Popin’ Cookin! is a product across Japan where you make tiny, lolly versions of food. If you want to explore my autoethnographic experience on Instagram, look here. If you want to hear me explaining my autoethnographic experience on YouTube, look here. If you want to see the resources I used, look below.
Sometimes, when I’m lying, I say that I enjoy new experiences. Today was one of those times.
There’s literally no way to say this any simpler: I watched the wrong film.
Not that it makes a massive difference to the whole scheme of things, but I didn’t see the film that I thought I was watching. There’s no way to look at it without me looking pretty stupid. It all comes down to trying to navigate YouTube as a platform for watching J-Horror. When you don’t 100% know what you’re doing, or what the film looks like, you tend to make mistakes.
Basically, I watched a film called Ring: Kanzenban instead of watching Ringu, like I thought I was. I mean, I actually really enjoyed the film and thought it was great, but it literally was the wrong film. I am very grateful that, somehow, I ended up watching something else in the J-Horror Genre. I could go back, edit my last blog post, and pretend this never happened, but in all honesty, this may even be the best mistake I’ve ever made, and it makes everything so much more interesting.
Ring: Kanzenban was released in 1995, three years before the famous Ringu cult classic, and it is the most accurate to the book it was based on. I didn’t even know it was based on a book. The more you screw up, the more you discover, I guess.
(My other confession, before I continue, is that Twitter and I had a major disagreement, so I Snapchatted the entire affair instead.)
This film is over 20 years old, now, but it helped kickstart a series of movie remakes in an almost Godzilla-like way. There are three American films and a variety of films, manga, TV series, and books written about the same story.
I expected there to be massive amounts of gore, but what I saw was quite the opposite. There was very minimal gore. I think the most seen was a little bit of blood on each of the victims. I assumed there would be gore in the film, almost exclusively because I’d seen Akira, where there were 97 shades of red to accurately show all of the blood that they did. The films are more different than they are the same, in that one is filmed and the other is an animation. Because they both come from Japan, my brain linked the two and tied them together in a tight little bow. They’re similar in the same way Peppa PigPeppa Pig is like Kill Bill, I’ve come to realise. It’s just stupid.
The amount of sex, sexual references, and nudity parallels an American Comedy-Horror film Zombeavers. In both films, the severe lack of any plot or greatly interesting point results in ‘tits out for the boys’. I found this absolutely bizarre to see in a Japanese film, particularly one from 20+ years ago. It does not make sense that a female artist, Megumi Igarashi, in 2016 can be charged under obscenity laws for a 3D print of her vagina, whilst a 1995 film is totally fine to show the breasts of at least two women, and have countless scenes of nudity and rape.
Oh wait. Wait no. I understand – it took me a second. The women in the film are being exploited – one of them is shown having sex with her father, and is later almost raped, and the other dies while naked and having sex. Whereas Igarashi was in charge of her own body and had agency and autonomy. Nevermind. I get it. The entire world has a problem with hegemony and misogyny. Not just the west. I makes perfect sense. If this idea is the same across all of the J-Horror films I watch, I’m gonna be so mad.
I thought I might find something ‘cooler’ to look at than female representation in the film, but since the first scene, the feminist within burst out of my chest like in the movie Alien. (Side note: I watched the Alien movies when I was eight and I still can’t deal with horror films and it’s entirely their fault.)
Here’s a series of Feminist realisations and annoyances along the way:
In their book, Phillips and Stringer explain how throughout the 1950’s and the decades surrounding it, Japan tried to market their films to a Western audience, and it is only in more recent times that they’ve started to add back in their Japanese idiosyncrasies. I think that it is a residual part of Post-War Japan that helped this film come to fruition. Nudity, sex, and general physical contact is taboo in Japan and it is considered best to keep it at home and much less public than portrayed in the film. Through further research when I examine the next movie, I will look to see the levels of female nudity, and I might be able to come up with conclusive results as to whether Japan was directing these films towards a western audience, or if they were considering themselves ‘a part of the western world’ like Phillips and Stringer suggest.
The ending of Ring: Kanzenban was also very profound in the same way I found Gojira to be. While Gojira was more ‘don’t test nuclear weapons out. Like, let’s stop that drama’, Ring: Kanzenban had more of an undertone about how our decisions affect more than just ourselves, and can impact so many different people, in a ring of suffering. I am curious as to whether Japanese cinema often has an underlying message at the ends of their films, or if the first two I’ve watched just so happen to have them.
SHOCK. HORROR. PROBABLE TEARS. HORROR MOVIES ARE HELL.
This just in: I’m going to undertake autoethnographic research into Japanese horror films. My main focus area* will be on female representation in these films, including character archetypes and tropes.
But Lucy, why do you feel inclined to watch Japanese Horror films for your autoethnographic adventure into Digital Asia if you hate horror so much?
