domestic roadside emissions are in fact the greatest threat to public health. Intent on educating the general public about air pollution, the Clean Air Network organized a flash mob complete with gas masks and dying youths.
In the words of one Hong Kong blogger: “Reading Hong Kong air pollution facts and witnessing CAN Flash Mob in Causeway Bay this afternoon chased out my ignorance that air quality seriously deserves as much as attention as my hype for organic bread, chocolate and cheese.”
2. The Jollibee Dance Mob (Manila, Philippines)
Jollibee is a fast food chain based in the Philippines, serving American fast food with a Filipino bent. They’re well known for their work on youth issues, having worked with the country’s Department of Labor and Employment to help provide disadvantaged Filipino youths with work experience. Jollibee even had their hand in creating the children’s television show Jollitown, which has now entered its fourth season.
In the summer of 2009, over 300 apparent passersby broke out into dance at the SM Mall of Asia in Manila — everyone from students to grandmas partook, reported one blogger, with the intention of “encourag[ing] Filipino teens to be positive and to enjoy life just like Jollibee.” The event was choreographed by The Whiplash Dance Company and directed by film director Mark Reyes. If anything, it’s a sight to behold.
3. The Too Asian? Anti-Macleans Mob (Toronto, Canada)
In 2010, major Canadian magazine Macleans incited the (flash) mob into action by publishing a highly provocative article titled “Too Asian?”, “reporting” — we use that word loosely — on the alleged resentment towards Asian students overpopulating Canada’s top universities. Since the ensuing backlash, the magazine has withdrawn its original article (which you can still read over on pastebin) and republished it as the sterilized “The Enrollment Controversy”. Head to reappropriate for an informative (and strongly opinionated) roundup of the events.
In response, a group of Asian-Canadians rallied in front of stores owned by the parent company Rogers Communications, conspicuously doing the robot before chanting “Too Asian for Mcleans! Too Asian for Rogers!”. A participant named Ming reflected on the event, calling the flash mob a more inclusive action than most informative seminars or conversations: “[T]he flashmob is the more accessible of the two events I’ve been able to participate in so far…We need to be wary that academia-based approaches like teach-ins do not replace direct action, or shape whom the direct action can include and exclude.”
For more images, check out meattofu.
4. The DREAMSTAGE KOREA Mob (Worldwide)
K-pop is a global phenomenon, whether it’s the Wonder Girls blaring in a Beijing nightclub or gracing the US Billboard charts. It’s fitting then, that an initiative of such international scale was undertaken: in July of this year, top Korean companies and popular website Koreaboo organized “Global Flashmob Day” in 19 cities across all timezones, to give fans the chance “to truly showcase how far the Hallyu Wave has spread.”
Fans in the most expressive flash mob cities earned the chance to audition for the K-pop industry, a rare opportunity that’s surely coveted by many. Such an event indicated how successfully K-pop had proliferated across the world. Local fan communities elsewhere were strengthened, too, as enthusiasts came out of the woodwork to find one another.
Check out more photos from across the world on the official DREAMSTAGE KOREA Facebook page.
5. The Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center “Mob” (Cebu, Philippines)
This doesn’t exactly constitute a flash mob, but for those watching the now-famous “Thriller” video for the first time in 2007, it certainly felt like it. Many of them are probably mobsters, of sorts. That is, Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center is a maximum security prison, and while some inmates only are there for shoplifting, others have committed murder and rape. Instead of having these brutal prisoners glare at each other and pocket glass shards for future fights, Head Warden Byron F. Garcia decided that dancing and exercise would be a healthier alternative. Add Michael Jackson‘s infections pop hits and we have a perfected viral formula on our hands.
According to Wikipedia, the convicts are so famous that monthly performances are now held for the public. For obvious security reasons, their intricately choreographed dances are seen from viewing platforms surrounding the exercise yard. Guards ought to be careful. Such tight group coordination would make for a brilliant jailbreak team (Prison Break spin-off, anybody?). At the jail, visitors can buy souvenir prison shirts and even have their photos taken with the inmates! A lucrative business idea.
6. The Mizone Mob (Jakarta, Indonesia)
And then there’s this. In October 2010, the largest flash mob in Indonesia’s history took the country by storm when 1,000 people began dancing in the populated business and shopping district of Jalan Thamrin, Jakarta. Organized by the sports drink brand Mizone, the colorful event is undeniably a powerful sight which went on to become an advertising campaign for the company.
The event was ostensibly labeled a success, reports pelacurkorporat, as “people cheered like Indonesia just won the World Cup…sheeps starting to compare it to a revolution, like when Suharto stepped down in ’98.” But the skeptical blogger maintains that the event was a marketing novelty and nothing more, suggesting that the flash mob must be repurposed by the grassroots for more important causes:
However, back when flashmob was pioneered by Harper’s Magazine Senior Editor Bill Wasik in 2003, it was never meant to be a vehicle to fool self or sell drinks, cars, or whatever. It was meant to piss certain people off and to protest. So, when the hype is still in the air and I bet people are planning new, bigger flashmobs, why don’t we use it for a bigger purpose to solve some of our problems. If they can gather 1,000 to sell drinks, there should be no problem to gather similar numbers of people to taunt FPI mobs every time they are about to wreck havoc on churches and art shows. These lunatics are roaming free spreading hate and terror, and all we are doing now is talking among ourselves. Isn’t it the time to do something else? For you, the people you love, not some company that makes shitty drinks?
What can we do to make our social actions more direct, more meaningful, more communal, more global? Do you think the flash mob will play a role in this development?
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TAGS: clean air • flash mob • Hong Kong • Indonesia • k-pop • Macleans • Philippines • Representations of Asians in media • Viral Video
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