REFLECTION: International Perception

“Tolerance, inter-cultural dialogue and respect for diversity are more essential than ever in a world where peoples are becoming more and more closely interconnected. People of different religions and cultures live side by side in almost every part of the world, and most of us have overlapping identities which unite us with very different groups. We can love what we are, without hating what – and who – we are not. We can thrive in our own tradition, even as we learn from others, and come to respect their teachings” (Kofi Annan).

After 11 weeks of studying International Media and Communications here at UOW, I would have to say that my perceptive of the outside world has ultimately broadened. This time last year I thought I had a pretty good idea of what it truly meant to live in a globalized society, thinking that simply knowing about the customs of other counties and eating multicultural foods meant you were a global citizen. Now, having attended all my lectures, having read the works of several scholars and having participated in many interesting and somewhat heated class discussions, I have come to the conclusion that the concept of globalization is far more complex than I could have ever imagined. Firstly I learned that although the world is becoming more interconnected there is still a hybrid co-existence between Parochialism and globalization.

Through studying several aspects of the international media landscape in terms of Film, Television and News I found out that our individual perception of the outside world is shaped by what we see. This can narrow our perspectives by offering a limited viewpoint of other cultures or promoting Americanization but at the same time things like media capitals and  international education can increase our global awareness and create a sense of inter connectivity.

After studying this subject I learned that in order for globalization to work there need to be a healthy balance between the concepts of both assimilation and separation in the sense that we as global citizens need to learn to assimilate and adapt to cultures other than our own but at the same time we need to promote the cultures of our heritages so we do not loose our cultural identities. As Kofi Annan the former Secretary General of the United Nations States…

“We can thrive in our own tradition, even as we learn from others, and come to respect their teachings”

Global Warming and Media Warning

Global Warming you’ve all heard about. With the level of media saturation it gets, there is no escape from the constant reminders of our impending doom. But the question is do you truly believe in it, or is it all just another load of fear mongering hype?

According to some statics I got off of a news report on  television once 90% of scientists believe that climate change is real but still there is 1 in 10 American citizens who believe it isn’t. Why is this? well the answer is simple. The doubt that arises for Global Warmings existence is caused by a little thing called ‘False Balance‘. False Balance relates to the ethical code of journalism in which a journalist, for the sake of un-biased reporting, must always equally represent both sides of an argument. So theoretically for every journal article, newspaper headline or television documentary that exists about global warming there must be one that opposes it. Not that this is actual case might I add, I mean I literally just typed global warming into Google and out of the top 10 results that came up all of them were about the proof that climate change exists. It wasn’t until I moved on to the next page and saw the 11th result that I found an article opposing it.

At the risk of sounding like a nonbeliever worthy of shunning or worse death by climate change, I would like to take a moment to say that I am somewhat skeptical of Global Warming. Before you start attacking me, which believe happens when I say this in public, just let me explain. Our planet has always experienced massive climate adjustments long before people ever got involved.Take the ice age for example. This is just a theory though the fundamental reason for my skepticism is that it is just really hard for me to believe what I see in the media. Simple as that. What I continually read and hear about climate change seems to never be the opinion of experts but rather the rantings of a politician with an underlying political agenda or the sob story of a heartfelt reporter who conveniently cares more about single-handedly saving the environment with their hard hitting journalism, than actually providing real information.

So when it comes to believing I am a little hesitant and am actually supportive of being able to hear both sides of the story. At the same time though I cannot deny that the evidence is there, I mean I was at Soundwave this year for what was the ‘hottest day on record’ and let me tell you… It Was Hot!

I often think to my self that it is crazy to think that the level of pollution we generate globally each day can’t be having an impact on the environment. Anyway I could sit here and debate Global Warming with myself all day long, the point I am trying to make is more along he lines of… Is it a reporters job to follow a code of ethics at the risk of endangering humanity; by simply reporting un-biased facts that outline multiple perspectives or is it their role to (as Bud Ward suggests) ‘give voice to the voiceless’.
If we operate under he assumption that climate change is real, than yes it is the reporters job to spread this information and to stress urgency in order to initiate change; in which case the idea of false balance being used to deny reality is ludicrous and actually putting us in danger. However if we operate under the assumption that it is not than false balance is the only thing protecting us from falling victim to the fear mongering agendas of corrupt politicians and media journalists.

