Please click this link to view our slides:
Week 11 Group:
Brittany Berry and Laine McGoldrick
Please click this link to view our slides:
Week 11 Group:
Brittany Berry and Laine McGoldrick
For our final viewing in BCM320, we watched Hi Score Girl, 2018. Hi Score Girl is a Japanese anime based on the manga of the same name by Oshikiri Rensuke. Hi Score Girl was my first experience with anime and not being used to the genre definitely had an effect on the way I engaged with the series and what I was able to take from it.
From the beginning, I found the tone of Hi Score Girl to be quite abrupt and difficult to ‘enjoy’. I believe that those people more familiar with anime and gaming would have enjoyed for the references and nods to different games. However, since most of this went over my head I found myself focusing more heavily on what was being said and the tone of the characters. Through my research in previous weeks, I can attribute this to the influence of my personal and cultural perspectives. Japan is a high context collectivist culture which poses stark contrasts to the traditionally low context culture that I have grown up in. A common feature of low context cultures is a heavier emphasis on what is actually being said and communicated rather than what is communicated through hand gestures and body language (Hall, 1989). Because of this, I paid more attention to the dynamic between the two main characters, Haruo and Akira. I was also drawn to question the significance behind why, Akira the female character, never spoke or responded in dialogue scenes.
I found that High Score Girl relied heavily on gender stereotypes, which was illustrated in one of the first scenes where Haruo assumes that Akira cannot be good at video games because she is both wealthy and a girl. The quote “She’s not the kind of girl that comes here”, by Haruo highlights this idea.
The meek and quiet nature of Akira was stark in contrast to the bursts of aggression and violence she would have throughout the episodes. However, the whole time the character remained silent. Through further research I found that this is a common theme in Anime, which I was previously unaware of. A blog by Lindwasser (2020) highlights the commonality of quiet, non speaking characters in anime, suggesting that it does not represent weakness but rather their strength through silence. This was an interesting theory as my personal perspective was that it made the character seem weak and passive. Deverell (2018) states that on-screen characterisations certainly hold psychological weight for the viewer, and I believe this statement perfectly explains the varying ways our personal perspectives influence or responses to content and film.
While the intended character portrayal may be different than how I interpreted it, Deverell (2018) also states that female roles in anime tend to fall into two main stereotypes: weak, meek, shy and pure, or the excessively dominant, angry warrior woman. In my opinion, Akira exists within both of these roles. A lack of character diversity or depth, especially when concentrated within one genre, can be harmful to the way the content is interpreted by the viewer. Sweeping character generalisations reinforce both gender stereotypes and the portrayal of one dimensional characters. It is important to acknowledge that while this may not have been the intention with Hi Score Girl, viewers can interpret it in this way.
However, viewing anime as one oversimplified characterisation is a restrictive way to understand it. I can maintain a critical gaze of the show and still acknowledge that in anime more broadly, women are also often portrayed as some of the most powerful characters in the genre (Ashford, S. 2018). Throughout this subject we have learnt that culture influences perspective, so having no prior experience with or understanding of anime certainly impacts my perspective and what I take from the genre at first look.
However, through further research I have found that anime characters are often more nuanced than the more generalised picture that is often painted of the genre. If you look past anime stereotyping (childish, over-sexualisation, gender stereotypical), then it is clear that an abundance of female characters exist within the genre in empowering roles. The silent female trope is dangerous and outdated, however, this is not true of all anime representations of women and characters.
Ashford, S. 2018. ‘ 25 of the most powerful women in anime’. https://www.cbr.com/most-powerful-women-in-anime/
Deverell, G 2018, The Power Of Identity: Women In Anime, online, Graphite Publications, available at: <https://graphitepublications.com/the-power-of-identity-women-in-anime/>
Hall, E. 1989. ‘Beyond Culture’. https://books.google.com.au/books/about/Beyond_Culture.html?id=reByw3FWVWsC
Lindwasser, 2020. ’17 Anime Characters who prove you should fear the quiet ones’. https://www.ranker.com/list/strong-but-silent-anime-characters/anna-lindwasser
This week we viewed Furie (2019), a Vietnamese action film that follows a woman on her fight to find her daughter after she was kidnapped by human traffickers. Furie had an intensity that I was not expecting and made me better understand the universal appeal of Vietnamese cinema and martial arts films. I found that Furie’s story line wasn’t dissimilar to those commonly featured in Western cinema, but was also packed with the perfect mix of action, comedy and plot strength. In my opinion, the plot resembled Taken, which is possibly part of the reason I was able to engage with it so easily. It was also easy to engage with because of its fast pace and action scenes which generate interest.
