Jess, Nicole and Sara.
I haven’t spent a great deal of time on reflecting back fourth on the auto-ethnographic literature within my blogs. That’s why I’ve decided to write my final blog on the academic writings of auto-ethnographic study and how this specifically ties into my research on Asian horror.
Ellis and Adams et.al, describes auto-ethnography as, “an approach to research and writing that seeks to describe and systematically analyse personal experience in order to understand cultural experience” (Ellis, Adams et al, 2011). Asian horror was far out of my element when I first approached the topic as is any researcher when confronting a fresh topic. I initially thought the experience of Asian horror would only be tailored into my feelings and emotions whilst watching their films. This was apparent when reflecting on the literature and cinematic structures, however after delving further into the genre, its adaptations into Western cinema and realising my own critical analysis, I began to see the depth to my auto-ethnographic analysis.
A strong critique of mine in relation to film, television and theatre is how are the females being represented? Is it strong, is it undermining, does it fit another devaluing stereotype? Since a large area of my knowledge focuses on this industry and a great deal of my interests are in reshaping images of women into a powerful status rather than an overlooked component to the structure, I began to see extensive elements of this in Asian horror. Ellis and Adams et al (2011) refers to this section in auto-ethnography where the researcher recognises the truth to the narrative. The truth to the narrative lies in how one inadvertently responds to the text. My experience with Asian horror grew stronger after focussing further into Japanese film. In particular with Ringu, after watching all three films, I felt a connection to the text based on the female emphasis with antagonist Sadako. Sadako’s story is full of substance, pain, persona and vulnerability. Sadako however is the villain, yet conveys more context than her victims. Her role is powerful and dictator like, retracting from any potential domination from the opposite sex.
It’s rare to find this amongst the film industry especially in the role of a villain. There is a humility to Sadako’s character and tends to my experience as a researcher where the representation of females with a painful past return with power, authority, status and of course revenge. It is a common theme through the genre where women are cast in the role of the antagonist, which sparks a large difference to the western market of cinema.
My auto-ethnographic experience of Asian horror has surprisingly been through my strong opinions on female representation and passion towards eliminating stereotypes of women in weakened roles within the film industry.
Ellis, C., Adams, T.E., A.P Boechner 2011, “Autoethnography and investigating the production, consumption and circulation of Asian digital media” in “Autoethnography: An Overview”, in Forum:
Qualitative Social Research,
< http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1589/3095 >
Throughout the duration of my research and analysis of Asian horror, the literature always turns back to inspirations and influences from Japan. Japan’s characterisation of horror is mainly engrained in the tales and history disconnected from the contemporary culture we see now. Therefore it’s understandable the market for horror cinema in Asia turns to Japan for its inspirations in creating an ideal performance for the genre.
What I love most about Asian horror is the representation of females. Too often is there a portrayal of females as the damsel in distress, holding no authority in the scene or a domination of the script. Within the genre that sees a perspective rarely tailored to the villains but rather providing more substance to the victims and their survival, its refreshing to see a flip of roles within J-horror.
Japan’s implementation of traditional narratives within a contemporary film setting, enhances the fear attached to these old tales of vengeful spirits. The common narrative we see in such horror is the “innocent women who are victimised and brutally murdered by men” (Valerie, W, p.30). I find it interesting to see a representation of a severe social issue such as domestic violence in the genre of horror due to the silence it endures in other contexts. The topic is implemented into the art of performance and translating the grotesque effects into a film that does not censor the realities of the issue.
Japanese horror cinema seems to be the inspirations for other asian films especially in Thailand and Hong Kong with obvious extensions to the Western world. Adaptations of J-horror into American films can be an effective tool to communicate an ancient culture’s tales by means more understandable to audiences disconnected to the Asian continent. Whether it is effectively accomplished is in consumer’s interests which I find to be a polarising aspect to the discussion.
Wee, V 2014, “Japanese horror films and their american remakes: translating fear, adapting culture”, in Routledge Advances in Film Studies, Volume 27.
