When I watched this movie for the first time, I was truly going in blind (despite what I told myself), with nothing more than a Hollywood knockoff as reference. This time around, I knew what I was in for and could take a step back from my immediate reactions and experience it in a way that allowed me to develop a contextual analysis. After reading through the autoethnographic literature I was planning to reference, I feel like I knew how to tackle this more analytically and thoroughly.
After re-reading my first impressions of Ju-On (2004) in my first blog post, I feel like I focused quite a bit on the fragmented and non-linear storyline, the characters and the ending. I could definitely follow along the chapters actively this time around by making a conscious effort to remember the names and having a rough idea of how they related to each other. To analyze (Ellis 2011) why I couldn’t initially determine the relationships between the characters, I do think the reason was due to the cultural and/or ethnic difference in affection, tone of voice and the names they called each other. For example, at the beginning everyone referred to the elderly woman as ‘ma’ so I couldn’t figure out who’s mum it actually was. I didn’t have these problems in the remake which was most likely due to the American protagonist – despite her Japanese surroundings. Unpacking this further, I came across a slightly derogatory but acceptable Japanese label for foreigners, ‘Gaijin’, that essentially means “outsiders” (Mike, 2014). This tied back into Alsop’s (p. 129, 2002) theme I referred to in my last post regarding becoming an outsider both in your own and in the new culture once you leave home. I do remember thinking it was odd how out of place Sarah M G’s character appeared – so maybe that was something to do with Gaijin?
After doing a little research into the Ju-On franchise I found that there is a novelization of the movies that explain the origin of the grudge much better than the movie does in my opinion;
[An] extremely shy and introverted young lady, Kayako … marries a sadistic man, Takeo who has a … low sperm count (oligospermia). Despite this condition, the couple have a child 7-y/o son, Toshio who has witnessed his father kill his mother. The doctor failed to explain … that a man suffering from oligospermia can be a father. Enraged with jealousy, Takeo tortures and kills Kayako while Toshio, fearing for his life, is hiding in the attic.
(Unknown Author, 2010)
Unpacking this storyline further, I discovered this Japanese curse called Onryō which the film was based on that I was unfamiliar with. Hume (2014) describes them as ‘female ghosts who suffered at the hands of their lover … [who] dwell in the physical world seeking vengeance on those who wronged them’. I think maybe if I had a Japanese background or more knowledge of the culture and this phenomenon, the storyline would have made more sense to me at face value. Anderson (2006) reinforces this. He outlines how the knowledge and experience of others to expand the knowledge of self within autoethnography (p. 383) and I do feel as though I am not as culturally aware as I thought I was. Stereotypes that are perpetuated through advertising and bred through colloquial conversation resonate with me more than I anticipated.
Ellis (2011) mentions how autoethnographers encounter epiphanies throughout their research. One such epiphany I had while watching was that there were very similar entities that appeared in other Hollywood films (e.g. Gothika, What Lies Beneath, etc.). It got me wondering if these too were inspired from Onryō?
At the end of this experience, I feel like I definitely have a better insight to a culture I was not too familiar with. In between both viewings of the movie I was compelled to look into this culture because of things that occurred to me, things I misunderstood or questions I had. I feel like this improved my autoethnographic approach to in because the first viewing really was my personal, first-hand experience and autobiographical recount of it, whereas the second viewing gave me an opportunity to refer to this recount with an ethnographical framework.
I think I’ll watch it again tonight.
- Alsop, Christiane K. (2002) Home and Away: Self Reflexive Auto-/Ethnography’, Forum Qualitative Social Research 3:3.
- Anderson, Leon 2006, Analytic Autoethnography, Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, Vol. 35, No. 4, pp. 373-393.
- Author Unknown (2010) Ju-On: Volume 1, Good Reads, accessed 22nd October 2016, Available from: < http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25332.Ju_on_Volume_1 >
- Ellis, C., Adams, T.E., and Bochner, A.P. (2011) ‘Autoethnography: An Overview’, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 12:1.
- Hume N (2014) Onryō, The Paranormal Guide, accessed 21st October 2016, available from: < http://www.theparanormalguide.com/blog/onryo>
- Mike (2014) 5 Reasons Foreign People Find It Hard To Become Friends With Japanese People, JapanToday, accessed 22nd October 2016, available from: < https://www.japantoday.com/category/lifestyle/view/5-reasons-foreigners-find-it-hard-to-become-friends-with-japanese-people>