Author: amyflanagan11

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Re-Grudge

When I watched this movie for the first time, I was truly going in blind (despite what I told myself), with nothing more than a Hollywood knockoff as reference. This time around, I knew what I was in for and could take a step back from my immediate reactions and experience it in a way that allowed me to develop a contextual analysis. After reading through the autoethnographic literature I was planning to reference, I feel like I knew how to tackle this more analytically and thoroughly.

After re-reading my first impressions of Ju-On (2004) in my first blog post, I feel like I focused quite a bit on the fragmented and non-linear storyline, the characters and the ending. I could definitely follow along the chapters actively this time around by making a conscious effort to remember the names and having a rough idea of how they related to each other. To analyze (Ellis 2011) why I couldn’t initially determine the relationships between the characters, I do think the reason was due to the cultural and/or ethnic difference in affection, tone of voice and the names they called each other. For example, at the beginning everyone referred to the elderly woman as ‘ma’ so I couldn’t figure out who’s mum it actually was. I didn’t have these problems in the remake which was most likely due to the American protagonist – despite her Japanese surroundings. Unpacking this further, I came across a slightly derogatory but acceptable Japanese label for foreigners, ‘Gaijin’, that essentially means “outsiders” (Mike, 2014). This tied back into Alsop’s (p. 129, 2002) theme I referred to in my last post regarding becoming an outsider both in your own and in the new culture once you leave home. I do remember thinking it was odd how out of place Sarah M G’s character appeared – so maybe that was something to do with Gaijin?

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After doing a little research into the Ju-On franchise I found that there is a novelization of the movies that explain the origin of the grudge much better than the movie does in my opinion;

[An] extremely shy and introverted young lady, Kayako … marries a sadistic man, Takeo who has a … low sperm count (oligospermia). Despite this condition, the couple have a child 7-y/o son, Toshio who has witnessed his father kill his mother. The doctor failed to explain … that a man suffering from oligospermia can be a father. Enraged with jealousy, Takeo tortures and kills Kayako while Toshio, fearing for his life, is hiding in the attic.

(Unknown Author, 2010)

Unpacking this storyline further, I discovered this Japanese curse called Onryō which the film was based on that I was unfamiliar with. Hume (2014) describes them as ‘female ghosts who suffered at the hands of their lover … [who] dwell in the physical world seeking vengeance on those who wronged them’. I think maybe if I had a Japanese background or more knowledge of the culture and this phenomenon, the storyline would have made more sense to me at face value. Anderson (2006) reinforces this. He outlines how the knowledge and experience of others to expand the knowledge of self within autoethnography (p. 383) and I do feel as though I am not as culturally aware as I thought I was. Stereotypes that are perpetuated through advertising and bred through colloquial conversation resonate with me more than I anticipated.

Ellis (2011) mentions how autoethnographers encounter epiphanies throughout their research. One such epiphany I had while watching was that there were very similar entities that appeared in other Hollywood films (e.g. Gothika, What Lies Beneath, etc.). It got me wondering if these too were inspired from Onryō?

At the end of this experience, I feel like I definitely have a better insight to a culture I was not too familiar with. In between both viewings of the movie I was compelled to look into this culture because of things that occurred to me, things I misunderstood or questions I had. I feel like this improved my autoethnographic approach to in because the first viewing really was my personal, first-hand experience and autobiographical recount of it, whereas the second viewing gave me an opportunity to refer to this recount with an ethnographical framework.

I think I’ll watch it again tonight.

 

References:

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The original grudge

When brainstorming the endless possibilities I might have pursued for this assignment, I found myself being quite overwhelmed. This was because there were so many unknown facets of the culture for me, and that I also couldn’t decide what interested me the most. I ended up revisiting my old friend; the horror movie. There was a time where going to blockbuster to pick a scary film proved rather difficult with me because I had seen them all! This was part of why I decided this would be a perfect topic of authoethnographic research for this project. Not only this, I discovered when I started going through the names of the movies I thought I had seen, I had not seen one original Japanese horror movie. I was planning to watch the original and compare it to the Hollywood remake, however I decided since I had already seen the Hollywood remakes (a long time ago), I would rather see whether I followed the plot as well as I did and decide which one translated horror the best. I only wanted to do one movie/franchise in the end because they’re all so different and it didn’t seem to make sense in comparing an entire genre. I settled on my favorite Ju On (2004), also known as The Grudge.

