Intercultural cinema and global perceptions

Intercultural cinema presents many difficulties in terms of relations between cultures. This is because film has a huge impact on people’s worldviews and perceptions so when these films present inaccurate portrayals of other cultures, these portrayals become reflected in cultural perceptions. I decided to test this theory by watching a cross-cultural film and reflecting on my perceptions of the culture it presents afterwards. It would have been very easy to choose a film which is incredibly inaccurate and disrespectful to the culture it presents, however I decided to watch and reflect on the popular 1993 cross-cultural film Cool Runnings.

I used a list of questions from travel journalist Michael McAleer to do this:

  1. What does this movie say about another culture?
  2. What does it say about my culture?
  3. Who are the people in this story and more importantly what does their story say to me?
  4. How can I learn if the perceptions of the other culture are correct?
  5. How does their world look differently after watching this movie?
  6. How can my interaction with another culture be different understanding these issues?

Cool Runnings follows the true story of the Jamaican bobsled team who competed in the 1988 Winter Olympics. Even though the movie is about a very proud moment in Jamaica’s history, no one from Jamaica was involved in the production. The director Jon Turteltaub is a New Yorker and the writers and main actors are all American as well. Despite this, the movie does seem to present a very respectful portrayal of Jamaican culture. I answered the questions after watching the movie and the answers were somewhat surprising.

Cool-runnings

  1. The movie portrays Jamaican culture as being very inclusive and collectivistic. What it says about the culture is that Jamaicans have values such as being resilient and a proudness of where they come from. This particular movie does present very positive ideas and representations of Jamaica and its’ people.
  1. Since this movie does not portray Australian culture, I chose to focus on how it portrays American culture. Many of the Americans in this film, and in fact most of the other bobsled competitors treat the Jamaican bobsled team with rudeness and disrespect, largely dismissing the country as not having the ability to compete in the bobsled event. This does lend an authenticity to the film due to it being made by Americans, and Disney at that, who have been known to sanitise the truth to make themselves seem better. However the portrayal of the Jamaicans may also be reflective of the American value of rooting for the underdog.
  1. The protagonists are the Jamaican bobsled team, who did in reality compete in the 1988 Olympics in Calgary. Their story is very inspiring and it is hard not to feel happy after watching the film.
  1. First-hand accounts of the culture are a very good source for identifying which portrayals are correct. Academic sources are also very helpful to find out about another culture. In terms of this particular movie and story, I found a reddit page (I know I know, Reddit is the gutter of the internet) where Dudley ‘Tal’ Stokes, who was the original founder of the Jamaican bobsled team, answered questions in the lead up to the Winter Olympics this year. The major difference between the real story and the movie depiction which I identified is that Stokes was a captain in the Jamaican military whose commanding officer told him he had to start a bobsled team for Jamaica. The movie depiction of the catalyst for the team was that the character based on Stokes missed out on running in the Summer Olympics and wanted to represent his country in any way possible. This reappropriation is understandable as militia presence in a Disney movie probably would not go over very well.

I also must admit that I assumed that getting the actors to speak English in a Jamaican accent was probably very disrespectful and inaccurate. However some very simple research showed that English is in fact the official language of Jamaica, and that it is spoken with “a distinctive rhythmic and melodic quality”.

  1. After watching this movie I have very positive perceptions of Jamaican culture. To be completely honest I did not know very much about Jamaica before watching the film and now I do base my perceptions of Jamaica on Cool Runnings, which does fit with the idea that many people do base their global perceptions on cinema.
  1. Understanding that we base many of our ideas of external cultures on how they are depicted by cinema may allow much more successful intercultural communication. However I also think that the positive values and depiction displayed in this movie would be more beneficial to Jamaicans than negative, even if it is not a 100% accurate retelling of what happened.

Overall I think that this is a successful cross-cultural film, and I also feel I have learnt a lot through actively watching it and thinking about my reactions to it.

http://www.travelculturemag.com/5-cross-cultural-movies-windows-to-other-worldviews/

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0106611/

http://www.kwintessential.co.uk/resources/global-etiquette/jamaica.html

http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/1onot9/i_am_dudley_tal_stokes_founding_member_of_the/

http://cdn.pastemagazine.com/www/blogs/lists/Cool-runnings.jpg

Privacy in the Public

In Classical times people would flock to the town centre to participate in discussions about politics and just generally be part of social life. This was the basis for Habermas’ model of the public sphere which relies on the notion that people will naturally gather in public space to discuss politics and culture. However, in recent times technology has had such a huge impact on public life that the concept of the public space is becoming a very blurry one.

