Author: Keiden

Shedding light on a few facts, Keiden-style.

Autoethnographic reflection on Week 3 – Akira’s blog post

Reflection is a crucial part of the autoethnographic experience. Ellis et al (2011) write that one of the key components that autoethnographers achieve in their writing is a thick description of a culture through their own introspective experiences. They argue that by not only allowing, but utilising the self in writing ethnography (thereby autoethnography), a more compelling, and more importantly accessible, mode of writing may be able to reach a significantly wider audience. With understanding the importance of reflection and introspection within autoethnography, I wanted to tie that in with another framework I’ve been learning in one of my other classes; Michael White’s narrative therapy.

In another class of mine, we’ve been learning how to utilise Michael White’s narrative therapy framework to tackle and come to understand one’s values. I believe this to be of significant importance; if we can understand our values, we can begin to understand why we think certain ways. In a lot of ways, I think this is a useful framework that compliments autoethnography to fight against what Ellis et al describe as a “white, masculine, heterosexual, middle/upper-classed, Christian, able-bodied perspective” (2011) in regards to traditional forms of research, or what we’ve come to accept as scientific objectivity. By bringing in an understanding of our values and acknowledging what those values are, we as autoethnogaphers can provide a more nuanced and accurate thick description.

In one of the previous weeks, I wrote about my experience with watching Otomo’s Akira. One of the things that I noted that stood out to me was the traits of toxic masculinity that I found within the two main male protagonists, Tetsuo and Kaneda. A scene I found particularly affective was when Tetsuo steals Kaneda’s bike, which results in both Tetsuo and Kaori (Tetsuo’s “love interest”; I think it’s a one-sided love) being brutally beaten by a rival bike gang. Although the onscreen violence was distressing, it was Tetsuo’s callous and seemingly unsympathetic nature towards Kaori’s bloody and beaten face that stood out for me. This callous nature of being unable to admit fault/help, underpinned by nuances of arrogance, a crumbling sense of self-worth and aggressive competition, are traits that I’ve learned to be associated with toxic masculinity.

To me, the defining moment of change within Akira is when Tetsuo finally calls out to Kaneda, pleading for help. Despite Tetsuo being at his most powerful state, an all consuming mass, he’s inversely at his weakest; being unable to control himself and witnessing the destruction of those he admits to having had loved by his own hands. It’s a moment where hubris is set aside, a momentary discarding of toxic masculinity, and it’s a moment where I felt sympathy for Tetsuo for the first time.

I believe these traits to be represented as toxic due to their intimate nature with the background of the story. In a lot of ways Akira seems to discuss the foalies of human hubris. Neo-Tokyo is a cesspool of destruction, rebellion, struggling independence and violence. The story, although revolving primarily around Tetsuo and Kaneda, sees government self-interest coming at odds with the oncoming destruction of Neo-Tokyo and its inhabitants. Inversely, it is only when Tetsuo discards his own hubris when the trajectory of the story changes from scenes of violence and a pervasive sense of destruction, to that of rehabilitation and healing.

By utilising the framework of narrative therapy, I’ve reinforced my own understanding of my opposition towards toxic masculinity through watching Akira, reflecting and writing about it. These scenes stood out to me particularly because I felt my values were affected, with said values being learned from my environment and upbringing. Are these attributes viewed as toxic masculinity in Japan, in the same way that I view them? As of writing this right now, I don’t know, and I think that’s important to note.

 

Keiden Cheung

 

References:

http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1589/3095

http://narrativepractices.com.au/attach/pdf/The_absent_but_implicit_-_A_map.pdf

 

We Talkin’ K-HipHop BABY – Week 5

I grew up in a very musical family, and have played music since I was 5. I started actively listening to music for leisure when I was about 16, and when I was about 20 I started listening to hip-hop. And I mean a lot of hip-hop. J.Cole, Drake, Jay-Z, Pusha T, Kendrick, Vince Staples; I was amazed by their lyricism, the message(s) they tell or don’t, the vivid imagery they can sculpt through words. And just how damn cool they sound whilst doing it. Around this time I discovered S.Korean artist Zion.T.

