Week 7

Love Live – Why I Understand It So Well!

Hey all!

Ultimately, I’ll be changing my DA because I understand Japanese gaming too well. However, I actually really enjoyed realising just how much I understood about Japanese Idol and gaming culture- and then realising that it was making this game easier for me to understand and interpret.

Here’s my podcast:

 

And as always some helpful links:

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‘Duterte Harry’: An Analysis of Epiphanies

Upon embarkation of analysing the propaganda of the Duterte administration in my previous autoethnographical post, I have been immediately taken back to many conversations and realisations of how his election campaign and presidency have affected me personally within my own social and cultural framework.

Ellis et al’s Autoethnography: An Overview’ describes autoethnography as ‘an approach to research and writing that seeks to describe and systematically analyse (graphy) personal experience (auto) in order to understand cultural experience (ethno)’. Thus, in order to assist insiders (cultural members) and outsiders (cultural strangers) in understanding the political culture of the Philippines, I must analyse my own experiences (epiphanies) and consider the way others may experience similar epiphanies.

One of my most impactful moments trying to understand the excitement around President Duterte was on a deserted island in the Philippines at 3am after an 18th birthday debut. We had just swum to shore from accidentally hijacking a sailboat, and may or may not have had a little mix of tequila, Tanduay, and San Miguel beer (sorry mum). With this liquid courage, I was able to instigate a political discourse with young Filipinos that I would not normally feel comfortable talking about due to potential differences in ideology stemming from geographical upbringing and education. From what I had already witnessed in glimpses in international media, I pondered how a person in such a position of power could speak so casually with profanities, unapologetic rape jokes, and profess themself as a mass murderer, whilst still maintaining such strong public support. Surprisingly, some of these students agreed with my distaste of the President’s language, indicating that they preferred the representative of their country in the global sphere to possess eloquence and higher respect. The majority, however, saw him as the embodiment of the unfiltered, anti-corruption ideals that many of the marginalised did not have the voice to express themselves.

‘He backed the extra-judicial killings of drug dealers, alleged that journalists were killed because they were corrupt and called Philippines bishops critical of him “sons of whores”, among other crude comments’ (Desker, 2016).

Historically, with the country’s struggles of presidential corruption (Ferdinand Marcos, Ninoy Aquino, Jejomar Binay, etc.), celebrity (Joseph Estrada and Manny Pacquiao) and nepotism (Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo), it can be argued that Duterte’s attitude of populism (that is, the support for the concerns of the ordinary people) secured him as a front-running candidate in the election.

Sociologist, Nicole Curato, and editor of ‘A Duterte Reader: Critical Essays on Rodrigo Duterte’s Early Presidency’ describes this portrayal as ‘Dutertismo’ – ‘a brand of leadership that [scholars agree] has elements that the country has never seen before’. Howie Severino discusses this further by appreciating Duterte’s role as an ‘underdog outsider’, and I think this perfectly reflects the thoughts of the young Filipinos I spoke with around the beach bonfire. For them and the majority of the country (as indicated by the 2016 election being the highest electoral turnout in decades at 81.62% and Duterte’s overwhelmingly high Trust rate of 91%), the President represents an appeal to the people, to the provinces, and to the anti-elite. Duterte speaks like the people in a ‘gutter language [that] lends credibility to the urgency of saving the republic. By rendering the visceral rejection of the status quo visible, he gives voice to the people’s frustration’ (Curato, 2016). Further, his determination to speak in English, his roots in the South (Visayan), and refusal to live in the Presidential Malacañang Palace heightens his position in populism, demonstrating a dismissal of the traditional, Manila-political-elite lifestyle associated with past corruption.

It cannot be denied that Duterte has changed the nature of public political discussion. I have in my research realised – why is it that this particular presidency has caused so much international debate and uproar amongst citizens and foreigners? Curato in ‘Flirting with Authoritarian Fantasies? Rodrigo Duterte and the New Terms of Philippine Populism’, attributes Duterte’s success in contemporary populism to ‘an age of communicative abundance’ with ‘a reality that politics today is predominantly conducted in televised and digital media’ and in a time when 94% of Filipinos have access to these platforms.

