Week 3

Boss Coffee

I should probably remember that ‘globally famous’ includes sometimes being famous in other countries that don’t revolve around my life. Why is it so weird that Tommy Lee Jones is a spokesperson for Boss coffee? It’s not, and I need to remind myself of that.

 

 

In this series of commercials for Boss coffee Tommy Lee Jones plays an alien who has come to earth and is learning about it and the people that inhabit it. In every commercial he has a new profession where he comments on human behaviour as strange but then always ends with something along the lines of ‘but they have alright canned coffee’. If you haven’t seen them, please do, because they’re both funny and classic Tommy Lee Jones. This is not the first promotional campaign Jones has signed up for, he is in fact quite popular in Japan and has recently signed on to join SoftBank’s long-running series of White Family commercials. In all of Jones’s commercials he plays his classic deadpan serious  and yet likeable persona.

 

 

Apparently Jones visits Japan regularly and genuinely enjoys the culture and country so much so that Japan is the only country he still visits while promoting his films. After the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, Jones was the only foreigner to sing in a commercial intended to raise the countries spirits with other Japanese celebrities. Not only has Jones become such a familiar face and active member within Japanese media but he seems to have developed such a strong personal relationship with the people and culture of Japan.

I guess in a way my original reaction of ‘what?! why Tommy Lee Jones?’ just ties back to the stereotype of Japan being weird. I mean looking at why Tommy Lee Jones is so prevalent there, watching the commercials and enjoying them myself, I can understand why this relationship exists… or at least I think I do.

Opening the North Korean Digital Eyes

The more I explore the extraordinary space which is North Korea the more I am struck by the culture of the isolation. The Communist regime would very much like to maintain a firm controlling grip on the population – the proletariat that they create an imaginary façade of a culture which the west copies and follows. The creation of a pop culture in North Korea has been centred on creating an image of a controlled and orderly communist state. Whatever pop culture exists in the country has been placed there by the government so the North Korean people see only a cultural identity which has been chosen for them and not freely created by them.

However, this isolationist policy can only go so far. The westernisation of next door neighbour, China and the leaking of popular culture across the demilitarised zone from South Korea means that the Leadership of North Korea cannot completely blank out the migration of digital culture across borders. Rather than make it this illegal they destroy the credibility of the information and substitute their own.

WochitEntertainment

Published on May 18, 2012

‘Propaganda’ (95min) – Part 1

Sabineprogram

These examples demonstrate how the Communist Government of North Korea handles the incursion of western media influences into the population’s mainstream digital experience. Given this ‘propaganda’ and the abject poverty of the nation and the digital world does not exist within the political borders of the country. I found this extremely disturbing because living in our culture of freedom of speech and enjoying free access to the outside world, I have difficult coming to terms with a world which allows this to happen. In our culture we are fortunate to be able to experience the enormous changes that are offered and created by digital technology yet others in the world are given no choice and are told that our freedoms are imperialist attempts to undermine their world and threaten the cultural purity that is presented farcically to them.

 

Radio Caroline euan walker

 

I heard about the pirate radio ships which operated outside the British territorial waters when British radio stations attempted to break the BBC’s monopoly on radio frequencies in the 1960’s. This is what is needed to open North Korean people to popular culture of the world. Unfortunately the despotic instability of the NK regime would make this form of protest a perilous proposition given the leaderships willingness to shoot at things.

Let’s Talk Character Creation

Imagine you’ve just opened up your shiny new Western RPG. Maybe there’s a bit of story, however it isn’t long before you reach some sort of character creation or choice. Of course this isn’t always the case. Assassin’s Creed and many more exist after all. This is rarer with JRPG. There are also exceptions here (Fire Emblem: Awakening comes to mind), however you can expect to find that there is already a full slew of character’s waiting to be played with already there for you. JRPGs are the only real place where the celebrity isn’t you.

I, and many others, believe that it is a conscious choice. I know that I play JRPGs for the plot, which just doesn’t work if the players gets to create. The everyman isn’t core to the values of the JRPG genre. They produce iconic characters, for marketing, for better story, it just works for the genre. The examples I gave above, both of them, show exactly this process. Assassin’s Creed needs it’s iconic main character, it values the story like a JRPG. So does Fire Emblem, however the main character isn’t the one you make, so it doesn’t even matter.