His smooth vocals and his sexy and funky RnB sensibilities really appealed to me, and it stood out amongst (at the time) a predominantly “plastic pop” sound of the famously more popular S.Korean Kpop artists at the time (talking Girl’s Generation, Big Bang and Wonder Girls). His sound was more in line with the Justin Timberlake’s of my preferred era of pop, which I link to my upbringing in Australia listening to the So Fresh Hits compilation albums of popular music from the early 2000’s (shout out to So Fresh tho).

I fell in love with KHipHop through discovering the South Korean talent show, Show Me The Money. It’s like X-Factor or American Idol, but for S.Korean rappers. I grew up watching talent/variety shows with my family (they’re super popular in China) and Show Me The Money resonated with me because of that. If anything, Show Me The Money is a culmination of my investments and interests in Asian media today as an Australian Born Chinese person; Asian representation within media, hip-hop, talent shows, and just really excellent music.

However, this is drawing an interesting conversation of culture and the ownership of culture. Keith Ape was accused of cultural appropriation in his viral hit song “It G Ma”, claiming it was appropriating black culture in the US.

And to be honest, those claims aren’t unfounded either. Cornrows/dreds, grills and ice (chains/bling) proliferate not only the music video of It G Ma, but of the hip-hop culture in S.Korea. Check out G2’s dreds that he’s quite infamous for:

One can push the argument further to say that the fact hip-hop exists and is being created in Korea is already a form of cultural appropriation too. The line between “cultural appropriation” and “cultural appreciation” is a murky one, and I’ll be honest, is not one I’m comfortably well-versed enough to answer. I doubt many are.

I don’t want to end on a note of “well we should all accept that transaction of culture is a great and beneficial thing for all of us” because I don’t believe that to be true, at least within the confines of how capitalism works. There are people and key stakeholders who gain from the transaction of culture, and not everyone is invited to have a slice of that pie’s profit. With hip-hop succeeding pop as the most consumed genre of music in the American charts for the first time ever in 2017, it’s not a surprise that it’s made waves in Asia. But out of that success, who are the ones to benefit from it? Has hip-hop transcended itself to be a cultural product beyond a single culture? I want to say yes. But I also acknowledge that I don’t have the right to.

 

Keiden Cheung

 

Akira – Week 3

Normally, I would spend the time writing about the film itself, but through an autoethnographic approach, I’ll instead be reflecting on thoughts I had whilst watching Akira in class this week. The reason I believe in autoethnography’s value is because the concept of “objectivity” is biased towards, as Ellis et al put it, “a White, masculine, heterosexual, middle/upper-classed, Christian, able-bodied perspective.” (Ellis et al 2011) No, the irony of the nuance in objectivity is not lost on me.

This is a tweet that I had made during our live-tweeting session watching Akira. As the tweet states, I was initially going to tweet about the appearance of toxic masculinity in Akira (notably Kaneda and Tetsuo); they refuse to call for help, they seldom show emotion (other than anger or pride) and they seemingly disregard women as anything more than objects and ego-boosters. But as I was tweeting I realised that “I” saw these traits as aggressive and toxic. By making this an “objective statement” that these traits are indeed an example of toxic masculinity, I’m disregarding the nuance of how my own experiences and beliefs have led me to this conclusion. My interactions and experiences living in the US have educated me in ideologies of feminism as an example, and this shapes my own understanding of what “toxic masculinity” is, and how it presents itself. And even then, I need to acknowledge that these ideologies that I’ve learnt about feminism come from a predominantly US, highly educated background; another important layer to take into account. Again, “objectivity” and even the word “scientific” for that matter, is biased towards a certain ideal. 