In turn, this rise of dialogic outlets has made it so ‘the issue is no longer the lack of information but the deficit of attention among audiences saturated with various messages’ (Curato, 2016). Thus, for Duterte, the media has become his stage, and his theatrical performance has been dubbed the #DuterteSerye. Due to this communicative abundance, I have found through my personal interactions, that there is an obvious tension in his supporters between justifying his policies as necessary measures to ensure strong domestic stability, and straight-up denying the existence of these policies. These students on the beach, normal citizens, were becoming increasingly heated in the conversation of Duterte’s presidency arguing that outsider news outlets were “twisting words” and “did not understand the country we live in”. And honestly, sometimes this discussion scares me. I have read examples of online thuggery where people have received death threats for expressing their concerns with Duterte’s administration. This discourse has driven normal, everyday people to make comments defending rape jokes saying, ‘better a bad joke than a bad government’, or ignoring the statistics of record-high murder rates in favour of believing claims of safer streets.

This discussion of President Duterte’s political propaganda and context has always been a heavy topic, with scholars only now really emerging to publish strong expressions of discontent and critique. And as much as I would love to continue this post’s analysis of Duterte’s power, I will save myself for my next post.

References

Severino, H (2017), ‘Scholars weigh in on a disruptive presidency’, GMA News Online Available at: http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/opinion/content/625558/scholars-weigh-in-on-a-disruptive-presidency/story/

Curato. N (2016) ‘‘Flirting with Authoritarian Fantasies? Rodrigo Duterte and the New Terms of Philippine Populism’, Journal of Contemporary Asia, Volume 47, Issue 1). Available at: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/00472336.2016.1239751?scroll=top&needAccess=true

Ellis, C., Adams, T.E., and Bochner, A.P. (2011) ‘Autoethnography: An Overview‘, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 12:1. Available at: http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1589/3095

Desker, B. (2016). President Duterte: A Different Philippine Leader. (RSIS Commentaries, No. 145). RSIS Commentaries. Singapore: Nanyang Technological University. Available at: https://dr.ntu.edu.sg/bitstream/handle/10220/40765/CO16145.pdf?sequence=1

Heydarian, R. J. (2016). What Duterte Portends for Philippine Foreign Policy. (RSIS Commentaries, No. 123). RSIS Commentaries. Singapore: Nanyang Technological University. Available at: https://dr.ntu.edu.sg/bitstream/handle/10220/40774/CO16123b.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y

 

 

Japanese Visual Novels

After experiencing the Japanese visual novel and dating simulator game, Hatoful Boyfriend, I have found myself intrigued by the popularity of these types of video games. Before playing Hatoful Boyfriend, I had never heard of a visual novel. While it is true that most video games do hold an element of ‘visual novel’, this game in particular purposely lacked a lot of gamer control that I’m used to. This surprised me as it technically is categorised as a video game, yet your options to manipulate the game itself is very little. Now and then there would be an option to choose, for example, which High School Club you were going to join, which would essentially shift the story’s direction. This means to uncover every aspect of the novel the game would have to be played at least ten times, revealing each possible play. Personally, unless you were invested in the game’s storyline the whole thing can become a bit tedious at the start. Wondering if it was just me finding the game boring after reading several reviews online I turned to Reddit where users shared their own Hatoful Boyfriend perspective. Each user’s experience actually differed from one another depending on the route they followed. While some ended up with the expected outcome- a boyfriend- others ended up down a darker path. This path involved the protagonist’s murder and player’s having to continue the story through the eyes of one of the pigeons trying to discover the truth. Reading each player’s experience made me reinvest in the game and its surprisingly complex structure and storyline.

After so many Reddit users taking an interest in the game and sharing just how unique the storyline actually is, I found an interview with the Japanese creators, Hato Moa and Damurushi, to uncover the intent behind the pigeon dating simulator. It was actually created as an April Fool’s Joke, a parody of another Japanese dating simulator, which explains the game’s humourous tones. The creators met through an internet community and were both highly interested in creating their own JRPG (Japanese role playing game). There was less thought behind the choice of using pigeons, as it was discovered Hato Moa has quite the fascination with birds.

The overall interest of the game has made me fascinated in the popularity and history of visual novels in Asian culture, specifically Japan. My initial idea for this blog post was to research both visual novels and dating simulators in the Asian market, however, after finding out that majority of dating simulators are in fact rated X, I’ve decided it best to just focus on the visual novel element.

The history of visual novels backtracks to 33 years ago when the Japanese video game publisher, Enix came out with an interactive mystery game called Portopia Renzku Satsujin Jiken. It follows the murder of the highly prominent banker Kouzou Yamakawa. The game relied on text-based inputs and dialogue scenes essentially introducing the visual novel format – onscreen visuals and dynamic character interaction- to the Japanese industry. From this, most visual novels still remain mostly in Japan however the introduction of the platform to the western world has increased. One reason for this introduction is the fan groups that have pushed the transition of certain games into the western world. Fans contacting game creators for an official translation and localisation making it available for western countries.