There’s a few reasons, random italicised question. The first is that I don’t want to make a Hollywood vs. Japanese film industry comparison. There’s nothing worse than relying on both my own Anglo-Australian bias and on stereotypes to explore Japan. I don’t want to ‘other-ise’ them. So, because I don’t watch horror films at all, I feel like I’m (almost) coming into these films with a blank slate.
Why do you hate horror films?
I enjoy sleeping at night. But now, my life is going to be a series of coffee and No-Doz induced mania. It won’t end until I stop seeing the creature from Ringu at the end of my bed.
Despite searching Australia’s mainstream movie retailers, there were only two Japanese horror films that I could actually purchase. Neither of the films were actually in stock in my local stores, and you’re dreaming if you think I would willingly spend money on getting anything delivered. So, I utilised the best source at my fingertips and googled something like ‘Japanese horror films watch online’ and, to my surprise, YouTube popped up. I was shocked that Japanese copyright allows their movies to be easily accessed in a few clicks – shocked but relieved. I will try to discover, during the course of this research, if there are places in Australia that do sell Japanese horror films in a large capacity.
Each of the six films listed above will be viewed via youtube, using their closed captions option to translate it to English. During this process I will be live tweeting each viewing with the hashtag #L-Horror because watching horror movies is horrific for me, Lucy. Get it? I should never make jokes. However, bear with me on my use of Twitter. Despite various subjects trying to impose it on me and trying to understand it for personal use, I am like a neanderthal with a couple of rocks, trying to light a fire. I literally once deactivated my twitter when trying to change what my profile thing looked like.
Instead of turning this blog post into a tirade of why Twitter is evil, I’ll #throwback to what autoethnography is. Ellis explains it as a combination of both autobiography and ethnography. It’s basically how our own personal cultural experience influences how we interpret and understand texts. To do autoethnography properly, you need to analyse why you interpreted a text in that way. Understanding the reasons behind your own bias and assumptions can help you better understand a culture that is different from your own.
I asked my brother what he thought of Japanese film and he said something to the effect of “The Japanese are crazy all their films and shit are nuts”. I then asked him what Japanese films he had actually seen, and he had never seen one of their films in his life. He was a good source for me to use for an example of the stereotypes and assumptions we make of other cultures, mostly because he is the same culture as me, has had as few experiences with Digital Asia as I have, and he is not trying to analyse every thought he has about Japan. It did make me realise that I should probably keep a record of the bias and assumptions I am preemptively making about what I will witness in the Japanese Horror films.
And what better place to share the lowkey racists thoughts I have from lack of exposure to and understanding of Japanese culture than right here in the privacy of the internet? Please save your beratings for me if I finish this project and haven’t educated my ignorance away.a
- I think that these films will be very gory. You know, lots of blood and guts, the whole shebang.
- Pretty sure the females will not be the main characters, and if they are, they’ll be victims.
- There won’t be any sex scenes or sexual references.
- There will be minimal special effects.
- There will be no humour, and if there is, it’ll be weird and quirky and won’t make any sense to me.
- At least 10 times per film, there will be a bad translation from Japanese to English and I’ll get very confused.
- I will get scared and look away from the movie, only to discover that I have missed the dialogue and have no idea what is going on.
I am looking forward** to watching Ringu and not sleeping for the rest of my life. Tune in shortly for another post about my experience of watching the film, and some deeper research into the whole subject.
*This is subject to change, if I see something during the film that piques my interest more than feminism. Unlikely, but true.
**I’m not looking forward to it. This is a lie.
About a month ago, now, I endured the original Japanese film, Gojira, which made me both overwhelmed and underwhelmed at the same time. As revealed in my previous post, I took this feeling to be love. Gojira and I had a good run, but our honeymoon phase is over. We’re breaking up. It’s best for both of us. I’m having a love affair with Japanese horror films, but I won’t talk about that now.
As the true-blue cultural outsider that I am, I noted in my last post about how different 1950’s Japanese couples were from the modern Australian couples I was used to seeing, especially in terms of the character’s lack of physical contact in the film. I figured I should give it some more background info. Australia has a Christianity-based “guilt culture”, which is ruled by internal moral standards, whereas Japan has a “shame culture”, meaning it is ruled by external moral standards. There are many potential reasons for this, including linguistic, governmental, and multicultural theories. I’ve yet to really decide if this theory promotes the idea of the ‘other’ a bit too much for my liking, but you can read more about it here if you feel so inclined.
The Japanese term for the touchy-feely behaviour I’m talking about is Icha Icha. It can mean anything from a peck on the cheek to wild sex. It’s got the same kind of ambiguity there is in English when a friend says they ‘hooked up’ with someone and you don’t really know what courteous ‘ohh’ sound you’re meant to make in response.
