Television in Translation: Drama Focus

When you think about it, most drama TV remakes are remade by Americans from British originals for example, Sherlock, Skins, The Office, House of Cards, The Inbetweeners and Life on Mars. Why is this so?

Sometimes, the US remakes can be a bit of a flop like Skins, but sometimes they work like Elementary and The Office. Like comedy shows, drama shows depend on cultural and national characteristics. America is notoriously know for Hollywood therefore a lot of their shows have a lot of dramatic theatrical impact. A lot of their crime shows are, like CSI, heavily rely on dramatic music, love twists and overall epic hollywood qualities. Whereas the British stick true to the storyline and tend not to over dramatise or overcomplicate it.

Moffat and Gatiss, who created the British drama Sherlock which aired in 2010, were originally fans of Sherlock Holmes so when creating the drama, they stuck true to it’s original themes. Holmes still lives at 221b Baker St, London. Black cabs swapped for hansom cabs, nicotine patches for Holmes’ original pipe, and a modern version of the homeless network all appear. The original narrative is preserved as much as possible. Holmes has issues with drugs, cares for very few people in his personal life, and has no sexual partners or love interests apart from The Woman. Sherlock does not generally make any room for people of colour or gender equality whereas the American Elementary, makes room for equality. Joan Watson is played by Lucy Lui and is extremely respected and as well for being an intellectual woman. Rather than playfully belittling his partner the way that Cumberbatch’s version is frequently known for, Johnny Lee Miller’s Sherlock holds Watson in an esteem that is expressed outwardly to her, and to their colleagues.

Skins US was not as successful as the UK original. America was very critical of the show for being too raunchy and for showing child pornography as some of the actors were under 18. The UK series though was even more raunchy than the US. So why did the US make such a fuss? I think it comes down to different countries culture.

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Kimmie Look At Moie

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Australian’s sense of humour is quite different to American’s, whereas Australian and British humour are quite similar. As national and globally known, Australian’s like to poke fun at themselves and not take everything so seriously. I believe this is why Kath and Kim was such a big hit Down Under.

Kim, a self-confesed ‘fox’ and ‘horn-bag’ whose only knowledge of top Australian fashion is her ‘Sass and Bee-day Bumsters’, but to normal Australian’s we know that it is Sass and Bide. The fact that she is clearly a 40 year old trying to act like a 20 year, buying jeans that are 3 sizes too small, depicts scenes that local Australian’s see in the suburbs. Too me this image reminds me of something in the Western Suburbs. Trashy but damn well serious about their appearance (no offence to the West). The irony of Kim and what she says compared to what she looks like is hilarious. Like all Australian’s, Kim doesn’t take herself seriously.

Kath, also known and Kath Day-Knight, is still stuck in the 80’s with her parrot earrings and pink silk puffy sleeved blouse. The image of Kath is equally as funny without knowing of 80’s Australian fashion. Kath often uses current and old Australian slang and even invented her own which became commonly used in everyday Australian life. For example ‘Cardonay’ aka Chardonnay, ‘Noice’ and to this day, I still say “It’s noice, different, unusual”.

Then in 2008, the NBC premiered the American remake of Kath and Kim. This show was a flop and just did not translate into American culture. The irony of the characters was not funny and Kim, played by Selma Blair, is very pretty and skinny. The original Kim is meant to be chubby but think she is beautiful and skinny, that’s what makes Kim so funny. Both Kath and Kim in the American version, outside of their roles, are actresses and Blair in particular has been in many Hollywood films. The actresses who played the Australian Kath and Kim were both comedians before their roles in the hit show, which allowed their previously known comedic talent to be a main feature in the show.

“I would suggest that what has been ‘seriously lost in translation’ is the role and place of irony: in this case, the gap between how a character imagines him/herself to be and how they appear to the audience” (Turnbull, 2008).

The Value of News

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In this day and age, we have become more reliant on technology than ever before. Everything we do requires some sort of technological device, in fact I’m writing this to you all now on my laptop (duh). We use computers, mobiles, TVs etc to get all of our daily information and news. With the amount of access we have to news stories, who should we trust and who really counts?

When it comes down to who writes the news, the majority of writers are white middled aged men who tend to work in official bodies such as a big world news agency (Reuters, AP), or one of the big PR or corporate communications companies (Khorana 2014).

When it comes to writing news stories, most journalists seem to constantly use the same foundation for their stories. Some of the different ways to capture the audience and prove importance include:

  • Effective imagery

Using strong pictures instantly captures the attention of the audience. Examples that may catch a readers eye are celebrities, 9/11 or the Boxing Day Tsunami.

  • The effect of cultural proximity

If a journalist discusses a topic relating to for example, a water shortage in Alabama, this would have very little affect on people who live in Sydney therefore skipping past or not listening to the story. But, if there was a news story that was culturally similar to ours, we would take more interest in it for example a story about Will and Kate.