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Regardless of visual novels in western society, in Japan they are still hugely popular. One reason for this is because the Japanese tend to be huge on reading. In a lot of their games text is already very much integrated. This is another aspect which I’m interested in. For my research project I hope to further examine the key characteristics that make up typical Japanese video games. At the moment my experience with them is still limited so I hope to also branch out into different genres. My starting point could be the mystery game Portopia Renzku Satsujin Jiken. I do not know yet how difficult this 33-year-old game will be to get my hands on but I have already found YouTube How to Play videos on the game. Along with this I still hope to investigate the visual novel trend in Japan further.

Reference:

https://www.gamespot.com/forums/games-discussion-1000000/visual-novels-could-they-work-in-western-market-28997195/

http://www.denofgeek.com/us/games/video-games/255200/the-rise-of-the-western-visual-novel

http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/answerman/2016-03-30/.100434

Responding to 爱: What if Fictional Love isn’t Universal?

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thanks imgflip

“…romance movies is a genre that is always easy to watch”
-me, two weeks ago

In retrospect, this quote was a glaringly, poor oversight. Not only was I forgetting about the plethora of terrible, Western romance films (ever seen that one with Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock who sent letters to each other in the past/future via a magical letterbox at a lake-house? I erased it from my memory for a reason and you should too), but I also forgot that poor writing and poor film making would be a universal concept. And that trying to watch a movie from another country, that you have no personal connection to, is probably not the best way to watch a new romance movie.

“Easy” was certainly true for the most part of “The Stolen Years”, but enjoyable….used only marginally. My anecdotes of the trip that was my first Chinese Romance Film can be found here, and no I wouldn’t recommend watching this film either. That isn’t too say it was bad, in fact i’d say it was quite similar to any trashy romance you’d pull out of Netflix, with only a few errors in its entirety (it was way too god damn long).

So, why did I not enjoy it? I had thought that if it was a romance, and had the essential story of two people falling in love, whatever else around it wouldn’t deter it from its essential element. Maybe understanding and enjoying fictional love is not a universal concept to me.

(more…)

Analysing My Experience With Calligraphy

Two weeks ago I blogged my first serious attempt at Japanese calligraphy. As mentioned by Ellis et al (2011), I must compare and contrast my personal experience from my previous blog post with already exisiting research. The main point from my previous post is that I found it much easier using a brush, ink and a piece of paper than using an app to teach myself the different strokes and techniques that are needed to learn how to write Japanese calligraphy.

I think this ideal correlates directly with how I, as an individual, learn. I’ve always been a very kinesthetic and spatial learner. Audio books and people talking directly towards me when they’re trying to teach me something new is completely useless. I’ve found that I always need something to follow along with, or a book to take down notes. The physical act of writing something down has always made it much easier for me to remember particular techniques when learning a new skill.

Everybody obviously has a more dominant learning style but I put mine down to how I was predominately taught in school. Laptops/ computers were rarely used at both my primary and high school. It wasn’t until we were given laptops in year 9 that I really relied on technology to learn in the classroom. In primary school, we were lucky to have a computer shared between two classrooms and we had two computer labs in the whole school. One in the library, and one next to it. The only time I ever remember using either was when we were learning to type without looking at the keyboard, and to make a very basic website. We used the labs in high school a little bit more, but not much. Our classroom learning relied very much on pen, paper and a textbook. So, I believe that by learning like this during the majority of my primary and secondary education, I still find it much easier to learn in a hands-on way compared to using an app on a hand-held device. I bet if you looked through the bag I take to uni, you’d find a handful of pens in the bottom of it and a notebook – I write down notes and ideas for every single assignment I’ve had to do during my four years of UOW.

In 2014, a UK based printing and mailing company called Docmail conducted a study that determined that one in three of the 2000 respondents hadn’t written anything by hand in the previous six months. Edouard Gentaz, professor of developmental psychology at the University of Geneva and an expert on writing argues that “Handwriting is a complex task which requires various skills – feeling the pen and paper, moving the writing implement, and directing movement by thought…”. Claire Bustarret, a specialist on codex manuscripts agrees with Gentaz by saying “Paper allows much greater graphic freedom…”. She further describes the ability to write on both sides of a sheet of paper, manipulating and utilising it’s potential three-dimensional form and being able to physically track any changes made (Bustarret, 2014). These are all practices that can’t be achieved through apps and other software. It has also been found that drawing a letter by hand improves subsequent recognition (Gentaz, 2014). It takes years to master the motor skill. While this argument relies more on the handwriting vs typing debate, I found it very beneficial when it came to comparing the two different methods I tested out. Even though I was still technically writing on the app, it was so difficult to control the pen strokes as things like pressure aren’t at the forefront of your mind.

