AUTOETHNOGRAPHY: WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT?

When I first came across the term “autoethnography” I had initially dismissed it as another tedious, research-related term which I would struggle to comprehend and eventually get frustrated by. However, mid-way through reading “Autoethnography: An Overview” (Ellis, C., Adams, T.E., and Bochner, A.P. 2011), I had the realisation that the term referred to the method of using personal experiences as a means to subjectively comprehend cultural experiences (Ellis, C., Adams, T.E., and Bochner, A.P. 2011, pg.1), with subjectively being the key word. Because, as the article points out, “autoethnography is one of the approaches that acknowledges and accommodates subjectivity, emotionality, and the researcher’s influence on research” (Ellis, C., Adams, T.E., and Bochner, A.P. 2011, pg.4).

 

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When I started to think about this form of research, it occurred to me that I have been an autoethnographer since I started university, although for most of the time unknowingly. Through my blog, I have been using personal experiences to gain an understanding of cultural experience. With a huge interest in film, I realized that film-makers too (especially documentarians) are autoethnographers. They reshape their own personal  and cultural experiences and use it to create a narrative which goes on to share a film-maker’s experience. 

With this in mind, I am now beginning to think about how I will use auto ethnography to gain a further understanding on Asian horror films, particularly ‘J-Horror’. As someone who is a massive fan of the 1998 classic “Ringu”, I am incredibly excited to use J-Horror as the basis for my autoethnographic research. In the coming weeks, I will hopefully zone in on the specifics of the research process and through what medium I will present it.

RINGU

Until then…

References:

Ellis, C., Adams, T.E., and 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>

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‘GOJIRA’: Reaction + Thoughts

Those people who know me well, will (rightly) tell you that I am a massive film geek. So when I found out that we would be watching the 1954 allegorical B-movie ‘Gojira’, I was naturally thrilled. As the film started, I began to think about the differences between the Japanese film industry and the Hollywood film industry.

godjira

As I said in one of my tweets posted during the screening, NO-ONE makes genre films quite like the Japanese. Unlike many (there are exceptions) Hollywood blockbusters, Japanese blockbusters always seem to try to incorporate some  form of social, religious or political context. With this in mind, it was fascinating to watch the way that ‘Gojira’ uses genre (in this case b-grade sci-fi) in order to make a bold allegorical critique of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in WW2. Contrastingly, if you look at the 2013 remake ‘Godzilla’ (which I actually kinda liked) you’ll notice that it has none of the original’s political undertones, but is more interested in establishing Godzilla as a major player in the new MonsterVerse (as is now the trend).

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Having said this, it doesn’t mean that all Japanese films are as smart as ‘Gojira’ and that all Hollywood blockbusters are simply disposable pieces of entertainment that exist solely for financial reasons. It just occurred to me, as I watched ‘Gojira’, that very few American film-makers would be make such a ballsy, political blockbuster.

Another difference between the two film industries, which I briefly discussed with my tutor after the screening, is the perception of their audience. By making such a allegorical film, the director of ‘Gojira’, Ishiro Honda, clearly perceives the audience to be clever enough to understand the ideas and messages that the film is trying to convey. Hollywood, however, often believe that a blockbuster has to be ‘dumbed down’, in order to satisfy audiences and are often very reluctant to finance big-budget films with complicated narratives or concepts (although this trend is starting to die down, thankfully).

In the end,  the screening of the 1954 ‘Gojira’ was an eye opening experience which led to a deeper understanding of the way the Japanese film industry works and the differences between them and Hollywood.

Until next time…

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Archer and Transmedia Storytelling

Transmedia storytelling is a very interesting tool that, if used correctly, allows the audience to further explore the content being consumed. In the case of the hilarious animated spy spoof “Archer”, which is currently in its eighth season, it’s use of transmedia storytelling is designed to allow the audience to directly interact with what’s happening in the episode.

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Although not available for us Aussies, the “Archer P.I.” augmented reality app, launched in anticipation of the latest season “Dreamland”, is described as a “multiplatform augmented reality app” which requires viewers to interact with what’s happening in the episode, as well as certain objects in the real world. The objective is that the audience is helping the show’s protagonist, the legendary Sterling Archer, to find clues and help solve cases. The app is essentially a way for the audience to engage with the world of the show, even after the episode is over. It’s a terrific use of transmedia storytellling that results in increased audience engagement. If only the app was available here though…

archer-metoo

BTW, if you don’t watch Archer, you’re missing out badly

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Australia vs. Piracy: What’s the point?