According to Amin (2006) a successful public space will “increase opportunities to participate in communal activity. This fellowship in the open nurtures the growth of public life”. He identifies these spaces as being places like city centres, public transport, restaurants and public parks. Amin goes on to talk about how these spaces are incredibly important to maintain in order to nurture positive feelings in people about one another, but also recognises that public spaces are treated very differently today than they were in Classical Rome. Today public spaces are developing a much more private element as well, with people neglecting to interact in real life in favour of the virtual world. It seems people will put in the effort to leave their homes and enter the public space, but then treat it like a private one.

Checking-Smartphones

I went out for dinner with a couple of friends last night (the picture isn’t of me) and we spent a good amount of time on our phones being “social”. When I was waiting at the train station this morning I felt like the odd one out because instead of staring at my phone I was looking at and taking in the world around me (albeit to see how many people would be on their phones). While walking around uni I saw whole groups of people sitting together but not speaking in favour of checking Facebook. I am definitely not claiming that I am any different to this- on the contrary writing this blog has made me much more aware of how much time I do spend on my phone, but it is a very strange phenomenon. It seems to me that for a generation which is defined by how much easier being social has become through the rapid improvement of technology, we are making ourselves antisocial loners.

Now I just need to go check my phone.

[Doctor] Who is at the cinema?

Last Sunday, myself and four others went to the cinema to see the first episode of the new series of Doctor Who. Despite the fact that the screening was expensive, did not allow the use of discounted or free tickets, and had in fact been on free-to-air television in the morning and was screening for free again that night, the cinema was packed. This is probably more of a reflection of Doctor Who fans or “Whovians” than an accurate representation of cinema attendance though. There is something special about going into a packed cinema and experiencing a show or movie that everyone in the cinema has a shared love for. The audience was very vocal without being rude and making it hard to hear what was happening and my friends and I left on a massive high because hey, Doctor Who fans are amazing.

According to Torsten Hagerstrand there exist three constraints to cinema attendance:

  • Capability: Can I get there?
  • Coupling: Can I get there at the right time?
  • Authority: Am I allowed to be there?

I was able to navigate these constraints very easily. This is because my friends and I had already been planning it for a couple of weeks, and living in Sydney means that getting to the cinema is very easy. I also feel very comfortable at the cinema as I go so often. The hardest part was probably actually resisting the urge to watch the new episode before going to see it at the cinema. I felt very comfortable in the screening because I myself am a Whovian and felt like I could relate to and understand my fellow audience members. This is different to the experience I had this time last year when I went with my best friend to see The Day of the Doctor at the movies. She was and is a massive Whovian but I had never seen an episode in my life. I felt like I didn’t know what was going on and I couldn’t relate to the other people in the cinema because they were laughing at jokes I didn’t understand and becoming emotional over revelations I had no emotional connection to. It is for this reason I know that if someone in the cinema last week wasn’t a Doctor Who fan they may not have felt very comfortable or allowed to be there.

Overall this experience was a very positive one. And going to the cinema is still one of my favourite things ever.

Old Habits…

Last week at a family dinner my grandfather (henceforth known as Bapak) handed my 10 year old cousin his mobile and asked him to find some text messages. Bapak swore he had received two that morning but because he didn’t open them immediately they had disappeared. My cousin finds twelve-times-tables difficult but he is an expert at technology. After about 15 seconds of navigating the phone, my cousin announced that there were no unread text messages and Bapak must have accidentally deleted them. This was closely followed by protests from Bapak. 

“I didn’t delete them! I’m not that old! The phone does it by itself. It’s happened before. It just deletes them automatically if I don’t open them straight away. It’s a stupidphone not a smartphone!”

After everyone at the table had a go at trying to find the lost messages it was decided that they must have been accidentally deleted or there hadn’t been any in the first place. Bapak looked slightly perplexed but eventually started laughing.

“Maybe I am that old.”

My grandparents watching television
My grandparents watching television

The Australian Bureau of Statistics reports that less than half of Australian aged 65 years and over are regular internet users. They cite that paying bills or banking online are the most predominant uses of the internet by senior Australians, followed closely by accessing government websites. Pew Research provides many reasons for why the elderly partake in much less internet use such as:

  • Physical challenges
  • Paranoia about new technology and
  • Being afraid of difficult to use new technology

None of these reasons apply to Bapak. He is mentally and physically very healthy, he is very open to technology that he considers improves his life (despite the aforementioned outburst about stupidphones), and if he gets shown how to do something he can usually do it on his own afterwards. By that logic he should be a seasoned internet user, surfing the web for Jamie Oliver recipes and cat videos. However he only accesses the internet at most once a day to check his email and maybe look at a news site. He never goes over his internet plan that includes 5GB a month of data, while my family recently upgraded to unlimited after regularly exceeding our 200GB a month plan.

