NOT ALL SIDES OF THE STORY DESERVE A FAIR GO

What do we want from the news? We want something balanced and unbiased. Something that presents the facts as they are and alerts us to important issues.

So when we look at something like this, we think it looks legitimate. Something that gives both sides a fair go.

However, The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change asserts that while 95% of climate scientists believe global warming is happening, only HALF of the general public believe that scientists are in this much agreement.

So really, shows like I Can Change Your Mind About Climate don’t present the reality of the climate change ‘debate’. In reality, the TV show presents both sides as equal, with 50/50 representation. And that is the problem with a lot of the media in front of us today: it suffers from problems of balance and bias.

Ward, in Journalism ethics and climate change reporting in a period of intense media uncertainty, investigates whether journalists have an ethical responsibility to report only that which is supported by the majority of scientific study or whether they should report and amplify the ‘unheard voices’  of climate skeptics. Ward outlines that journalists ‘should be honest, fair and courageous in gathering, reporting and interpreting information’ (Ward, 2009). The general public put a lot of trust and faith in journalists that they are abiding by these outlines, however, being ‘fair’ doesn’t always mean being fair towards the issue.

At-a-glance: The immunisation debate is an SBS report that again analyses both sides of the debate. It has arguments both for and against. However, even though the report admits that most scientists and parents agree that vaccination’s benefits far outweigh any risks, the report is presented as though both sides of the story have equal standing.

This today tonight report does a similar thing: presenting the debate as something that has two equal sides.

So what have we learnt? Just because you present both sides of the argument in equal proportion does not mean that they are actually fairly represented. As in the cases of the Climate Change debate and the Immunisation debate, both sides ARE NOT equal, and should not be represented as such.

It is only when the media presents controversy in a way that is proportional to the extent of the controversy that the general public will be able to make up their minds using facts. Different opinions are essential to a democracy, but they should always be presented proportionally.

News Values

In our democratic society, the media and its news coverage is a significant tool for knowledge influencing public opinions and awareness. By managing the visibility (Chouliaraki) of global issues the media can help or hinder the process of becoming global citizens.

Where the media is concerned, there is often a grapevine that exists between an event occurring and the publics understanding of this event. The grapevine consists of “journalistic routines and standardised procedures” (Dr Sukhmani Khorana lecture). The stories are being chopped, mixed, and minced into a juicy “narrativised” piece of journalism.

The reason news organisations and editors follow a specific format or procedure when producing stories is simply because it works. The prioritisation, organisation, and narrativisation, of these stories are “determined by pre-existing news agenda and modes of operation” that captivate more readers  for longer. (Peter Lee Wright)

So we have two problems:

a) News values, and news frames are pre-prioritising our knowledge of the world around us.

b) Consumers of news are structuring this framework by responding more enthusiastically with these formats of news.

With  media platforms such as twitter and facebook it is easier now to measure what stories generate the most ‘buzz’ or level of engagement from the public. Unfortunately it seems to be the closest in  ‘cultural proximity‘  deeming certain stories the most relevant. The news of Kim Kardashians cat dying in 2012 became the feature article of various news outlets. One has to consider what stories this was replacing….

It is hard to determine whether the media creates our priorities or is a reflections of societies already existent predisposition. But this problem wouldn’t need to be argued if there wasn’t the risk of a misguided public opinion. News values vary from culture to culture, so the cultural gaps between nations is able to widen through the media and its news. In this modern age where globalisation is key to an ‘ultimate utopia’, a globally standardised way of prioritising and presenting news should be the goal. However we are far from the  ‘global village’, that is why it is becoming more and more  important to be an active global citizen, engaging in the global news, but contributing to it aswell, and relying on our own capabilities to seek out global news stories to form personal opinions.

Chouliaraki, L. (2008) ‘The symbolic power of transnational media: Managing the visibility of suffering’. Global Media and Communication, vol. 4, no. 3, pp. 329-351.

Exporting Laughs

Today within the Television industry we see shows being translated into numerous different languages and being shared across national borders. While many people might think this is a positive, there are actually numerous boundaries encountered when the original cultural context is changed. Within each new culture unique sets of values, beliefs, customs and interests are present, which change the way each person approaches TV shows. This is the most apparent in the genre of comedy.

