Godzilla

autoethnography

The Art of Autoethnography: Part II

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Part II- Autoethnography: A Further Reflection

In my last post I made a number of observations in regard to the 1954 Japanese film Godzilla/Gojira. My main observation that I had was that I did not find myself engrossed in the film given the educational setting. In this blog post some of the other observations made will be looked at further in an auto ethnographic context.

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Two observations made during the course of the film related to the display or lack of display made by the characters.

Constant shadows make it hard to see the emotions displayed of the characters faces.

Little emotion is shown by the characters when announcing the deaths of the soldiers. They are stone cold statues.

These observations are made from the view point of a 21 year Australian woman. Australians tend to be relatively open with their emotions and this is expressed in western cinema. Western actors display emotions through their body language and their facial expressions. The way that I interpret the displays of emotion in this film is very different to the way that a Japanese person interprets its.

‘Cultural contexts also act as cues when people are trying to interpret facial expressions. This means that different cultures may interpret the same social context in very different ways’ (Boundless Psychology, 2016)

This understanding of culture changes the way that I reflect upon my auto ethnographic research. Further literature research puts these observations into context. Not only does culture impact the way that we display emotion but it also impacts the way that we perceive and interpret emotion too. With this understanding, cultural nuances must be looked at. An article posted on the Association for Psychological Science titled Perception of Emotion Is Cultural-Specific (2010) describes Japanese displays of emotion. Emotion is more evident through tone of voice than through facial expressions in Japanese cultural.

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What this reflection makes clear is the process of autoethnography. Ellis et. al. (2011) made clear in their text Autoethnography: An Overview is the importance of the elements of methodological tools, literature research and personal experience. It is now clear to me the importance of that literature research in informing your personal experience, without this understanding, the research lacks substance and perspective.

Reference List

Boundless.com. (2016). [online] Available at: https://www.boundless.com/psychology/textbooks/boundless-psychology-textbook/emotion-13/influence-of-culture-on-emotion-411/influence-of-culture-on-emotion-263-12798/ [Accessed 1 Sep. 2016].

Ellis, C., Adams, T. and Bochner, A. (2011). Autoethnography: An Overview. Forum: Qualitative Social Research, [online] 12(1). Available at: http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1589/3095 [Accessed 30 Jul. 2016].

Psychologicalscience.org. (2016). Perception of Emotion Is Culture-Specific – Association for Psychological Science. [online] Available at: http://www.psychologicalscience.org/index.php/news/releases/perception-of-emotion-is-culture-specific.html [Accessed 1 Sep. 2016].

autoethnography

The Art of Autoethnography: Part I

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Part I- Autoethnography

A form of self-reflection and writing that explores the researcher’s personal experiences and connects this autobiographical story to a wider cultural-political-and social meanings and understandings’ (Collins Dictionary, 2013)

Autoethnography is a new and foreign concept to me, one that seems simple at first glance yet has hidden complexities and requires a greater deal of insight to result in purposeful authenticity.

This week’s reading Autoethnography: An Overview (Ellis, Adams & Bochner, 2011) details that autoethnography is to analyse experience through methodological tools, literature research and use personal experience to illustrate facets of cultural experience. Therefore it is under this guise that I shall share my process of autoethnography regarding the 1954 Japanese film Godzilla/Gojira.

 

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Observation and simply absorbing the text in all its glory, taking note of my observations were the only methodological tools used. A basic approach, but as this is my first attempt at autoethnographic research, basic is the best way to start.

Here are my observations, a summary of the running commentary of my thoughts during the entire film:

  • Constant shadows make it hard to see the emotions displayed of the characters faces.
  • I wonder what the subtitles meant by ‘firefighters’, I’m guessing firefighters given the context.
  • There is a lot of jumping from one scene to the other.
  • Little emotion is shown by the characters when announcing the deaths of the soldiers. They are stone cold statues.
  • There is this annoying bell sound throughout many of the scenes and it is starting to annoy me.
  • This storyline is getting hard to follow, there are many different characters being introduced and the scene jumping around.
  • The constant jumping around between scenes is leading me to disconnect from the text, and a computer screen in front of me provides an abundance of distractions from writing emails to scrolling the Facebook newsfeed.
  • It is so silent given the large amount of people in the scene, there is very little background noise. I am definitely not used to a movie score of this nature.
  • Now I’m thinking about food while watching a man handle a dead fish. I don’t think I am really invested in the film.
  • The scary noise they are running away from isn’t even that loud, their screams cover it.
  • Finally Godzilla/Gojira makes an appearance.
  • That appearance only lasted a second. That was hardly worth all the build up in that scene.
  • There is no visable destination that they are running towards. Then they just stop before the scene changes.
  • The picture of Godzilla/Gojira  is on the screen longer then he actually was.
  • They never actually seem that scared of it. Maybe thats just a cultural difference regarding the displaying of emotions.
  • How did they get the sand from Godzilla/Gojira’s body?
  • I got distracted again by emails. It’s not my fault they just pop up on my screen.
  • Why is the guy in the eye patch so serious?
  • I think that girl has the hots for the guy with the eye patch.
  • I didn’t pay enough attention to know any of the characters names.
  • New method found to slightly understand what’s going on. Watching the #DIGC330 twitter feed.

