Week 5

Alternative Ulaanbaatar

As suggested by Ellis et al (2011) this blog post is written to analyse my personal experience to understand Mongolian hip hop. I have had my initial experience of listening and watching a couple of music videos on Youtube, but has this really given me a full understanding? No. Not at all.

To really understand in an ethnographic sense the cultural significance hip hop has in Mongolia I really have to do some research into certain parts of the practice. In this blog post I will be exploring hip hop as a cultural practice, the significance of music culture in Mongolia, traditional throat singing and where that fits in and how this all ties into the cultural act of hip hop in Mongolia. By the end of this hopefully I will have more of an understanding and reflect on the possible transformative epiphanies I hope to have with this experience. Everyone else is having them, I want in on that!

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What is Hip Hop?

So to begin this exploration into Mongolian hiphop one must know what the hip hop ideology is in itself and how the Mongolian society embraced it for themselves.  Hip hop has been a cultural phenomenon in countries around the world specifically in African American culture. The roots of hip hop have been in African oral traditions, passed down through slavery and then through a way of social commentary (Blanchard, 1999). The appeal that hip hop had on a society that had been in the grips of a soviet backed government called the Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party (MPRP) was massive.
The MPRP had attempted to isolate Mongolia from the outside reaches of the west but alas, the curiosity of youth will prevail. Illegally circulated music and items piqued the youth of Mongolia’s interest and as MPRP realised, they did not have the power to stop it all together. They invested in their own brand of popular music and created bands to create their nationalistic music (Marsh, 2010). This only lasted as long as it took for technological and communications to evolve and for popular culture from the ‘West’ to seep in through media as well as influences from a struggling economic and political climate to create a window of opportunity for the young Mongolian population to move on.  Mongolian artists turned hip hop into way of exploring and announcing their societal and cultural problems and issues (Marsh, 2010). This is the essence of hip hop and Mongolian hp hop is no different, it just has a different sound and face. 

Music in Mongolia and Traditional Throat Singing

The Mongolians have been known as “a people of music and poetry.” Their singing, sonorous, bold, passionate and unconstrained, is the true reflection of the temperament of the Mongolian people. (China.org.cn, n.d.)

Mongolia has a rich and deep musical history. When one thinks of Mongolia one might think of the image of a nomad perched on the top of a mountain that is sprinkled with snow, surrounded by… goats? Singing but not in the way you and I might sing. A throaty, raw and echoing call. It’s not the first thing that may come to your mind when you think of modern Mongolian music but there are those who are blending this ancient act into the new music culture.


In my ethnographic research the first and foremost group that stood out to me was Fish Symboled Stamp. They are a Mongolian hip hop group that incorporate their traditional throat singing or “Koomei” into their songs (Campbell and Singh, 2017). The undulations of the Koomei mixed with the 4/4 time stamp of heavy hip hop makes for a seriously confronting sound. But instead of just listening to their sound I know I needed to go deeper into what a Mongolian hip hop group write about, why and how it is received in Mongolia.

Mongolian hip hop artists are writing in this modern age about the cultural themes and  values that they are observing through their lives where they live. Hip hop for young Mongolian’s is a creative way to express ‘one’s self, angst and perception of life, which requires no ghetto-like background or experience” (Wallace, 2015). Here is where it gets a bit hard due to the language barrier, of how to find out what artists are writing about. As explored in Marsh’s article there have been groups that rap about women, alcohol and money and even “imitating” African American rappers, but this has not been welcomed by some in the hip hop community (Marsh, 2010). But most that have been translated by Marsh have been regarding the social and economic issues that relate to their communities and society. In history, Mongolian music is made up of songs about stories, epic tales, love and nature. Songs particularly pertaining to horses, historical events and legends (Hays, 2016). In an interview with the artists Bataar and Odsaikhan in Fish Symboled Stamp, they reveal that their lyrics are dominated by their culture including Mongolian history and legacies (Campbell and Singh, 2017).