When starting my research on traditional Japanese calligraphy, almost every article outlined the importance of the brush, ink and even paper you should use. Hardly anybody spoke about mixing technology in with such a worshipped form of traditional art. The video below explores the idea of a robot mimicking its masters brush work. The video details that as the Japanese population is ageing and birth rates are slowing down, there’s a risk of traditional practices like calligraphy not being passed down as the gap between the young and old continues to expand.

All-in-all, the autoethnographic style of writing has allowed me to narrow down why I favour the analog technique when compared to the technological one. Ellis et al (2012) state that writing can be therapeutic as it allows for authors to make sense of themselves and the experience they are detailing. This explanation allowed me to understand that there wasn’t anything wrong with the app I used, but more so with how I take in and understand actions and processes.

References:

Chemin, A. (2014). ‘Handwriting vs typing: is the pen still mightier than the keyboard?’. The Guardian. <https://www.theguardian.com/science/2014/dec/16/cognitive-benefits-handwriting-decline-typing>

Ellis, C., Adams, T., & Bochner, A. (2011). ‘Autoethnography: An Overview’. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 12(1). < http://dx.doi.org/10.17169/fqs-12.1.1589>

Hays, J. (2013). JAPANESE CALLIGRAPHY | Facts and Details. Factsanddetails.com <http://factsanddetails.com/japan/cat20/sub129/item2886.html&gt;

Stand Up Comedy in Japan

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I was at a bit of a loss when deciding on a topic for my digital artefact. We were asked to try not to look at anything we were familiar with, and for me that ruled out a lot of the ideas that had come to my mind for my topic. I’m not saying I’m an expert in Asian culture or anything, far from it. I’ve just dipped my toe into more aspects of Asian culture than the average Joe. What was I going to look at then? My first idea was to look at Japanese cooking shows, I like cooking so why not. One night though, while watching a Hannibal Buress stand up special, I had an epiphany. Why don’t I look at Japanese stand-up comedy?

So I did.

 

I guess I’ll start by letting you know that I love stand up. I’ve been watching stand up since before I should have been watching stand up. The first time I can remember watching stand up is when I was about eleven or twelve, and I was watching Billy Connolly on a VHS tape that we had at home. I thought he was hysterical, and from there my love for stand-up has only gotten stronger. Now at twenty one, I probably watch five or six stand up specials a week. It is safe to say that I have watched a lot of different stand up, but never stand up from Japan.

So, it was time to find some Japanese stand up, and not really knowing where to go, I went to my old faithful Youtube. Something I quickly realised when looking through the search results, is that I had a picture of what ‘Japanese stand up’ would look like in my head, and I didn’t see it, nor could I find it. I don’t know where the image I had in my head came from, but what I expected to see was that Japanese stand up was just, the stand-up that I’m used to, but with Japanese comedians performing in Japanese, to a Japanese audience. What I found was a whole different range of stuff, so let’s look at some of it.

One of the things I saw a lot of was Japanese comedians performing stand up in English to either, a majority foreign audience in Japan, or Japanese comedians performing overseas, mostly in America. I was the most familiar with this type of routine. It followed the same formula I was used to, and besides a few little things like the use of a clip board in a routine, it was the same style of comedy that most of us would be familiar with. I didn’t feel like I was seeing ‘actual’ Japanese stand up watching these. They were admittedly funny shows, but it felt like the stand-ups I watched were just copying what they had seen other foreign comedians do.

The other type of act that made up the majority of the videos I watched was the double act. My experience with double acts in stand up is definitely not as extensive as with single performer acts, and I think I’d be right in saying the reason for this is that there just not as popular in our culture. There are certainly some great comedy duo’s in stand up, I mean even in Australia we have the likes of The Umbilical Brothers, Lano and Woodley, Sammy J and Randy, there all amazing acts. I just think there are less double acts than there are singles, but that doesn’t seem to be the case in Japan, at least from what I’ve seen.