 

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The literature research conducted on the topic of autoethnography. Autoethnography: An Overview (Ellis, Adams & Bochner, 2011) did two things for my understanding of autoethnography. Firstly it enlightened me as to what the process of autoethnography entails and what it produces; ‘aesthetic and evocative thick descriptions of personal and interpersonal experience’.

Secondly, what my first attempt at autoethnograhic research was not. Ellis et. el. (2011) stated that autoethnography was developed in ‘an attempt to concentrate on ways of producing meaningful, accessible and evocative research grounded in personal experience’. If I were to use this as a checklist, I could say that my work was very much grounded in personal experience as there was no other other facets to it and that by posting it in this digital format it is also accessible, but meaningful or evocative I am struggling to see that part coming to fruition.

 

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My personal experience with this film is that I couldn’t get fully immersed in the storyline. What is evident from my notes is that as the film progressed I became less content with watching and making observations. I found myself looking for distractions and had difficulty remaining focused.

Though in all honesty I have never;

a. Been  drawn to Asian cinema unless it was of a Bollywood persuasion

AND

b. Been able to become totally engrossed in a film in an educational context, it just seems unnatural.

For someone else, or if I had first encountered this film in a different context, the outcome might have been different, though this simply wasn’t the case and I am afraid that this will cloud my view of the film forever in my mind.

Reference List

Collinsdictionary.com. (2016). Definition of Autoethnography | New Word Suggestion | Collins Dictionary. [online] Available at: http://www.collinsdictionary.com/submission/10957/Autoethnography [Accessed 25 Aug. 2016].

Ellis, C., Adams, T. and Bochner, A. (2011). Autoethnography: An Overview. Forum: Qualitative Social Research, [online] 12(1). Available at: http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1589/3095 [Accessed 30 Jul. 2016].

IMDb. (2016). Godzilla (1954). [online] Available at: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0047034/ [Accessed 20 Aug. 2016].

Unlucky In Love

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.

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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.

 

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Godzilla Unearthed

Taking it back to my initial reaction to Godzilla; I’ve now done the research, compared my reactions to what was actually happening in the movie and have accepted that some things will remain a mystery to me while some scenes which I took at face value have a lot more meaning than I first realized. However, I feel like this is quite common even with Hollywood films since it is impossible to keep track of every detail of the movie on first watch and even just reading over the story line on Wikipedia can help reveal some answers. I’m sure I’m not the only one who went on a crazed Google expedition to find out all I could about a mind-fuck movie I just watched (Inception, Fight Club, and Eternal Sundhine of the Spotless Mind, I’m looking at you) and find out if I was even close to understanding the plot.

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But, back to Godzilla. In true autoethnographic style, it’s now time to analyze my experience with a little bit of background research to help understand my initial reactions. One of the first things I noticed during my viewing was a map of Japan that appeared sideways compared to modern maps, but unfortunately I wasn’t able to find out exactly why this is so that will have to remain a mystery to me. It struck me that even though I viewed American and Japanese film as quite different from each other, there were a lot of tropes and themes that appeared in Godzilla which are common in Hollywood cinema as well; most noticeable was the love triangle plot line between Ogata, Serizawa, and Emiko. In America’s love triangle repertoire, there’s Sweet Home AlabamaTwilightMoulin Rouge, and Bridget Jones’s Diary just to name a few. Japan on the other hand has an almost infinite list of anime featuring love triangles; think Skip Beat!NanaHoney and Clover and School Rumble. Maybe we’re not so different after all.