My Epiphanies Regarding Mongolian Hip Hop 

I’ve realised throughout this research whilst listening to the music I’m engaging with, that it’s more than what’s on the surface. To understand why this music style is so popular, it’s more than just the type of music. It is the content, the lyrics, the meaning, the cultural significance of using the throat singing and the context of the artists in Mongolia. I’ve realised that I am so constricted by my own language barrier that exploring into a different culture and therefore language has barred myself from fully enjoying and ‘getting’ the music. I feel like to appreciate the music, you really need to realise and understand that there is a cultural significance to the words and feelings.

But again, I realise through this research and this language setback, is that I’m so white and ‘western’. I take for granted that the music that I surround myself around usually is english based. I get the lyrics, I can sing along without getting the words wrong, I get the language and 9 times out of 10 I get the meanings.

 

References

Blanchard, B. (1999). THE SOCIAL SIGNIFICANCE OF RAP & HIP-HOP CULTURE. [online] Web.stanford.edu. Available at: https://web.stanford.edu/class/e297c/poverty_prejudice/mediarace/socialsignificance.htm

Campbell, J. and Singh, K. (2017). Mongolian melody: Hip-hop duo splices traditional singing and urban beats. [online] U.S. Available at: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mongolia-music/mongolian-melody-hip-hop-duo-splices-traditional-singing-and-urban-beats-idUSKBN1AE011

China.org.cn. (n.d.). Ethnic Groups – china.org.cn. [online] Available at: http://www.china.org.cn/e-groups/shaoshu/shao-2-mongolian.htm

Hays, J. (2016). TRADITIONAL MONGOLIAN MUSIC | Facts and Details. [online] Factsanddetails.com. Available at: http://factsanddetails.com/china/cat5/sub88/entry-4593.html

Marsh, P. (2010). Our generation is opening its eyes: hip-hop and youth identity in contemporary Mongolia. Central Asian Survey, 29(3), pp.345-358.

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China and its Cosmetic, Cruelty Free Future

We are so blinded by our obsessions to consume and wear makeup, always trying to upkeep with different brands and different styles created by markets. We forget to stop and think about where exactly these products are coming from, and who is suffering in the process. Media has always portrayed the beauty industry as being illustrious and something to aspire to, yet for years has neglected how animals have been used to ensure the success of our brands. In recent years, there has been an immergence of understanding amongst the public about how animals are being tested on so that the products that hit our shelves won’t harm us.

 

We live in a technological age where, new advances in non-animal testing is becoming increasingly more accessible. It is reaching the point where we now have suitable, and in some cases more successful alternatives to animal testing. PETA often funds research into non-animal testing options such as, the Institute for In Vitro Sciences (IIVS). See here for more information.

 

The Australian cosmetic industry is far from being totally cruelty free, but it made me think about other countries such as China, and what the standard for animal testing is there. I will also glance into this issue from a Public Relations and Marketing perspective. This is because I have a personal interest (as a PR & Marketing student) in how these shape and influence the issue.

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Source: Gentleman Marketing Agency 2016

The intention of this research was to personally learn more about a topic I would usually avoid and widen my perspective on animal rights, through a case study of the Chinese cosmetic industry. Up to this point, I have not actively searched Animal Rights issues and ignored cases regarding animal right violations. As an autoethnographer, I am using this opportunity to discover more about myself through learning about another cultures interaction with a global issue.

 

This topic is unknown territory for me, as I have never found myself questioning or even thinking about the cosmetic animal testing that occurs within China. Let alone the worldwide issue that comes to hand with this topic.

 

It lead me to some very basic Google searches, such as “Animal testing China”, and “China Cosmetic Industry”. Surely enough, this helped me gain a basic understanding of the nature and laws surrounding the cosmetic animal testing regulations.

 

I discovered that, up until 2014, all cosmetic products created and imported into China had to be animal tested by law. But in 2014 the China Food and Drug Administration stopped requiring tests for ordinary cosmetics (make-up, skin, hair and nail care products and fragrances) produced in the country, and allowed these manufacturers to choose alternatives to animal testing. Products manufactured overseas and sold in China, as well as special cosmetics, like sunscreen, all still require mandatory animal testing to be released onto the Chinese market (Care2, 2014).