Remember that ad that you would see every time you watched a DVD?  With the quotes like “ You wouldn’t steal a car”  and “You wouldn’t steal a handbag”. You know the one right? That ad is more than 10 years old now. Crazy right! So what exactly has changed in Australia’s war against piracy since then? To be honest, not much has changed. Apart from the implementation of the Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Bill in 2015 and the introduction of Netflix in March 2015, nothing has changed in regards to piracy and illegal streaming in Australia.

The war against piracy, is for me, one that the Australian government cannot win. The internet is so  vast and information is so easily obtainable that it makes it  almost impossible for piracy laws to be enforced. If one illegal streaming site gets shutdown, they’ll just be another one created. So, although they may restrict piracy and illegal streaming, Australia will never succeed in its battle against piracy. So the question is: What’s the point?

Obi-Wan Kenobi - You Were The Chosen One! meme

DIGC202-Attention as a currency

In the last lecture, we discussed the fascinating idea that an individual’s attention has now become the principal form of currency, in the ever expanding digital landscape. Which makes sense really, considering how the consumer’s attention span has changed over the years, due to the overflow of information and content available to us.

With the emergence of digital media, traditional media platforms are having to adjust to the fact that money is no longer the endgame: the goal now is to grab the attention of the consumers. If something doesn’t interest the consumer, they can simply change the channel or station until they find something they like. If not, they can simply go online and search specifically for what they want. Sometimes, though, even the consumers don’t know exactly what they want. These are some of the reasons why attention is arguably the most valuable currency in the changing media landscape.

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BCM332 Case Study Part Two- Gender Representation in the Media

Organisation: Centre for the Study of Women in Television & Film

For the second part of my case study, I have decided to slightly shift my focus from news media to film and television, as this is where my true interest is in. Television and Film are incredibly powerful forms of media that unconsciously effect the way we perceive the people and things around us. It is therefore essential that we address the issue regarding the portrayal of women in film and television, as this will be act as a major stepping point towards gender equality.

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Before I introduce the subject of this case study, I would like to give some context into the issue. As you may or may not have heard, this year saw the release of a female-led remake of the classic 1984 horror comedy “Ghostbusters”. Many of the reactions from fans, even before the film was released, was misogynistic and led to the film’s trailer being one of the most disliked videos on YouTube.  Although many claim that the hateful comments and reactions were due to the trailer’s lack of laughs, there is no denying that many were simply against the idea that women could be leads in a big-budget Hollywood film.

For the last 18 years, The Centre for the Study of Women in Television & Film, which was founded by Dr. Martha Lauzen (who is also part of the film and television faculty at San Diego State University), has conducted the most comprehensive research regarding the role of women in film & television. The research is not limited to just actresses. It also includes the women who work behind the scenes and even film critics, and unfortunately the results are rather alarming.

The report “It’s a Man’s (Celluloid) World: Portrayals of Female Characters in the Top 100 Films of 2015” investigated the way women were represented on-screen in some of the highest-grossing films of that year, and although the results were an improvement on 2014, which according to the report “was an exceptionally poor year for women” (Lauzen 2015, pg.1), there is still some work to be done. For example, the report states that “Gender stereotypes were prevalent in the top grossing films of 2015” (Lauzen 2015, pg.1) and that it was more likely that women would be more remembered for their marital status than their occupation, which is extremely worrying. Interestingly, however, the report states that “films with at least one woman director and/or writer, females comprised 40% of all speaking characters” as opposed to films directed by males where “females accounted for 30% of all speaking characters” (Lauzen 2015, pg.4). It is evident then that employing more female directors and writers would go some way into rectifying the issue of the representation of women in film & television.