The acts and how I watched them were all different as well. There’s one duo named Gamarjobat which seem to have done both in Japan and internationally. I’m just assuming this because a lot of their videos show them performing on different television shows from around the world. Gamarjobat remind me of The Umbilical Brothers in their routines. They don’t use their voices as much, for speech or noises, but the use of props and their bodies is very similar. The other acts were a little more foreign (please excuse the pun) to me. They did use some techniques I’d seen before like one guy playing the straight man and the other the zany/stupid/different character. Most of the double acts also seemed to use slapstick in their routines. Watching these acts, I felt like I was getting something different to what I was used to, and I think it was because I could see the audience was Japanese, it also helped that some of the acts were in Japanese, which was interesting when some of them didn’t include subtitles.

It was an interesting experience watching and then writing about Japanese stand up, reading over I feel a little slack saying one didn’t feel authentic, who am I to say that? Hopefully doing some research on the topic will help me understand a few things.

Do I remember this film?

The film I watched was ‘Rocky Handsome’, and now that a bit of time has passed, I can recall almost nothing about this film. It starred a man, who shot other men, for the sake of a little girl. It also had 3 or so dance numbers, which really worked against the tone of the film. So as an auto-ethnographic study of how I perceive different cultures, this movie may not have been a great choice. What it works extremely well as, is an auto-ethnographic study on how I solve, or sometimes don’t solve, movies via their context, through mise-en-scene.

I choose the film ‘Rocky Handsome’ as it was available to me on Netflix, and it seemed like an interesting film. And in a sense, it definitely was. This blog post itself will be part of the auto-ethnographic experience, forcing me to think and write on the film, and as this happens, I am remembering more and more of the film, and also remembering more and more of how I felt during.

A major confusion I had for the first hourish or so of the film, was determining who ‘Rocky Handsome’ was. I had believed it was a certain guy, who had looked after a little girl from his pawn shop. He was charming, skilled and polite. He had the trimmings of a hero, and showed himself capable. He worked alone, and was yet to interact with many people. He even had an opening music video, where he was with a women all in white, as they laid together while she sung. A ‘Rocky Handsome’ if there ever was one!

I was also introduced to another man, who headed a team of other men, in a seemingly official undercover police group, determined to me by the official nature of the powerpoint. They seemed really cool, and were having laughs, but in a controlled ‘cool guy’ way. They entered a strip club (where a song played and some women danced, that I had no relation to as a viewer), then he beat the crap out of some guys who were clearly tougher and fighting dirtier. A ‘Rocky Handsome’ if there ever was one!

Now I had two ‘Rocky Handsome’s to deal with, and my notes quickly became confusing. What I reflected from this, in the larger context of the whole film and on all films, is that the premise of a main character, who is aided unknowingly by side characters, can become confusing if you, the viewer, are not aided in one way or another. I had come to believe the character I first thought was ‘Rocky Handsome’, was maybe the villain, in the same way you see Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz) first in ‘Inglorious Basterds’. Turned out this was wrong, and my contextualising this film into something I was more familiar with.

My confusion was put to an immediate halt at about an hour in, in something that I have never really seen in a film before. ‘Rocky Handsome’ #1 was confirmed to be Rocky Handsome, and the latter was just a guy who was also in the film. And how did this film decide to play this out to me? In a way that really is only ever seen at the beginning of a comedy-action film, with a montage of shooting murder and then an FX explosion of ‘Rocky Handsome’ onto the screen right in front of him. I was gobsmacked, as this was not really a sequence that I had seen in the middle of a film before. In particular, it was not expected in a film where a little girls mother was a drugged prostitute who died in a bloody death.

Maybe this unease at the sequence came from an understanding of tonal settings in a film, or because maybe through-out the film, the dialogue was humorous, and that I had totally missed that from my view-point. Regardless, it was a sequence of the film that stood out to me, due to how ill-fitting it felt.

A point I mentioned, but haven’t quite elaborated on, was the use of dance songs and numbers in this film. This is something that is fitted into only really one type of film in Hollywood cinema, and the films genre is then generally based on the presence of song and dance, hence the ‘Musical’ genre. This was very much not the case for this film, or the other Bollywood and Nollywood films I have seen. The use of song, dance and beautiful women who are unrelated to the plot happened several times in this film. It may have been the same woman, but the songs were not memorable and cut in-between the film itself, making it pretty hard to recall, even moments after. For myself, the felt they added nothing to the film, as they never interacted with any of the characters at any point nor did it shape the events of the film. They also seemed to disappear the second the song was over, magically abandoning the scene.