However, what stood out to me most about the film was the social and cultural significance of the strong female role. Through the tweeting experience I was able to see that this stood out to other people as well. It was very clear that women were in charge in this film, which is not very common of Vietnamese cinema or action/ martial arts movies more broadly. The film portrays women as multi-dimensional characters in a male driven genre. An analysis of 2000 screenplays reported that 75% of screenplays give most of the dialogue to men, while a 2014 study reported that 2.3 men appear on screen for every 1 woman (Anderson & Daniels, 2016). These statistics highlight the importance of movies such as Furie, as they encourage women to hold more important and strong roles in film.
It has been 35 years since the Law on Equal Opportunities for Employment of Women and Men was enacted in 1985 in Japan, but sociocultural norms and beliefs in gender roles are still deeply rooted in all aspects of Japanese culture (Edwards, 1988). For this reason, roles that place women at the centre of film are so valuable in their ability to actively challenge sociocultural norms.
For these reasons, I think that the most compelling aspect of the main character’s story was her depth and that she did not exist within the story merely as a trope. Hai is definitely the star of the show, and while we do see the detective’s strength in the fight scenes there is never a shift in the power dynamic. This shows that she doesn’t need to be saved by a man, which is a common storyline in most action films. The depth of character was perfectly expressed through the balance between Hai’s love for her daughter, determination to find her and also through her physical strength displayed fight scenes.
The multi-dimensional nature of the character is highlighted in the following stills from the film:
This film challenged my assumptions about martial arts films in its ability to showcase a rich protagonist, seamless transitioning between emotional moments and impressive feats of physical strength. All of these aspects combined to make a unique film that challenged traditional film story lines. Furie invites future films to look beyond their traditional stereotypes and create more compelling stories.
I think this film is very valuable in showing the strength of women and mothers and actively challenges the passivity that is common to many female characters. I believe that my own personal perceptions around film and value for female driven content is crucial to how I have viewed Furie. In turn, this film was pivotal in shaping the way that I view martial arts films more broadly.
Anderson, H and Daniels, M. April 2016. ‘FIlm Dialogue from 2,000 screenplays, Broken Down by Gender and Age’. https://pudding.cool/2017/03/film-dialogue/index.html
Edwards, L. 1988. ‘Equal Employment Opportunity in Japan: A View from the West’, ILR Review
In week 3, we viewed a Pakistani film called ‘Cake’ that focused heavily on family structures and culture. I found that my attitude towards the film and what it was portraying developed over time as the story also continued to develop.
One aspect of the film that stood out to me was the importance placed on family and collectivism. Hall’s concept of high versus low context cultures forms a significant part of my understanding of Asian cultures. Cake exhibited communication through its contextual elements such as body language, social status and tone of voice. This is in contrast to low context cultures where communication is transmitted mainly through language and is explicitly spelt out. Two of the most relevant aspects of high context culture to this film were that they often place great emphasis on interpersonal relationships; the preferred way of solving problems and learning is in groups and that more often than not, the situation, people, and non-verbal elements are more important than the actual words that are communicated (Hall, 1976). Distinctive aspects of the film included the centrality of family and relationships to the plot and the influence of status and social standing. This was particularly evident in scenes like where the two sisters stated that they shouldn’t be smoking and it was positioned as being beneath them and the influence of the caste system.
Making these distinctions was important to me as it helped to explain why I felt lost at points in the movie, or that it was slow moving and not as easily followed as typical plots in Western cinema. These factors really highlighted the influence of my own cultural norms and understanding on my ability to read and interpret texts and media. It is something that I will continue to keep in mind as I further develop my skills around media ethnography as it is always important to the process to identify bias and challenge assumptions.