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Fun fact: There is another movie from this franchise that was released last year called The Grudge: The Final Curse (2015). I learnt this when I accidentally downloaded that version instead of the original…

These were some of my initial thoughts when watching Ju On (2004) for the first time:

  • Language barrier/not in English
  • While there was a central storyline, there was no protagonist apart from the grudge herself
  • The movie was divided into chapters
  • The beginning was extremely graphic – I was not prepared
  • It was very difficult for me to identify relationships between characters as the body language and dialogue is quite different
  • The origin and meaning of the grudge was terribly explained in the end I thought. I ended up researching for quite a while to find what it was/if it was the same as the Hollywood version.

One of the hardest things for me to follow in this movie was the fragmented storyline. It took me a long time to figure out how the characters related to each other on their correlating storylines as well as what point in time on the storyline it was. I felt like it jumped back and forwards quite a bit. I really enjoy movies that challenge me to keep up, ensuring that I’m paying attention, but this was much more difficult. I struggled because I only realized about half way through the movie that the chapter titles were the names of the central characters of that chapter. This led me to begin piecing together the relationships and filling in holes within the chapter storyline with clues from other storylines.­

When it came time for the big reveal at the ending – a much anticipated explanation – I found myself severely unsatisfied. I think in this case, the over-explained American version answered a lot more of the questions I had and developed the storyline a little deeper than the original did. I felt like it ended up being quite repetitive in each chapter while still not giving any more info as to why the wife and her child terrorize anyone associated with the house. For my next blog post, I’ll be re-watching Ju On (2004) while trying to take it in at face value with a little more knowledge rather than as a foreign movie. This time around, assumptions I’ve made, things I wasn’t aware of, questions that remained unanswered and things I didn’t pick up on will be avoided and I’ll be able to critically analyse this text autoethnographically.

To revisit the concept of autoethnography, let’s bring up that juicy quote;

 “Autoethnography is an approach to research and writing that seeks to describe and systematically analyze (graphy) personal experience (auto) in order to understand cultural experience (ethno)” (Ellis et al. 2011).

To influence my methodology in my next post, I’ll be using this goodie, as well as texts from Christiane K Alsop and Leon Anderson to reference alternative autoethnographic literature. Alsop (p. 129, 2002) explores a theory of an individual leaving home to explore/travel and becoming an outsider in both ‘here’ and ‘there’ because they indirectly offend home by searching for something more and they are foreign in the new land. I wonder how this applies to different countries remaking movies and/or people preferring a cultural genre of film; such as Japanese Horror? Anderson (p. 380, 2006) outlines how ‘autoethnographers must orient … to documenting and analyzing as well as to purposely engaging in it’. I’ll be rewatching Ju-On (2004) for sure to guarantee I conduct the autoethnography in said manner correctly.

 

References:

  • Alsop, Christiane K. (2002) Home and Away: Self Reflexive Auto-/Ethnography’, Forum Qualitative Social Research 3:3.
  • Anderson, Leon 2006, Analytic Autoethnography, Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, Vol. 35, No. 4, pp. 373-393.
  • Ellis, C., Adams, T.E., and Bochner, A.P. (2011) ‘Autoethnography: An Overview’, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 12:1.
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Akira Round 2

In this post, I’ll be re-evaluating my autoethnographic account of the movie Akira (1988) in order to evaluate the assumptions I made and dig deeper. It’s a strange thing to recount your own writings and findings – a task I have never actually tackled before. I feel like it has given me a better understanding of the method. It seems as though my last post was the process of autoethnography itself, while this post is the true research methodology. When first re-reading my post, I found that I come across quite inept when not only addressing autoethnography, but the Asian culture in general. Just as Cohen (2012) ‘reluctantly went through a gradual process of transition’ in understanding the cultural experience, I feel like after researching a little more for this post I am not as uncertain about my claims and opinions.