These were some of the things I learnt about cinema and about Indian cinema whilst watching the ‘Rocky Handsome’. The movie was pretty unmemorable for me, except for some cool action sequences and a man humming the ‘Pink Panther’ theme.

Analysing my thoughts on IYATO

 

A couple of weeks ago I shared my thoughts on experiencing an episode of the Chinese dating show, If You Are The One (IYATO).

When experiencing the show it was difficult to set aside biases. The dating culture depicted on IYATO is completely different to that what I am used to and there are sharp differences that I kept revisiting between Chinese culture and Australian/Western culture. I think when watching IYATO it is difficult to not compare it to what I’m familiar with. I automatically made comparisons between IYATO and dating shows like The Bachelor and Love Island. I also was quick to draw comparisons between the overall culture and expectations that Chinese have for relationships with what is valued in Australia and what I myself value.

It’s also interesting to note why it has become the largest and most-viewed dating show, not only in China, but worldwide its viewing statistics beat any other dating show. In my last post I constantly drew comparisons but also emphasised the humour of the show – it’s bizarre, unusual, blunt and just entertaining. Sure, entertainment is probably the key purpose of the show but I began to wonder about some of the more interesting cultural aspects that lay below the surface.

The way I have reflected on the show I think I will approach the rest of my autoethnography as what Ellis et al. describes as ‘layered accounts’ where there is “a focus on the author’s experience alongside data, abstract analysis, and relevant literature.” (Ellis et al., 2010). Ellis reiterates the importance of reflection to “illustrate new perspectives on personal experience—on epiphanies—by finding and filling a “gap” in existing, related storylines.” (Ellis et al., 2010) The more I’ve reflected on IYATO the predominant epiphany I’ve had is the cultural and social impact of the show, specifically in relation to social constructs of gender. Watching the show it is difficult whether to determine if the show has feminist traits; the women on the show are very outspoken yet the show is very much shaped by inherent Chinese sociocultural norms that are very traditional when it comes to gender.

I’d like to further explore whether it empowers women or perpetuates the patriarchy. IYATO hinges on the patriarchal and heteronormative discourse of love and marriage. Whilst in Western society it’s expected that people get married and have kids it’s not forced upon us to necessarily do these things (anymore). Gender norms are changing. Chinese traditions remain very strong, even in the 21st century, there are certain roles and expectations for people otherwise they are often thought to bring shame and dishonour to their family. In Chinese culture there is a derogatory term ‘sheng nu’ which translates to ‘leftover women’. This refers to the stigma attached to women who remain unmarried beyond 25. Men are also sometimes described as leftover men or ‘shengnan’. Whilst in Australia there is also some pressure to get married, this has decreased significantly in recent times. In my cultural framework, I do not feel these pressures. I’m still only 21 so wouldn’t be considered a ‘leftover woman’ yet, however I’m not in a serious relationship and I’m totally okay with that. I’ve never had any pressure from my parents to get married or date people from a certain background. The show’s producer Gang Wang has said that the show was largely inspired by the ‘leftover women’ phenomenon (Li, 2014). Does the program constantly rely on the social pressure Chinese women feel to find a husband before becoming ‘leftover’?

My positioning is this; I lack very little knowledge of Chinese culture in general, and whilst I have some blanket ideas of the traditions when it comes to relationships and other aspects of Chinese tradition explored on IYATO they are not very well-informed, rather what I’ve gathered from the show and other media that might have touched the topic. The idea of ‘leftover women’ was something I was unfamiliar with until I watched this advert last year. Watching IYATO I was reminded of the emotional video that advertises Shanghai’s marriage market that explores the pressure and shame directed at these leftover women. Whilst the women on IYATO often come across as empowered and strong-willed, I can’t help but think that the show represents the same idea of a ‘marriage market’ for leftover women to meet potential bachelors.

I have found some research that draws on these ideas and will continue to explore in-depth evaluations of the show in relation to social and cultural constructs as well as why its has garnered such a large amount of popularity. The research into Chinese culture will give me a framework to better understand IYATO. Through a combination of both academic sources and analysis of my own experience of viewing the show I will hopefully be able to explore in-depth the social and cultural constructs in China that are perpetuated in If You Are The One.

