I recently watched, on Paramount Plus, the documentary Ascension. The film shows that the people of China are also seeking their version of the American Dream.
Some of the workforce is enticed by factory jobs that may involve no standing, though other jobs require being upright. Lots of propaganda about being team players are sometimes administered harshly. The factory workers include women working on the exacting standards for sex dolls; make sure the color of the areola is right.
We see people training to serve the wealthy in their increasingly capitalistic country. Perhaps they would be servants in fancy homes that require fine dining; Downton Abbey was specifically namechecked. Or maybe they’ll become bodyguards, protecting their would-be employers from assassins.
There are lessons on how to smile, how to be positive that you’ll make lots of money. They too can become influencers. For good and for ill, today’s China is looking a lot like the United States.
Before I saw the film, I watched director Jessica Kingdon interviewed on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. He noted that there was no narration by someone trying to steer a particular point of view, which allowed the viewer to see the larger cultural shift.
Ascension is Oscar-nominated as one of the best documentary films of the past year. It’s a little slow in the beginning, but it proves to be a fascinating take on the economic rise of China.
After I watched Ascension, Paramount Plus directed me to a short documentary Lynching Postcards: ‘Token of A Great Day’. Perhaps more unsettling than the lynchings of over 4,000 African Americans by white mobs were the public, festive occasions these murders became. Men, women, and children out having a picnic while watching a hanging and/or burning. The burnings were particularly popular in Texas.
These lynchings were commemorated through souvenir postcards. And people would send messages pointing themselves out in the crowd. ‘Hey, that’s me, third from the right” with the corpse hanging in the background.
One of the images from the film that caught my attention was The Dogwood Tree, a poem that begins
This is only the branch of a Dogwood tree;
An emblem of WHITE SUPREMACY.
The film is only about 15 minutes. Worthwhile.