I decided to delve deeper into the street crime culture in Japan to see whether it was exaggerated in the film or if there truly were such reckless gangs. After reading a few threads about people and their own autoethonographic experiences with gang culture in Japan, I found that it is not as violent or rambunctious as portrayed in Akira. With gangs like Yakuza, one of the most prominent, unless you confront them directly or interfere with their business, they are relatively nonthreatening. It reads that they actually condemn petty crime and general community disruptions.

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Yakuza

 

After re-evaluating the protagonist (both in his position and his identity as a man) in his reactions and impressions throughout the film, it offers an in-depth insight into the male ego and it’s mutations when exposed to the ever elusive concept of power; given or realised. Through Tutsuo’s journey we investigate the need, often demonstrated by men, to attain and manipulate power. I considered whether this fixation with power comes from our circumstances or is something men are born with.  It begs the question – could it be an attachment to the Y chromosome, or what fathers teach their sons every moment? Tutsuo shows the contrast between the amount of pressure to achieve power placed on men and women. It seems that while men may be conditioned to be aggressive in their pursuits of success, they are ultimately repressed by their fears.  The body language shows the constraint placed on men, and that of which they place on themselves. It leads the viewer to wonder; ‘Can I think differently?’.

As a female, I feel that Akira (1998) challenged me to deliberate whether the power that overcame Tutsuo would have had similar outcomes on a female protagonist.

Amy

 

Cohen, E. (2012) ‘Flooded: An Auto-Ethnography of the 2011 Bangkok Flood, ASEAS – Australian Journal of South-East Asian Studies, 5(2), 316-334.

Ellis, C., Adams, T.E., and Bochner, A.P. (2011) ‘Autoethnography: An Overview’, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 12:1.

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Autoethnographic account of Akira (1998)

I thought autoethnography was quite a bizarre concept when first presented to me at the beginning of the session. Being a process of writing about epiphanies which stem from experiences with and being within culture using autobiographic and ethnographic techniques, it seemingly went against my whole educated life in which we’re taught to remove personal connotations and approaches in the presentation of research. However, this waiver of uncertainty was surpassed when Ellis, Adams & Bochner clarified that it is not simply recounting personal experience, but rather using ‘methodological tools and research literature to analyze [said] experience’.

I would not call myself knowledgeable on manga or anime. The most experience I’ve had is watching Spirited Away and dressing up as Sailor Moon one time (attempting to, anyway). In saying this, I was pretty excited to find out we were watching one of these films because I’ve always been quite fascinated by them. When I googled a fan made trailer for Akira (1998) the night before class, I was not prepared in the slightest for what was in store. I braced myself for what seemed like a grotesque, animated exploration of flesh and ego.

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Things I felt, thought and/or experienced while watching Akira (1998):

  • (Medium) Appreciation for the skill of the artwork and graphics. I was so mesmerized by the light trails in the street racing scenes. It really was a visually stimulating 2-hour watch.
  • (Plot) Wondered how kids so young had such impressive skills on a motorcycle and got to be involved in such rebellious, violent groups while still in school.
  • (Culture) Why Asian girls that are not a protagonist always seem to whimper in Asian movies…
  • (Character) Why Tetsuo refused to listen to people who obviously knew what was happening to him, but was instead completely blinded by rage and supremacy.
  • (Character) What his ultimate end goal was? What was he planning to do once he unleashed the absolute power of Akira? It seemed like there was no logic to his plan other than settling some minor discrepancies. This made me think of the Chronicle (2012) plot line. (note comment #2 in the link (y) ^^)
  • (Plot) How did the espers come to be? Why did crashing into one of them trigger the powers Akira once had?
  • (Plot) Also I never really understood the motives of the revolutionary group that that main girl was a part of…
  • (Culture) It was very interesting viewing Asian men in this grunge, gang subculture using such raw brutality when I’m so used to thinking of them as either businessmen, samurais or quirky k-pop characters. I get how small-minded that must sound, but it has just never crossed my mind due to my lack of exploration in this culture.

Anyway. Looking forward to digging deeper in the next post!

Amy