Of course, there’s an inherent flaw with this entire argument. How many exceptions can break the rule before it falls apart? However that isn’t my real focus here. I think something can be learnt of the focus of the genres. I’m not sure it’s entirely possible to define JRPG without using some stereotypes. They form the basis of all conception. What is more important is being aware of how we are using it to define the genre. For and in depth interactive story, you need a celebrity, a focal point to build around. Story is a core element of JRPGs. Therefore you need to have a celebrity for your game, from Cloud Strife to Nepgear. However, over the course of writing this piece I’ve decided to leave behind the line of inquiry over whatever marketing arguments you might have over design. All we need is a celebrity at the middle. Everything else is social commentary for a different field of researchers. 

Celebrity Directors to Philosophical Insects, what a week…

Sticking on a similar theme to last week’s Blog, this week I have been looking at the Director of Dark Water, Hideo Nakata. He is most well-known for his directing of Ring (1998) Ring 2 (1999) and directing the American remake of his own film, The Ring Two (2005). Nakata has gained a sort of cult following by ‘J-Horror’ “Enthusiasts” with him being labelled “the Ring Master” in an interview with Off Screen in 2000 and “The Godfather of J-Horror” by the Japan Times earlier this year. Despite his fame, Nakata’s ‘Ring’ was by no means the beginning of Japanese Ghost and Horror Stories.

In his interview with Off Screen, the interviewer brings up the “older tradition of Japanese supernatural stories … Such as Kwaidan or Ugetsu”. Nakata replies, saying that he has studied them both along with an old Kabuki theatre production Yotsyua Kaiden.

I’ve come across the film Kwaidan (1964), literally translated to ‘Ghost Stories’ (Which, incidentally is the name of an anime series, which is totally worth its own study in cross cultural production of content and meaning), in previous weeks as I’ve been searching for influential and important Japanese horror films to watch. I’ve seen the trailer, and have downloaded a copy (tsk tsk) to watch this week. Doing more research on the film, I learnt that it was based on the writings of Koizumi Yakumo, who was also known as Lafcadio Hern. Hern was born in the Ionian islands of Greece in 1850 and emigrated to Ireland with his family in his early childhood. In 1869 Hern Travelled to America where he lived and worked as a writer until 1890 when he moved to Japan as a Newspaper Correspondent. His book ‘Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things’ is his English interpretation and recolouring of old Japanese stories from Japanese books “such as the Yaso-Kidan, Bukkyo-Hyakkwa-Zensho, Kokon-Chomonshu, Tama-Sudare, and Hyaku-Monogatari”, interestingly and strangely followed by a semi-scientific and definitely philosophical study of Insects.

After reading his story “THE DREAM OF AKINOSUKE“(of Chinese origin), his study of insects has become more clear. The story uses a butterfly and an ant as metaphors. The three drunken characters in the story discuss how what these insects might mean in relation to the dream that Akinosuke has in the story. Herns discussion of insects at the end of his book seems to be a study of their potential meaning in Asian literature.

Right… so that didn’t exactly focus on the role of celebrity, but more a flow of research for the week. I’m looking forward to reading more of Herns stories and deliberations on insects when I have time, and seeing if any of these themes or ideas, flow through to modern day Asian horror films.

Hong Kong – Making Horror funny

Settling in for another night watching Asian Horror I thought I’d be brave and go it alone.

I was curious what might be South Korea’s take on horror movies, considering the horror they have lived through. Also I wanted the movie to be of the same standard as my last expedition into horror; this was the movie ‘Audition’. Alas due to my downloading prowess being dismal I resorted to finding the most appealing Asian horror (non-Japanese, because I had already done that) movie I could find on Netflix.

My search led me to quite enjoyable ‘Visible secret’ – chosen because of its ambiguous title, classic 90’s cover photo (totes popular right now) and the genre is Horror Comedy, which gave me more of a fighting chance to digest it safely on my own.

