Godzilla in a scene from the film 'Godzilla VS. The Smog Monster', 1971. Toho/Getty Images

With my first encounter with the concept of auto ethnography I first thought that it would be some hard idea to wrap my head around but after putting it in practice i realised the it is extremely interesting as it takes away from the usual ways that we understand cultures. Ellis (2001) describes autoethnography as being “an approach to research and writing that seeks to describe and systematically analyze (graphy) personal experience (auto) in order to understand cultural experience (ethno)”.

Through the way that autoethnography is structured, it seems to allow for a more personal experience of how you interact and analyse a culture as you are not just watching, but actively being apart of the culture and the way of life, and as Ellis states that “Ethnographers do this by becoming participant observers in the culture” and the way that they do this is by studying “a culture’s relational practices, common values and beliefs, and shared experiences for the purpose of helping insiders (cultural members) and outsiders (cultural strangers) better understand the culture”

My first autoethnographical experience with Japanese media was with the movie Godzilla (1954) and it was really interesting as I found myself picking up on things that I never really thought about when it comes to the differences between Japanese film as opposed to Western film. The differences i found were that the movie uses different techniques to convey a story. The editing and the camera angles are extremely fast and the transitions are extremely harsh and there is no fading in our out. Which suits the way the movie is directed. They have a large focus on the love story and the lust of the female lead which almost takes precedent over Godzilla and is about how the relationship will turn out. It really shows how the audience values the action over the drama.

gojira-1954-jon-20

Gojira 1954.

The movie also has parallels to what has happened to Japan during WW2 and the roll that nuclear radiation has had on the environment and the people. There are small shanty towns and coastal villages which don’t fare very well when disaster strikes. It draws on the ideas of permanence and the way that humans survive when facing disaster.

It was extremely interesting seeing how film is different but also similar in Japan as opposed to America and the way that I perceived the meanings of the film. The techniques used can show me how Japanese culture is portrayed in film. Going forward I would like to research more into how Asian film differs from other cultures film styles and markets, and the impact that it has on their culture as a whole. With research on film companies like Studio Ghibli and Toho.

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2 comments

  1. The approach you have taken to exploring autoethnography by watching Gojila (1954), and the structure and content of your post make it very engaging. In the reading ‘Autoethnography: An Overview’’ Ellis states that, “forms of representation deepen our capacity to empathize with people who are different from us” and as you stated it occurs “by becoming participant observers in the culture.” However, how do you think your past and present experiences help shape the perceptions and assumptions you create? I think the universal storyline contributes to the not only invention of this genre, but also to the different perceptions I created when watching the same film as I have grown up in a more westernised culture.

    This blog really communicates how we understand different cultures through autoethnography, and I must say I found it hard to wrap my head around before putting it into context. I think it’s really interesting reading this to convey the similarities and differences that occurred from our own perceptions of the films meaning, influenced by our culture.

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  2. Hi James,

    I really enjoyed how you broke down auto-ethno-graphy. I agree that autoethnography engages audiences and topics that have previously been ignored in canonical research. This is interesting for me as this method of research has the ability to make personal and social change possible for more people (Ellis et al 2011). It will be interesting when looking at our class’ digital artefacts, knowing that the research presented is subjective to their own personal experiences.

    Like you, I also noted the prevalence of nuclear radiation in Godzilla (1954). However, I wasn’t sure on the exact role it played in the film. After watching the film, I researched this and found that the large animal was awakened and empowered by nuclear radiation. I was a little confused throughout Godzilla, that could potentially be due to the extremities in framing in comparison to Hollywood/ mainstream films that you mention in your post.

    I look forward to your research into Asian films in comparison to other cultures film styles and markets!

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