DIGC330

Fight Like a Girl

It took me a long time to understand how to begin an autoethnographic study. The term itself is not hard to grapple but it is difficult to wrap your head around once you’ve spent almost four years at University taking yourself out of the equation and supplementing it with work from other people who are far more intelligent that you.

But after a lot of looking around, Hoppes (2014, p.64) summarised it perfectly, “autoethnographers’ methods vary, but generally include discussion, reflection, note-taking, emotional recall, and identification of categories and themes yielding a narrative that affords both the inside view of a research participant and the outside view of a researcher”.

 

Autoethnographic research is also somewhat of a Pandora’s box. It takes you on a journey way, way, way to the right so you are immersed in a different culture. But then spins you around and around and expects you to run all the way back in the opposite direction so you can tell people of your journey.

But as Hall (Chang 2008, p.34) eloquently suggests, the key to studying another culture is to not to simply understand a foreign culture but to better understand our own or to be better equipped.

This is particularly accurate for me as I am exploring tones of feminism through the text Sailor Moon. Initially I was annoyed that there was no loud, or glowing neon sign, that said, “here is the feminist part, ding ding ding”!

On reflection, I feel quite stupid because there is absolutely none of that in my own culture so why would I expect if from another?

The genre that Sailor Moon falls under is Shoujo which often addresses a “girl’s first love, and the innocent excitement and sometimes painful drama that comes with it. It also deals with friendship and personal development” (Lai, 2015). Conversely, Lai (2015) says that another genre targeted towards female audiences is josei which uncovers what it means to be an adult, what it means to be a woman and with it a sense of maturity and readiness for adulthood.

This was interesting as I did not know that there were so many levels and areas of manga and anime. So maybe I am placing too much ‘pressure’ on Sailor Moon to be a feminist text much like you would not expect the Saddle Club to be teaching girls about what it means to be a woman.

Despite all this, Newsom (2004, p.58) does make a point regarding the Sailor Scouts who are powerful and feminine characters as well as their power being dependent on femininity. Femininity is a literal requirement of being a Sailor Scout.

Sailor Scouts also represent a planet and this is believed to be refelctive of their personality and behaviour.

  • Sailor Moon/Usagi Tsukino  – she is extremely protective of her friends and the Moon is supposed to be the ‘Queen of Astrology’ and represents our emotions, moods and thoughts.
  • Sailor Mercury/Ami – Mercury represents communication and is often associated with intellect. Ami  is possibly the most intelligent girl of the whole group and often berates the group for not doing their homework
  • Sailor Mars/Rei Hino – Mars is passion. It also represents assertiveness and action and can have aggressive urges. Rei is the hot-tempered, aggressive chacrter who ofen finds herself in the midst of an argument
  •  Sailor Jupiter/ Makoto Kino – Jupiter revolves around expansiveness. They desire new experiences and getting to the top. Makoto is independent and after her parents died while she was young, she’s been taking care of herself and others.
  • Sailor Venus/ Minako Aino – Love & pleasure is the name of the game for Venus. The most important theme about Venus is harmony in interpersonal relationships. Minako is the stereotypical pre-teenager who is often dreaming about finding love.

sailor moon crew.jpg

The winning combination of these girls enables a stronger connection with the characters as you are able to identify yourself with at least one of them. Similar to the Spice Girls who were also riding the wave of Girl Power in early 2000s. Everyone knew if they were Sporty, Baby, Posh, Scary or Ginger.

It truly is a coming of age piece that exemplifies what it means to have friends and that they will have your back no matter what. The only other observation that I have recently made was the fact that the evil woman Queen Beryl is wonderfully evil and has the greatest cackle ever. I was apprehensive when I saw that many of the female characters who are evil tend to have submissive males, as I thought it really could go into the realm of misandry. But it has not from the little that I have observed thus far.

Overall, this show is all about amplifying the ‘girls only club’, the power of friendship, kicking some evil butt and all whilst looking fab-u-lous in those outfits with hair always on pointe – yes, that was supposed to be sarcasm. I still loathe it.

 

 

Chang, H, (2008), ‘Autoethnography as a Method’, Eastern University,  http://www.academia.edu/1244871/Autoethnography_as_method

Cooper-Chen, A, (1999), “An Animated Imbalance: Japan’s Television Heroines in Asia,” International Communications Gazette, vol.61, no.3, pp.293-310

Ferris, A, (2014), ‘Why Sailor Moon Is One of the Greatest Feminist Stories Ever’, The Absolute Mag, accessed 19 September, http://theabsolutemag.com/26731/longreads/why-sailor-moon-is-one-of-the-greatest-feminist-stories-ever/

Hoppes, S (2014), ‘Autoethnography: Inquiry Into Identity’, New Directions fro Higher Education, vol. 2014, no. 166, pp. 63 – 179

Lai, A, (2015), ‘Looking at female characters in Anime and Manga’, The Mary Sue, http://www.themarysue.com/female-characters-anime/

Newsom, V.A., (2004), ‘Young Females as Super Heroes: Super Heroines in the Animated Sailor Moon’, Femspec, vol.5, no.2, p.57 – 81

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DIGC330

She Is The One Named Sailor Moon

She is the one named Sailor Poo!” I used to sing every time the show began, just to annoy my sister who was far more invested in this series than I ever was. Well, I pretended to not like it simply because she did. And if we are being honest, I did the same for pretty much every show on Cheez TV.