As it played I kept thinking ‘this is fresh from the 90’s’ -The characters are bold and unapologetic like Buffy or even Sidney from Scream, but also dorky and ridiculous like Buffy or Sidney from Scream. The plot moves quickly, you get to breeze through decapitation scenes right on to ghost possession, encapsulating fun with the use of quirky dialogue and clumsily action scenes, just like the 90’s!

As it turns out though, this recurring obsession I had with the 90’s during the ‘Visible Secret’, would be the only thing that came back to haunt me (pun intended).

Every time I looked at the lighting in a street scene, images reminiscent of ‘Ghost Busters’ would come traipsing back into my head. I was totally pre-occupied with how ‘western’ the movie seemed, even the comedic styles looked to me like a poor man’s version of Friends. I felt my fate was sealed, ‘I’ve been tainted’ I thought, ‘doomed to characterise everything in western tropes’ (yes, in my head I am very academic and pompous).

The despair came from not wanting to see the film ironically. I wanted to like it because of its skill, not because it was accidently funny.

‘Searching for truth’ in the East as Sean Redman puts it (The Cinema of Takeshi Kitano Flowering Blood 2013 p.4) was my mission and I’d failed. So I looked to the celebrity of the film to find out what background information was securing a truthful depiction to Eastern audiences.

Ann Hui is the film’s critically acclaimed director, known for her work in what is termed ‘Hong Kong New Wave’, and one of its most prolific contributors.

Conducting some research beyond Wikipedia, Ann Hui is quite notable for her work on films about social critique that challenge the government and also investigate the concept of identity. That being said, I think horror comedy may be isn’t her genre. ‘Visible Secret’ I think would be viewed with more understanding by someone who had grown up in Hong Kong, but still it doesn’t seem like anything anyone would particular rate, not matter what culture you’re coming form.

Reflecting on this again, I think my 90’s obsession might have actually been beneficial for helping me attain more enjoyment, by giving me a stand point to measure what was meant to be serious writing and instead placing an ironic edge around it.

Ever dreamed of being (with) a celebrity?

When faced with the task of finding celebrities in my chosen area of study I had to chuckle. Does the hentai world mirror that of the real porn industry, where people rise to super porn stardom and have the chance to win an AVN Award? I had recently watched Boogie Nights. Where was the Dirk Diggler of anime?  No, I don’t believe he exists. Instead, what I found was that celebrity takes on a different form – that of appropriation.

What do Pirates of the Caribbean, Avatar and The Fifth Element have in common? Or Shakira, Angelina Jolie and Spiderman? It would appear that these movie characters and celebrities have all been transformed, in varying degrees of realism, into the stars of anime porn. This doesn’t surprise me in the slightest, I just wonder if these celebs have seen their animated counterparts and wonder what they think of it. Is there a case to sue the artist on the basis of.. well, defamation? Again I’m left trying to trace the boundaries of this sub-culture. If someone is depicted using an overtly cartoonish style, does that have less potential to offend than an image with a higher degree of realism (think Spongebob of Spongebob Square Pants vs Andy from Toy Story 3)?

Western celebrities aside, I trawled some forums in an attempt to discover whether there were some renowned hentai producers and films and stood out against the rest, or if, as it seemed to me, the market was flooded with content from many different sources, hosted on websites that might be the hentai equivalent of redtube. I came across an IMDB list with the “most popular hentai adult titles”, but the features shared nothing in common, nothing that would indicate that the hentai consumers had formed a fandom around a particular character or director.

Perhaps because of the nature of the films directors/producers are reluctant to develop their career to the point of recognition making hentai.  Or maybe the fans are fickle, only seeking instant gratification from the thousands of videos readily available, and nothing else. Or, and this is highly likely, I just don’t understand the workings of this oft ignored community

Screen Shot 2014-08-22 at 8.52.30 amScreen Shot 2014-08-22 at 8.54.15 am

very realistic vs not so… sorry if it’s creepy.

