film

CLAUDIA MULLER: INDEPENDENT DIGITAL ASIA AUTOETHNOGRAPHY

https://claudialouisemuller.com/2018/09/11/claudia-muller-independent-digital-asia-autoethnography/

Ola mi amigos, time for another autoethnography project!

Utilising autoethnography as an approach to research can reveal qualitative insights into areas that may go amiss with traditional research methodologies, made evident by the hundreds of BCM students to pass before me. I can particularly see how the process assists many in Digital Asia, encouraging students to view Asia as ‘another’ rather than ‘other’ through immersing themselves into the culture or point of interest. This week, we were tasked with selecting a specific area of Asian interest to become literate in, prompting an account of our experience with a topic, text, product, service or platform of our choosing, to be broken down into a field site, a data type, speculative research area, and a communication format.

Now, if you ask me what the one thing of interest I have about Asia that I have yet to look into and better yet to barely begin to understand, its cosplay. I have always been aware of its existence and acknowledged its seemingly large following purely from interactions online, but with friends recently getting into it and my club having several interactions with the Universities’ Cosplay society, my interest has been peaked. Although, I was particularly curious to understand cosplay surrounding a broad spectrum of fandoms, but also that which surrounds styles adopted from Studio Ghibli. I’ll get to how I got to this point later in the blog, but growing up I didn’t get the chance to watch much anime at all, I was rudely informed only at the ripe old age of 20 that Winx Club was actually Italian and very much not anime (although it did apparently have a cult following in Japan in the 2000s).

Despite this, in high school my two best friends agreed that we should all watch the others favourite movie. While I picked Gatsby and our friend Tom picked Casino Royale, we were very lucky that our beautiful friend Georgie showed us Howl’s Moving Castle as hers. It was the beginning of my love for Studio Ghibli films. I have seen it twice more since that first movie night, and I have seen a few other cult favourites over the years such as Spirited Away and Kiki’s Delivery Service to name a few. Each and every time I have fallen in love with the illustrations, the colours, the settings, and the ability of the films to transport you elsewhere. This may stem from many years of art classes growing up, or from my studies in Design throughout uni, but I can never let my mind pass over the images without admiring them.

So here we are. Combine a need to understand and know more about the world of cosplay and an appreciation for the style and aesthetics of a studio’s animes and boom. You’ve got yourself a project. Not just any project, an

~** i n d e p e n d a n t   d i g i t a l   a s i a   a u t o e t h n o g r a p h y **~

The thought of tackling cosplay in a project like this is daunting to me, and it isn’t necessarily the idea of dressing up that scares me but the act of putting yourself in a vulnerable state perhaps? It is definitely not the costumes themselves, as I have always been fond of them for their excessive nature and the likeness to the imagination. I taught myself to sew growing up, and I was forever making weird and wonderful pieces that weren’t practical for everyday use. Most of which I have never shown anyone. I am curious, nonetheless, of cosplayers confidence when in character – I will make a very generalised assumption that it’s the ability to be someone who you are not that allows it to bloom, but who am I to know for sure? This fear of vulnerability may be perfect for this particular project, especially with the intended methodology. Ellis and Bochner (2006) support autoethnography ought to be “unruly, dangerous, vulnerable, rebellious, and creative”. My interest in anime, similarly, most likely stems from an appreciation for illustration and art; I was always drawing growing up.

Which brings us to the breakdown of this research project. I needed to set myself some guides as my mind does tend to wander when it comes to research, particularly ethnography.

Experience/Field Site:

  • Cosplay + Anime: wearable pieces?

Data Type

  • Reactions + feelings during experience
  • History and insights on cosplay
  • Physical clothing items and created pieces:
    (HMC) Calcifer earrings, skirt?
    (HMC) Sophie’s hat
    (HMC) Sophie’s dress
    (HMC) Howl’s wings – dress/top
    (Akira) Kaneda’s red jacket
    (SA) No face earrings or patch

Research/ to Speculate

  • Speculating that the fashion and aesthetic of anime often translates into cosplay which is a high level of commitment, is there a middle ground?

Communication & DA Format

  • Instagram account with vlog-style stories and photos to post. Photographs of alike finds, videos of creating processand/or blog posts to accompany.