Television Lost In Translation

What makes a television show funny? In the case Kath and Kim, the reason why that show is so hilariously funny to us Aussies is because in some way or another we can all relate. Kath and Kim underneath all the exaggeration and vulgar stereo typing, actually gives a pretty accurate depiction of the typical, suburban, middle to lower class, Aussie Bogan lifestyle. While you yourself may be nothing like the characters on the show, I am sure that you know someone who is. Come on quit denying it.

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So if the reason for the shows success here in Australia is because it is a satire of our own culture that allows us to laugh at ourselves,why did some genius out there think for one minute that the show would work well in America? Yeah that’s right I am talking about that abomination of a show that was the US version of Kath and Kim. That show was an instant flop and it is no surprise. The thing with comedy is that it differs from region to region and often can be lost in translation. Which was exactly the case with Kath and Kim. The reason for the shows failure was simply because it was putting humor shaped from an Australian context into an American environment. Americans had no relation connecting them  to characters and therefore did not understand the irony. For America their Kath and Kim needed to be more like Earl and Randy of My Name Is Earl because that is a satirical look into Southern Redneck America that US audiences can identify with.

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A similar sort of thing happened with The Office. This was originally a popular British television show that, although was a major success in America, needed to be completely overhauled in order to do so. The dark self depreciating humor that is British black comedy would not have been popular in America. The show needed to change, It needed to be less realistic, more light hearted, more silly and not to mention more aesthetically pleasing (Sorry Rickey Gervais).

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One thing that never ceases to amaze and frustrate me is the western need to alter Anime and target it to children. I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve been sitting in my room watching a Japanese Anime when my parents would suddenly burst in and say “Stop watching cartoons you are an adult”, at which point my reply is always “They are not cartoons they are Anime”. In Asian countries Anime is not made for children; it is for adults but for some reason when it is transferred into western culture it is always interpreted to be for children and is adjusted so accordingly.

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This is another way television is lost in Translation. In order for shows like One Piece to be successful in America and Australia they have to be changed dramatically. First of all they have to be dubbed, this is horrible because by simply changing voice actors from serious actors to children’s cartoon actors you instantly loose the quality of the show. There is no real in depth emotion just silly, patronizing, child catering, shrieks and yells. Secondly the entire show has to be watered down, That’s right no gore, no violence, no accurate looking weapons and worst all no innuendos of any kind. In One Piece Sanji’s trademark  cigarette is changed into lollipop. To me it does not make sense for a mighty pirate to carry around a lollipop everywhere he goes and I think it is just insulting to the seriousness of the show.

WHAT IS THAT EVEN SUPPOSED TO BE

WHAT IS THAT EVEN SUPPOSED TO BE

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media CAPITALS (see what I did there)

What do you know about other countries? for most of us our information is limited to what we see on television or what we read in articles. This gives us an understanding of the outside world that is little more than a mediated snapshot, However thanks to globalization and the rise of Media Capitals, the line between cultural borders is decreasing exponentially. Traditionally when It came to global influence there was no competing with the media monopoly that was old school Hollywood. Back in the 1930’s Hollywood produced around 80% of the world’s films. During that time and all the way up until the modern era of convergence, America had cultural dominance over the rest of the world. They had the largest film and television industry as well as the greatest scope of  cutural influence. Nowadays things are a little bit different, as Michale Curtin (the godfather of Media Capitals) suggests… “Although  Hollywood exports continue to dominate global entrainment markets, debates about transnational flows of television have moved beyond the media imperialism thesis to focus on deliberations about globalization”.

Prior studies that emphasized a one-way flow of US programming to the periphery of the world system are now being reassessed in light of the increasing volume and velocity of multi-directional media flows that emanate from particular cities, such as Bombay, Cairo, and Hong Kong.

Hollywood is now only third when it comes to sheer volume in film production. The largest film industry in the world today is India’s Bollywood, followed closely by Nigeria’s Nollywood. On top of this cities like Hong Kong are also producing up to forty thousands hours worth of television programming a year. Although these industries may not have as great a scope as Hollywood in terms of international recognition, convergent communication technologies such as the internet are rapidly blurring regional boundaries. We are beginning to see a media landscape where information is no longer linear but in fact multidimensional and because of this “political, economic and cultural phenomena overlap and collide, disrupting our prior confidence in holistic approaches to culture and society” (Curtin 2004).