I Hope Hideki Kamiya Reads This One Day

Finding a celebrity in my current auto ethnographic focus of either Monster Hunter and social gaming was proving to be very difficult for me, largely because I speak no Asian languages (as far as I know). Seeing as I purposefully know very little about these areas (at the moment at least), I was totally unable to find a single person widely recognized in them whom I could discover anything about. In order to compensate for my inability to stick to definite topics, I have chosen to follow the light-hearted social media presence of my favourite man of gaming, Hideki Kamiya – because that’s close enough, right?

hidekipic

Hideki Kamiya is the resident cheeky man and games director at Platinum Games, renowned for titles such as Bayonetta, the Wonderful 101, Vanquish and Mad World. I find Hideki a great person to analyse for in my opinion, he has the best online presence of any game developer alive today. Upon searching I was unable to find official pages of his on Facebook and Instagram, rather his Twitter is the only means in which he promotes himself; and boy is it enough. Here I have compiled an archive of my favourite tweets from this beautiful man, which also further demonstrate my next point…

Having tweeted a whopping 119 thousand times, it is clear that Hideki uses Twitter for the purpose of interacting with and answering questions from his fans and customers, other than solely as a means of personal gain. This idea I feel is strengthened through the absence of these alternative social media, for they are not as accessible in terms of audience engagement as Twitter is.Through continual use of this site, Hideki has constructed the image of himself as light-hearted, playful and slightly bossy.

As much as I love this Twitter account, I can’t help but feel like at least a small portion of it is shaped by personal biases and assumptions – for instance that Hideki speaks fluent English (or rather he does not). While I have no doubt that I love this man, I often find myself wondering how much of this opinion is flavoured by his inability to articulate our language flawlessly – let alone while being forced to shrink his words to suit Twitter’s needs.

Reddit – A Bucking Bull Subdued by PSY’s Dance Moves

Reddit is the anti-thesis to social media. The site is not about developing a public profile, at least one not linked to the offline world (Couts 2012). It is this commitment to anonymity that allows the site to foster discussions and content that are uninhibited by social norms. Remember, this is the site that hosts boards such as r/picsofdeadkids and the community that asked rapists to tell their side of the story (Reddit 2014a; UnholyDemigod 2014; The Cajun Boy 2012). In short, it is not exactly the place for celebrity PR.

The self-indulgent and self-promoting celebrity feeds of Facebook and Twitter are a far cry from Reddit’s own celebrity PR outlet. r/IAmA is used, although  it must be stressed not strictly, for celebrities to conduct a kind of open-forum with the Reddit community and their favourite celebs (Reddit 2014b).

The 25th highest ranked (as of 20/8/2014) AMA was conducted by South Korean musician PSY (Reddit 2012). PSY is one of the few Asian celebrities to conduct an AMA, and the only one to be aggregated as within the top 100 of all time (Reddit 2014c). He answered questions ranging from how he keeps a straight face dancing (because he’s serious about it) to what his favourite breakfast food is (korean food). Overall, the AMA presents PSY as fairly laid back, especially as his AMA was not tied to the promotion of any particular project. Although his responses seem short, perhaps as English is his second language, he allowed users to ask anything and he answered most of their inquiries.

AMAs are the only outlet that celebrities are allowed to (somewhat) control their image on Reddit. The rest of the content is user-generated and aggregated. For example, PSY’s song Gangnam Style has its own subreddit (r/GangnamStyle) and a search of the keyword ‘PSY’ on the site locates fan drawn images, jokes, and other varying content (Reddit 2014d). This content is not controlled by PSY or his PR reps but rather his fans and/or cynics.

If we are to learn anything from Reddit, it is that when they commit, they fully commit. We must look only to their Boston Bombing witch-hunt to see how passionate they can be (ABC News 2013). Reddit, with its values strongly planted in being the opposite of social media, provides an uncontrollable landscape for celebrity public image. PSY has bravely traversed the landscape, emerging relatively unscathed and perhaps with an expanded fan-base, due to a catchy song and a well-received forum with his fans.