When I asked him if the internet was important to him his immediate answer was “No. It’s convenient but by no means is it a big part of my life.”

So it’s probably not a surprise that Bapak wasn’t very affected by the news that the NBN was not yet available in his area.

“I would much rather live my life around my family than around the computer anyway.”

Audience Measurement

There are more options than ever for consumers to watch television on. Between shifted viewing, portable devices and illegal pirating it is now much harder for producers to identify which programmes are successful and have a dedicated audience and which don’t. Community is a good example of this. Ever since its inception Community has been compared to […]

Screened Memories

My house is quite small, considering five people and a cat live in it. We have three bedrooms, one bathroom and a space which serves as kitchen, dining room and living room. Yet in this tiny space there are four televisions- one in each bedroom and a big one in the living room. My house is hardly unique however- most homes these days have multiple televisions because they are almost considered as basic a necessity as a toilet. This was not always the case though.

My grandparents (who I call Ibu and Bapak) got their first television in 1961 when my mother was less than a year old. It was an extremely expensive black-and-white box with rabbit ears which received 4 channels. The reception wasn’t great, it was prone to interference and the picture would roll. Despite this my grandparents loved it. In fact prior to buying their own, they would go over to a friend’s house every Friday night and watch their TV. Because television was such an alien thing in those days, Ibu recalls feeling physically exhausted on Saturday morning.

Although all the photos we see of families watching early TVs depict the viewers sitting very close to the screen, my grandparents remember sitting as far away from it as possible, and my mother and uncle were encouraged to do the same. They also always had a light on while the TV was on and Bapak remembers needing to purchase a television licence for 25 pounds a year.

In the early days of television in Australia, my mum says, TV was more about entertainment.

“The shows that were on didn’t try to make you think about or reflect on life- they were just light entertainment.” 

The biggest shows on TV were late-night comedy shows equivalent to Jay Leno now, things like The Graham Kennedy Show and Hey Hey It’s Saturday. It wasn’t until the 1970s that this changed, during the latter period of the Vietnam War. Suddenly real life and true horror was being experienced in people’s homes. The huge reaction to these horrific images indirectly ended the War, and showed TV show producers that people responded to real-life. This, my mum theorises, is why television shows such as M*A*S*H were such a huge success.

My grandparents eventually upgraded to a colour television in 1976, just in time for the Olympics, because they love their sport. Recently they bought a new flat-screen so they can watch all their sport in high definition.

Ibu and Bapak with their new flat-screen
Ibu and Bapak with their new flat-screen

The Media Wherezone

The consumption of media has historically been a social undertaking, from families crowding around impressive free-standing wooden radios in the 1920s, to extended family and friends jamming themselves into tiny living rooms to bask in the glow of the first televisions in the 1950s. Today media is largely inescapable, and with the introduction of portable media devices such as smartphones and tablets the majority of us are never without a form of digital media constantly connecting us to other people. Isn’t it ironic then that in some respects media is now less social and more isolating than ever?

Take my brothers interaction with media for example. Bradley and Matthew are twins, which means my parents don’t feel as bad about continuing to make them share a room at 15. Their room is small, always a mess, and lacking in any decor that identifies it as a loved space. However in the middle of the chaos, beside the desk covered in unfinished homework and chocolate wrappers, is a flat screen 40-inch hi-def television. Connected to this is a PlayStation, a Wii and an X-box. On any given day a couple of laptops, a mobile phone or two, an iPod or a Nintendo DS could be lying on the floor. 

They both spend the majority of their time at home together in that room. But rarely speak to each other. If Matthew is playing FIFA on the X-box then chances are Bradley’s watching YouTube on his laptop. If Bradley’s playing a game on his iPod then Matthew’s probably…still playing FIFA actually. That boy spends most of his life controlling pixels in the shape of men to kick other pixels in the shape of soccer balls. Sometimes they even Facebook message each other from different devices.

I would call that social not-working.

…I am actually really proud of that pun…

 

It’s been real

So this is it, my last post, for BCM110 anyway. The last time you’ll hear from or see me. Unless of course you have surveillance cameras in my room.

That was my ingeniously smooth segue into the topic for this post, surveillance. Nifty huh? Don’t laugh, it took a long time to come up with.