Transnational Americanisation

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You walk into your local DVD store; you feel like watching a movie (but you’re not into piracy) . You take a look around browsing all the genres. All the basics are there Comedy, Action, Horror… yep nothing out of the ordinary here. You notice the foreign films section in the far back corner. You decide to take a look (for the first time ever). Yep just what you expected; a bunch of subtitled films that you have never heard of before. Once again all the genres are there Chinese, Indian, French…

STOP! what is wrong with this picture?

Let’s analyse this scenario for a second. When you were looking in the ‘normal’ section, What were you seeing?  Was it divisions being made by genre?  That is odd because in the ‘foreign’ section I could have sworn divisions were being made by nationality. So are we saying ‘other’ countries don’t have genres?  They mustn’t because obviously all Indian films are Bollywood and off course all Japanese films, Chinese films, Malaysian films.. etc, simply fall under the category of Asian. Let’s not forget the most important part, the English speaking movies were ‘Normal’  and could be categorized into what they were, not where they came from. Welcome to the world of Americanization, where the English language is a transnational commodity and Hollywood is King.

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I find this concept somewhat confusing. Why do we feel the need to separate foreign films into their own section? Why not just put them in with the genres they are? (and perhaps put a sticker alerting the lazy people of the world that there are subtitles). I mean seriously even movies that come straight from Hollywood itself are not even entirely American. Every movie in existence (don’t quote me on this) has been derived from multicultural and multinational backgrounds. Take Christopher Nolan‘s modern Batman remakes. They have to be some of the biggest blockbusters to ever arise from Hollywood, but the truth is the production team and actors are from a collection of many different countries. It would make more sense calling it a British film as the director and the main actors (Christian Bale and Michale Caine) are all British.

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Another thing that really gets to me is Hollywood’s need to keep remaking successful foreign films. For me a prime example of this would have to be The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. In my opinion Niels Arden Oplev’s Swedish film adaptations of  Stieg Larsson’s hit novels were perfect as they were. Although there was nothing wrong with David Fincher’s American adaptation, I sill feel that it was completely unnecessary and I feel annoyed that for a movie to reach global audiences it has to be remade in English with big name Hollywood actors. It makes me wonder was this unnecessary remake just a cynical attempt to hook in audiences who couldn’t be bothered to read the original adaptation’s subtitles?

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This, however is not always the case. In my opinion Martin Scorsese’s film The Departed is very different and yet very good adaptation of the Chinese film Infernal Affairs. While the blatant Americanisation of the film can be clearly noted (the constant yelling, over the top action and over use of the word f@#%), I feel that this was an adaptation that needed to be made in order for the film to transition better into global markets. There is a certain subtly in Chinese cinema that is not always well translated by other audiences and so this remake was necessary.

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Hip Hop (An International Langauge)

Hip Hop has come a long way since its spawn into the underground culture of the1970’s New York, Bronx. Today it exists as this dominating global phenomenon that operates in every city across the world. That’s right Hip Hop is globalization in action and though it can be labeled a single genre or style, it is far more complex than just that. Hip Hop is a dynamic being that exists on both a local and a global scale. It is a Hybrid force that somehow manages to mix the mainstream with the niche, the traditional with the modern and the secluded with the united.

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In order to better explain let’s take a little look into what Hip Hop is.’ A music genre consisting of a stylized rhythmic music that commonly accompanies rapping, a rhythmic and rhyming speech that is chanted. It developed as part of hip hop culture, a subculture defined by four key stylistic elements: MCing/rapping, DJing/scratching, break dancing, and graffiti writing’ (THANKS WIKIPEDIA!).  But what it can really be defined as like most music is a medium for expression. Hip Hop originally started as a “voice” for the disenfranchised youth of low-economic areas, a means for minorities express their feelings on inequality and a way to ignite a sense of brotherhood and hope. Hip hop is a little bit different nowadays though, ( I mean I’m not sure what Nicki Minaj shaking her ass has to do expression of inequality but who am I to judge). The point I am trying to make however is that this ideology of Hip Hop being an outlet for the misunderstood youth is what allows it to gain such influence on a global scale.