Reference List:

ABC News 2013, ‘Reddit says sorry for Boston bombing ‘witch hunt’’, 23 April, viewed 20/8/14, < http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-04-23/reddit-apolgises-for-boston-witch-hunt/4645386&gt;

Couts, A 2012, ‘State of the Web: Reddit, The World’s Best Anonymous Social Network’, Digital Trends, 11 September, viewed 20/8/14, <http://www.digitaltrends.com/opinion/reddit-worlds-best-anonymous-social-network/&gt;

PSY (PSY_Oppa) 2012, ‘I am South Korean Singer, Rapper, Composer, Dancer and Creator of Gangnam Style PSY. AMA’, Reddit, thread, 24 October, viewed 20/8/14, < http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/120oqd/i_am_south_korean_singer_rapper_composer_dancer/&gt;

Reddit 2014a, ‘Pics of Dead Kids’, Reddit, viewed 20/8/14, <http://www.reddit.com/r/PicsOfDeadKids/&gt;

Reddit 2014b, ‘Frequently Asked Questions’, Reddit, viewed 20/8/14, <http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/wiki/index&gt;

Reddit 2014c, ‘Top scoring links : IAmA’, Reddit, viewed 20/8/14, < http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/top/?sort=top&t=all&gt;

Reddit 2014d, ‘GangnamStyle’, Reddit, viewed 20/8/14, < http://www.reddit.com/r/gangnamstyle&gt;

The Cajun Boy 2012, ‘If You’ve Ever Wondered What It’s Like To Be A Rapist, Have We Got A Thread For You!’, Uproxx, weblog post, 27 December, viewed 20/8/14, <http://uproxx.com/webculture/2012/07/rapists-explain-why-they-rape-on-reddit/&gt;

UnholyDemigod 2014, ‘The ‘ask a rapist’ thread’, Reddit, thread, 16 December, viewed 20/8/14, <http://www.reddit.com/r/MuseumOfReddit/comments/1t1r2z/the_ask_a_rapist_thread/&gt;

4minute

This week I chose to look into the celebrity culture of K-pop, particularly looking into the Korean sensation Hyuna. Kim Hyuna is south Korean rapper, dancer, songwriter and model. She is best known for being part of the k-pop group 4Minute, where her roll is a rapper. It’s almost implied that if you’re going to be famous you must have all social networking accounts, to make sure you are present for your fans. It nearly essential to have a relationship with your fans if you want to make money, as they are the ones buying your products and are the ones allowing you to get endorsements. Being in one of the largest k-pop groups, kim Hyuna has the same implied role, to make sure she is active online so that her fans don’t lose interest.

When researching Hyuna I found out that she has been inactive from twitter for two years, which is weird to see when someone is so popular and isn’t utilising their twitter account. Twitter is one of the most popular platforms for celebrities to connect with their fans. As it is easy to reply to questions and the word limit help saves time as they have to be short and precise. In saying this I have noticed she is very popular on Instagram with over 1 million followers with each photo have thousands of likes and comments.

After researching Hyuna I wanted to compare the difference in social media use with another member out of her band 4minute, I came across Kwon So-Hyun. So-Hyun is very active on twitter she tweets multiple times everyday, another platform she is very active on is Instagram. What I found interesting about So-Hyun is that she has about 100,000 less followers on twitter then Hyuna and about ¼ of the amount of Instagram followers as Hyuna even though she is more active. This made me think that maybe she is more active on twitter to expand her fan base, or maybe her being so active has caused her to lose followers.

Overall I’ve realised that these two stars aren’t as active on social media as they could be, Although they still have a great following of fans and seem to be a very powerful part of the K-pop world.

CL: The Baddest Female, The Most Global Kpop?

This week I’ve been working on presenting my research in the form of a prezi, which can be viewed here.

Image sourced from CL's instagram account @chaelin_cl

Image sourced from CL’s instagram account @chaelin_cl


“Music has no language barrier. It’s just music, you could just listen to it and feel it. When you’re on stage, you connect to it. It doesn’t matter if it’s in Korean, or in English. It’s just a matter of what we show and inspire.” – CL (YG Ladies 2012)
Lee Chaerin 이채린 goes by the stage name CL and is known primarily as the leader of the globally popular South Korean pop girl group 2NE1. Within the group she is a singer, rapper, lyric writer and dancer (YG Entertainment cited in CLtheBaddestFemale 2012). She is also fluent in Korean, French, Japanese and English, which often sees her speaking on behalf of the group in interviews conducted in English (as demonstrated in the Wall Street Journal interview embedded below).
 
