From Virtual Space to “Third Space”: Mickey Mouse in Shanghai during the 1930s and 1940s

Conference: The IAFOR International Conference on Arts & Humanities in Hawaii (IICAH2022)
Title: From Virtual Space to “Third Space”: Mickey Mouse in Shanghai during the 1930s and 1940s
Stream: Arts - Arts Theory and Criticism
Presentation Type: Virtual Presentation
Yujing Qian, Beijing Film Academy, China


Mickey Mouse made his Chinese debut in the Shanghai illustrated magazine Liangyou in 1932. Since then, urban audiences in Shanghai began to see both authorized and unauthorized Mickey Mouse cartoons in various entertainment mediums, including magazines, newspapers, and films. Through the analysis of images in various Shanghai media, this paper explores how the cultural identity of Mickey Mouse in Shanghai went through a fundamental shift from a citizen of the world to a distinctly American figure in the late 1930s and 1940s. The paper has two sections. The first section focuses on Mickey Mouse images in early 1930s Shanghai. These images portray a universal character with no distinct definition of age, ethnicity, race, class, nationality, or local identity—a figure that can only exist in virtual space. The second section turns the focus towards the late 1930s and 1940s when unauthorized comic strip adaptations of Mickey Mouse created by Chinese cartoonists spring up in Shanghai. One such comic strip, Milaoshu you Shanghai (Mickey Mouse Traveling to Shanghai, 1948), exemplifies how Mickey Mouse shifts from being a symbol of cosmopolitanism to becoming a character with a specific national and racial identity: a white American man. By setting this white American male Mickey Mouse in 1940s Shanghai, Milaoshu you Shanghai depicts a world full of contradiction between the East and the West constructing a world that can be called, to use Homi Bhabha’s term, a "third space" – a hybrid space emerged from the interface between existing cultural forms.

Virtual Presentation

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