Before watching Godzilla, I never knew of its intense focus on the dangers of nuclear weapons, but this metaphor made sense to me since the film was released in 1954, barely a decade after the horrible events of World War II. Even the last line of the entire film drove in a final reminder to learn from the horrors of the past when Yamane says, “but if we continue conducting nuclear tests, it’s possible that another Godzilla might appear somewhere in the world again“. Until researching the text however, I was unaware of the parallels Godzilla had to the events of the second world war. An article by Peter H. Brothers explains the extent at which the director of Godzilla, Ishiro Honda, went to re-create some of the brutal experiences from the war. As WWII was drawing to a close, Japan was forced to fight America alone as both Germany and Italy had surrendered and this can be seen through Godzilla when Japan once again must face the threat alone. Also, in the film Tokyo is reduced to a ‘sea of fire’ during the monsters rampage which can be likened to the real-life bombing of the capital on March 9, 1945, where over a million people lost their homes while 100 000 others lost their lives.

After delving deeper into the context of the film, it is clear to me that Godzilla is supposed to be a remorseful look at the past with an emphasis on the evil that should never have been used – the atomic bomb. Although I haven’t seen the US version of Godzilla, there are many articles stating the obliteration of the originals political message and this is understandable due to the tension between America and Japan; especially after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It was only in 2004 when the original Godzilla  was released unedited without any American protagonists in sight. Comparing the two different versions would be an interesting study to take up especially since each country were on opposite sides of nuclear war, however, this has been enough Godzilla for one day.

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Now That I’ve Got Your Attention…

As Eric Cohen noted in his piece ‘Flooded: An Auto-Ethnography of the 2011 Bangkok  Flood‘ auto-ethnography  is essentially a focus on the researcher and ‘his/ her position and involvement in the field’, whichever field that might be. My first attempt at this method involved the viewing of Gojira (1954), which I initially felt was an inherently flawed exercise due to my having already seen the film multiple times. I persisted nonetheless, and tried to distance myself from it and focus on details I hadn’t noticed before, tiny things like Japanese light-switches always being flicked up to activate and not down.

This first post was an attempt to distance myself from my previous experience with the film in order to create a fresher source of observations to analyse in the future (see: now). Yet at the same time, I didn’t want to appear totally clueless because that would be insincere so I instead filtered my remarks through a mental screen that asked ‘have I ever made this point?’ or just to play the Devil’s Advocate. For example, I noted that many shots are actually edited in a fast manner whereas others are as expected: slow and deliberate. As a self appointed guardian of Gojira’s reputation I staunchly rebuked the notion that the suit ‘looks fake’. Indeed, Godzilla buff James Rolfe, I argued, states that CG in the 2014 movie Godzilla is faker.

This is my ‘pattern of cultural experience’, as Ellis et al proposes. My previous experience with the film in an educational capacity,while holding a continued personal interest in afterwards, led me to produce observations that were at odds with those of a first viewing. As such, I tweeted obscure gifs of things like particularly bizarre shots from a later film, as well as one of Godzilla water-skiing in a Snicker’s ad. Moreover, as an admittedly easily amused young man, these goofy, irreverent episodes juxtaposed against the literal and metaphorical destruction of culture in Gojira proper amuses me in a ‘how far he’s come’ kind of way.

As an exercise, the structure of auto-ethnography as a tool to write about a particular experience and the impact of it is uniquely positioned to give the reader a deeper understanding of the writer’s thoughts and a invaluable glimpse into their perspective. For myself, the process of recording my initial thoughts and now revisiting them with a broader understanding of what auto-ethnography is has helped me better understand why I recorded what I did at the time and what motivated me to do so.

It is clear now, for example, that my remark of ‘it didn’t appear to be your average soulless ‘summer blockbuster’ film’ was preempted by my understanding of the film as a cultural touchstone that does mean more to people than would initially be believed. I wasn’t aware how much my previous viewing and studying would affect these kinds of statements, but returning to them it is clearly influenced by repeated viewing and not an merely innocuous off-cuff remark.

That concludes my auto-ethnographic deconstruction of my earlier, but not earliest, ruminations on Gojira (1954). Refreshments are at the back.

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An Unlikely Love Story

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.

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Third Rock from the Sun

 

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.

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What The Heck is Autoethnography?

To be honest, other than briefly hearing the word tossed into conversation here and there, I haven’t heard much about autoethnography, so it should come as no surprise when I saw and heard the word and thought: “what the heck is that?”. I’ve never been too fond of big words that usually sound a lot more simple or meaningless than they actually are, and autoethnography isn’t much different, except for the fact that it is a big word with a very simple, yet complex meaning depending on the individuals understanding of it. As Ellis et al. (2011) defines it, autoethnography is an approach to research and writing that seeks to both describe and analyse (systematically) personal experience in order to understand ones cultural experience. To me, in short, this means that it is a systematic method used to decipher ones personal cultural experience when exposed to different cultural attributes. As simple as that is, it can actually be harder to understand that I first thought.