To kick the project into gear, I began by creating an Instagram account (@cosplaystudies) to detail all of my data in a curated means, and begin to work my way through the topic. I started by looking for inspiration and put my ‘feelers out there’ but trawling through s o   m a n y   hashtags across Pinterest, Instagram, and Tumblr to see what people were actually cosplaying as. I feel that I mustn’t let my own preferences get in the way of understanding cosplay as a whole, rather than a specific alley of the culture itself. A true testament to the ability of autoethnography, as Rachel E. Dubrofsky & Megan M. Wood (2014) dictate “privilege participation in the form of self-reflexivity and active fashioning of the self” can act as an extension of the data or rather as a constraint. A starting point nonetheless, there’s much more to be investigated. I am most looking forward to getting to what I hope to be a very tactile part of the project.

 

That’s all for now,

Claudia

Dubrofsky R. E., Wood M.M., (2014) Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies Vol. 11, No. 3, September 2014, pp. 284

Ellis C., Bochner A. P. (2006). Analyzing analytic autoethnography: An autopsy. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, pp. 433.

Akira – A new found love

Akira, I wasn’t expecting that.

Having not been aware of this film’s existence prior to our live tweeting exercise, I was astounded at my research divulging the world’s love and praise for this strange film’s style and message.

I’ll be dissecting my own reaction to the film (I’ll try my best not to get too excited and HSC-analysing-stuff-until-my-thesaurus-breaks-ish) along with my thoughts on the live tweeting activity that fortunately brought it to my eyes.

To my joy, I couldn’t help but notice the parallels Akira held with that of one of my all-time favourite films – Blade Runner.

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(A shot from the film Blade Runner via https://variety.com/2017/film/columns/how-blade-runner-became-a-geek-metaphor-for-art-1202583468/ )

The first and most obvious being the incredible Neo-Tokyo cityscape, featuring an eclectic combination of metropolis sky-scrapers and grimy industrial wasteland. Just like Ridley Scott’s dystopian city, the landscape beautifully mirrors the overwhelming gap between the powerful and the poor.

Now let’s talk about that colour, wow. I rarely get to throw around the word iridescent (see definition below) but it fits wonderfully here.

iridescent
adjective
  1. showing luminous colours that seem to change when seen from different angles.
    “the drake’s head has an iridescent purple sheen”

Whether or not the effect of shifting colours and double exposures was a result of the lack of tech at the time, it plays to the chaos of the scenes and landscape in an awesome, almost accidental way, and I could hardly look away to do my tweeting.

Finally, the soundtrack. THE SOUNDTRACK. I could never salivate more than I do when listening to Vangelis’ soundtrack of Blade Runner, but Akira sure gave it a good crack. Relatively simple production, perfect rise and fall with the action, and careful selection of sounds and instruments to give it just enough Asian flavour. As a music and sound nerd, I believe soundtracking can dictate the immersion we feel in a film, album, or any life situation, and to Geinoh Yamashirogumi for doing this with Akira, I tip my hat.

I’ll admit my moments of frustration having to look away from the scenes of Akira to live tweet, but I enjoyed the process nonetheless. There’s a sense of community you feel as a result of participating in the feed. It’s like when you’re in a big crowded cinema for a premiere and you’re wondering if everybody else is loving or hating the movie as much as you are, well this answers those questions.

There’s certainly some interesting merit to a constant flow of extra context to the film you’re watching too. Fascinating pieces of trivia made public by a peer, or subtle elements of the film you might’ve missed are just few of the interesting benefits of a live forum environment, benefits I didn’t expect to find.

 

(Featured image courtesy of ESPIOARTWORK-102 via https://www.deviantart.com/espioartwork-102/art/Akira-1988-500416653)

 

 

Gojira: Nothing beats the timeless

This reflection of the 1956 original story of big, weird train-eating Lizard thingy is a little different.

Heartbreaking as it is, I wasn’t able to enjoy the viewing of Gojira with my seminar buddies as I was completing the last week of an internship. However I soldier on with an alternative take.

Personally, I’m a lover of anything timeless. In the current day and age we love new. We need the new technology, new clothes, new foods, new, new, new. But why? We get so wrapped up in the shiny screen or flashy fit of our recent purchase that we’re blind to the fact that our love for it will probably fade and die as quickly as its level of trendiness in our society does.