The film challenged my beliefs in the way it looked at gender and the roles of women. Initially, I found it difficult to engage with as I was angered by the way certain characters referred to women or the social expectations that were presented in relation to women. Some lines included referring to a woman’s ‘expiry date’ with regards to having children, and the constant pressure of the main character to have children. This view is seen in my tweet below:
However, through further analysis and secondary research I found that Cake inherently challenged these concepts that it was exploring. This made me challenge my assumptions and recognise that simply exploring or portraying those types of beliefs does not meant that they are endorsing them. The overall strength of the female protagonists inherently challenged these beliefs. The Guardian called the film “expansive in its attitudes” and BBC News said it was “likely to set a trend for more diverse storytelling in the country”(McCahill, 2018, Kessler, 2019). I was intrigued by these statements as strong female leads are a trend in Western cinema, but through further research I found that movies produced in Pakistan don’t typically feature female protagonists. Pakistan is traditionally a patriarchal, hyper masculine society (Saleem, 2019). Cake challenges this norm and encourages a broader more inclusive way of looking at both society and the roles of women. Through these findings, I also found that I respected the film more as a result. This solidified the belief that it often takes personal connection to unlock our interest in another country’s nuances.From my experience in analysing and responding to ‘Cake’, I belief this to be true and will actively try to combat it in future studies and ethnographical research.
Hall, E.T. 1976. ‘Beyond Culture’, Viewed 20 August.
Kessler, S. February 2019, ‘Transcending Toxic Masculinity and Breaking All the Rules in Pakistan’s Hit Film ‘Cake’.
Saleem, S. October 2019, Patriarchy in Pakistan.
McCahill, M. March 2018. ‘Cake review – Karachi sister act ditches melodrama for real life’ in The Guardian.
‘Love for Sale’ is an Indonesian film released in 2018. The film follows the story of Richard (Gading Marten), a middle aged man trying to find a woman to be his date to a wedding. Desperate, Richard decides to reach out to ‘Love Incorporated’, an online platform which promises love and will find him a date, for a price.
The main thing I noticed from this film was the vast differences that exist between my own culture and the culture portrayed in the film. I am Australian, of British heritage, and so my experiences are based heavily on Western culture and living in Australia. While I try to actively challenge my perspectives and develop my understanding of life experiences different to my own, this was my first time watching Indonesian cinema. Because of this unfamiliarity, I think I experienced some level of disconnect with the film. However, this disconnect is in part caused by my inability to relate to the character or his story on a personal level. One thing that resonated with me this week was that it often takes personal connection to unlock interest in another country’s nuances. While I believe that this shouldn’t be the case I can acknowledge that it is in my experience with this film. I also think that by acknowledging one’s own shortcomings we are better equipped to correct them in the future and to see beyond our own experiences.
I believe that the film should be appreciated for the successful use of character development. In this process, Richard learns to love and be more open and it could also be inferred that Arini has changed him for the better. However, the nature of their transactional relationship made the character developments seem more superficial to me. This is mainly because Richard was provided with a paid service and so the ideas that he could actually fall in love and believe that she might stay with him, made me see the character as gullible. The tweeting process during this screening was useful as it highlighted the varying influences everyone’s personal and cultural experiences have on their perceptions and interaction with the film. I believe my personal/cultural experiences made me feel disconnect towards the film as I didn’t like the characters intentions.
Some examples of different reactions to the film:
To me, noticing these differences illustrated Ellis’s (2011) view that personal perspective is both the process and product. I believe people can look at other cultures and experiences with the intention to learn and expand their own understanding. However, I agree with Ellis that the process of acculturation means that your own personal perspectives will always partly inform your views, interactions and reactions. This means that the way I viewed ‘Love for Sale’ and what I was able to take away from the film is different to the person next to me and theirs different from the person next to them. At its core, I think this explains ethnographic research perfectly, because we do not have one shared personal perspective and therefore there is no one shared cultural perspective either. Ellis et al (2011) stated that “different kinds of people possess different assumptions about the world—a multitude of ways of speaking, writing, valuing and believing”. I found this reading to be useful because it showed the beauty in different experiences and that there is no right or wrong way to view, interact with and appreciate a text.
Ellis, Adams & Bochner, 2011. ‘Autoethnography: An Overview’ , https://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1589/3095
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