 

References:

Ellis, C., Adams, T. and Bochner, A., 2010. Autoethnography: An overview. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, [online] 12(1). Available at: <http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1589/3095&gt>

Li, L., 2014. If You Are the One: Dating shows and feminist politics in contemporary China. International Journal of Cultural Studies, 18(5), pp.519-535.

via Analysing my thoughts on IYATO —

Methodology & Epiphanies on China’s Cosmetic Market

I have been using the autoethnographic methodology for my current research into China and the banning of animal testing on cosmetics. In my previous blog, I utilised the narrative and layered accounts angle of autoethnography, explained by Ellis et al. (2011) as using data, abstract analysis, and relevant literature alongside the author’s experience. I decided that this was the best way to conduct my autoethnographic experience, since I could not physically travel to China and experience the animal testing in the cosmetic industry there myself. Therefore, I had to do the best I could with the Internet and my own personal understanding of animal testing in the cosmetic industry (which was limited). I attempted to critically read as many sources, both supporting and opposing the ban on animal testing in China. This lead me to create a firm viewpoint in which I could express my findings.

 

As I touched on lightly in my previous blog, I was first drawn to this topic to expand my mind about an issue I have avoided previously. This is partly due to my farm upbringing and avoidance of topics that conflict with my support of the agricultural industry. While I agree with the purpose of animals as a source of food, I do not entirely agree with using animals for scientific testing. Also, enforcing this belief in not using animals for testing purposes, is that technological advances offer more and if not better alternatives to animal testing in the cosmetic and health industries.

 

This autoethnographic style article written by Thomas Hartung (2008), expresses his views based on his personal experience of years working in the field, on the EU changes in cosmetic animal testing. It helped to inform how I expressed my own research on the topic in China, due to my limited experience and expertise in the industry. It enforced my approach as writing a personal story on how I reacted to the research rather than focusing on the facts of the situation, so that my readers can empathise with the research rather than critique its content. Ellis et al. (2008) discusses how verisimilitude evokes a feeling in readers with the experience as lifelike, believable and possible. It was according to this that I attempted to persuade my readers at the end to think about their own personal choices when it comes to purchasing cosmetic products, because they do have the ability to make a change. Even though my readers are mostly Australian University students, and my blog discusses the Chinese market, there are parallels that can be drawn between the two and implicated within our lives.

 

Another aspect of autoethnography that I employed in my research is, explained by Holman, Jones (2005, p.764) as “researching and writing socially-just acts; rather than a preoccupation with accuracy” and to also use “analytical, accessible texts that change us and the world we live for the better”. This influenced the aspect of my research, I decided to delve into a subject that isn’t too well known and just scratch the surface to spread awareness. This provides the audience with the opportunity to look into the topic in more depth and make their own conclusions. My experience is included only to attract others attention who may not usually be interested in the subject.

 

During my research I had a few major epiphany moments, that I documented in my notes whilst I was investigating the Chinese cosmetic market. My first epiphany was questioning what alternatives are used instead of animals for testing cosmetic products? This was an important question for me and discovering the answer dictated how I continued my research. I learnt more about how the technological advances have made it possible and irrelevant for the use of animals to be tested on.

 

Another epiphany was regarding my interest in the Marketing and Public Relations aspect of my research, these communicators have a large part to play in spreading information and awareness of animal testing in global markets. I was researching into the Marketing Agency, Gentleman Marketing Agency, and noticed that they have an interest in seeing a cruelty-free cosmetic market, yet little has been done to spread this awareness, presumably due to the clients they are working for. This lead me to noting the opportunity for Marketing and Public Relations, along with the Media, to do their part in stopping animal testing, through advertisements and communication.

 

My understanding of using the autoethnography when conducting research after this experience, has taught me that it can be a useful tool when attempting to generate interest surrounding a topic. By using personal experience, audiences are drawn and are more personally interested in the topic, rather than a dry straight academic recounting of a topic.

 

 

 

 

References:

Ellis, C, Adams, T.E & 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&gt;

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;

Hartung, T & Leist, M 2008, ‘Food for thought on the evolution of toxicology and the phasing out of animal testing’, University of Konstanz, vol. 2, pp. 91-96. <http://kops.uni-konstanz.de/bitstream/handle/123456789/8336/Altex2008hartungLeistUK.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y&gt;

Holman Jones, Stacy (2005). Autoethnography: Making the personal political. In Norman K. Denzin & Yvonna S. Lincoln (Eds.), Handbook of qualitative research (pp.763-791). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Seven Samurai: Deconstructing Mythology

Two weeks ago I finally conquered a challenge I set myself many years ago.