If I was to ask what your favourite song or piece of clothing was, I’d bet it’s not in the charts or trends right now. In fact, I’d almost bet it wasn’t even made in the current decade. This is my definition of timeless, the things in life that stand the test of time as the flashy and new fall to waste around them.

I’ve compared the reaction of the internet to Ishirō Honda’s 1954 original Gojira, to the 1998 and 2014 Godzilla remake, and it pleasantly justifies yet challenges my rant about timelessness.

The original kills the competition with its ratings 93% on Rotten Tomatoes, 97% on Film Takeout, and 7.6/10 on IMDb.  The ratings stoop quite magnificently with the 1998 Matthew Broderick remake, a dismal 16% on Rotten Tomatoes, 32% on Metacritic, and 5/10 on IGN.com (sad face). A surprise comes with the most recent take, fetching 75% on Rotten Tomatoes, 6.4/10 on IMDb, and 9/10 on IGN.com.

Equally as interesting was the observations made by critics and fans alike. One theme I continued to find through feedback was the poetic nature of the original flick (as poetic as a film about big, weird train-eating Lizard thingys can get), and how the reimagined films lacked the same poetic qualities. The reviews for the middle child film are hardly worth giving words to, but I’ll summarise by noting I’m not rushing to see it. To the admiration of critics the 2014 Godzilla did borrow some of its classic predecessor’s most loved qualities, making it a worthwhile visit to cinemas, but alas, it still just simply didn’t live up to the standard of the original.

I’m not here to trash the modern film industry, or the modern anything to be frank, I watch new movies, buy new clothes and new technology. I just want to explore and justify my love for anything that is too wonderfully classic to be outdone or replaced by the new versions.

Now that my rant is over, go and have a laugh at this hilariously made You Tube review of the 2014 film by the AngryJoeShow.

 

Are you a fan of the timeless side of life too? If so, what’s your poison?

GOJIRA *CLAP* DESERVED *CLAP* BETTER *CLAP*

This one is definitely one I never thought I’d be writing. Let me set the scene for you:

I am on the floor of a dingy little motel in Ipswich, Queensland. Why am I on the floor you ask? The charger to my laptop doesn’t reach the supplied workspace and to my surprise, the turtle-paced internet provided by the institution hosts a better connection down here. Welcome to my wild Saturday night in. I was called last minute to head to sunny Queensland with a motorsport team I work for, which is why this blog post comes so profusely late and why it comes from these humble beginnings.

When I thought about studying communications at uni, this was hardly what I had in mind. Yet here we are, detailing my experience of the original Godzilla film. Oh, that’s right, what you’re actually here for; Gojira.

I recently started a subject ‘Digital Asia’, and I am delighted to be analysing my consumption of the original classic as my first task. If you aren’t familiar with the film, check here for what you need to know on the ’54 original.

I have never actually sat down to watch any of the Godzilla films in any way, shape or form, so this was a first for me. Although I have never seen any of the films completely or even partially, for that matter, I had an understanding of the construct of the film and the notion of the storyline. Big, prehistoric-looking monster traumatises cityscape and destroys civilian populations and landmarks.

“I HAVEN’T SEEN ANY GOJIRA OR ANY OF THE FILM ADAPTIONS, HOWEVER, I SOMEHOW HAVE AN UNDERSTANDING OF THE TROPE ADAPTED FROM A GENERAL KNOWLEDGE ABOUT GODZILLA FROM POP-CULTURE?” –@CLAUDIALMULLER

Little did I know there were so many more layers to the dinosaur-reptile hybrid that tromped across the skyline. A monster with hidden depths? Tell me more.

I was fascinated to discover that take away the million dollar franchise and the corny special effects, beneath lies a tale detailing an entire populations’ fear of nuclear warfare, and a bleak future outlook for the world. The personification of current social concerns and atrocities in the form of an immense, nuclear beast fascinated me, and I was able to identify it through a marketing looking glass given my specialised knowledge in the area of social marketing. The personification of a negative action or activity is a common technique to help push social cause marketing efforts on the basis of developing particular emotions within the audience. There is a possibility I wouldn’t have been able to identify the effectiveness of this method if I had seen the film earlier in my childhood.