As I explore further into the region of Asia and its cinematic variations, it always surprises me that such a vast continent can contain even smaller components with a deeper context than expected. Hong Kong, a small city hanging on the coast of China seems to be on the surface as a pin in a haystack. When I travelled to Hong Kong at 14, I remember feeling so stunned at the fact that such a small component of Asia held an immense amount diversity and culture. It always grounds me to realise how extensive a space can be despite its limits. Hong Kong is a strong representative of this.
Hong Kong’s film industry has reformed its productions to tailor interest on an international scale. It’s interest in expanding beyond its parameters for film came after the immense success of Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon in the Western market. The quality of Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon is in the traditional beauty of an ancient culture held within the framework that communicates its significance across multiple audiences. To accomplish this for horror films proves to be far more challenging with films usually seeing an American adaptation rather than a distribution in its original form.
Inner Senses finds an effective balance of traditional elements that inspire East Asian horror films by incorporating aspects reflective of memorable American horror. Inner Senses (2002) is recognised by Jinhee Choi and Mitsuyo Wada Marciano (2009) as having numerous connections to Japanese traditional ghost tales and the original story lines formulated within American films such as The Sixth Sense. Choi and Marciano analyse these cinematic structures as being due to Hong Kong production company Filmko aiming distribute films through “global themed productions and co-productions” (2011, p.59). Furthermore they establish that Hong Kong films contain a trend of combining “localised variations on Hollywood hits” (Choi and Marciano, 2011 p.60).
Inner Senses is an interesting example for Hong Kong’s submission to the horror genre as it breaks the trend of American adaptations with instead a reversal where we see the Asia taking a note out of Hollywood’s books.
Choi J, M.W Marciano 2009, “Horror to the extreme: Changing boundaries in Asian Cinema” in Hong Kong University Press, pp.57-70.
Throughout my research on Asian horror, a common theme is the role of women and the shift of gender roles in a genre usually tailored to male dominance. The female role in Asian horror films is representative of a time that contained a great deal of stress and tragedy for women due to the Asiatic economic crisis which impacted Thailand, Indonesia, South Korea, Singapore and the Philippines (Lee, 2011, p.2). Korean horror films began using female ghosts as a representation of current social problems and as a communicative tool for audiences.
The use of female ghosts to convey economic difficulties and its harsh impact on women gives a strong empowerment to the characters and their motives. I’ve always been a strong promoter of using performance and story telling to communicate global social inequalities whether it be through dramatic text or comedy. A strong element to these story lines that are tailored to women are that of revenge after a horrific attack. The beauty of Asian horror is the human qualities given to the villain. Their context and history are what inform their presence in the performance and as a theatre performer, this is a notion I find extremely valuable to the art.
The characterisation of a ghost within the horror genre as opposed to an overt representation of a dehumanised axe weilding murderer, gives a stronger connection between the audience and the story. The role of women in Asian horror are of humanistic elements and convey to the audience an almost relatable tone due to their history, therefore enabling the audience to connect with the villain rather than the victim. This facet of Asian horror is so rare to find amongst the genre, which is explainable as to the popularity and constant adaptation of it’s cinematic elements.
Asiatic experiences in economic distress found its way to the story lines of its cinemas with the enhanced history of traditional tales. Can the experience of an economic crises within such films encourage discussion on the topic of depression and domestic violence? A common theme amongst the genre along with the supernatural components may be an effective means of communicating social issues to audiences engrained with the horror experience.
My emotions when watching Ju-on (The Grudge) was the sympathy felt for the females distress in an abusive relationship that tragically results in her and her son’s death. My friend watching the film with me automatically brought up how the sad the story really was and that it goes far deeper than what we initially think.
I once again find myself surprised by the exhaustive depths and analysis that is warranted to Asia’s horror cinema.
Lee, H 2011, “Modernity, Gender Politics and the New Asian Female Ghost Films” in International Communication Association, pp.1-20.
Since the rise of Japanese horror, it has become a common form of adaptation in within the American film industry, leaving behind the explicit nature of blood and gore to a portrayal dependent upon presence, silences and relevant fears. Eimi Ozawa (2006) evaluates that the primary effect of Japanese horror is its “unique aesthetics” and ability to “frighten audiences through ambiguities and implications, effects and silences” (Ozawa 2006, p.2). The form and framework of Japanese horror has thrived in its use of history and context to tell a deeper story of its villains rather than the victims. Is this conveyed through the American adaptation though?