 

References

Lauzen, M 2015, “It’s a Man’s (Celluloid) World: Portrayals of Female Characters in the Top 100 Films of 2015”, Centre for the Study of Women in Film & Television, San Diego State University, pg. 1-4

                                     

Watching in the dark: The experience of film with strangers

As I wait for the lights to dim, a question pops into my head: Why do we enjoy watching a film with strangers in total darkness? Is it to experience shared emotions of what is happening on the screen? Is it that we like the idea that, by watching a film at the cinema with others, we identify a need, shared with those particular strangers, to escape from reality for 2 hours. Just as I started writing these questions to remember for my blog, the lights turned to utter darkness and the film began, as the theatre suddenly turned quiet…

Image From: http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/sites/default/files/2015/07/gift_ver3.jpg
Image From: http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/sites/default/files/2015/07/gift_ver3.jpg

The film I saw on that day was “The Gift”, which is a suspenseful stalker thriller starring and directed by Australia’s very own Joel Edgerton. In my opinion, thrillers and horror films are the best to see in theatres with a group of people, either friends or strangers. In this case, I decided to attend on my own. Before deciding to go, I considered the three constraints identified by Swedish geographer Torsten Hagerstrand, which could affect my decision:

Capability: The physical limits to get there

Authority: Are you permitted to be there

Coupling: Can you make it there in time

Hagerstrand’s research, which resulted in the identification of the three constraints, was to explore the physical and psychological limitations that prevent people from acting without restraint. For me, my closest theatre is a 5 minute train ride away, so capability was no issue. As for authority, my father gave me money the night before (broke life 😦 ) so that’s was no problem. Could I make it in time? Absolutely I could. So Hagerstrand’s three constraints did not affect m decision in any way and therefore was able to take part in quite an interesting communal cinematic experience.

The minute the lights went down, everyone in the theatre had an unspoken agreement that talking is now forbidden. Everyone was keen to find out how the film was going to turn out. In the end, the film proved to be fantastic, and was particularly interesting to see with complete strangers. There were a few moments in the film, where everything goes quiet and everyone (including me) is on the edge of their seat. Then, suddenly, something or someone appears, along with a sharp and loud noise. This scare tactic is commonly referred to as a ‘jump scare’ and once everyone umps from their seat in fright, the whole theatre began to laugh over the fact that they had just felt terrified. It was a terrific experience, as well as a terrific film. However, movie theatres are facing a major threat in the form of a little business called Netflix…

The main reason behind Netflix’s success is simply convenience. There is a large amount of choice and it is available at any time at the comfort of your home. However, the main reason why movie theatres are struggling to compete with services such as Netflix is not down to convenience. It is simply down to the continual rise in cost of movie tickets. For example, the local Event Cinemas theatre in the Shire (where I live) charges me almost $20 each time I see a film. Personally, I prefer going to the cinema because it gives me the sense of community and comfort. Yet, it is hard for someone like me, who is a university student, to continue to fork out $20 each time I want to see a film. So it is little surprise that services such as Netflix, which currently has more than 1 million users in Australia, are succeeding and that movie theatre attendance is starting to decrease.

References:

Bulbeck, P 2015, ‘Netflix reaches 1m users in Australia’, The Hollywood Reporter website, viewed 28th August 2015, http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/netflix-reaches-1m-users-australia-804697

Maddox, G 2014, ‘Cinema ticket prices have just topped $20 in Sydney, with Melbourne soon to follow. Could this be a psychological tipping point?’, Sydney Morning Herald website, viewed 28th August 2015, http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/movies/movie-tickets-hit-epic-levels-as-they-cross-20-barrier-20140404-363bw.html

Screen Australia, Audiovisual Markets Audiences, accessed 28th August 2015, http://www.screenaustralia.gov.au/research/statistics/audiencescinemaattend.aspx

Techno-orientalism: A new form of orientalism for a changing world

Since the eighteenth century, the perception of orientalism has gone through significant change. In addition, as time went by, various forms of orientalism began to emerge. A recent form to emerge being techno-orientalism, which is designed for the West to maintain its image through imaginative depictions of the future (Ueno, 1999).Techno orientalism is commonly associated with the ‘Cyberpunk’ culture which first originated in Japan in the 1980’s .Techno-orientalism is particularly prevalent in science-fiction films such as Blade Runner, The Matrix and Looper which all, to some extent, depict a dystopian and Asian-influenced future. Other forms of techno-orientalism include Anime, Techno-Trance music and literature. However, for this blog, I shall primarily be investigating the prominence of techno-orientalism in science-fiction films.