This, of course, wasn’t the first time I had seen a black and white film. Although I did come to the realisation that nearly all had been about caucasian lifestyles and glamorous women, clean-cut men and typically western ideals. I often felt a sense of shame, having not broadened my horizons earlier and ignorantly consuming exactly what Hollywood tells us we should. I doubt this embarrassment is something that the producers aimed at for a western audience. Then again, who could have predicted the concept would branch off into million-dollar remakes across the globe? Was the film ever intended to be seen by any Western eyes?

The final point of interest for me was watching my classmates, and myself, project our own current cultural references, interpreting the ’54 original though a 21st Century framework through our platforms, our memes and often also gifs. Our understanding of a digital asia, I presume, will come through our own learning processes in our online digital environment. Captured perfectly by our tutor Angus Baille:

That’s all for now, until next time.

Claudia

References:

Seven Samurai or Die.

“Do you want to watch Casablanca tonight?” asks my dad during the intermission of Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai (1954).

At exactly one hour and forty-seven minutes into the film, I wasn’t even sure if I could stomach a movie for another week. I’d already spent longer watching Seven Samurai then the entire length of some modern films, and the foreboding drumming during the intermission informed me that I’d barely scratched the surface of this Japanese classic.

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The titular Seven Samurai | Image Credit

I want to make it clear at this point that I’m a dedicated film buff. I love any and every film that plays by it’s own rules. Whether the film runs for one hour or four, it’s of little concern to me. I’m focused on what the director has done with this extra space and whether or not the content merits an increased runtime. In the past I’ve sat through films like The Godfather Part II which runs well over three-hours and felt it needed to be longer.

What I’m trying to say is that “movie fatigue” has very rarely – if ever – set in when I’m watching a film. So these feelings I was having halfway during Seven Samurai were new and alien.

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Me halfway into Seven Samurai (1954) | Michael Corleone from The Godfather Part II (1974) – Image Credit

In all fairness, this was not my first “attempt” at conquering this film. Around three years ago during a classic film binge, I foolishly decided that diving headfirst into this three-hour foreign film should be my “introduction” to global cinema. That is the equivalent of skipping the game to play the final boss fight. You’re not going to have a good time.

When I finally decided to return to this classic in 2017, a nagging part of me was convinced that I’d fail again. The universe seemed to be giving me every reason NOT to watch this film, almost as if saving me from eventual failure and the dreaded thought in the back of my mind:

“Maybe you aren’t the cinema fan you thought you were?”

Finding a copy proved a challenge. At first I was interested in the Criterion Collection remaster; a high-definition restoration of the film that aimed to provide an experience closer to Kurosawa’s original vision. To my dismay however, as I’d learned in the past with such remasters, this was a US Exclusive Blu-Ray and short of ordering in a new player, there was no Region B (Australia Blu-Ray) alternative that I could purchase.

Attempts to track down the DVD copy from the local library also proved fruitless, as I remembered it was one of the reasons I couldn’t get into the film the first time around. Trying to ignore the blemishes and destroyed film reels hastily put together for hungry Western audiences had led to a poor version of the film at best. In fact that exact DVD copy of Seven Samurai, had been the film that convinced me to purchase exclusively Blu-Ray’s in the future.

With Netflix, the last bastion of hope, falling through I was promised the same fate any Australian is in these situations. I started looking for a copy to stream online – something I adamantly hate doing when it comes to classic cinema. With every copy either in perfect high definition without subtitles or not loading at all, I was preparing the inevitable message to Chris:

“Yeah this Seven Samurai thing isn’t gonna work”.

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Simulation of this moment | Image Credit

Then came my salvation, in the form of an extremely-cluttered website called KissAsian. This website had more ads then a Saturday night movie on Channel Ten, even with an ad blocker installed. But as I clicked play, I felt a tear of joy fall down my face. Not only was it a HD version of the film, it was the Criterion remaster I had desired.

The celebrations were brief, as I released that this minor victory meant the next three-hours and twenty-seven minutes of my life would be purely watching this film. I hovered over the play button, wondering whether I could leave it all for another day. My finger, however, betrayed me and hit the button.

I must admit, the first half of the film was much more engaging then I remember. Maybe my experiences with Gojira (1954) and Akira (1988) had rubbed off on me, but I found myself getting immediately invested in the characters and plot this time around, almost ignoring the fact that I was entering this world as a Westerner relying on subtitles. Though the film did have a tendency to drag in places I found myself, dare I say it, enjoying it.