As the credits to Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai (1954) rolled with the defiant soundtrack of Fumio Hayasaka booming, I immediately navigated to a new IMDB tab. This is a ritual I usually undertake after any film; looking through every available production or trivia fact about the movie to add to my understanding of it. I believe the experience isn’t truly over until you know how the film was made and why it was made.

In many ways this parallels the same process detailed by the Ellis et all (2011) reading wherein auto-ethnographic researchers take the small revelatory moments or “epiphanies” that arise from the initial experience and further analyse them to make sense of the subject. For a filmgoer like myself, who’s exposure to Japanese film had been almost non-existent before this course, Seven Samurai provided a flurry of epiphanies.

Perhaps the most immediate revelation when watching the film came in the form of Kurosawa’s commentary on Eastern mythology. In recent years, the Samurai have been depicted in both eastern and western media as a beacon of altruism, confined by their strong moral code and entrenched spirituality. But Kurosawa has a very different view.

In the world of Seven Samurai, the Samurai are depicted as aimless warriors willing to fight for any cause if the price is right. This is made most evident at the beginning of the film when the impoverished villagers beg for assistance in the protection of their village and the majority of Samurai ignore them or outright decline immediately. Even the titular Samurai are only swayed by the promise of food, and not by moral enlightenment.

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One of the many villagers seen begging the Samurai for help in the film | Image Credit

Though I initially believed this to be an invention of the film to add to the desperation of the situation, it came as a shock to discover in further research that the Samurai were indeed considered social-climbers, rather than the noble “equestrian” class they are often depicted as today. In a particularly scathing account from Charles Sharam (2009) he writes:

“There was nothing loyal, chivalrous, or noble about these men. If anything, they were ambitious warriors who sought to enrich themselves above all else. They were not loyal to their masters by decree of some unwritten honour code, nor were they inherently good by any stretch of the imagination.” (Sharam 2009)

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Samurai were far from the altruistic warriors depicted in modern cinema | The Last Samurai (2003) | Image Credit

Although I had looked into Japanese history in the past, particularly the Satsuma Rebellion which effectively marked the end of the Samurai and was the subject matter for the 2003 film The Last Samurai, Kurosawa’s film further deconstructed this romanticised view of history. Suddenly, it made sense why the villagers were frightened into hiding as the Samurai arrive at their village in the film – the main difference between the Samurai and the bandit villains was the Samurai had social status behind them.

Considering how much of Kurosawa’s filmmaking career focused on Samurai characters such as Yojimbo (1961) and Throne of Blood (1957), as well as his personal connection in being a direct descendent of Samurai, it came as a great shock that Kurosawa was largely responsible for deconstructing the mythology surrounding them early on. Kurosawa, despite being a godfather figure of Japanese film, was considered more on an international filmmaker appealing to Hollywood and diverged greatly from what local filmmakers considered authentic Japanese film.

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Akira Kurosawa (1910-1998) was a very divisive filmmaker in Japan | Image Credit

Further research into Kurosawa led to the shocking discovery that his deconstructionist and revisionist films were frowned upon in Japan, and despite introducing the world to Japanese film he was “often regarded with a cold, critical hostility by many of his own countrymen” (Donovan 2008, pp.15). In fact his international acclaim had largely drawn “condemnation by the Japanese intelligentsia” and his works had been rejected by the upcoming wave of Japanese filmmakers as the “irrelevant, reactionary” pieces that became a symbol of what “Japanese film had to overthrow” (pp. 15).

In this sense, Seven Samurai becomes an incredibly interesting auto-ethnographic piece to study. While my initial intention was to explore Japanese film in the most authentic way possible, by watching the films of a widely regarded Japanese filmmaker that I initially believed embodied everything about Japanese film, many have historically disregarded his work as being non-representative of the culture.

Even though there is a historical and social basis to Seven Samurai and Kurosawa’s other films, his cynically honest approach to demystifying Japanese culture, is an extraordinary revelation that adds further dimension to my auto-ethnographic study and provides a perfect platform for further research.

References

  1. Donovan, BW (2008), ‘The Master: Akira Kurosawa and the Art of Warriors’, The Asian influence on Hollywood action films, Jefferson, N.C., McFarland & Co, vol. 1, pp. 2-15
  1. Ellis, C., Adams, T.E., and Bochner, A.P. (2011) ‘Autoethnography: An Overview‘, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 12:1. Available at: http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1589/3095
  1. Sharam, C (2009), The Samurai: Myth Versus Reality, weblog post, 26 November, viewed 7 September 2017, <https://thegoldeneggs.wordpress.com>