The 1982 film “Blade Runner” is often considered to be Hollywood’s first and most prominent display of techno-orientalist imagery. The film’s dystopian Los Angeles setting itself is almost entirely Asian influenced from the neon-lit street markets shown at the beginning of the film to the enormous image of a Geisha-resembling woman eating candy in a giant virtual billboard. These images are exaggerations of the U.S. fears that Japan was industrially and technologically superior and represent an orientalist perspective of a futuristic L.A. colonized by Asian Culture.

In the height of the Cyberpunk phase, the action sci-fi film “The Matrix” was released and also featured many techno-oriental elements, the most striking elements being the martial-arts fight sequences and production design. The scene in which the protagonist Neo demonstrates his newly acquired Kung-Fu abilities to his mentor Morpheus is the most obvious reference to East-Asian culture. The use of traditional Chinese décor and Kung-Fu choreography along with the techno-influenced score demonstrate a techno-orientalist style that Park (2010, pg.172) describes as “complimentary rather than antithetical”. In other words, Park suggests that the cyberpunk and techno-orientalist elements are used in a positive fashion as opposed to other similar films such as the fore mentioned “Blade Runner”.

The 2012 time travel thriller “Looper” also, but to a lesser extent, features techno-orientalist elements in its depiction of the future. Interestingly enough, an article in The Guardian reports that the film was originally meant to feature a futuristic depiction of Paris, but was changed to Shanghai when a Beijing-based film company became involved with the film.  The brief scenes with Bruce Willis and his Chinese wife uses traditional East-Asian design, in addition to futuristic elements which contribute to create a techno-orientalist depiction of the future.

Techno-orientalism, today, seems to be less prominent than during the 80’s and 90’s, although it is still a common feature of many science-fiction films. Hopefully, any future attempts to depict East-Asian influenced futures will be more respectful in their approach.

 

References:

Hoad, P 2012, ‘Looper bridges the cinematic gap between China and the US’, The Guardian, 28th August, viewed 29th March 2015, http://www.theguardian.com/film/filmblog/2012/aug/28/looper-china-us-dan-mintz

Park, J Chi Hyun 2010, Yellow Future: Oriental Style in Hollywood Cinema, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, USA

Ueno, T 1999, ‘Techno‐Orientalism and media‐tribalism: On Japanese animation and rave culture’, Third Text, Vol 13, no. 47, pp. 95-105

 

 

Forgettable Remake of an Unforgettable Film- Oldboy (2013)

In 2003, South-Korean filmmaker Chan-wook Park released a brilliant film adaptation of the cult graphic novel “Oldboy” (Oldeuboi). The film was an exceptional, yet disturbing tale of vengeance and tragic love. Since its release, the film has gone on to become a cult classic and is often considered to be one of the greatest modern film-noirs of the last decade and one of the best Asian films of all time. Inevitably, Hollywood commissioned a remake, with renowned indie director Spike Lee at the helm…

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the story of Oldboy, the plot revolves around a man who is inexplicably kidnapped and retained in a mysterious hotel room for 20 years with no contact with the outside world, other than through television. The name of the fore mentioned man in this remake is Joe Doucette (Josh Brolin) an unsympathetic and alcoholic advertising executive who lives a miserable and meaningless life. We first encounter Joe in 1993 as he drunkenly stumbles around town after  he fails to secure a major deal for the company he represents. It is clear from the opening 10 minutes that Joe doesn’t make many friends and this made evident when we then find him wake up in a solitary room in which he spends the next 20 years in. Following a montage which explores Joe’s psychological state caused by isolation, Joe is then released and he sets outs to avenge those responsible, not only for his kidnapping, but the rape and murder of his estranged wife.

There are positives to find within Spike Lee’s remake:  The 20 year montage is cleverly intercut with clips of important events from each yeah; Josh Brolin is solid as Doucette, a lost and angry man looking for redemption through vengeance. However, the biggest problem with Spike Lee’s film is one which is common with most Hollywood remakes:  It lacks its own original style. Martin Scorsese’s “The Departed” expertly demonstrated how an American remake can justify its purpose of being made by incorporating a different style and different elements whilst still maintaining the core story of the original.

Verdict

Whilst not being a complete disaster of a film, Spike Lee’s “Oldboy” still suffers from a dull screenplay and a genuine lack of style and substance.

2/5

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