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Who would’ve thought a big lizard would’ve helped desensitise me to Japanese film? | Image Credit

This was however, where the irregularities began. I would often pause the film to stretch my legs, grab some coffee, just to mentally catch up with the film. This is unheard of for me, particularly when I know the film has an intermission. When I watch a film at home I reach an almost pretentious level of wanting an “authentic” cinematic experience, wanting a completely unbroken, start-to-finish, viewing of the film. These small interruptions were almost involuntarily.

This brings us back to the intermission, a cross-roads in my experience with the film. I knew I was going to watch the rest, so as to not make the time I spent on the first half mean nothing, but I was exhausted. I don’t say this in a negative way, in fact it’s the complete opposite. The film demands you pay attention. The imagery, interactions and flow of the story take no prisoners, meaning looking away for even a second could lead to missing a vital plot point that won’t be spoon-fed to you again later.

Without wanting to compare Eastern and Western films, I’d grown up under the illusion that films should include “down-time”. A peaceful plateau in the action where our brains can just chill for a moment. Kurosawa has either never heard of it, or doesn’t care for it. The intermission comes as almost an act of mercy as if Kurosawa himself is watching over your shoulder saying “alright, take your piss and come back, we’ve got a lot of ground to cover”.

While the final half was somewhat of a race to the finish with my attention, I lapped up every second and was secretly growing so attached to the world that a part of me didn’t want it to end. But with the final shot I, like the remaining Samurai characters, were returning once again to the “real world”, having both shared in this brief fantasy.

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The ending of Seven Samurai | Image Credit

Seven Samurai was more then just a cross-cultural experience for me. It was a journey. I’m glad I finally was able to revisit this classic, and give it enough time to appreciate it’s nuance.

But now, like the end of a metaphorical rollercoaster ride, its time to quickly find a quiet spot to let my brain puke.

– Tom

Gojira

After going through the lecture slides, I downloaded Gojira and watched it on a Sydney to Wollongong train trip. In some ways, watching a black and white Japanese foreign film while on an Australian train provided great juxtaposition for cultural awareness. I was sitting in a carriage with fellow Australians, some in suits, some in jeans and converse, some very drunkenly slurring Aussie slang while others shielded their children’s post day care ears from such colourful language. And here I sat watching a film where even the monsters were treated with respect.

As a first generation migrant, to whom English is technically a second language, I have grown up loving foreign films. I grew up in house where children did not often watch TV. If we were watching TV it was a SBS (SBS before 8.30pm ehm ehm) family movie night – popcorn, home made Bengali and Arab sweets, world music soundtracks and subtitles. As a child I had the joy of watching and reading artsy, indie and documentarian Bengali films. As I got a little older, we would go to foreign film festivals. I moved out of home at 17 but like many familial attributes, the love for foreign film moved with me.

Growing up as a person of brown colouring in a multicultural, yet very white part of Sydney, my exposure to Western film was channelled through friends birthday parties and movies watched in school – limited to essentially The Goonies and The Rabbit Proof Fence. It wasn’t until I was in my later years of high school that I turned to Western Film for entertainment – cue The Godfather, Fight Club and Batman (I have two older brothers). Whether I was watching a eastern or western film, I was raised to question what it is the content is telling us to value, what it wants us to question and in turn, what really was the purpose of making it.

For these reasons, when I noted that Gojira the film was produced in 1954, I understood that it was a comment to the Atomic Age. I have always valued the simplicity and creativity of old film techniques. In one of the scenes in Gojira, we hear the singing of children as the camera pans the destruction of the city after Gojira’s first attack. The slow camera movement creates an emotional allusion to the horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  At first the footsteps of the monster seem to be an expected film sound effect, but upon closer reflection, (as someone who has been trapped in a war zone) each step sounds like a bomb – a sound that unfortunately, would be familiar the films post WW2 audience.

How I make sense of the film is framed by by cultural, social and educational conscious and subconscious knowledge. For me the content was telling us to value peace, it wants us to question political tensions and the abuse of power. The purpose of any film is to some extent entertain, but Gojira is a reminder of what has happened and what can reoccur if we do not learn from our historical mistakes.

You, Me and Autoethnography.

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2005. Popcorn litters the floor of a Batman Begins session. The murmuring of patrons gradually fades out into the lobby.

“Ready to go?”, dad shouts over Hans Zimmer’s thundering score.