For the Chinese consumers who are conscious of the impact their choice of product has and are interested in purchasing cruelty free products, it was not possible up until this point. It was the first step for animal activists in opening the cruelty free cosmetics market in China. Up to this point, consumers were being misled into thinking that they were purchasing cruelty-free products.

In terms of the Marketing process of these products in China, I discovered a marketing agency called the Gentlemen Marketing Agency, based in Shanghai and specialises in creating “solutions to develop your Brand in China, cosmetics, Beauty, Health care and pharmaceutical companies”. The agency focuses on creating a firm relationship between foreign companies and Chinese consumers. I was particularly interested in this agency, because of its blogs discussing animal testing on cosmetic products in China. They are against the use of animal testing in the cosmetic industry, and explain their support for the announcement that China will no-longer require international cosmetic products to be animal tested. The blog also calls out companies such as Avon and Mary Kay re-starting their animal testing in order to “grab a larger market share” (Olivier, 2017).

 

The changing of regulations, that has been ignored by companies, highlights how important it is for consumers to shop wisely and inform themselves. This is to ensure that they do not support companies that have the opportunity to use non-animal testing but choose not to. This does not just regard the Chinese market and Chinese consumers, but all international markets and their consumers. There is also a need for more Marketing and PR agencies to stand up against large cosmetic companies, by creating campaigns to deter consumers from supporting animal tested product.

 

This research has taught me that we all have a part to play in supporting cruelty free products, so that we create a market share large enough that forces companies to use non-animal testing.

 

References: 

Gentleman Marketing Agency 2016, ‘I am not A Goods’, image, Cosmetics China Agency, viewed 8th September 2017, here

Gentleman Marketing Agency 2017, Welcoming Gesture of China for non-animal tested imported cosmetic products, Cosmetics China Agency, viewed 8th September 2017, < http://cosmeticschinaagency.com/welcoming-gesture-china-non-animal-tested-imported-cosmetic-products/&gt;

Graef, A 2014, It’s Official! China Ends Mandatory Animal Testing for Cosmetics, Care 2, viewed 8th September 2017, < http://www.care2.com/causes/its-official-china-ends-mandatory-animal-testing-for-cosmetics.html>

PETA 2017, PETA Funds Non-Animal Methods, PETA, viewed 8th September 2017, < https://www.peta.org/issues/animals-used-for-experimentation/us-government-animal-testing-programs/peta-funds-non-animal-methods/>

Manga and Queer Culture- A Perfect Match? Part 1

Closing my eyes, I focus on the booming, crackling voice heard over the sound systems which had been strategically placed around Town Hall. Surging waves of cheers and applause heavily laced every remark made by opposition leader Bill Shorten, pre-empting the reaction of his words with a slight raise in his tone.

“All I see is a community filled with love and support for one another…” he exclaims, his words cradling the crowd within the temporary auditorium we have created.

Eyes open, I am overcome by a symphony of colour, as placards printed with ‘Love is Love’ and ‘Vote Yes’ obstruct my view of the stage.

I had been standing at the station for no more than 10 minutes when the train came bounding seamlessly towards us on the tracks. Headphones in, blasting a Spotify playlist entitled ‘Love is Love’, I was more than ready to engage with the rally occurring in a few hours’ time. More and more people arrived just in time for the train doors to open, donned with rainbow flags, shirts and faces.

The symbol of the queer community was being worn so proudly and unapologetically, which solidified both my own resolve and excitement for the rally.

Leading up to the rally, I naturally ease my overwhelming anticipation by engaging with queer theory and representation- not that common? Ok, moving on.

I remember reading a HRC report titled ‘The Nail That Sticks Out Gets Hammered Down- LGBT Bullying and Exclusion in Japanese Schools.’

The opening narrative read as follows:

“In the world there are some weird people,” my high school health teacher said to introduce the lesson. Then she said sex between boys was the main cause of AIDS so we should stay away from homosexuals. That was the only time I heard about LGBT people from a teacher—except when I overheard them making gay jokes.

–Sachi N., 20, Nagoya, November 2015

Caught up in the cacophony of political debates, and social battles, I was completely blinded from my own privilege. In a country where we are campaigning for marriage equality, at least we have the representation to warrant a campaign.

