Rock-a-Thon to be “Japan” themed

Why a theme is unnecessary for the event

Written By Sarah Gibson, Co-Opinions Editor

Through my college experience so far, nothing has been quite an experience like Rock-a-Thon. It’s unionizing, feeling complete exhaustion alongside fellow DJ’s, dedicated to one singular cause.

So why does it have a theme this year?

I have a lot of problems with Rock-a-Thon’s “theme” this year, the first of which is the fact that it has a theme at all. Rock-a-Thon’s “theme” has always been charity. Giving back. Donating to The Early Learning Institute (or TELI for short). DJ’s and GM’s have historically turned it into the flagship goal of WPPJ. I remember older classmates talking about events like Last DJ Standing, or competitions between DJs to see who could raise the most money over the course of Rock-a-Thon. It raised awareness for WPPJ and it raised awareness for TELI. It doesn’t need to be bogged down by a theme. I feel like the presence of a theme distracts from the actual reason that Rock-a-Thon was created in the first place: to donate money to a charity that deserves it. When I first saw the promotional materials, I was shocked. I didn’t think they even mentioned TELI until I read the poster a second time. The poster is so concerned with the theme that it barely pays any mind to the fact that Rock-a-Thon is a charity event.

Secondly, and I hate to mention names, but nobody wanted this except for Bie Teal, the current General Manager of WPPJ. I know this because I have talked with several  members of the executive board of WPPJ, and they reported back to me that there was no survey, no question of whether they wanted a theme or not.

They didn’t know about the theme until it was established that Rock-a-Thon was going to have one. That is simply unfair. While I personally hate the idea of Rock-a-Thon having a theme, if it was going to have a theme, why weren’t the other executive members of WPPJ asked? I’m a DJ at WPPJ. Why weren’t the DJ’s asked? It’s not surprising to hear that Bie Teal picked this theme with executive power, since he has several WPPJ shows dedicated directly to East Asian music.

Third, having a theme based around an entire culture is disrespectful. I know the Press Release (which was only sent to WPPJ executive members for some reason, so I had to have one of them send it to me) words everything in a way that conveys an amount of respect, but deeming Japanese culture to be the “theme” of Rock-a-Thon is demeaning to an entire culture. I feel like having “Japanese culture” be your theme is kind of like wearing a “Japanese girl” Halloween costume while you’re white. It’s hokey, distracting and it boils down an entire complicated, rich culture into a party hat that WPPJ calls a “theme.” It reeks of Party City generalization and the trivialization of a culture by making it into a “theme.” If you wanted to raise awareness for Japanese (though ‘East Asian’ and ‘Japanese’ are used interchangeably on promotional materials) culture, make an entirely different event to raise awareness or to celebrate the culture, but don’t make Rock-a-Thon your excuse to make an event ‘Japanese’ themed when Rock-a-Thon has never been about having a theme, but donating to charity. I appreciate Rock-a-Thon looking specifically for ‘East Asian’ vendors and guests for Rock-a-Thon to make it more authentic, but this brings me to my next point.

East Asian and Japanese are not the same thing. In the email sent out for soliciting business donations, it is implied that East Asian establishments are preferred. East Asian is also used as a replacement word for Japanese in a lot of the promotional materials. East Asia includes a lot of countries and cultures, none of which are the same. They don’t have the same writing systems or culture. Japan has a culture that is complex and illustrious enough to fill an entire Rock-a-Thon, and it muddles the sincerity of the event if you just say “East Asian countries” because that implies that they are all similar or the same for an event that is supposed to be just focused on Japan.

To conclude, not only is giving Rock-a-Thon a theme a bad idea, but it’s a terrible idea to base that theme around someone’s entire heritage and culture. While I still plan on taking part in Rock-a-Thon this year, I don’t plan to stop being vocal about how much of a bad idea I think it is. If Rock-a-Thon has to have a theme, it should be voted on by the members or executive board, and it shouldn’t be an entire culture.

Or, you could just let Rock-a-Thon be what it is: a charity event.