Basically, Japan relies on social shame and disapproving glares to make sure everyone keeps their hands to themselves. At first I thought that it was a bit like in primary school where we were all yelled at not to touch each other, and then I thought that it would make people repress their emotions and that can’t be healthy. Then I had a bit of a mini epiphany like, ‘actually, who the hell am I to decide what is or isn’t healthy??? I have no background in cultural studies or psychology. Maybe I should shut up and be a bit more accepting.’ And then I was like ‘wait, I’ve gone off topic again.’
To properly and concisely revisit my thoughts on the couple I thought was ‘weird and detached’ (a line which I didn’t really want to share online at first in fear of being pegged a racist): I’ve discovered that Japan still considers it taboo for couples to have public displays of affection, but they aren’t against hand-holding anymore, which they used to be in the 1950’s. I’ve thought about this a lot over the past week, and I’ve decided that a) this difference isn’t even a bad thing, it is just a thing, and b) maybe Australians should take note because I wanted to evaporate in a lift yesterday when a couple started making out next to me.
Here is somewhere else to look at info on couple etiquette in Japanese culture – again, it’s a bit of US, THE NORMAL ONES vs. JAPAN THE ALIENS, but with the website name being ‘Outsider Japan’, what can you really expect? It’s interesting, just be wary of the language used. This site is also very interesting with much less of an US and THEM mentality.
In my last post, I did talk about the character archetypes I noticed, but I won’t mention them here. They will appear in a later post when I talk about female representation and character archetypes in Japanese horror films. It’s going to be a shocker.
I’ll leave you with this nugget of wisdom: a bit of classic Australian ignorance can be somewhat cleared up by autoethnographic research, especially with the help of Ellis et al.
One cold winter’s day, a twenty-year-old Australian university student met a sixty-two-year-old Japanese film, Gojira. It was not love at first sight. It wasn’t even love thirty minutes into the meeting. The student was heard to whisper, “If I only had a half-hour to live, I’d put on Gojira, because watching it feels like an eternity.”
That student was me, just over a week ago, wondering what I had done to deserve watching the treacherous, boring film that Gojira is. My opinion of it changed along the way, however. I’m not a massive fan of watching movies that aren’t in English. Mostly because you have to pay attention to what’s actually happening, rather than staring blankly at a screen with no intelligible thoughts running through your head.
Once I found my autoethnographer’s hat (there was one underneath everyone’s seat. It was a blessing, a gift – it was like being on Oprah), I realised I had to analyse my personal experience to understand the cultural experience (shout out to Ellis, Adams, and Bochner (2011) for the insight). I was worried, initially, because studies into culture usually end up with white people pointing at people who are culturally different to them and shouting “HEY, LOOK AT THESE WEIRDOS!”. Ellis et al. explained that autoethnography is actually more socially conscious and “gives way for different points of view”, and generally, it’s more accessible. So basically Autoethnography > Ethnography.
When I endured Gojira, here’s a few things I noticed:
- The couple that were together at the beginning of the movie continue to be together at the end of the movie, which was very strange for my Hollywood brain to get around, but quite pleasing afterwards. The couple are also culturally different to how Australian couples are – albeit, they’re probably different from how modern Japanese couples are, but I haven’t seen any modern Japanese films to have an informed opinion on that. The couple in Gojira hardly have any physical contact, which is different for Australian cultural norms. The couple does not seem cold to one another, but more like it is not their place to display any affection or grieve in each other’s arms.
- The film doesn’t have a lot of spoon-feeding for the viewer (as opposed to Hollywood where there’s a voice over at the beginning of half their modern films saying ‘my name is John Doe. I’m the protagonist and leading man.’), although it did become clear later on that there was indeed a leading man, a damsel, a mad scientist – archetypes that you can’t escape across culture and time.
- War and fear leave scars and the arts are always there to represent the mood of the citizens. This is clear throughout the film with the constant reference to warfare and the human condition. In all honesty, I probably wouldn’t have enjoyed the film if it didn’t have the message of “We need to stop nuclear testing. We need to stop this madness” at the end.
All up, I enjoyed examining the film from my perspective. I’m looking forward to my future romantic encounters with Asian media.
I’m the sort of person who sets all of my clocks forward five minutes in an attempt to trick myself into being on time, yet who still manages to be obscenely late. Hence, this post is later than late.
My name is Lucy Fox. I’m studying Creative Arts/Communication and Media Studies majoring in Creative Writing, Journalism and Professional Writing, and International Media and Communications. I usually tell people I’m exclusively studying journalism, because otherwise I’m greeted with a confused frown and the question ‘so what are you going to do with that?’ to which I have no answers, only tears.
My strengths are not being able to drive, making unfunny jokes, and drinking coffee as though it’s the elixir of life (it is). I’d prefer to study the theory of autoethnography rather than undertake autoethnographic research, but that’s my own personal brand of nerd. I’m looking forward to seeing just how little I know about digital Asia, and how much I can change that in the next thirteen(ish) weeks