 

However, rediscovering this classic before-school television show under the strict guidelines of an autoethnographic study has shed new light on this series and I may have judged it too quickly as a kid.

Sailor Moon is one of the most popular anime and manga series, which has sold over 35 million copies worldwide.

The series is a Japanese shōjo manga series which is a category of manga aimed specifically at a female audience rather than writing for a specific genre. Sailor Moon is about a young school girl, Serena who unbeknownst to her, is a guardian destined to save the Earth from evil and sets about establishing a team called Sailor Scouts – Mercury, Mars, Venus and Jupiter.

I initially found it difficult to find the original, full-length episodes that did not involve me climbing over Internet walls lined with dragons ready to bug my computer at any minute. But maybe I was looking in the wrong place as many of the sites were – I assume – in Japanese and I was not able to understand where to click and where not to.

However, after many exhausting hours – in reality it was about one hour that ended in complete frustration – a quick scan through good-old YouTube lead me to Season 1 Episode 1 and it was the English dubbed version. Disappointing. But so began the nostalgia

Ellis et al (2011) suggests that autoethnography involves the interpretation of a text which is often influenced by our own personal experiences and understanding. It is then coupled with a “thick description” of a culture to help facilitate understanding of a culture for insiders and outsiders.

I began with the first episode to reacquaint myself with this series as it has been many years since watching early morning TV.

I had to change to another episode later in the series where she had transformed into Sailor Moon to examine the spectrum that is the character of Serena and Sailor.

From watching the first episode and episode 30 (where she becomes Sailor Moon) there were a lot of first impressions and many observations were things that I had not noticed when I was a child viewing this series

  • Theme song really catchy and bubbly – almost sickening
  • Introduction or beginning scenes are  really vibrant despite watching it on YouTube
  • Seemingly accurate portrayal of Tokyo where the series is set
  • The lines of expression coming from their faces and bodies to exemplify and exacerbate the characters’ emotions are helpful. Something like the laughing tracks added to sitcoms showing you where to laugh
  • Being able to pause and digest is different from initial viewings back in the days of box televisions where you were not able to pause, rewind or even record
  • Mouths do not move at the same time as their words in the English dubbed version – annoying but understandable
  • Character’s names are incredibly hard to follow – there was Queen Beryl and another Emporer of blah-blah and other names such as Chibiusa – and they are not phonetic either. It got a bit overwhelming and there were a lot of WTF moments
  • I really liked that they accurately portray a young, teenage girl who is struggling to find a way to tell her mother that she failed her Algebra test – something Serena and I have in common.
  • She is obsessed with boys and has arguments with her friends and heavily blushes when she is embarrassed.
  • She seems to be a typical teenager which enables a stronger grasp on what is happening even if you cannot figure out who we’re fighting or saving or hating – much like the roller-coaster that is teenage life.
  • Why does she wear such a short skirt as Sailor Moon? I mean, how can you possibly fight crime and the bad “guys” when your skirt barely covers your bum?

 

I hope to explore more of the English episodes of Sailor Moon – as finding a subtitled full episode of the Japanese television show is proving difficult – too add to the data and and examine this series through the lens of feminism with the help of Newsom (2004). Although it is not an autoethnographic article, it does examine this topic in depth and has some incredible insight into the world of Sailor Moon as well as some juxtaposition between Western female roles and Asian female roles.

I want to delve deeper into the question of whether this is a war cry to all the strong women out there or whether it is hiding the traditional, over-glossed, dominant not strong female role.

Once the creative juices have begun to flow again, I hope to present this in a research essay as I feel that this topic needs some arguing along with the autoethnographic method. But for now.. “fighting crime by daylight, winning love by moonlight….

 

 

Ellis, C, Adams, T.E., Bochner, A.P, (2011), ‘Autoethnography: An Overview’, Forum Qualitative Social Research, vol. 12, no.1, http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1589/3095

Newsom, V.A., (2004), ‘Young Females as Super Heroes: Super Heroines in the Animated Sailor Moon’, Femspec, vol.5, no.2, p.57 – 81

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DIGC330

Gory Gojira

Auto-ethnography  is essentially focussing on the researcher and “his/her position and involvement in the field” (Ellis et al, 2011). Considering my first viewing of this film – and frankly any Japanese film – I felt withdrawn as so many said they had seen it. I had never been involvement in this ‘field’. I was struggling to find any commonalities between American cinema and Japanese cinema. On the day, I found a few blatantly obvious things.

