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 Considering my first viewing of this film – and frankly any Japanese film – I felt withdrawn as so many said they had seen it.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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BCM 240

Do You Come From a Land Down Under?

“Yes I come from the land down under. No, I do not ride kangaroos to school, no I do not greet everybody with G’day, nor do I say strewth, and there is no such things as ‘drop bears’ as koalas are not bears and they do not ‘drop’. Oh and that thing that you are trying to pat is a Goanna and they are feisty so step away.” This was the conversation that I had with an American tourist who proclaimed to have watched every “Dinky di Owwzee (Aussie) film”  – namely A Cry in the Dark

Internationally, there are many films and television shows that like to squeeze in every Australian stereotype including heavy drawl that is a ridiculously fake Australian accent. So it is frankly disappointing when we have to witness the same stereotyping in our own films and shows which is best known as “cultural cringing” (Triple J, 2009).

This is about the only accurate thing that tourists believe about Australia

This is about the only accurate thing that tourists believe about Australia

So could this be why our film industry is lacking Australian audiences? In some part yes, Australians are sick of being constantly portrayed as “convicts – delinquents, struggling outsiders … trapped in a harsh environment they barely understand” (Vidler, 2005) whereas Americans in their films are portrayed as, “an individual with strong character can undertake a daunting task, overcome seemingly insurmountable odds, and become a great success” (Vidler 2005).

But as discussed over in this post, the number of moviegoers are rapidly diminishing worldwide. But Australia seems to be hit the hardest with statistics exemplifying that, Australian films made $38.5 million at the box office, which is an overall share of 3.5 per. Compare this to the figures in 1986 where Australian films made 44.4 million which equated to 23.5 per cent share.

“With a few exceptions – a Sapphires here, a Red Dog there – local features have been dead meat at the box office for at least five years” (Barber 2013) but feeble cinema turnouts do not necessarily mean Australians do not want Australian-made stories. Barber (2013) explains that the success of quality Australian television shows – such as Offspring, The Slap, Please Like Me and Underbelly – shows that audiences are keen for more.

So may be this is the answer to the film industry’s woes – find a happy medium, something that showcases Australia beautifully but is not so stereotypically draining.

 

Resources:

Barber, 2013, ‘Better to fund high-end global TV than back Australian films’, The Guardian, viewed 27 September, http://www.theguardian.com/culture/2013/oct/11/australian-film-funding-failure-tv

Vidler, 2005, ‘Hating Aussie film?’, Sydney Morning Herald, viewed 27 September,http://www.smh.com.au/news/The-Tribal-Mind/Hating-Aussie-film/2005/04/11/1113071903327.html

 

 

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bcm 111

Lost: comedy. Last seen: somewhere in translation.

Comedy is said to be the international language – sorry to burst your bubble, but it is not.

Rather I believe that the pivotal part to comedy is how it is constructed around “national identity” (Turnbull 2008, 112) – this is particularly so in Australian comedy. Comedy’s nuances only really make sense in its original context as it is a “cultural and social practice” (Turnbull 2008, 112)

Time after time, television series sell their rights to international networks in the hopes of expanding their comedic genius to other nations. But there is always something missing. It is that classic Australian humour that pokes fun at ourselves and our inabilities. International audiences may not find this funny at all and plain rude or they just do not get it. However, place in front of Aussies and the room will be in raptures within seconds. For example, Kath and Kim. When this was reworked into an American version, the Aussie humour was lost. They “dropped the key concept” (Turnbull 2008, 112) and this made it a huge international flop because there was that one, tiny element missing and as Robert Bianco says, “that’s what happens with copies, something great gets lost.” (Turnbull 2008, 113).

Whilst I still believe that there are some areas of comedy which are timeless and transnational – such as slapstick or crude jokes – there are some that are reserved for the nation’s audience. For Australia, a 2004 show called Russell Coight’s All Aussie Adventures is a prime example of how comedy can be transnational yet targeted for Australians. Coight – if you do not know what that word means then search it on Urban Dictionary goes on adventures around Australia and acts a bushman who loves the outback. But there is one thing – he is absolutely hopeless and hilarious. Whilst the mixture of comedy can be transnational, the subtle contextual humour in the show appeals to Australians.

For example, he uses the wrong tow ropes to pull a 4WD out of the mud. It is this humour that incorporates stupidity and lines that make you think, “Whaaaat?” that appeals to the Aussie sense of humour as we like poking fun at people. My favourite is, “some animals are nocturnal whilst others only come out at night”. It is these sort of things that would be lost in translation – not because they do not understand, but because their context does not allow for the full extent of the joke. He is the quintessential bushy who is such a dag.

 

Comedic genius may be lost in translation but as long as there is comedy – I’m happy.

         

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