Completely at a loss as to how Japanese society engages with queer culture, I took to google to find out. As someone who is a proponent of equality and representation, I was upset as to how little I knew about this side of the world. Enthralled by the litany of online sources on the topic, I took notice of a familiar, recurring word; manga.

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Source

But if manga were a destination, it would be the north pole and I would be the south. I knew nothing, and that only furthered my curiosity.

For those who are asking similar questions I did, manga are essentially Japanese comics which have their own specific drawing style. Manga lends itself to a variety of topics from historical narratives, fantasy, and superheroes. Although manga has a very specific and unique style, it is not so much a genre as it is a format.

Japanese youth can find themselves seriously lacking in accessible information on LGBT issues, so they turn to alternative, escapist, fantasy literature to enter a world where queer people exist openly. Both manga and its animated version, anime, are places where transgressive behaviour is allowed or lauded and they’ve long been places where gay love stories are portrayed.

Although manga has been revolutionary in providing an escape for LGBTQ+ youth seeking out alternative narratives to the ones that they routinely see, there was one key issue that became rather abruptly apparent.

Seated within the quiet section of the library, already a whole Reddit thread deep I stumble upon a new word; yaoi.  Apparently emblematic of quintessential queer manga, I click the link in a haste, eager to find out more.

With a page closed fast enough to warrant a Guinness World Record medal, it was apparent that overtly sexualised ‘boy love’ content was a firm part of queer manga.

This issue is something that I am curious to address.

Although shocking, I did not let this deter me. Surely the queer community was not packaged into a fictive recreation of a pubescent boys mind (?!). Before long, I stumbled across Wandering Son (2002) and Bokura no Hentai (2012).
The similarities between the two were endless- manga form, tackled concepts regarding trans* identity in Japan, and completely foreign to me.

Growing up, I was never introduced to comic book culture. The bridge between comics and manga was not all too long, but I had never accessed either side. The images, text, composition and flow were so unlike any book that i have ever read that at times I was forced to pause as i decided which text bubble I were to read next. If my initial motivation were to have not taken place, it would be safe to say that i would have never interacted with the medium.

However, there’s no denying the enormous popularity of manga – an industry valued at $5 billion in annual Japanese sales. The fact that it’s read widely at every level of Japanese society and that people have respect for their manga heroes makes it a really effective vehicle for delivering positive messages and giving LGBT issues substance and respect. In fact, manga and anime provide such accessible media for young people to explore an alternative world free of society’s prejudices that the Human Rights Watch has created its own manga series.

This style of queer expression, in a context that often subverts the ‘unordinary’, has positioned itself as a stark contrast to my own experiences. With regard to the queer representations that I am used to, its positioning within a culture that often shrouds it in stereotypes which are rejected, and even my own (non-existent) interactions with comic/manga culture, it is obvious that I am stepping into uncharted waters.

My digital artefact will aim to investigate the role and function that manga has in facilitating queer representation, culture and improving general queer ideologies within the country.

References:

Ashley, K 2015, An Introduction to Manga, Greek & Sundry, viewed 2 September 2017, http://geekandsundry.com/an-introduction-to-manga/

Nicolov, A, 2016, How Manga is Guiding Japan’s Youth on LGBT Issues, DAZED, viewed 2 September 2017, http://www.dazeddigital.com/artsandculture/article/32647/1/how-manga-is-guiding-japan-s-youth-on-lgbt-issues

Peterson, B 2015, Japan’s Trans-Friendly Comic Book Revolution, Foreign Policy, viewed 3 September 2017, http://foreignpolicy.com/2015/09/30/manga-transgender-rights-japan-lgbt-anime-comics/

Utagawa, T 2016, Japan LGBT Manga 2016, Human Rights Watch, viewed 3 September 2017, https://www.hrw.org/video-photos/photo-essay/2016/05/04/japan-lgbt-manga-2016

Wilson, B 2003, “Boys’ Love,”Yaoi and Art Education: Issues of Power and Padegogy, Visual Cultural Research in Art and Education, viewed 3 September, 2017, https://www.csuchico.edu/~mtoku/vc/Articles/toku/Wil_Toku_BoysLove.html

Dirty DU30?: Analysing Presidential Propaganda

Rodrigo Duterte, President of the Philippines, is undisputedly one of the most controversial political leaders in the modern world. Although attaining heavy criticism from multiple other world leaders, especially relating to his stance on “the war on drugs”, why is it that he is still preserving such strong public acceptance from his people within the country and those abroad?