After coming home and madly searching through Google and re-reading Ellis, I found that there were a lot of obvious but subliminal messages that Gojira was trying to tell us. Namely, nuclear weapons and World War II.

An epiphany! At last! Common to other auto ethnographers, I hear, made me begin to witness the film in a different light. It was not just a film with a scary monster destroying the city; the monster was meant to be the embodiment of America, portraying the fear, chaos and horrific destruction that they caused after dropping the Atomic bombs in Japan, in 1945.

I felt rather stupid that I had not noticed this considering I am fascinated by 20th Century history. I mean, how did I miss the closing line from, Yamane, “if we continue conducting nuclear tests, it’s possible that another Godzilla might appear somewhere in the world again”.

Or even the scene in the hospital where  a Geiger counter was waved over a small child who had no hope of survival portrays, “a poignant moment witnessed by so many in history…as well as infuriating the audience with the highly emotive scene” (Kalat 1997, p.20)

One of the assumptions that I brought to the experience of watching Gojira was that there would be nothing that I understood because it was a completely foreign film and culture. But then there was a love triangle and a disapproving father and suddenly, something was clear to me. Nearly every Disney film has a disapproving father and whilst there are hints of betrothal in these films, there has never been a death for someone’s love to be accepted – to my knowledge. In Gojira, they made the ultimate sacrifice for Emiko’s love and happiness.

Despite all the initial confusion, there came acceptance that Gojira is an interesting film and has the subliminal message of the dangers of nuclear weapons. Furthermore, through more research, I found that I had a deeper connection with the film and what it was trying to say. It was something so poignantly beautiful.

 

But this, to me, is truly what autoethnographical research is about. It is stripping it back to the simplest of commonalities and in turn generating a more emotive response from the audience. Once the context and – I suppose – the motive for making this film was evident to me, I began to feel ashamed that I took it at face value; a confusing and sad film about a monster and a city. What it is, is a sad, honest and evocative story of human mistakes.

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DIGC330

My God! That’s Godzilla?!

With my mouth agape, eyes squinting in confusion and head spinning, for the first time ever, I watched Godzilla.

Wow.

I must admit this now, before we go much further that my knowledge and experience of Japanese cinema is..well..nil. Not a little or a bit. Zip. Nothing.

So I was ready for whatever was going to appear on the screen. Whatever weird and wonderful film that we were about to watch. I must admit I was quite surprised by how much I understood the film. Maybe not on a deep, personal level but enough to get me through this week.

As I sat there ogling at the complex cinematic gold that is Godzilla, I was searching for any kind of connection – anything! – and began to reflect on what Ellis et al (2011) said about autoethnography.

Whilst this seems like a complex term, once broken down, it applies effortlessly to the film and other scholarly works. Autoethnography is both a process and a product; it is something that is equal parts autobiography and ethnography and treats research as a political, socially conscious and just act. It also interweaves personal and interpersonal experiences so as not to differentiate between the “outer” and the “inner” cultural groups.

Furthermore, it also aims not to exploit the experiences shared between the culture and the researcher or writer. There is nothing changed for a Western audience – excluding the subtitles – there is no need to. It is a film produced in Japan for any audience.

As Ellis et al said, the majority of work is written, insisting on canonical forms of research that favour and advocate the “norm” which is white, masculine, middle/upper class and heterosexual.

Maybe that was why I was so baffled by Godzilla. I was so busy trying to find the commonality, the secret hidden message that could not accept the fact the film was completely foreign to me.

A correct or rather an adequate piece of autoethnographical work should be evocative, aesthetically pleasing and chronological according to Ellis et al.

Godzilla is to some, aesthetically pleasing – I mean, he does look like a moss covered rock with a spiky spine – but it does not fit into the modern ideas of what a beautiful film may be.  But what about other cult classics, such as Alfred Hitchcock’s Birds which still has dodgy camera work and fairly hilarious string-controlled birds; but fits the norms as described by Ellis by having predominantly white, males in the film.

One element that I could grasp onto was the love triangle between Emiko, Ogata and Serizawa. Whilst many Western films do not touch the subject of betrothal, the majority do explore the issue of a disapproving father – hint, every Disney film ever!

On reflection, however, the storyline does seem to appeal to me as it was basic yet dramatic enough to keep me engaged and it followed to recipe for a great blockbuster:

  • damsel in distress – or failing, screaming idiot as I like to refer to them
  • nutty scientist
  • wise old father
  • dominant male

emiko

I think this subject is going to be engrossing as I am not a Digital Asia buff by any means. I rarely watch international films – apart from the couple of times where I watched German and Italian movies to improve my language skills (hint: it didn’t help it one iota!) – but because there is such a fluidity between the two cultures today, I am excited to see what I can learn along the way. Weird terminologies and all.

 

 

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