There’s no denying that AANHPI culture has had a profound impact on popular culture today. To celebrate AANHPI Heritage Month, The Screenshot team compiled some of the many innovations by members of these groups, with an emphasis on those that have been co-opted by non-AANHPI people.
1. Payals and naths are two important accessories for South Asian women. The former is a bejeweled anklet given to newborns by their parents and to new brides by their parents-in-law. They are worn to signify bravery and transfer the feet’s radiated energy into the body. Punjabi payals are adorned with bells. The latter is a nose ring worn in one nostril. They traditionally are worn by women during and after being wed; however, it’s recently become an earlier-in-life piercing. In Hinduism, it’s believed that the love goddess Parvati brings abundant blessings to those who wear a nath.
2. Lei is a significant item for Polynesians and Native Hawaiians. Lei are worn on the neck and shoulders, head, or wrist. They can be made out of flowers, leaves, shells, seeds, and bones — however, most are made of flowers (orchids, Arabian jasmine, plumeria, tuberose, ginger, and carnations) or leaves (ti and maile). Pua male flowers are typically used in wedding ceremonies. Maile lei are used to signal unity and peace — whether between chiefs after negotiations or married couples after a wedding. Another popular lei style is puka and ni’ihau shells. Puka means “hole,” and these are given to bestow good luck. Traditionally, sailors would return home safely with the help of this lei. Ni’ihau shells are found on the island of Ni’ihau, which is limited to guests of the around 130 residents and members of the Robinson family (who own it). Thousands of shells are painstakingly sewn together, making these lei incredibly valuable. Lei are their own art form.
3. Boba, or bubble tea, is a delicious cold tea drink with tapioca pearls inside. Tea drinking has been a practice in Asia for centuries, and shaved ice and tapioca pearls are popular desserts. The three were combined, and the rest is history. It originated in Taiwan in the 1980s as a night market staple, and expanded to the Western world in the 1990s. Bubble tea stands in Taiwan attract students exhausted after a day of school. Chains like Kung Fu Tea and Gong Cha have popularized the drink in North America. April 30th is National Bubble Tea Day in the USA, a testament to its widespread influence.
4. Yoga is a practice that focuses on bridging the mind and body — individual and universal consciousness. Due to a lack of written history, yoga’s beginnings are hazy. However, researchers believe it is around 5,000 years old, originating with the Indus-Sarasvati civilization in present-day North India. Yogic scriptures have included the Bhagavad-Gîtâ, Yoga Sûtras, and Swami Sivananda’s 200+ books. Hatha yoga is how Western people typically participate in the lifestyle. This practice focuses primarily on physical routines, breathing, and directing vital energy toward the crown chakra, rather than enlightenment. Hatha spread to the US in the 1950s and 1960s through Richard Hittleman. Yoga has large spiritual and mental benefits for those who practice it.
5. Anime is a style of animation in Japanese films. The genre is commonly aimed at children but has expanded in recent years to include adult themes. Anime began around 1917 and was used to create pro-Axis propaganda films at the end of World War II. Its first mainstream show in the Western world was “Astro Boy,” which aired on the US’ NBC channel in 1963. The genre became mainstream in Japan in the 1980s and vastly grew in terms of shows and sub-categories. Studio Ghibli, now a household name from creations like “My Neighbor Totoro,” was formed in 1985. Over 72 anime conventions are now occurring across the globe every year.
6. Buddhist practices have had a sizable impact on our world. Some of the many innovations that have made their way into the mainstream are incense, crystals, meditation, and zen gardens. Incense originated in the Egypt-Mesopotamia region over 6,000 years ago. It was used for mummification and communication with deities. When you picture incense, you most likely conjure up the stick-shaped Indian variation; however, it can be used as coils, cones, powder, and chunks. Crystals are applied in Buddhism to transmit certain energies; they can also substitute for a Buddha statue in some cases. Turquoise and sapphire both create peace, and quartz attracts love and success. Many other crystals are also used in this belief system. Buddhist meditation is split into three categories: samatha (mindfulness), vipassana (insight), and metta bhavana (loving kindness). Without meditation, following the Dharma (teachings) is useless. The Zen sect of Buddhism prioritizes meditating. Zen gardens function to invoke a state of contemplative stillness, as they juxtapose order (the tamed sand) and disorder (the nature surrounding it). Chinese zen gardens combine Buddhist and Daoist teachings. Beyond religious connotations, their beauty also brings peace and clarity.
7. Henna, or mehndi, has an expansive history and impact. The paste originated over 5,000 years ago in South Asia as a way to cool down palms and soles in hot weather. Henna also treated aches, burns, and wounds and was a natural way to dye and strengthen hair. It then expanded to a decorative embellishment, especially for low-income people who could not afford jewelry to adorn themselves with. In the modern day, henna is used for celebrations like birthdays, weddings, and childbirth. During Henna Night, brides and their families play games, watch music and dance performances, and apply henna on the entire body. As long as the stain lasts, the bride does no housework. Tradition holds that the darker the henna, the deeper the love.