I have found it very hard to begin writing this post, struggling to find my standpoint on the issue of whether or not President “DU30” Duterte is the right candidate to lead a third-world country in our contemporary world. I find it a very heavy topic to write about for a number of reasons:

  1. With my mother being Filipino, and my father being Irish, although I have grown up in the Philippines for months at a time every other year, I feel like maybe I may not be sufficiently immersed in the culture to form a concrete political opinion on the matter, considering the social and cultural climate. This realisation has been quite morally problematic for me, considering that as a dual citizen, I was required to vote in the Presidential campaign of 2016.
  2. I have the political consciousness of your average University student in the Australian political climate. And one that is very much below average in the Filipino political climate.
  3. Although not well-versed in Filipino politics, I can have very strong opinions on what needs to be changed in the society to cater for those not in positions of privilege. These opinions have been formed from witnessing first-hand the endurance of the lower class.
  4. I fear the opinions I create may not rest well with those who do not completely understand the nature of Filipino society. Inversely, I fear that some opinions may offend Filipino citizens, and be dismissive of their political conscience.

So, with the knowledge that I do have as a dual citizen of the Philippines, I will explore digital sources of Duterte’s political propaganda and attempt to decipher how it affects me, and how it would possibly affect the people of the Philippines.

I will define ‘propaganda’ as ‘information intended to persuade or convince people’ (as per the Oxford University Press Dictionary, 2nd edition), and I will be looking mainly towards his speech videos or podcasts.

Duterte was inaugurated as the 16th Presidente ng Pilipinas on 30 June 2016 at the age of 71, making him the oldest person ever elected into Presidency. He received a trust rating of 91%, the highest rating since former President Marcos’ dictatorship. The former Mayor of Davao promised policies of poverty reduction, anti-terrorism, the reclamation of territory, greater transport and infrastructure, and a strong anti-drug campaign.

My mother is a strong advocate for Duterte, to the point where if we ever see a photo of him, we jestingly exclaim, “mum, look it’s your boyfriend!”. Last year, whilst staying in the Philippines for three months, my mother would regularly read or watch news of President Duterte on her phone, so when she ran out of mobile internet data towards the end, I was beyond relieved. Until she decided to invest in a radio. So, I am not foreign to the support behind President Duterte, but endeavour to look deeper into the reasons why this is so.

The first source I looked to analyse was President Duterte’s Inaugural Speech of June 29 2016.

One of the first things I notice about this speech is the almost entire use of English throughout the whole speech. Of course, this is beneficial to me, as although I can understand Tagalog and Bisaya, I can grasp a deeper understanding of the speech’s content through English. This makes me wonder, however, how big the language barrier may be for the people of the Philippines, because even though English is very well understood by most, they frequently use the term “nosebleed” to describe a lack of comprehension when English is used above a conversational tone.

I think what Duterte does well here is address the need to overcome corruption “in the high and low echelons of government”, and how the erosion of faith and trust in government, the judicial system, and public servants is a problem that needs to be confronted. The Philippines has historically been a nation of heavy official corruption, as the Corruptions Perceptions Index 2016 identifies the country as ranking 101 of 176 countries measured from ‘very clean’ to ‘highly corrupt’ with number 176 being the most corrupt. Duterte also uses a lot of emotive language to humanise policy considerations, and appears very grounded by reflecting on all classes of people in society; rich and poor.

I admire Duterte’s career accomplishments, but as a law student I am not sure if I agree with his notion for those to mind their own work and he will mind his own. He advocates for transparency in government, but how can accountability exist if critical thought is not encouraged? Further, he emphasises his adherence to due process and the rule of law as uncompromising, and I will definitely focus on these elements of jurisprudence when analysing more political propaganda of his administration.

