DIGC · Digital Asia

Autoethnography: A first look

Watching the original 1954 Godzilla, in Japanese, was a much different experience than I thought it would be. Initially, for at least the first 20 minutes, it seemed like it conformed to most of my preconceived ideas about films made during that time. Stereotypical characters, overly dramatic score and an strange camera angles were all popping out at me as things I expected to see in a film, bear in mind the only other film I’ve seen from around that time would be Casablanca, The Sound of Music, and Psycho. But as the film progressed, the characters developed tremendously, from stereotypical underwhelming characters to fully fleshed out personalities and interwoven tension and relationships.

A main focal point for me was the special effects. As I know a fair bit about animation and the process involved it was interesting to examine. At first it seemed impossible to find Godzilla scary, or even believable, especially with scenes that were obviously built on a much smaller scale, but after a while the atmosphere of the movie developed and it was at least relateable to me. I think watching Godzilla in Japanese with subtitles opened my eyes to just how developed the foreign movie industry is, even in 1954. As I write that I I think I also might have assumed that just because the movie is Japanese and slightly old, that it would have been worse than it’s American counterpart from the same age. Whether that’s because I thought the American film industry would have been more developed than the Japanese at that time or some other reason I’m not sure. However having watched both Godzilla and Casablanca, I remember much more vividly the scenes of Godzilla walking onto the mainland than any scene in Casablanca  Another thing I found notable, it was very cold in the room, and being the temperature-denying person I am, I failed to bring a jacket that day, which made watching the summery-beach scenes at the start a very strange experience.

In conclusion watching Godzilla wasn’t as bad, or as boring as I thought it might have been. It opened my eyes to the excellent character development of old movies, which I remembered Casablanca had as well. All in all an enjoyable experience, if not a bit of a cold one.

In retrospect of writing this (I’m updating this three days later) I feel as though I may have done a personal narrative rather than an ethnographic report. Although I didn’t tell a straightforward story, I feel it was much more of a narrative than it should have been. As Ellis et al write, “These (personal narratives) often are the most controversial forms of autoethnography for traditional social scientists, especially if they are not accompanied by more traditional analysis and/or connections to scholarly literature.” Which I completely agree with, although now that I’ve referenced that, does that make my report more credible? This ethnography is constantly proving more difficult each time I think I understand how to write one.

References:

Ellis, Carolyn; Adams, Tony E. & Bochner, Arthur P. (2010). Autoethnography: An Overview [40 paragraphs]. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research12(1), Art. 10, http://nbn-resolving.de/urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs1101108.

 

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