 
What sets 2NE1, and by extension CL, apart from other K-pop acts is their strong global appeal. CL once credited Japan as having the largest Blackjack (2NE1’s fanbase) population, but with collaborations with popular U.S. artists such as will.i.am and Skrillex in recent years the audience for 2NE1 has become both cross-cultural and massive (Hawkins 2012; Poole 2012; Herman 2014).
 
As far as communicating with fans goes, CL’s only outlet appears to be her Instagram (@chaelin_cl) that has over 1.72 million followers and I think is self-managed. There is also an official Twitter account for disseminating running tour and group news to fans of the group at @GlobalBlackjack that has around 252 000 followers at present (Oh! Kpop 2012). Apparently CL at one stage had a personal Twitter account but deactivated it after a long period of being largely inactive on it, which again suggests that CL is managing her own online presence (letsgo2ne1 2011).
 
Based on her public appearances, her Instagram activity and how she presents herself in her music videos, it seems to me that CL is presenting herself as a firey, stylish diva and as something of a “bad girl” amoungst the sexy heartbreakers and cute “girlfriendy” types that make up much of the rest of the Kpop landscape for women in the industry. Again, as I experience the celebrity persona and performance of CL I get a sense of uniqueness and honesty that sets her apart from the heavily manufactured and marketing-driven feel that many of the other popular K-pop groups have. Of course this is working off the assumptions that CL’s unique image isn’t itself also manufactured and carefully managed by marketing teams. In fact a lot of what makes CL stand out to me as a performer could be a constructed persona designed to appeal to a more international audience. My own biases and assumptions regarding Korean pop music might actually be being used against me for the purpose of selling me the 2NE1 brand. Another assumption I’m making is that a global audience is inherently more likely to engage with American music styles and tropes rather than those unique to Kpop; which may hold true for the US and even Australia but perhaps wouldn’t necessarily in other countries and cultures where 2NE1 have also managed to grow a large fan base.
 

References

CLtheBaddestFemale 2012, ‘CL: History in the making’, CL the Baddest Female, viewed 19 August 2014 <http://clthebaddestfemale.com/cl-history-in-the-making/&gt;
 
YG Ladies 2012,’Lee Chaerin’, YG Ladies, viewed 19 August 2014 <http://ygladies.com/2ne1/cl&gt;
 
Hawkins, L 2012, ‘K-Pop Group 2NE1 Discuss Breaking Into the U.S.’, YouTube video, 9 October, Wall Street Journal, viewed 19 August 2014 <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aNQuDL7fdes&gt;
 
Poole, R M 2012, ‘Korean Hip-Hop: K-Hop Goes Global’, News Week, 13 January, viewed 19 August 2014 <http://www.newsweek.com/korean-hip-hop-k-hop-goes-global-64305&gt;
 
Herman, T 2014, ‘Big Bang’s G-Dragon and 2NE1’s CL Get Featured On Skrillex’s ‘Dirty Vibe’ And Prove That Their Rapping Skills Go Beyond Idoldom’, Kpop Starz, 22 March, viewed 19 August 2014 <http://www.kpopstarz.com/articles/84215/20140322/big-bang-g-dragon-2ne1-cl-featured-skrillex-dirtyvibe.htm&gt;
 
Oh! Kpop 2012, ‘Follow Big Bang and 2NE1’s First Official Twitter Accounts Now!’, Oh! Kpop, 22 March, viewed 19 August 2014 <http://www.ohkpop.com/48758/follow-big-bang-and-2ne1s-first-official-twitter-accounts-now&gt;
 
LetsGo2NE1 2011, ‘[NEWS] Dara and CL Join Twitter!!!’, LestGo2NE1, 1 April, viewed 19 August 2014 <http://letsgo2ne1.wordpress.com/2011/04/01/news-dara-and-cl-join-twitter/&gt;