Another thing that I noticed was Duterte’s almost utilitarian, ‘the greatest good for the greatest number’, Aristotle’s natural law approach to government, saying that love of country and the subordination of personal interests is important to ensure the common good. From what I have heard of the anti-drug campaign in the international sphere, this statement could be the backbone underlying his battle in the war on drugs.

I look forward to analysing more of President Duterte’s political texts, gaining further knowledge of the operations of the Filipino government, understanding the level of domestic and international support for his administration, and developing my political conscience of a country that has played a huge role in my upbringing.

Hatoful Boyfriend

I’ve never had much experience with digital games, especially ones of Asian descent. Which is why this is an area I wish to explore for my independent research project.

Initially my idea was to analyse the well-known game ‘dance dance revolution’ however, I found it almost impossible to get. The download.jpggame has slowly died out due to the introduction of new technologies, such as X-box Kinect where sensors don’t require the classic dance pad anymore (and without a dance pad what’s the point?). Nowadays the game is almost strictly found at game arcades. Unfortunately, my closest arcade is located an hour away from where I live. Too far to dedicate an hour a day, which was my initial goal.

From this I was stuck and was almost about to turn to Pacman but was instead recommended a game called ‘Hatoful Boyfriend.’ The game is a 2011 Japanese visual novel video game that is known for being vastly different. It’s based on the story of a human who attends an elite high school for talented birds.  As the only human in attendance, the game focuses on the in-depth stories and relationships that they share with classmates and teachers.

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To be honest I didn’t do much research on the game before I played it. One thing I did research was ‘strangest Japanese video games‘ and surprise, surprise ‘Hatoful Boyfriend’ was number one. From this I knew I needed to play this game.

I downloaded the game from the Apple App Store for $14.99. The game was downloaded onto my laptop, however, if I were to get it on my phone it would have cost me $8.99. Thinking it might have been easier to play on a larger device I decided to spend the extra $5.99 (I do not recommend this). Pretty quickly, it was up and running and I was able to begin my new life as a simple human trying to find a pigeon boyfriend.

The game introduces you to a number of different characters, both students and teachers. As an added feature the game gives you the option to see these characters in bird form and in human form – is this meant to make it less creepy? Who knows? You follow the storyline until you find out which bird you end up with. Throughout the game you are given options that lead you to alternative paths ultimately deciding which bird boyfriend you end up with. All up there are eight potential boyfriends. To name a few there is the mysterious French transfer student, the childhood friend, the popular upper-class guy and the quiet introvert.

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I’m not going to lie, the game gets boring quickly. Unless you’re invested in the storyline it’s not very entertaining. All up it took me over an hour to finish. You have the option of skipping through text which is a helpful hack if you are playing the game for a second time. Despite the entertainment level, the concept of a visual novel is very cool. The graphics are also extremely beautiful. Each persona is done with traditional Japanese anime characteristics as you can see below:

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While the game itself is not ground-breaking, or something I would even play again, it definitely has me intrigued in the concept of visual novels. Before this game I hadn’t heard of them nor experienced one. This had me asking the questions: How popular are visual novels? Which countries are they popular in? How successful are they? Is it a thing of the future? These questions I hope to explore further in my independent research project.

Through this experience my whole topic for my digital artefact has shifted. Now instead of just exploring Asian game culture I have decided to focus on the impact of visual novels on different societies/ cultures. At the moment my plan is to present my found data in the form of a research essay. I look forward to applying this experience to the background research I will be conducting in my next blog post.

Stay tuned!

Femininity in Japanese Anime.

Growing up I had always had an interest in Asian culture, specifically anime.
In other words, I am this kid:

Not really, but I understand his enthusiasm. 

Just like any child my age I loved watching cartoons and the way each character had its own individual style and personality.
In fact, I remember favouring certain cartoons over others based on their aesthetic quality e.g. ‘Courage the Cowardly Dog‘ > ‘Cow and Chicken‘.
I remember eagerly anticipating Cartoon Cartoon Fridays with my siblings. On a few occasions we spent the whole day in our pyjamas, eyes glued to the TV.
Disgusting, I know.