The last six weeks have really made me think about aspects of the media that had never crossed my mind before, and the task of having to use that information in my own way to construct this blog has really cemented the concepts into a day-to-day context. None more so than this weeks lecture on surveillance. I have spent the last week walking around and subtly keeping track of the number of cameras filming me. They’re in the region of too-many-to-count.

The issue of CCTV is a polarised one, with arguments on both sides. Governments cite CCTV as being a tool for the protection of the public, that reduces crime and makes people feel safer. If I relate this back to my post about media effects there is an overlap in that the two boys who murdered toddler James Bulger were caught on surveillance cameras. However the presence of these cameras did not prevent the crime from occurring, rather the images served as a tool of fear that the boy had been taken so easily.

Tabloid magazines, which I discussed in my most recent post, could be considered surveillance instruments in themselves, as they document all aspects of celebrities’ lives and do not seem to understand the concept of privacy.

All in all this assignment has been informative, and surprisingly fun, and continues to shape my views and opinions, and hopefully someday my role, in the media.

Adios! (That was a little practice for my Spanish class)

More, more more?

http://www.civilrightsmovement.co.uk/faq-uk-citizens-cctv-privacy-rights.html (article about surveillance in Britain)

“Real-life” styles of the Rich and the Famous

I am going to make a not-so-bold guess that you, my valued reader, have been in a supermarket at some point. If you haven’t because you have enough money to employ someone to do it for you, I am slightly envious. If you have been in a supermarket you will probably have also seen the numerous tabloids on the impulse racks next to the register (so if you’re someone who leaves without paying you may not know what I’m talking about, no judgement).

This week in class we were asked to blog about a medium that presents real-life issues. I chose tabloids because the lives of celebrities are played out in front of us all like a soap-opera that’s on all the time and never ends. During my half-hour trip to Woolies over the weekend, I found out that Kim Kardashian is being called fat, Lindsay Lohan is in trouble with the law (again), Delta Goodrem and Seal are “in love”, a contestant off My Kitchen Rules “used” to be gay and Joel Madden and Nicole Richie are expecting twins, all without actually opening a magazine.

In the 5 minutes I was waiting in line I was presented with issues of eating disorders, sexuality struggles, and relationships.

Don’t get me wrong, I have no illusion that most of what is written in tabloids is a fabrication to sell more copies but it was still interesting to consider the fact that we vicariously face these things every day, through celebrities that we admire or dislike. There are whole websites dedicated to giving people a forum to voice their opinions on people they’ve never met, let alone know.

The only positive I can gauge from this type of media (because I’d like to become a proper journalist with morals and ethics) is that it does bring issues real people are facing to the forefront of the mediated sphere and allows people to discuss them in the less-embarrassing context of it being a “celebrity’s problem”.

More, more more?

http://womansday.ninemsn.com.au/ (Woman’s Day website)

http://www.selfgrowth.com/articles/celebrities-why-are-some-people-obsessed-with-celebrities (article discussing obsession with celebrity)

A Picture Says A Thousand Words…So I Don’t Have To

I stumbled upon this image while I was procrastinating (something I do often and am very good at) and it really caught me off-guard. When you scroll down and can only see the upper-half of the image it looks like a run-of-the-mill redneck woman holding two guns up in glee. Seeing only the top half made me smirk at the idea of this stereotypical idiot American who thinks that the fact her country gives her the right to bear arms makes America better than the rest of the world. As I viewed the whole image however, the smirk on my face disappeared. This image, frankly, is unsettling.

The way it juxtaposes the innocence of an unborn baby with huge killing devices to some degree represents American culture in my opinion. Children are being exposed to guns before they’re even born, and being brought up believing that owning a gun is a basic human right. The woman looks very proud which leads the audience to wonder if she’s proud of the small human growing inside her, or of the guns in her hands, and the ghostly figure of a military man in the background who seems to be advancing on her makes the image even more disturbing in its connotations of America being a military state.

The viewer’s eye is instantly drawn to the woman’s purposely exposed stomach, and the vector lines lead us to look at the many guns on the wall, some of which appear to be aimed at the unborn child, which could be argued also represents the high rate of schoolyard shootings in America.

This image is obviously set up to be controversial and disturbing, but the connotations it represents are unfortunately all too real.Image

 

More, more more?

http://www.cherryplucker.com/2011/05/28/10-creepy-weird-and-unsettling-photos-from-hell/ (Blog I originally saw this image on)

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/24/guns-children_n_2359661.html (Article about children and guns in America)