Joshua: Teenager vs. Superpower – Summary/ Review (with Spoilers)

When many think of protest and demonstrations in the modern age, Hong Kong isn’t perhaps what first comes to mind. In America, you’d think of the #BlackLivesMatter movement. In parts of the middle east, perhaps the Arab Spring. But when it comes to Asia, while they also have human rights issues, they don’t necessarily get…

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Time Magazine cover featuring Joshua Wong

When many think of protest and demonstrations in the modern age, Hong Kong isn’t perhaps what first comes to mind. In America, you’d think of the #BlackLivesMatter movement. In parts of the middle east, perhaps the Arab Spring. But when it comes to Asia, while they also have human rights issues, they don’t necessarily get the same attention. Yet with Joshua: Teenager vs. Superpower, the issues of Hong Kong, or rather one of the many, are brought to the international stage through Netflix. Leading you to realize that youth, all over the world, are trying to end this idea of an issue being the next generation’s problem. For they are that next generation.


Since he was 14 years old, Joshua Wong has been an activist. One whose main opponent has been the tyrannical policies of China. For ever since the British handover in 1997, they have tried to assert cultural dominance of the area. However, thanks to Joshua, who is touted as perhaps a history making activist, Chinese cultural imperialism has not gone smoothly.

When they attempted to implement a national education policy, focused on instilling nationalism, Joshua fought it. Alongside Benny Tai, he inspired not just members of Scholarism [note]His former group which, composed of students, fought National Education.[/note] but many within his population to occupy major roads and areas of the city for 79 days.

To put it simply, while America has #BlackLivesMatter, Hong Kong had Joshua Wong’s Scholarism group. Alongside that, it had his umbrella protest, and now his newest project. One which began with the end of Occupy Central and the realization that working from the outside in wasn’t working. Now, alongside co-founder Derek Lam, and members Agnes Chow and Nathan Law, he has created a political party. One which plans to give true democracy to Hong Kong and maintain the momentum he has built over the years.


The Fact That Girls Weren’t Just Seen, But Heard

Joshua in Joshua: Teenager vs. Superpower
Though not pictured here talking, many times young women filled the dais alongside Joshua.

Many documentaries seem so focused on the usual male star, it downplays the important women in his movement. Now, I won’t say this film has a wealth of women speaking. I believe it was one or two experts, Agnes, and Joshua’s mom. That’s it. However, Agnes we see as one of many who each had their own specialty and position. Which to me was important since, as noted, Hong Kong, as much as it holds western-like views, is also very traditional. So to show this wealth of young girls willing to fight like Joshua, it means something. Especially for any girls who may pick up when, or rather if, Joshua can no longer hold the baton.

It Provides All The Information You Need To Understand Joshua’s Point of View and Fears

Joshua in Joshua: Teenager vs. Superpower
Joshua in Joshua: Teenager vs. Superpower

I’m sure I’m not alone in not having full knowledge of the Hong Kong situation and their issues. With this documentary, however, you get what is necessary to understand the reason for Joshua’s activism. But, not just his historic rise, but also how he is defying cultural norms.

What I mean by that is, on top of covering what was promised and done during the Handover of 1997, it is established how western Hong Kong was thanks to British rule. Yet, despite some western considered beliefs, Hong Kong maintained a lot of the traditionalist ideas associated with the region. Mostly in the form of the school to a good job pipeline, children being more so seen than heard, and civil disobedience being frowned upon. Making Joshua’s rise and calling out of his government representative and China something. Especially by a 14-year-old.

For, as he notes, and the professionals, Hong Kong doesn’t have a history of activism. There wasn’t anyone before Joshua who notably fought for their rights to an elected representative or against China’s cultural imperialism. So for a movement to have a 14-year-old as its icon, is something noteworthy.

On The Fence

You Never Really Hear Why The Chinese Fight So Hard Against Him

A tear gas grenade thrown by the police explodes in Joshua: Teenager vs. Superpower
A tear gas grenade thrown by the police explodes in Joshua: Teenager vs. Superpower

Okay, that isn’t completely true. Dominance and some form of imperialism are noted, but it does seem like there would be more to the story. Such as, and this is just showing how little I know about the history of Asia, maybe they wanted to recover all the territory they lost to the British? Hence the One China policy? Maybe they simply disliked this pocket of Asia which maintains a strong western influence in the region? I mean, they could of said it was economic and a slew of other reasons. However, why the Chinese present an almost totalitarian authority over Hong Kong isn’t really gone into. They are simply a representative who is a puppet of the president who is touted as big evil.

Overall: Positive (Worth Seeing)

Derek in Joshua: Teenager vs. Superpower
Derek in Joshua: Teenager vs. Superpower

Joshua: Teenager vs. Superpower is truly a crash course in the difficulties Hong Kong faces for true autonomy. It goes into its issues with China, the rise of Joshua, and we get to understand Joshua’s activism. And while it seems boastful that members of Scholarism note they’ll be in Hong Kong’s history books, you cannot deny they are deserving. A boy started his activist/ political career at 14 years of age. He sacrificed the cultural norms of going to school, and studying, for something he believed in. He put aside every parents’ desire to see their child get a good job so that future generations could have choices. So Hong Kong could gain some real sense of autonomy. Thus threatening his own future for the future of his country.

Leading to the reason for the Positive label. The film effectively presents Joshua and Hong Kong in a quick and interesting study. All the while not really going too deep on pushing China’s side to things. However, you are given just enough to partly understand. If only because its established they want to reassert their influence over the region. Especially after the embarrassment the British caused them. So for this one section of their country to rebel against their nationalist beliefs, it is beyond insulting. It feels like an utter rejection which continues to highlight an embarrassment of the country’s history.

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