When I was around 11 I started watching anime that would appear on TV such as Sailor Moon and Mew Mew Power.
Prior to them the only cartoon I had ever watched that was relatively ‘Asian’ was ‘Samurai Jack‘ which is for starters, an American animated television series.
The difference in styles between these animations was pretty distinct; the Japanese animations were beautiful and noticeably more detailed and seemed carefully thought out, where each character had their own unique theme that distinguished them from the others. The animations I was used to were more simplified and were often not depicted in a fantasy world. 

 

One night, when I was 12, Hayao Miyazaki’s animated movie ‘Spirited Away’ (2001) came on TV. Immediately I was captivated. Everything from the music to the clothing, the architecture, the way the people were depicted and the food, it was all so unfamiliar to me, and that was why I loved it so much.
For me, they were the most lifelike cartoons I had ever seen. Compared to the anime TV shows I had previously watched, Miyazaki’s characters did not have the typical ‘big-eyed, anime look‘. I remember thinking how mysterious and brooding, yet feminine, the character Haku was (in my 12 year old, pre-pubescent mind I would have probably described him differently). I also really liked the character Lin (Rin) who is cold and unmotherly to the main character, Chihiro, at first but then eventually warms up to her. I thought that was unusual of a female character to be that way to a young girl, but I liked it as it taught Chihiro to be independent and strong. 

After viewing these Japanese animations I was intrigued by them.

Looking back on the films I grew up watching as a child, the disparity between Disney films and Studio Ghibli films was noticeable, particularly in relation to the portrayal of femininity. 

Out of the studio Ghibli productions I have only watched ‘Princess Mononoke’ (1997), ‘Spirited Away’ (2001) and ‘Howls Moving Castle’ (2004). However, despite my limited exposure to Miyazaki’s films, I noticed the portrayal of strong, powerful female characters whose actions would either result in the demise or triumph of their male counterparts e.g. Chihiro and Haku, No-Face and Chihiro, Sophie and Howl. They are ‘complicated, flawed and independent figures.’ Prior to this, the majority of animated films I watched were quite different, with the male typically rescuing the female from her seemingly doomed existence e.g. Cinderalla, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, Rapunzel etc. I think this is because such films revolve primarily around romance and the prospect of marriage, especially the older Disney films. Studio Ghibli seems to portray the lead male and female characters as equals with a mutual respect for one another.

In Miyazaki’s films, the female leads  have separate stories from the male leads, stories that usually highlight their independence, power and intelligence. After recently watching ‘Princess Mononoke’ and reflecting on ‘Spirited Away’ and ‘Howls Moving Castle’, the female villains (Lady Eboshi, Yubaba and Witch of the Waste) are portrayed as powerful and intimidating characters. However, their story lines are explored and, consequently, reveal them as complex characters with understandable reasons behind their actions. So what does this do to traditional notions of femininity? It expands them, and creates characters with more dimension and less stereotypes attached to them.

I am also really interested in the notion of cosplay and I additionally want to explore femininity in cosplay and how participants choose to interpret a character in a certain way through their costumes; does it make them feel empowered and confident? What made them decide to cosplay this particular anime? Do they admire these characters?
I am attending the Sydney Comic Con this year in September so I hope to answer these questions there.
I also want to visit the ‘anime station‘ and ‘artist alley‘ to look at how femininity is represented.

For this reason, I am interested in pursuing an independent research project in the form of an essay based on notions of femininity in anime; from films and art to how these animations are translated to real-life scenarios through cosplay.
Contacting online fan clubs to initiate discussion on this topic would also be beneficial and interesting to my research.
To provide more background on my research I may also look at the historical depictions of females in Japanese styles of art and literature.

 

Shinto traditions portrayed through modern anime films

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I have always had a fascination with Japanese shrines and temples. It always intrigued me as to how Japanese faith and Christian faith could be so different, yet had the same principals such as prayer, reflection and spirituality.

I wanted to explore a topic such as religion with the focus on spirituality as I had an unusual spiritual journey throughout my own life.