I wasn’t. For the first time ever it had clicked in my head that cinema wasn’t just a form of entertainment, it was it’s own world. People dedicated their lives to these visions. It felt like a language I always knew existed but finally understood.

These “epiphanies” – described as “remembered moments perceived to have significantly impacted the trajectory of a person’s life” (Bochner & Ellis 1992), are essential to auto-ethnographic research. In the simplest terms when these autobiographical details of one’s life are compared to ethnographical information of a similar or opposing cultural context, the resulting research “illustrate facets of cultural experience” by familiarising both “insiders and outsiders” (Ellis et all 2011) with cultural characteristics. Overall providing an account of social science borne out of the researcher’s results.

For me, film is inextricably connected to auto-ethnographic methodology. Filmmakers re-contextualise their personal and cultural contexts, to provide the audience with a intimate glimpse at their personal beliefs and values through the story and characters. Through doing this they are able to transcend cultural boundaries, while still presenting a uniquely personal product.

A prime example of this is Sofia Coppola’s 2003 film Lost in Translation.

Though the film explores the alienation and subsequent familiarisation of Japanese society through the central characters of Bob (Bill Murray) and Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson), the film is ultimately a manifestation of Coppola’s own personal feelings of being lost during her twenties. In technical terms, the ethnographer injecting autobiographical information into the research to give it a personal resonance.

Autobiography: Bob is confronted with an image of himself on a billboard, surrounded by the alien streets of Tokyo.  Represents Coppola’s western context in eastern. Metaphorically representing the potential for one context to meet another, or potential for an individual to become a part of a culture.

Ethnography: Charlotte physically explores “traditional” Japan. Reference to Coppola’s attempts to connect with the culture, ultimately existing as a passive participant who quite literally observes it from afar. Represents the “process” of researchers during their investigations.

Auto-ethnography (Product): Bob and Charlotte, though never quite connecting with Tokyo, ultimately appreciate the culture that surrounds them and ultimately their place within it. Coppola coming to peace with being the outsider.

 

I believe this demonstrates auto-ethnography methodology in it’s purest and most literal form; as “both process and product” (Ellis et al 2011), but largely one of observation. Auto-ethnography is engaging with one’s own familiarities and then contrasting and comparing it to the unfamiliar to give your initial contextual framework greater definition, while having grown appreciation for the “other”.

DIGC330 has already provided this shift for me, through the screenings of Gojira (1954) and Akira (1988). While previously I felt my knowledge of film was comprehensive, these films have totally shattered my understanding of the medium. They have demonstrated that there is more to the genre then Hollywood, and by extension more than the culturally-exclusive framework I had been approaching film through.

I feel like that nine-year-old kid all over again, discovering film for the first time, my entire language being challenged. Yet this is the ideal birthing ground for auto-ethnographic research.

References:

  1. Ellis, C., Adams, T.E., and Bochner, A.P. 2011 ‘Autoethnography: An Overview‘, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 12:1, viewed 10th August 2017, http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1589/3095
  2. Lost in Translation 2003, motion picture, Focus Features, directed by Sofia Coppola.

 

60 years on and Godzilla is still strong

I’m a 90s baby, I grew up watching Hi-5, The Wiggles (originals) and then grew into more sophisticated films like Mean Girls that truly understood the struggles of growing up in a white privileged society. I’ve grown up in a mostly peaceful time, and the only worries I’ve faced have been “end of the world” scares that never eventuated. As a result, the films I watched growing up were mostly light-hearted fun, adventure filled stories that never showed hard-ships.

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Godzilla (1954), image, movieboozer.com

I would have never watched Godzilla growing up, and even if I did I would have missed the underlying metaphor behind the film. This is because I’ve never lived in a time where the horror of nuclear war or death of loved ones has ever been a treat to my perfect bubble wrapped life.

 

As I watched Godzilla, I found it difficult to relate to the characters because I had never experienced anything that made me think about how my life could be affected by this. Also, my experience of films up to this point were American made or American sympathised, therefore the common enemy of those films were Russia, Japan, or Germany that had made up the Axis Powers in World War II. These stereotypes had carried across to my understanding of the world around me, and it was only until I was old enough to experience the world for myself that I found this to be this incorrect.