America’s adaptation of Ringu/The Ring tells the story of Sadako as a young child rather than a mature 18-year old woman. The Ring draws it’s attention towards the technological aspect of horror where Samara appears at the end with a static hologram presence. Ringu’s introduction of Sadako in the frightening final scene, presents the character in complete humanistic form. My experience from watching both films perceives a clutter of effects within Samara’s climatic scene at the end. From performance we are constantly reminded to ensure our production is busy with creativity, however not so much where it’s a clutter of content. When there is a clutter it detracts from the concept of simplicity and with the comparison to Sadako in Ringu, it’s understandable to see the exgaerration of special effects within The Ring.
An important factor of the discussion, is the origins of Sadako’s performance. Japanese horror’s use of female ghosts is exemplary of the avant-garde dance performance style, “Ankokuh Butoh” dance (Ozawa 2006, p.4). Jean Viala describes the dance as enabling the body to “speak for itself” (Viala in Ozawa 2006, p.4). The dance takes the body and emulates it “into other creatures ot materials, such as insects, ghosts, animals, smoke or dust” (Ozawa, p.6).
Such inspirations for a frightening impact on audiences is no where apparent within the American adaptation. We see no attempt of a remix in Sadako’s performance asides from the fearful image of ghost children. In order to re-create or adapte a piece of work, producers must remain respectful of the inspirations and origination of the intended performance. In theatre we are often taught the basis of adaptation is in the remix of the original works inspirations in order to build upon and create a different experience. From my experience this was no where to be found in America’s take of Ringu due to Samara’s final scene presenting limited originality or a consideration of providing a strong performance through presence and movement.
Take a look at the differences in the video below and post your thoughts.
Ozawa, E 2006, “Remaking Corporeality and spatiality: US adaptations of Japanese Horror Films” in Forty Ninth Parallel Journals
This week’s focus of peripheral groups was hard for me to explore. The idea of periphery was so broad I began doing what I usually do and that’s over analyse, over think and come to the conclusion that I’ve completely failed in my attempts to understand Digital Asia and I should leave Uni forever and forget about the entire concept of periphery. Okay maybe I didn’t go to that extent but it was daunting for me to draw my attention away from the Ringu franchise and attempt to grasp an entirely new Asian culture.
Instead of doing the norm of film, music, fashion or video games, I found solace in comedy. I decided to look back on Russell Peters. Russell Peters is born and raised in Canada but is of Indian heritage. His comedy is also in relation to his heritage and his experiences of being an Indian growing up in Canada and the bullying he faced.
I found most of my access to Russell Peters through Youtube only. Considering it’s the primary platform for connecting or gaining an audience worldwide, it would only seem appropriate that the majority of Peter’s material is found on Youtube.
Peter’s act, “Race and Culture” addresses the topic of being of a certain racial heritage but having no connection to their culture. He says, “I was born and raised in Canada, there’s nothing Indian about me.” This statement stuck to me as it’s something I can relate to. I was born and raised in Australia; however my heritage is Aboriginal and Pakistani. While I have a strong connection to my Indigenous culture and identity, it does not translate the same to my Pakistani background. I have knowledge and experience when it comes to Pakistan but my culture is not Pakistani, it is Australian.
Russell Peter’s comedy is an effective use of communicating the sensitive issue of race, especially being of a racial background that is a minority in western nations. Peripheral groups in digital Asia have an interesting platform when it comes to communicating personal experience and understanding their position and influence in Asian media. Russell Peters is a fine example of utilising experience to confront sensitive social issues in a form that both entertains and educates. I found myself connecting and relating to so many of his acts and finding comfort in the many similarities I shared in the stories he tells. Especially when it comes to comparing Asian parenting styles to Anglo Celtic.
Peter, 2012, “Russel Peter – Race and Culture”, online video, January 2012, Youtube, viewed 25 August 2014, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UPq34GVSuFE
From my field of study the antagonist, Sadako Yamamura is the celebrity of the Japanese horror franchise, Ringu. The first free films contain only representations of an evil Sada, capable of only inhibiting fear, destruction and death. However, the fourth and final instalment provides a prequel to the story of Sadako, therefore enabling the viewer to engage on a deeper level with this character that has been franchised and sensationalised in the previous films.
