Sometimes a bit of pop detritus from Western culture drifts gently into faraway lands. Sometimes it crashes down and explodes like a Daisy Cutter.
In some of the most impoverished places in Southeast Asia, Angry Birds are much more the latter. Disclaimer: I’m not referring to the addictive video game downloaded onto iPhones and iPads. I’m referring to specifically to Angry Birds fashion.
Two months ago, I wrote about Cambodia’s Angry Birds fetish. Now on assignment in another of Asia’s poorest countries, Myanmar, I’m noticing the same phenomenon.
In Yangon markets, where vendors squat over piles of durian and fly-nibbled pork strips splayed out on the stained concrete, Angry Birds fashion rules. Their screwy little eyes stare out from teenagers’ clothing, school kids’ book bags and all sorts of paraphernalia: ink pens, umbrellas, flip flops and more.
As in Cambodia, Angry Birds fashionistas in Myanmar may have no idea the birds are characters in a video game downloaded from the Internet. According to the U.N.-aligned International Telecommunications Union, Myanmar’s Internet penetration is less than 1 percent.
Though Myanmar is attempting to overcome a long spell of reclusiveness and oppression, it still remains one of Asia’s most isolated nations. Western sanctions, now largely suspended, have stopped multinational firms from radically altering Myanmar’s landscape. In Yangon, there are no Big Macs, no Starbucks frappes and, for the moment, no 7-11s.
But there are lots and lots of Angry Birds.