My first thought once consuming all that was discussed in the Ellis et al.  (2011) reading was that, whether consciously or subconsciously, we all undertake autoethnographic research (in relative terms) every time we are exposed to a cultural difference compared to that of our own. As discussed by Ellis et al. (2011) in section 5, a common critique of autoethnographic research and work is that it is not rigorous, analytical or theoretical enough and instead too aesthetic, emotional and therapeutic. Although in my understanding of the term, these traits as so often expressed in autoethnographic research, are still analytical and theoretical responses to a subject, regardless of how it is displayed or presented.

Below is a sort of stream-of-consciousness of my experience when viewing Gojira (1954), the first time I have viewed such a culturally different film to what I would usually view.

  • My first thought was, “oh here we go, a black and white film all in Japanese, how am I going to understand this?” – this was a problem for me as I haven’t yet learnt to appreciate black and white film, maybe given the fact I was not exposed to much of it while growing up or taught to appreciate it.
  • I had done some quick background research and having found out that the set was incredibly small so it actually made me appreciate the time and effort that it must have taken to built such a perfect piece.
  • The ability to pick up when Special FX were being so obviously used made me laugh, but also appreciate the production effort of the film in order to provide entertainment to an audience.
  • The Special FX are just an older-version of what we consider CGI nowadays and with the resources they would have had in 1954, they did a sufficient job.
  • The incredible lack of dialogue and a sufficient score (background music) made it quite difficult to stay immersed within the film and quite often had to remind myself to actually watch and take note of what was happening.
  • Having studied Japanese throughout high school, it came to no surprise to me when the use of weapons, especially those of mass destruction, was quite critical.
  •  The over-dramatic emotion displayed by characters came to me as no surprise, maybe this is because of my stereotypical view on most Asian films/media that I should probably forget about when viewing something of this matter.
  • Eventually I grew incredibly bored given the slow-paced nature of the film and the lack of excitement that was displayed unless there was a fight scene.

REFERENCES

Ellis, C., Adams, T.E., and Bochner, A.P. (2011) ‘Autoethnography: An Overview‘, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 12:1. http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1589/3095 accessed 12/8/16

To be honest, other than briefly hearing the word tossed into conversation here and there, I haven’t heard much about autoethnography, so it should come as no surprise when I saw and heard the word and thought: “what the heck is that?”. I’ve never been too fond of big words that usually sound a lot more simple or meaningless than they actually are, and autoethnography isn’t much different, except for the fact that it is a big word with a very simple, yet complex meaning depending on the individuals understanding of it. As Ellis et al. (2011) defines it, autoethnography is an approach to research and writing that seeks to both describe and analyse (systematically) personal experience in order to understand ones cultural experience. To me, in short, this means that it is a systematic method used to decipher ones personal cultural experience when exposed to different cultural attributes. As simple as that is, it can actually be harder to understand that I first thought.

My first thought once consuming all that was discussed in the Ellis et al.  (2011) reading was that, whether consciously or subconsciously, we all undertake autoethnographic research (in relative terms) every time we are exposed to a cultural difference compared to that of our own. As discussed by Ellis et al. (2011) in section 5, a common critique of autoethnographic research and work is that it is not rigorous, analytical or theoretical enough and instead too aesthetic, emotional and therapeutic. Although in my understanding of the term, these traits as so often expressed in autoethnographic research, are still analytical and theoretical responses to a subject, regardless of how it is displayed or presented.

godzilla-1954-main-review.jpg

SOURCE

Below is a sort of stream-of-consciousness of my experience when viewing Gojira (1954), the first time I have viewed such a culturally different film to what I would usually view.

  • My first thought was, “oh here we go, a black and white film all in Japanese, how am I going to understand this?” – this was a problem for me as I haven’t yet learnt to appreciate black and white film, maybe given the fact I was not exposed to much of it while growing up or taught to appreciate it.
  • I had done some quick background research and having found out that the set was incredibly small so it actually made me appreciate the time and effort that it must have taken to built such a perfect piece.
  • The ability to pick up when Special FX were being so obviously used made me laugh, but also appreciate the production effort of the film in order to provide entertainment to an audience.
  • The Special FX are just an older-version of what we consider CGI nowadays and with the resources they would have had in 1954, they did a sufficient job.
  • The incredible lack of dialogue and a sufficient score (background music) made it quite difficult to stay immersed within the film and quite often had to remind myself to actually watch and take note of what was happening.
  • Having studied Japanese throughout high school, it came to no surprise to me when the use of weapons, especially those of mass destruction, was quite critical.
  •  The over-dramatic emotion displayed by characters came to me as no surprise, maybe this is because of my stereotypical view on most Asian films/media that I should probably forget about when viewing something of this matter.
  • Eventually I grew incredibly bored given the slow-paced nature of the film and the lack of excitement that was displayed unless there was a fight scene.