8. Harajuku is a station between Shinjuku and Shibuya on Japan’s Yamanote Line. The area around this station is the center of Gen Z alternative fashion and cosplay culture in the country. Harajuku also holds “Tokyo’s Champs-Elysees,” Omotesando, and the major Meiji Jingu shrine. The Harajuku clothing style is recognized globally as a mélange of creative fashion choices. There is no one specific subculture that defines Harajuku, but the many styles are united by community and self-expression. Wearers rebel against the strict style norms of Japan. Some of the well-known subgenres are Decora, Kogal, Visual Kei, and Gyaru. In four decades, dozens of trends have cycled through — however, Harajuku is here to stay.
9. Tāmoko is the style of tattoo created by New Zealand’s Māori people. In this area, combs called uhi are used to tap onto skin with mallets known as tā. This practice was brought from Eastern Polynesia. Tāmoko uses many universal designs and some identity-specific ones. In the 19th century, the practice declined due to oppression from Pākehā (New Zealanders of European descent). However, it sprung up again in the 1970s as many young Māori protested colonial subjugation by reconnecting with cultural practices. Tatau is a similar practice in Sāmoan communities. These tattoos are also applied with a mallet, but take many weeks to finish. Tatau includes images of one’s life and achievements — men’s are called pe’a and women’s malu. The designs created are their own visual storybook.
10. Ice cream was first invented during China’s Tang Dynasty (618-907 C.E.). Buffalo, cow, and goat’s milk were heated and fermented, then mixed with flour and camphor and refrigerated. The Shang Dynasty’s Emperor Cheng Tang had a whopping 94 ice cream makers on his staff. The Chinese also mixed rice, milk, and snow, later adding fruit juice and pulp to create a snow cone-adjacent dish. Ice cream expanded to Italy in the 1300s and across Europe in the 1600s. Then, Thomas Jefferson brought the treat to the USA. In 2021, Asia-Pacific nations made up 42% of the revenue share for ice cream. This delicious treat is all thanks to the ancient Chinese!
Joe Biden officially announced his 2024 election campaign and Gen Z is … pretty ambivalent. Though a Politico survey found Gen Z 2020 voters preferred Biden 26 points over Trump, the anti-Trump coalition was only 7 points behind the pro-Biden. The 18-29 crowd voted +24 Democratic in the 2020 Presidential election, and +49 Democratic in the 2018 midterms. Though we may have problems with our candidates, young people operate in a lesser-evil fashion for voting — as a 23-year-old Politico interviewee said, “Voting isn’t marriage, it’s public transportation. … You take the one closest to [where] you’re going.” 60 percent of under-30 Democrats supported Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren in February of 2020, yet we (somewhat) enthusiastically opted for Biden when it came to the general election. Gen Z for Change, one of our generation’s most well-known organizations, started as TikTok for Biden. Voting for Biden, however, does not mean young people aren’t demanding more. Spencer Hunt, commonly known as Spencewuah, went on the “Past Your Bedtime” podcast asking, “What’s it like knowing that the only reason you won is that you suck, and the person you [ran against] sucked a little bit more?” Four youth organizations released a letter calling on Biden to run on a progressive platform centering on young and marginalized people. They demand him “to deliver the bold ideas that our generation cannot live without.” Youth pundit Victor Shi Tweeted, “While young people may not think President Biden is perfect, they sure understand the stakes and choice before them in this election. … Gen Z understands the assignment.” Understand it we do, albeit with an eye roll.
Jerry Springer, host of “Jerry Springer” and “Judge Jerry” and Cincinnati politician, died on April 27. For a generation that grew up watching his shows (which ran from 1991-2022), this loss was especially devastating. Many, like @yawningemoji, reminisced on days spent watching “Jerry Springer” while home pretending to be sick. Reactions across the Twitterverse called him “A GOAT,” “the messiest b*tch who LIVED for drama,” “the legend himself,” and an icon, especially for Black people. Carolyn Bryant Donham, the woman who falsely accused Emmett Till of making advances on her, died on the same day. For Gen Z, these two deaths coinciding on the same day is more than a simple chance. The latter’s death slightly brightened the unfortunate day, as expressed through jokes. @BayouBun, @kaaiiiitttt, @miiaaxoxoo, and @sigmapixy were some of the many who posted about this sentiment. So … good news or bad news first?
At the apex of reality and dystopia merging, “Black Mirror” just announced a new season. The responses to their “what have we missed?” Tweet are … a lot. Many wish the show was still the science fiction they promised, instead of something eerily close to our real life. @storymodebae Tweeted, “You know d*mn well we’ve been unpaid extras in Black Mirror for the past 3 years.” Others said things like, “Don’t know how you can top real life” and “You got everything right.” “Black Mirror” has missed the iconic Ariana DuBose performance, robo-cop-dogs, and everything AI, as suggested by Gen Zers on Twitter. Of course, the cast is stacked. Some of our favorites — Michael Cera, Ben Barnes, and Annie Murphy — will be acting, as well as many other A-list actors. With Cera featuring in “Barbie,” “Black Mirror,” and the “Scott Pilgrim” anime, Gen Z is supporting the Cera-ssance. In an era of escapist television, “Black Mirror” is one of the few that has consistently defied this trend and still performed well. Now, we’ll be eagerly awaiting a June release.
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