Author: lf445

WHY AM I LIKE THIS?

After watching the first couple of episodes of any television show, I will usually make the decision to continue watching the show, or remove it from my Netflix list and never think about it again. Unfortunately, for Terrace House, the latter happened. And it has also been quite a while since watching the show. Whilst remembering what I thought about the show, I’ve somehow forgotten what I actually witnessed. University and an excessive amount of alcohol will do that to you I guess (also a large amount of procrastination, lol help).

Now, Ellis et al defines epiphanies as “remembered moments perceived to have significantly impacted the trajectory of a person’s life, times of existential crises that forced a person to attend to and analyse lived experience, and events after which life does not seem quite the same”. This definition is quite intense, yet there are definitely moments in my reaction to Terrace House that made me think differently about Japanese culture.

Terrace House: Boys & Girls in the City (テラスハウス ボーイズ&ガールズ イン・ザ・シティ) is a Japanese reality television series. It premiered on Netflix as an original in September 2015. Basically, people that are just like you and me are literally just thrust into a position where they need to live together. To be completely honest with you, just seeing people live their lives seems quite boring to me – I mean, if I wanted to do that, I’d go upstairs and sit with my family every once in a while, right?

 

I made it clear in my video response to the show that I had never seen an Asian show before Bianca introduced me to Terrace House months ago. Although watching Terrace House: Aloha State was quite a different experience to Boys and Girls in the City, as it was set in Hawaii, and some of the people involved were mainly American students. This meant that much of the show was westernised and easy to understand. While watching Boys and Girls in the City, the culture was extremely different to shows I am used to watching.

My personal understanding of reality television (I made this very clear in the video, a little too clear maybe, oops) made me believe that reality television is all about drama and winning a competition. I believe that Australia (and other westernised shows) has a large focus on the drama in a reality show due to the issue of ratings. I also believed that although the reassurance from the ‘commentators’ that the members of the house didn’t have scripts, it felt painstakingly scripted and to be fair – all around boring. I dismissed Terrace House as purely cultural tourism, but I didn’t really understand at first what the show did that set it apart from others of its kind.

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“In a reality TV landscape cluttered by fame, hungry pseudo-human caricatures, Terrace House stands alone by simply letting actual humans be delightfully, heartbreakingly human.”

Although there isn’t a large amount of drama in the show and the conflicts are on a much smaller scale, it is to my belief that the Japanese culture would react to this show much better than I did. Since watching the show, and conducting some research, I learned that the Japanese are generalised as being quite polite, and this is also expressed in their body language. An example of this is in the second episode when there are quite extensive scenes dedicated to resolving issues calmly, such as the issue of unwashed dishes.

Justin McElroy coined an article for Polygon that explored the differences between American Reality TV and Terrace House, claiming that reality aims at perverting people “into creatures of perfect ambition, whose every move is a calculated step towards getting what they’re after. Terrace House shows people as they are, big, dumb wads of conflicting, unexamined emotions just trying to get by.”

Although I believe this to be true, I am also fully understanding to the fact that the Japanese are generally quite polite, genuine and friendly people. Instead of blowing up over unwashed dishes, they will clean the house, and resolve the conflict in a mature and adult manner.

I definitely lack the cultural familiarity that is required to 100% understand Terrace House: Boys and Girls in the City, yet I can appreciate the traits in some of the cast, such as impulsivity, compassion and the sense of realness that is portrayed.

The show’s cultural differences are large, and one that I realise now that I don’t think I did before is the fact that it takes several episodes for there to be any kind of physical contact between any romantic partners. There are dates, the girls help each other get ready, yet the physical connections aren’t there. This show is a large view into Japanese culture and how it perceives itself, yet it is nothing that I am used to having on my television screen. I believe that now, I know what it’s like if I were to ever come into contact with Japanese people, it’s a truly refreshing look at the world.

I believe that Terrace House: Boys and Girls in the City is an accurate portrayal of young, modern, Japanese people and how they live their lives: chasing ambitions and dating people that may lead to something more, but generally just fizzle. There’s also laundry responsibilities, so that’s fun too.

Apparently I’ve already conducted autoethography… who knew?

So I’m not going to lie to you here, writing blog posts in which I have to understand and reiterate my understanding of a concept or reading… well they scare the living heck out of me. I’ve always got the thought in my mind that… what if I understand it wrong and everything I’ve written is just messy and no one understands and oh god what have I done? Yet, the due date is looming so here we go.

Autoethnography. Not a new concept I’ve come into contact with. (That’ll happen when you’re in your fourth year of study). Through the years, the idea of reflecting through blog posts and researching has woven itself through my study. Deciphering this reading and trying to wrap my head around the content was surprising to me in the fact that it was much simpler to understand than I had previously thought. I have always understood the fact that everything I take in and all my beliefs are due to my upbringing and my background. Yet, it was quite jarring to understand that the way I react to certain cultures is also because of my own cultural context.