REFERENCES

Ellis, C., Adams, T.E., and Bochner, A.P. (2011) ‘Autoethnography: An Overview‘, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 12:1. http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1589/3095 accessed 12/8/16

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

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

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

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

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Gojira 1954.

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

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

Autoethnographic Godzilla Experience

Autoethnography: A term that I have not encountered before today. As I sit in front of the computer and try to decode this intimidating and foreign new word, whilst simultaneously resisting the urge to Google it, I notice the familiar term ‘ethnography’ jumps out at me. Ethnography: the scientific description of the customs of individual peoples and cultures. It’s starting to make a bit of sense, but what does the prefix ‘auto’ mean? Auto: self. Does Autoethnography mean the scientific description of myself and my culture? I’m not convinced, better look it up.

Autoethnography is an approach to research and writing that seeks to describe and systematically analyse personal experience in order to understand cultural experience. This approach challenges canonical ways of doing research and representing others and treats research as a political, socially-just and socially-conscious act. A researcher uses tenets of autobiography and ethnography to do and write autoethnography. Thus, as a method, autoethnography is both process and product (Ellis, et. al., 2011).

I was wrong… sort of. After completing some introductory reading on Autoethnography I have formed a basic understanding of the concept. Autoethnography is a (relatively new) research method in which the practitioner analyses and describes a personal experience in order to form an understanding of cultural experience. The word and the research method are essentially an integration of the terms autobiography and ethnography.

My first experience practicing autoethnography came as I watched the 1954 Japanese film Gojira (Godzilla). I am unfamiliar with Japanese film so this experience was totally new to me. The first thing I noticed was the antiquated cinematographic techniques. The music, special effects, acting methods, and plot all seemed amateur compared to the standards that I have become accustomed to as a twenty-first-century media consumer.

 

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‘Godzilla’ on MS paint, 2016 Jurkiewicz

 

My second key observation was the apparent Japanese nuclear paranoia exhibited throughout the film. I found the repeated references to nuclear energy surprising given the film was produced less than a decade after the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki during world war two, in 1945. Godzilla’s thematic preoccupation with nuclear energy shows that the filmmakers still harbored anxieties and curiosities about nuclear energy, and the popularity of the film amongst a Japanese audience tells me that the county’s media consumers could relate to the concept. I initially found it surprising that a Japanese film would toy with the idea of nuclear energy so soon after the nuclear tragedy that essentially ended world war two. As I briefly pondered my surprise at the idea of films portraying themes related to recent tragedies I began to think about 9/11 in the United states. Remember me, Zero Dark Thirty, and Fahrenheit 9/11, are all films released to a U.S. within the decade proceeding the 9/11 terrorist attacks. These three films employ themes related to the 9/11 terrorist attacks- the largest attack on U.S soil. This tells me that audiences are apparently content with watching films that portray recent tragedies. Perhaps my surprise that Godzilla would employ nuclear themes is misguided?  It is understandable that Japan would still have been experiencing nuclear paranoia at the time when Godzilla was released, and given the scale of the nuclear attacks, it seems reasonable that a large portion of the Japanese could relate to the films nuclear themes.

As I watched Godzilla my preoccupation with Japanese nuclear paranoia taught me that perhaps film audiences accept, and even embrace themes related to national tragedies. I have also learned what ‘autoethnography’ means.

My thir-, ah, FIRST viewing of Gojira (1954)

My in-class experience with the seminal Japanese ‘monster’ film Gojira (1954) is not one likely shared by many of my cohort. Having previously studied this film at an HSC level I already possessed some thoughts and facts surrounding the text from my prior viewings and research which revealed the text’s societal, contextual meaning in Japan both at the time of its premiere and today, many years in the future. My interest in the film led to a passive interest in the later ‘Godzilla’ films. Indeed, hours prior to re-watching Gojira with my peers I was watching a group of Canadians view the… decidedly goofier, Godzilla vs. Megalon (1973).

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‘Decidedly goofier’

So, I went into the film with a preexisting appreciation for it and its legacy, perhaps not ideal for testing the autoethnographic approach to research. However, I tried to disassociate some of my experience and take notes regardless and freely remark on what I thought at any given time. (more…)