Hip Hop can be found everywhere from America to Guatemala, from Japan to Australia, From London to Iran, it’s huge and with each locational region comes a new flare to to the genre. That’s what I was talking about when I said it combines the local with the global. It is a universal style that adapts to its location. Not only is it cross cultural but it is becoming less gender specific with artist Like M.I.A  reaching critical acclaim. She alone is a perfect example of intonational Hip Hop being a London artist having grown up in Sri Lanka.

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Take a look a Die Antwoord for example they are white, South Africans whose music makes constant reference to Asian sub cultures. They are a strange hybridity that falls into the niche market even though they are played on mainstream radio and they mix traditional South African culture with modern rave beats.

Now I’m not saying Hip hop is a beacon sent by God to free the oppressed and outspoken…

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I mean seriously, Hip Hop reinforces some intense negative stereotypes and racial profiling. Not to mention the promotion of violence, drugs, vanity, murder, and sexism. On a shallow level when you think of Hip Hop, I’m sure you think of Male African American ‘gangsters’ with their baggy pants, shinny grills, jewellery, drugs and guns; with the way some Hip Hop artist act, its not surprising that you might think that. Have you ever played GTA San Andreas? that has to be one of he most derogatory games in existence (it is also one of the greatest I might add, best GTA thus far).

I’m not sure if all aspects of Hip Hop Culture should be considered good, but one thing I am sure of is that Hip Hop is a international phenomenon that exists on a massive scale  and that it is only going to continue to flourish in this global society.

Getting On With Aussies

After attending my International Media lecture this week I was surprised to discover just how big of an industry International Education is here in Australia. Did you know that International Education is Australia’s third largest export and that it stands to bring millions into the Economy? There are approximately 630,000 full fee paying overseas students in Australia, possibly the highest in the world as a proportion of the total population. Just this year alone we had 55 thousand Indian students migrate here for university.

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However the thing that surprised me most of all, was not the prevalence of International Education in this country but rather the treatment of the International students themselves. With more than one quarter of of the Australian population being born overseas, you would think that Australia would be a land of extreme diversity and tolerance but in actual fact it is still a very Ethnocentric country and as a result of this many international students find it hard to have as valuable a culturally enriching experience as they deserve. Perhaps Ethnocentric is too harsh a word, while I’m not going to sit here and say racism doesn’t exist in this country (ahem the Cronulla riots), I would like to think that MOST Australians are not overtly discriminative. A more appropriate word might be Parochialism in the sense that we Australians are very limited in the scope of how we see the world.

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Children In China are learning the English Language as early on as kindergarten and many parents who can afford it are sending their children,  as young as two, to private lessons in the hope that they will become fluent at an early age. Here in Australia however our attempts to learn the language of other cultures is limited. Most of us don’t even get the option to study another language until high school and even then, most of the time, it is an elective subject, not a compulsory one. ‘Nowadays the English language is subject to commodification, characterized as a marketable product that provides opportunities to economic, educational and immigration opportunities’.

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Australia is such a diverse and globalized nation and yet it’s citizens know very little about the outside world. This is why when International Students come to study in Australia we expect them to act Australian and if they don’t, we feel that they don’t belong. There is a direct correlation between the level of assimilation an international student makes and the level of acceptance they receive socially here in Australia. The more ‘Australian’ an international student is the easier it is for them to make friends. Why is it that we have this belief that assimilation is the best possible outcome? We have this strange ideology that our way is the right way. Do we think that all international students came here to experience Australia and therefore must adapt into ‘our’ culture?

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I, myself am not exempt from this attitude, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been put into a group activity at Uni with an international student and thought ‘aww man, how am I supposed to work with them when they can’t even speak english?, I’m going to have to do this whole assignment on my own’. That is exactly the narrow minded attitude I am speaking of, that exist within Australia and even I am guilty of it. International students have just as much culturally enriching information to share with us as we have to give to them. With the global world we live in, it is in the best interest for Australians to to learn more about other nations. For a multicultural country we need to become more tolerant.

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