Autoethnography… a term that constantly arises in media subjects, yet the definition still regularly evades me.
Defined by Ellis et al (2011), autoethnographical research is the process of ‘retrospectively and selectively writing about epiphanies that stem from, or are made possible by, being part of a culture and/or possessing a particular cultural identity’. The key word being that of ‘culture’, whereby, comparison and contrast between or within one’s culture allows for a deep, reflexive autoethnographical analysis of a topic. Thus, it must be made clear that such research in fact uses subjectivity as a crucial component in understanding the power dynamics and fluidity of culture. Moreover, ‘she or he may be able to reach wider and more diverse mass audiences that traditional research usually disregards, a move that can make personal and social change possible for more people’ (Ellis et al, 2011), thus it is the inclusion of one’s attitude and beliefs that encourages cultural perspectives to develop and transform.
This leads me to consider how my cultural background impacted my interpretation of the film ‘The Host’. Having never watched a Korean movie before I was entering into a diverse, new cultural world. Growing up in an Anglo-Saxon household, in a small country town, restricted my access and interest in the multifaceted, culturally diverse Asian film industry. Thus, the film for me was viewed in comparison to a typical Hollywood film, illustrating how a contextual personal background can significantly influence one’s cinematic experience and interpretation of Korean film culture. In this case the exaggeration and satire made for a somewhat bizarre film experience.
The task of live tweeting throughout the film pushed me to question and analyse the historical context and subsequent use of satire. As Matt Kim reported, ‘the implications of the story, American imperialism and its military presence on the Korean peninsula, were lost on those unfamiliar with modern Korean history…’ (2016), whilst in another contextual twist, ‘… underneath the imagery of American military presence was the even more subversive narrative of the incompetent South Korean bureaucracy’ (Kim, 2016). Evidently, the use of satirical language and themes within the film led me to reflect upon the US/South Korean relationship, thus reflexively applying my historical knowledge allowed me to better understand the political, social and cultural themes at play.
The process of live tweeting subsequently saw me further develop my understanding of Korean anxieties and desires, whereby, the clear loss of tradition is juxtaposed by the new freedoms accorded to South Koreans through Western influence (Turner, 2012, pg. 12). Coming from a Westernised perspective, the development within South Korea would be viewed as a democratic step forward. However, we must draw from ‘The Host’ and understand that Western influence and the subsequent demise of cultural identity is an enormous anxiety not only in South Korea, but throughout the world.
Ellis, C., Adams, T.E., and Bochner, A.P, 2011, ‘Autoethnography: An Overview‘, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, Vol. 12, No. 1
Kim, M 2016, ‘The Korean New Wave and the Anxieties of South Korean Cinema’, Inverse, https://www.inverse.com/article/13916-the-korean-new-wave-and-the-anxieties-of-south-korean-cinema, viewed 1/8/19
Turner, J 2012, ‘Monstrous Dialogues: THE HOST and South Korean Inverted Exile’, University of South Florida Scholar Commons, Graduate Thesis and Dissertations, pg. 1-12 -Accessible online: https://scholarcommons.usf.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=5440&context=etd