Born to one parent who was of Greek Orthodox faith and one who was Catholic, it was a difficult choice to baptise me in the Catholic church. My family has always had a contentious relationship with the Greek Church as my mother is not Greek but my father is. To compromise, their first child would be baptised into the Greek church. However, not without one last act of defiance, in which I was not baptised into the Greek church properly.

christening-photographer-sydney-G1Greek Orthodox Church in Sydney. Source

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An Autoethnographic account of If You Are the One

I decided to focus on the Chinese reality dating show, If You Are the One for my autoethnographic research. I accessed the latest available episode (Season 8, episode 92) in Australia via the SBS on demand website, as I missed the live one on TV. I’ve seen the show a few times before, but having not watched it for some time, I thought it would be a great idea to do so. For me, If You Are the One is a hilarious reality dating show that applies game show aspects to finding a partner. The first thing I notice as I watch this episode is the music, the intro I thought was very corny, and “gameshowy”, especially with an audience, clapping along the intro. The male contestants are dropped down very dramatically on a platform to the most hilarious song “Can You Feel It”, whenever I think of the show I think of this song. The contestant introduces themselves followed by several videos about themselves, while in-between the female contestants ask questions. Again, hilarious. The videos are broken up into different categories: basic info, love experience and friend’s comments; with the corresponding sections of the show: first impressions, judgement call and final decision. The love experience section would have to be a favourite of mine, as it seems no matter the contestant they have some kind of eventful relationship history, the shots of the male contestant staring longingly into the distant is a definite highlight here. Another favourite aspect of this show I found is the concept of the lights on/ lights off (each of the female contestants stand at a podium, beginning with their light on, then whenever they like they can turn it off, symbolising they don’t like the guy), this is accompanied by a dramatic sound, I always find this really funny.

Throughout the episode, I found some of the comments the male contestants make to be sort of sexist and ‘traditional’, like: “girls should be reserved”, this is parallel with more traditional values on relationships, compared to what I’m used to seeing especially on TV. All of the contestants speak very dramatically and poetically when they speak of their feelings: “it was my first love, it died a tragic death”, I wonder if this is a cultural thing or a translation thing. Same goes with many of the funny comments they all make, like: “my impression was that she was healthy”, do I find it funny just because of the translation? While watching I began thinking about the concept of the show, are they paid to go on? Are they in it for their five minutes of fame? Are they in it for the Maldives holiday prize at the end? Or are they really looking for ‘love’?

In this episode, there are 3 different male contestants, two of the three were successful in finding a girl. While watching, I found it quite difficult to stay focussed watching the show and write notes at the same time, though I was able to pause the show as need be. I did initially think about live tweeting while watching, but I thought it might be pointless considering its not actually ‘live’. So instead I decided to take detailed notes.  I also noticed while watching that an advert popped up at the bottom telling viewers to get involved on twitter through the hashtag #ifyouaretheone, something I would have like to do had I been watching live. The comments and banter of the hosts is hilarious. Another thing I found interesting was how the male contestants have to give a lot of details and information about themselves, whereas the female contestants are almost there based on their looks, as apart from a few questions, they don’t get that much of an opportunity to talk. Interesting aspect of gender roles. I also wonder what the show would be like if the roles were reversed here? At this point I realise this particular episode features only Japanese male contenders, I wonder if this is very different from other nationalities in other episodes. The host jokes about how all the Japanese men speak in the same monotone voice, different to contestants from other countries, including Australia. I wasn’t aware prior to watching that Australians even went on If You Are the One!

Towards the end of each male contestants turn on the show they get final choice of which girls have stayed for them. I found the final part very entertaining when the guy asked the girls to name which male body parts they found sexiest. Some of the women say nose?!? Different ideas of what’s typically sexy in Asia perhaps? I also noted that in the final credits the email addresses of each male contestant are displayed on screen, just in case you want to get in touch…

Overall, I really enjoyed my experience watching If You Are the One. I find it highly entertaining and think that it raises several cultural points, that will be really interesting to research more on for the next blog post.

References

SBS (2017). If You Are the One – Season 8 Episode 92. Available at: https://www.sbs.com.au/ondemand/video/1018640963904/if-you-are-the-one [Accessed Aug. 2017].