The Asian Challenge to Jon Stewart's Dominance

Yes, of course, I'm scare-mongering. As with many other "imminent threats" from the unstoppable Chinese and their East Asian neighbors, the idea that Comedy Central will soon lose its #1 rank in politics-based humor is an exaggeration.

And yet....!! You can't minimize what the NMA ("Next Media Animation") group in Taiwan could be capable of. They've made an art form out of campy but compulsively watchable CGI reenactments of events in the news, with a rich helping of the tabloidesque. The first one that was widely noticed in the US was their dramatization of the Tiger-v-Elin Woods tussle last year.

Two election-related features from NMA to get on the record now, as the world watches  America going to the polls. First, their distillation of Christine O'Donnell's campaign themes, including her warning about China's "carefully thought out and strategic plan to take over the United States." Here is a screen shot showing what she is worried about.

The full clip is here and in embed below.

On the same China-menace theme, NMA has also done a remix of the famous/ infamous "Chinese Professor" ad. Perhaps it is one degree more obvious and less deft than the O'Donnell, Woods, or Sarah Palin items but it is still effective in its own way. (It's worth noting the rococo element to the satire here. In America, the "Chinese Professor" ad might evoke fears of Asians in general or ethnic Chinese as a group, which would certainly affect people in Taiwan -- but also specific fears of the government in Beijing, which at times is the object of fear-mongering in Taiwan too.)  In any case worth seeing as a complement to the original ad, (whose audience full of "Chinese students" is actually the result of a casting call in the DC area) and for the surprising star turn by the surly panda at the end.

By email, I asked NMA's creators in Taiwan what they were trying to do with their political satire. Answers after the jump.
Angelica Oung of NMA explains the group's background and goals:

>>NMA is the brainchild of HK tycoon Jimmy Lai. His vision was to animate news events that hasn't been caught on camera. Indeed, I would say that 85 percent of NMA's output is serious news and our ultimate goal is still to one day sell our animations to Reuters and AP and media outlets all over the world. But like any old newspaper, we also have our entertainment news and satirical cartoons etc. Something like the O'Donnell piece is like dozens of editorial cartoons crammed into 90 seconds. Thanks to the internet, we get our information where you get your information. The distance is no impediment. In fact, it helps us break things down and stay fresh. In the case of the panda piece, Ziggy from our NY Sales and market research office sent us a link (to your blog post, actually). We thought the ad was ripe for lampooning and got to work!

Most of our output is still Taiwanese and regional news. But NMA does have global ambitions and we've really been trying to grow our overseas client base. To that end we've produced high-visibility pieces aimed at not just the US but all over the world -- Australia, Malaysia, the UK, the Philippines, and Italy, among others. Be on the lookout for 'our' animation popping up in unexpected places in the future.<<

Competition keeps us all on our toes. Comedy Central, stay sharp!

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.

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