  • Rarity

When a rare story comes up it will usually make the front page. The fact that the story is so rare is what makes people interested in it e.g. 9/11. The more rare it is, the more people will want to find out the truth.

(Khorana 2014)

The framing of a news story is also plays an important factor. It depends whose point of view the story is from, the selection of material to be viewed in the piece and the validity of sources. For example, the age old debate of models being too skinny. Usually this point of view is from the onlookers who don’t understand fashion. They have lots of discriminative things to say. Rarely to they point out that the majority of the girls are naturally thin or rarely hear anything from the models perspective. They may only choose to use photos and footage of the one-off extremely skinny girl and totally ignore the rest who look perfectly fine and healthy. A lot of the time the people that are interviewed to validate these fashion stories are psychiatrists who obviously are going to have a bias opinion on the negatives of anorexia and body image towards other impressionable girls, and they rarely have a designer or model talking.

The people who contribute to news stories and those who write them play a massive role in the overall value of the news.

Media Capitals

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“Media capitals are places where things come together and, consequently, where the generation and circulation of new mass culture forms become possible” (Curtin, 2003).

In the 21st Century, we are seeing a complex change in global media which represents multi-vocal, multimedia and multi-directional flows (Thussu, 2007). The increase in cable TV, digital technology and online communication has enabled companies to expand transnationally (Thussu, 2007). Thussu (2007) states that “the USA continues to lead audio-visual products from news and current affairs (CCN, Discovery), youth programs (MTV), children’s programming (Disney), feature films (Hollywood), sport (ESPN) to the Internet (Google)”. Most of these TV stations are broadcasted around the globe and I know for certain that Australia has all of the channel previously stated on it own cable network, Foxtel.

Whilst Hollywood is a large distributor of global entertainment, the transnational flow of film has moved from being on screen to also being in the workplace. The Hong Kong office of Sony Pictures Entertainment is led by a Hollywood executive in charge of a Chinese staff that is reporting to the LA division of a Japanese company (Curtin, 2003). The shows how even in business, transnational corporations are increasing their distribution of staff members.

The USA is seen as the central country of Western media distribution around the globe. The fact that the USA is a media powerhouse with influence over other Western countries, like the UK and Australia, only means that other Western countries will follow suit. In the media, Eastern countries can often be viewed as ‘the other’. This form of discrimination is called neo-orientalism. Neo-orientslim looks at Western society and media believing that they are superior and above Eastern countries like India or religions like Islam. Al Jazeera (2011) has an article titled “The propagation of neo-orientalism” with a brief statement saying “The media continually builds an association of Islam with war, instability and repression, creating a false stereotype”. The title and statement alone detail the affect that the USA has on neighbouring Western countries. They are teaching them that there is a barrier between Eastern and Western. It tells us about the US spreading propaganda to others to believe this boundary. The false accusations that the media give only create harmful and incorrect stereotypes for Eastern countries. For example, since 9/11, America has spread a global fear to Westerners about Muslims and created a stereotype that all Muslims are terrorists, which is wrong! “The media is not a mirror reflecting what is out there. Its role is not simple, passive transmission, but active creation, shaping, and manufacturing, through a lengthy process of selection, filtering, interpretation, and editing” (Al Jazeera, 2011).

References:

Al Jazeera 2011, The propagation of neo-Orientalism, viewed on 7th Oct 2014, http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2011/01/201112611591745716.html

Curtin, M 2009, ‘Matrix Media’, Television Studies After TV: Understanding Television in the Post-Broadcast Era, Eds Graeme Turner and Jinna Tay, London, Routledge. pp. 9–19.

Thussu, D 2007, Media on the Move: Global Flow and Contra-Flow, London and New York, Routledge.

Bollywood Influence

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“Contra-flows are shifting the direction of cultural influence to the Global South and blurring the boundaries between the modern and the traditional, the high and low culture, and the national and the global culture” (Thussu 2006)

Many films are seeing an increase in the high influence that culture now takes in global film. The most common and highest grossing cultural film are ones that feature Indian and Chinese culture. Indian member of Parliament, Jairam Ramesh, coined the term ‘Chindia’ in 2006 to refer to the cooperation between the two countries.

There can be quite a mix up between what films are Bollywood and what are Bollywood inspired films. For instance, some may view Bride and Prejudice (2004) as a Bollywood movie due to its bright colours, dance sequences and constant singing. This type of film is more of a sub-genre than just plain Bollywood. Its influence from Jane Austen’s British novel Pride and Prejudice (1813) is what separates it from traditional Bollywood. The film is an appropriation of the book therefore still containing Western influences. It was also shot in the UK and some parts were filmed in LA and the dialogue is all in English which separates it from traditional Bollywood. With the many appropriations and cultural influenced films Eastern and Western countries are making, they are slowly starting to become one big cultural film. Many movie novices like to put cultural films in to genres. This can be seen clearly in Slumdog Millionaire (2008). The film is set in India, therefore people class it as Bollywood, which it isn’t. The film was directed by a British man by the name of Danny Boyle and written by Simon Beaufoy who is also British. The dialogue is in English and it has Western influence of media with the plot revolving around Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? Both of these films were very successful in Western countries and sparked a major increase in the production of Indian inspired films like The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2011) and The Life of Pi (2012).