“Autoethnography is an approach to research and writing that seeks to describe and systematically analyze (graphy) personal experience (auto) in order to understand cultural experience (ethno)” – (Ellis et al. 2011)

I personally understand autoethnography to be a form of qualitative research where the author immerses themselves and uses self-reflection to explore their personal experience. Though, I don’t believe it stops there. To really understand autoethnographic research, it is vital to connect the first reaction or reflection to a wider understanding, such as cultural, political or just social background. This form of research formulates personal connections between the researcher and the text, but then allows them to think about the text and themselves in a wider context. I believe that this type of research can be extremely rewarding, but it doesn’t mean that academic research isn’t also critical.

It also makes you wonder – you’ve probably been conducting some type of autoethnographic research at some level all your life. We’ve undergone new cultural experiences many times in our lives. Having digested this reading made me understand that without even knowing it, I was conducting autoethnographic research on my trip to Europe earlier this year. This was done through the use of video blogging (vlogging) where I documented my trip, my experience with new cultures and foods and many of the wonders of Europe. (I was really getting a head start on all this autoethnography business, so go me).

I believe that the issue of reflexivity is highly important when it comes to these studies. We need to understand ourselves and our own personal framework and how our own bias will enable us to understand and reflect on our autoethnographic research. I know 100% that my Italian background makes engaging with other cultures, such as Asian cultures different to those who are exposed to similar cultures.

My best friend is Vietnamese and it’s through her and her family that I have had the chance to be exposed to a lot more Asian media and customs than I would have been exposed to if we hadn’t become friends in High School. I remember once, she got be a Japanese Candy Kit (this one in particular was called Kracie Happy Kitchen), where you mix powder and water together and it makes mini food! I was honestly amazed. It tasted like an actual burger!! What the heck! I had never been exposed to this kind of thing before. Italians only had pasta and home made focaccia (hello, I was not complaining) but I was honestly amazed by this little contraption and wanted more.

I’m so excited to explore more into Asian Cultures. I am excited to create short videos of myself reacting to the types of products like the ones above, but also beauty related products such as the bubble mask (how cool!!). I think that Asian cultures can come up with a lot of cool products and I am definitely keen to check them out!

An ethnic’s realisation that she doesn’t know much about anything, especially Godzilla

Memories of my childhood include sitting on the floor of my Nonna and Nonno’s place, attempting to interpret the classic Italian film ‘La Dolce Vita’, or watching RAI Italia and completely zoning out due to having no clue what’s going on. Throughout my life, this kind of experience had been the extent of which I had been exposed to foreign films. These experiences with my Italian family are memories that I hold dear and believe shape the beliefs I have today.

Yesterday, I experienced a Japanese film for the first time.

I went into class not knowing anything about the Godzilla films at all, let alone Japanese films. Yet I came out of the experience mildly confused but extremely intrigued. I should be completely honest here too, realising I was going into class to watch a 1950’s Asian film at the beginning of the semester didn’t make me too excited, and why was this? Is it purely because I’m not exposed to other movies of this genre? Or I am exposed to this media, yet have really felt the urge to indulge?

As the movie began, and the live tweeting process was underway I noticed a few things that were different to the movies I usually watch. The over-dramatic acting was something we’re not used to in Westernised media and movies. Although this was weird to experience, it was understandable as it was a movie created in the 50s, and with little to no CGI enhancements, reacting to the monster ‘Godzilla’ was quite over the top.

The transitions between scenes were also quite dated, reminding me of the transitions between powerpoint slides back in the day when funky powerpoint slides gave you +10 marks for your presentation.

Something that was also surprising to encounter and also quite uncomfortable and awkward to experience was the lack of sound in some of the scenes. Why were there no ambient sounds? Why was there no bubbling when they were underwater at the end? I was truly thankful to the live-tweeting as the typing made up for the awkward silences.

I’m going to be quite honest with you. I had no idea that this Godzilla film had any relation to what Japan went through post WWII. And other than general knowledge, I haven’t actually been exposed to much of Japan’s history. I gave up History as soon as I could in High School – I was not a fan. I study Speech and Drama out of uni and once had to study a poem named ‘No More Hiroshimas’ by James Kirkup. The poem explores a town in Japan following the horrors that unfolded the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The final two stanzas of the poem are as follows:

The other relics:

The ones that made me weep;

The bits of burnt clothing,

The stopped watches, the torn shirts.

The twisted buttons,

The stained and tattered vests and drawers,

The ripped kimonos and charred boots,

The white blouse polka-dotted with atomic rain, indelible,

The cotton summer pants the blasted boys crawled home in, to bleed

And slowly to die.

Remember only these.

They are the memorials we need.

After watching Godzilla, the parallels between post WWII and the movie soon unfolded, with the symbolism of power being quite clear throughout the movie and especially in the ending. Unfortunately, I believe if it weren’t for the experience of studying the poem, I wouldn’t have put together that Godzilla was representing the trauma that Japan as a country dealt with after the war.

Not only the metaphor, but the make of the film in general was definitely a worthwhile experience, and being 100% honest, I believe that if it weren’t for taking the Digital Asia class, I probably would have never exposed myself to this type of media. It’s really opened my eyes to the differences in culture and what I’ve been taught through the westernised media that I’ve grown up and am fond of watching. It’s definitely opened me up to being excited for more experiences throughout the Digital Asia subject.