Another thing to note is that we watched Akira with the English dubs, as opposed to Japanese. I believe it’s worth noting due to the fundamental, structural differences between English and Japanese. As an example, Japanese uses honorifics when addressing people. These honorifics are incredibly nuanced and come in various forms, and they show differing levels of respect and acknowledgement from person to person. There’s no real equivalent in English. Titles like “Mr” or “Mrs” don’t convey the same detail and nuance that Japanese honorifics do, in the same way that Japanese honorifics can’t convey the same detail and nuance that “Mr” and “Mrs” do. Therefore I believe English-only speakers fundamentally cannot understand Akira in the same exact level of detail and nuance that a Japanese person can. Returning to my tweet about toxic masculinity, in the English dub I noted Kaneda and Tetsuo being quite brutish towards the female characters. With the lack of Japanese honorifics being utilised in English, it’s incredibly difficult to see just what kind of a relationship Kaneda and Tetsuo had towards the female characters, and even themselves.

 

Keiden Cheung

The Host – Week 1

For this week’s screening for BCM320 we watched S.Korean monster film the Host (dir. Bong, 2006).

During the actual screening of the Host I wasn’t sure how to feel about it. It was my first time seeing it, I’ve watched Korean content before and am used to watching movies with English subtitles (growing up as a first generation Australian Born Chinese person with English as their first language has made me accustomed to the English subtitling of non-English films), but the fact that it was a monster movie initially threw me off. I’ve never been a big fan of the monster genre; Godzilla and King Kong never really did it for me, and through these subpar experiences I fully acknowledge that I have certain prejudices against monster movies. However, my opinions and attitudes towards the Host changed positively when I noticed the central themes that run through the Host.

Some of the central themes that were explored in the Host that I responded positively to were themes of family, anti-authoritarian and anti-US imperialism. Being someone who has had the privilege of travelling to many various countries and having had the opportunity to live in a few of them in the past few years has made me more aware of the power, presence and responsibility of social/political/economical structures (authority) and the US (as the primary cultural authority in the “West”). Exposure to these experiences has developed my opinions about concepts such as authority and US imperialism, and I believe due to these experiences and personal values, I reacted more strongly to the themes of anti-authority and anti-US imperialism that were shown in the Host than perhaps some of the other audience members. I also noted that by having these strong reactions to these specific elements in the film, it drastically changed my perception and therefore overall experience of the film, luckily for me, for the better.

As an Asian-Australian watching the Host (a South Korean film), I couldn’t help but think that my responses to watching the film would be intrinsically different to many of my classmates. In what specific ways were my responses different? That’s harder to ascertain without having had the opportunity of interviewing my classmates. I would presume that perhaps my sympathies lying towards the family is nuanced by the connection that I share with these characters; namely that we are Asian. I want to acknowledge that in no way am I saying that my classmates weren’t sympathetic to these characters, but rather my sympathies are also contextually layered with an understanding that these characters are Asian, like myself.

The live-tweeting whilst watching a movie for the first time was an interesting experience, especially since I don’t understand Korean and time spent looking at my phone tweeting, was time not spent reading English subtitles. In a lot of ways I felt live-tweeting broke the suspension of disbelief within the movie, because my mind was constantly jumping between tweeting and watching the Host. However, I found that live-tweeting also made the act of watching the Host a more critical experience. I found I was more aware of central themes, and found that my critical thinking and analysis skills were significantly more active than when I’m watching a movie in a dark cinema. I believe that this congnisance was due to not only my own tweeting, but also due to engaging with other audience member’s thoughts and opinions on the Host. That in itself made for an enjoyable yet interesting experience. When I watch a movie, I always treat it as quite a personal experience, even when watching it at the cinemas with friends. But by having the addition of live-tweeting, it transformed this independent/private activity to a quasi-social activity; you had the option to engage should you desire, but you also had the option to sit and enjoy the movie in solitude and silence. I think it’s important to acknowledge that we were live-tweeting whilst watching the Host, because I think that contributes and changes our perception of the movie.

 

Keiden Cheung