Then we have movies that have Indian influences like Avatar (Cameron 2009). A lot of influence in this film comes from Indian mythology. Schaefer (2010) explains many instances in the film where this occurs including:

  • the blue skin colour of the Na’vi people are used for depicting religious avatars Rama and Krishna
  • the plot of the avatars fighting against foreign invaders mimics a traditional Indian storyline called ‘Ramayana- it details an epic battle between a Prince and a demon
  • the Na’vi’s are referred to as ‘blue monkeys’ which in the Ramayana story, the monkey army helps the Prince defeat the foreigners
  • the reliance of bows and arrows to the Na’vi which were the same weapons used by the Prince and his army

Until I read the readings or went to the lecture I had no idea of these influence. I’m sure there would be plenty of other films like Avatar where Eastern cultural influences are very carefully, and to the public, very unknowingly used.

References:

Avatar 2009, film, 20th Century Fox, USA, directed by James Cameron

Bride and Prejudice 2004, film, Miramax films, UK, directed by Gurinder Chadha

Schaefer, D, Karan, K 2010, ‘Problematizing Chindia : Hybridity and Bollywoodization of popular Indian cinema in global film flows’, Global Media and Communication,  Vol. 6, No. 3, pp. 309-316

Slumdog Millionaire 2008, film, Fox Searchlight Pictures, India, directed by Danny Boyle

Thussu, D.K 2006, International Communication: Continuity and Change, 2nd edn, Oxford University Press, New York

GLOBALISATION

“Globalisation refers to an international community influenced by technological development and economic, political, and military interests. It is characterised by a worldwide increase in interdependence, interactivity, interconnectedness, and the virtually instantaneous exchange of information” (O’Shaughnessy and Stadler 2008).

Globalisation has both advantages and disadvantages. The are called the utopian and dystopian views. (O’Shaughnessy and Stadler 2008)

The term ‘global village’ coined my Marshall McLuhan, is a utopian view that describes “the world being brought closer together by the globalisation of communication, no matter how far apart we live” (Appadurai 1996).

There is also a dystopian view of globalisation. Castell (2000) counters the idea of a ‘global village’ by saying “we are not living in a global village, but in customised cottages globally produced and locally distributed”. This dystopian view constantly refers to ‘cultural imperialism’. This terms describes how one spreads its values and ideas culturally. Media theorist John Thompson (1995) says that “the globalisation of communication has been driven by the pursuit of the commercial interests of large US-based transnational corporations, often acting in collaboration with Western political and military interests; and this process has resulted in a new form of dependancy in which the traditional cultures are destroyed through the intrusion of Western values

America is seen to be the lead cause of cultural imperialism. Many countries recognise the ‘the golden arches’, Mickey Mouse, Bart Simpson and Coca-Cola. This cultural imperialism has continued over to Hollywood movies, as this course further demonstrates, the adoption of Eastern to Western films is expanding at an alarming rate.

An effect of globalisation and the ‘global village’, is that it creates what Benedict Anderson (1991) calls ‘imagined communities’. This means that no matter how far away everyone is around the world, due to globalisation, particularly, technology, people from across the world know what is happening in different countries. It creates a sense of comradeship.

Whilst the negatives of globalisation and globalisation in itself really comes down to technology. Technology has social and cultural impacts all over the world.

References:

Appadurai, A 1996, ‘Disjuncture and Difference in the Global Cultural Economy’, Modernity at Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalisation, pp. 27-47

O’Shaughnessy, M, Stadler, J 2008, ‘Globalisation’, Media and Society 5th Edition, Oxford University Press, Melbourne VIC, pp. 458-470

Whats Yours is Ours… To Copy

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“The term crossover cinema is used to encapsulate an emerging form of cinema that crosses cultural borders at the stage of conceptualisation and production and hence manifests a hybrid cinematic grammar at the textual level, as well as crossing over in terms of its distribution and reception” (Khorana, 2013, p.2). In other words, crossover cinema is used when one actor appears to imitate the characteristics of another race or ethnicity. This cultural bridging results in a hybridity of cinematic elements and reflects the way in which global flows have shaped film.