 

Therefore, expanding my understanding of International Film is a valuable source to understand how other countries document and make sense of hard-ships they have faced. The Japanese film industry using a nuclear, fire-breathing monster as a metaphor of the destruction the US inflicted upon Japan during the war makes this film more relatable for many different audiences, rather than if it was a more direct portrayal of the event. It ended up becoming a hugely successful formula and as a result, ironically America has released their own Godzilla films.

 

If you’re interested in a little background reading:

Here’s an article of photos of Hiroshima and Nagasaki then and now from the Guardian 

And a review of Godzilla

Godzilla – The First Chapter

This week we looked at Gojira, a film from 1954 and the very first film in the Godzilla franchise. I should preface this by stating that this was my very first Godzilla film, yet I do have an understanding of the general premise of the kaiju style.

I grew up watching many of the classic cartoons of my generation; Pokemon, Dragon Ball Z, Yughioh and Digimon (And even Sailor Moon and Card Captors when my sisters were around), but there were also plenty of non-Japanese ‘toons, like Rugrats, Batman: The Animated Series, and many others. I had a healthy dose of shows to obsess over.
I also played video games, like the Nintendo 64 and Gameboy. I have particular memories of playing a broken Pokemon Red cartridge, which was unable to save. Basically, it was a permadeath runthrough of Pokemon, but I played it anyway, because I loved it.

However, even with all this exposure to Japanese digital, it took me a while to even realise that these products I consumed were from Japan. I grew up in Australia, and besides video games, tv shows and movies, I wasn’t exposed to heaps of foreign culture. I didn’t even leave the country until 2011, where I went to Europe.

Now, however, as a digital media student with an interest in film and TV, I always find it interesting to look back at classics; And Gojira is just that: A classic. So many modern tropes spawned from this film. We live tweeted the event, and it opened my eyes to even more of those aspects that I missed, like all the anti-war, and yet seemingly pro-military allusions.
Examples of the anti-war aspects are the clear comparisons between Gojira and the atomic bombs. The destructive power and lasting effects left behind by the monster show clear parallels between  the two bombs dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima just nine years prior to this films release.
Yet, seemingly contrary to the films denotation of war, it has heavy aspects of supporting Japans military and defense forces. There’s an inspirational scene where, when all else is failing, they call in the military, and a military-arrives-from-all-angles montage breaks out.

All in all, Gojira was great to watch and commentate on because it gave context to a lot of the classic cliche’s that are prevalent in modern cinema television.

Experiencing Godzilla in 2017

Sitting in a university classroom in 2017, with my phone in my hand and my tablet on the table, I can definitely say that my interaction with the first Godzilla film, Gojira was infinitely different to that of the original audience in 1954.

Being a 20-year-old woman that has lived in Australia her whole life, how I interpreted Godzilla would have also been different to those original Japanese viewers in the 50s. For one I had to experience the dialogue of the film through subtitles, and as accurate as they can be, there are always certain emotions, ideas, and expressions that simply get lost in translation.

Not to mention that I was on my phone the entire time.

The livetweeting of Godzilla by dozens of young university students must be a novel idea of @CL_Moore. This added yet another layer that distanced us from the original experience of Godzilla. It meant that I was busy trying to keep up with my fellow students’ hilarious tweets, rather than be submersed within the cinematic experience of the film.

This meant that I missed parts of dialogue of the film, and so had to rely on my own understanding of the film and its possible conventions to figure out what was happening.

However, as an Australian in 2017, I’m obviously lacking some of the cultural understandings that the original Japanese audience would have had access to in 1954.

I have watched a few black and white films in my time, but none were ever in a language other than English. I’ve also watched a few Godzilla films, but mostly modern ones that focus on action, and generally lack the overarching moral lesson that this original Godzilla was focused on.

I also fairly regularly watch subtitled animes, but even this cultural experience did not lend me any insight into what I was missing in those moments of dialogue.

So, due to my fairly large consumption of modern Japanese animated shows and films, I can simultaneously sit on my phone and watch a subbed anime, because I can easily comprehend the conventions and predictable patterns present in this medium.

But due to my lack of exposure to 1950s Japanese films conventions, I could not draw upon my own cultural or personal framework to comprehend what I was missing in those moments when I was looking at my phone and not the film.

Overall, watching the original Godzilla gave me the opportunity to reflect on where my personal framework lacks, and how I can continue to build my cultural experiences.