In tutorials we discussed the real face of celebrities or how they present their public self. I found the character of Sadako more interesting than any other celebrities, I decided to focus on her and the wave of popularity that hit after the franchise. I guess you find a public self in their representations outside of the fiction they’re cast in. Sadako’s character can now be seen in an array of television and online pranks.
Some of these pranks are quite generic or expected where they have an Sadako imitator standing in the hallway of an apartment block or even more terrifying, in the middle of a dark, quiet road where drivers are confronted with their worst late night fear. Others however, show Sadako, on the online video chat site, “omegle” slowly addressing the camera. Viewers are terrified and immediately switch to the next camera. However other’s that continue watching are eventually presented with a Sadako busting out some moves to Korean pop song, “Gangnam Style”.
Taking a character, famous for being the antagonist and creating a comedic element to a villain in the public eye, is popular in amongst Japanese television prank shows. After witnessing the fearful representation of Sadako in the Ringu series, I found it uncomfortably humorous watching her character in these prank shows. The white dress and long dark hair is always a frightening image especially since being pertained to Japanese ghost stories, I will never find peace when staring at Sadako. However, the adaptation of her in reality television through pranks, provides the consumer a laugh and a healthy scare.
Ringu, 1998, DVD, Toho Company LTD, Japan, Directed by Hideo Nakata
I’m Sara and running late to the introductory posts, so apologies on that one!
I’m a fourth year student studying a double degree of BCM majoring in International media and Bachelor of Creative Arts majoring in theatre. I’m not going to pretend and behave as if I understand this subject because quite frankly it’s the only subject I’ve encountered where I properly feel intimidated by the content and the digital tools required to present our work and content. This is my first semester doing digital subjects so it’s cowered me off into the corner and especially the content in this subject considering I haven’t gaged any interest in Asian culture. Therefore I am in a state of panic and confusion where there is no way out until someone tells me whether I am doing it right!
The only area of interest would be in Japanese cinema considering my background in performance. The adaptation of Japanese film in Western cinema and the implications this has for the creativity and cultural significance for Japanese film makers is an avenue my work would steer towards especially since I do have a guilty pleasure for Japanese horror films.
I welcome any thoughts and opinions on my focus of research for this subject!! I love film, theatre and anything involving politics and history so I feel I can have a field day with these topics in Japanese cinema!
Looking forward to communicating with you all over the semester 🙂
The best descriptive word for Japanese horror would be, “engaging”. I was instilled with fear and tension but also intrigue and fascination with the entirety that was the original Japanese horror, “Ringu”. Such a captivating film however so deterrent from the blood, gore and exaggerated effects we find in many horror films.
Keep in mind before watching Ringu, I had already seen the American adaptation, “The Ring” so I knew the story line and the ending. Despite this I still found myself lost in its shock value. So much is left to the imagination in Japanese horror especially with the death of our victims and who the suspected villain is therefore enabling the viewer to draw up the most horrific and nauseating conclusion to what the film is attempting to communicate.
Sure enough, our fears our confirmed with the final act of punishment presenting a television screening a long dark haired girl climbing out of a grey, gloomy well which eventuates to her slowly climbing out the television (my greatest fear right there). This break between the fourth wall is placing the audience in an extremely vulnerable and exposing position as the only thing that protects us from the villain on our screen is the screen itself. Ringu breaks down this barrier and creates a whole new element of fear which we will all experience after viewing.
Before the film began I had to decide whether this was an experience I wanted with the light on or off. My friend insisted we have it off otherwise its cheating. If I was on my own, it would’ve been off. I watched the film with two of my friends and something that was so interesting was their use of social media throughout it. Whenever a scene came on that had even the slightest scare factor, they immediately took their iPhone’s and began scrolling through their Facebook or Instagram feeds. It was as if the traditional mean of hiding behind our pillow or couch had been replaced with our phones. New media has even taken control of our lounge room practices.
Ringu’s direction, editing and special effects create an experience filled with moments of nausea, harsh fear and unsuspecting screams. J-horror is a field of study that will definitely be investigated further, in the light of course.