Cross-cultural cinema is another example of cross over film. This means that a film is does not necessarily have to be a Western remake but is a film that features that of another culture. Khorana (2013) says “It highlights the process of creating a film that is not conventionally grounded in a single national/cultural/generic source”. Examples of cross cultural cinema are Slumdog Millionaire (2008) and Sex and the City 2 (2010). Both of these movies are Hollywood productions which feature cultural characteristics. Slumdog Millionaire is set in India with an Indian cast. The Hollywood factors of this movie likes to sensationalise such poverty and abuse displayed in the movie. Not only is this a bad thing in general but it’s a very bad thing for the stereotyping of India. It makes India seem like a place full of thieving, violence and poverty which certainly it is not.

Hollywood is remaking foreign films at an alarming rate with some critics claiming it is US led globalisation. One film genre has seen the most remakes with that being Japanese Horror films. American remakes include The Ring, The Grudge, Dark Water and The Uninvited. Most Japanese films are produced for Japanese audiences and are rarely distributed out of the country. When Japanese films are adopted by Hollywood, they are usually overflowing with hints of Japanese culture. As Western audiences aren’t aware of the cultural characteristics in the film, we perceive the storyline very differently.

Some cultural themes in The Ring that Westerners would not understand include: the appearance of Samara, the creepy looking girl. Her appearance is based on Japanese folk stories about yuurei ghosts. They have a white face, long black hair and a white trailing kimono. This is also how Japanese women looked when they were buried. This image was also portrayed in the The Grudge to conform to the Western audiences idea of ‘evil’. Also, in The Ring there are many damp setting, with the majority of the characters being killed by water. To Westerners this has no meaning, whereas to the Japanese, spirits are usually associated with water and humidity.

So, whilst crossover cinema creates an image of globalisation, sometimes the images it depicts are not true representations of other cultures. They create unrealistic stereotypes and dramatise awful incidents in film. With the recreation of Eastern films, they must be adapted to appeal to Western audiences but some cultural aspect remain which we don’t understand.

References:

Khorana, S 2013, ‘Crossover Cinema: A Genealogical and Conceptual Overview’, Crossover Cinema: Cross-Cultural Film from Production to Reception, Routledge, pp. 2-15

Sex and the City 2 2010, film, New Line Cinema, USA, directed by Michael Patrick King

Slumdog Millionaire 2008, film, Warner Bros, UK/India, directed by Danny Boyle

Difficulties of Being an International Student

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When an international student goes out to endeavour on their new academic journey, the last thing they want to happen is have a horrible overseas experience. International students are usually very hard working (Marginson 2012) as they travelled to the host country at an expensive price and therefore would not waste such a great opportunity.

International students face more social problems than anything. They face a foreign language, studying in a new setting, finances, accommodation, and day-to-day living problems, and they must negotiate an unfamiliar set of institutional rules (Marginson 2012).

It can be hard for international students to make friends, because in the scheme of things, they’re not in the host country long enough to form close friendships. Students have many chances to see new people at university orientation programs, classrooms, dormitories, flats, formal and informal parties, church services, and places of work. Most of these places  provide them with only one or a few chances of meeting therefore making it hard to create close friendships (Kudo, Simkin, 2010). In a report by Kudo and Simkin (2010), they say that Japanese students tend not to go out and actively make friends, with this having something to do with their culture. They also state in their study that a reason why the Japanese students didn’t make friends was because they were placed in dormitories with other international students therefore not allowing interaction with host students. The only time they would see the host students would be for 1 hour tutorials.

So, what does this tell us? There are two different reasons as to why it may be socially difficult for international students. That being the international students culture and the treatment from the host country. The two factors create a barrier between communication and friendships.

It would be unethical to tell an international student that they must conform to the host countries culture. In Japan, they have different levels of friendship which are based on a number of things. They are: continual contact, emotional contact and support (Kudo, Simkin 2010). As previously stated, the ability for Japanese students to engage with local students is hindered due to their amount of time spent with each other, therefore the cultural steps that the Japanese students have to towards friendships can not be fulfilled.

“Australians are often too parochial, trapped within an Australian-centered view of a diverse and complex world” (Marginson 2012). Parochial means confined or restricted; limited in range or scope. In a University setting, this can be applied to the attitudes of local students toward international students. Local Australian students may be not open to being patient and understanding of foreign students, considering that the language barriers is what makes it most difficult. From my own personal experience, the main challenge I had with interacting with an international student was the language barrier. Not only was this difficult in my group assignment but the tutor was finding it difficult to understand them as well. Needless to say, that one tutorial a week was the only time I saw them and would not consider catching up on the weekend. I don’t believe I was being provincial, but it was purely the difference in the way we expressed ourselves and language.

References:

Kudo, K, Simkin, K 2010, ‘Intercultural Friendship Formation: the case of Japanese students at an Australian university’, Journal of Intercultural Studies, Vol. 24, Issue 2

Marginson, S 2012, ‘International Education as Self-formation’, Lecture slides at University of Wollongong 21st Feb 2012