For example:

Kath and Kim U.S version = FAILURE

Kath & Kim
Kath & Kim (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Whilst The Office U.S version = SUCCESS

The Office cast in the third season
The Office cast in the third season (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The genre of comedy according to Andy Medhurst “plays an absolutely pivotal role in the construction of national identity, because it invites us to belong by sharing the joke”, which makes it an appealing form of entertainment. When directors and producers are looking to translate comedies into new audiences and cultures, they do this by either exporting the content completely as is, all over the world like the TV show F.R.I.E.N.D.S which proved a hit world-wide, or they can sell the format of the show to buyers for it to be recreated in a new culture as we see in the reality show Big Brother.

Further, Friends is an example of a TV show that was exported, unaltered, all over the world, to places like Australia, Bulgaria, France, Portugal and Russia. It’s even been popular in China, with the creation a real life, fully functional “Central Perk” cafe (see the clip below). So we can see,  even though China and the U.S have vastly different cultures, some TV shows are transferable between cultures. Perhaps, as the clip suggests, Friends is successful because it focuses on the universal theme of friendship.

What makes television work in different cultures?

Well, no one is really sure. But it is easy to tell why a TV show fails. Sue Turnbull (2008) writes about why Kath and Kim (US) failed. It seems that the most significant reason was casting. The American characters of Kath and Kim were two slim, attractive women who did not at all convey the deluded nature of the Australian originals. As Turnbull notes, the humour in Kath and Kim was derived directly from the characters’ perceptions of themselves as different from reality.

Unfortunately, there seems to be a lot of luck involved in exporting and importing foreign television. Success or failure is dependent on a multitude of factors specific to different cultures, such as political concerns, recent local events and cultural history. What one culture ‘gets’, another doesn’t.

The good news is, with globalisation, sharing of television is occurring more and more frequently, and so we can expect to see more TV shows from all around the world. It’s quite possible the reason some shows fail is that they are simply too ‘foreign’. With increased integration, perhaps it will be easier to understand and share TV, and especially, the world’s comedies.

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What foreign comdey television do you watch? Do you understand the humour?

Turnbull, S 2008, ‘It’s Like They Threw a Panther in the Air and Caught It in Embroidery’: Television Comedy in
Translation’ Metro Magazine Issue 159

Move over Hollywood

When I first heard the term ‘media capital’, this image immediately popped into my head;

Image

When I think about where my media comes from, I usually think of it in terms of emanating from distinct nations. For example, The Big Bang Theory, in my mind, is an American TV show, that then is sold to Australian television networks.

I had an imperialist media understanding, which Curtin (2003) describes as, seeing the dominance of Hollywood as an epiphenomenon of the successful American empire. Which is a view, I believe many people would take. And I mainly see media capitols as your standard, Hollywood and Bollywood. Although it was news to me that Hong Kong played such important role on the world stage

However, it seems that this way of thinking is becoming somewhat out-dated, and what we really need to be thinking about are MEDIA CAPITALS.

That is, instead of seeing media in terms of coming from a particular country, with a distinct cultural stamp, we should really accept the reality of media capitals, which are essentially a hub for media development and distribution.

What is also interesting about media capitals is that they also seem to become places where different cultures interact, and what results is a hybridised mish-mash of media.

A media capital refers to a city which represents centers of media activity that have specific logics of their own. They are the sites of mediation, locations where complex forces and flows interact and they are neither bound nor self-contained entities. (Curtin, 2009).

This has emerged with the rise of creative diversity. So now, cities like Hong-Kong, Mumbai and Melbourne, where production is high, now challenge Hollywood and set the standards for media within their culture.

A poignant example of the diverse media capitals around the world was illustrated by Sukhmani Khorana (2012) in “Orientalising the Emerging Media Capitals: The Age on Indian TV’s Hysteria”. She describes how attacks on Indian students studying in Melbourne were responded to by the Indian media. However, what is primarily focused upon is theAustralian media’s response to the unprecedented coverage the attacks received in India. Indian media, it became clear, was not something to be taken lightly.

This Sunrise excerpt, rather than focusing on issues behind the attacks, instead highlights Australia’s ‘damaged reputation’ and repercussions for Australia’s continued International Student program, which, according to Khorana, was a common response. It is interesting to see how the different media capitals responded/portrayed to the event(s).

So it would seem that media capitals do, in fact exist irrespective of whether or not we are aware of them or give them much credence. Hong Kong is a major capital, while cities such as Rio de Janeiro and Madras may be heading there, according to Michael Curtin (2003) in “Media Capital: Towards the Study of Spatial Flows“.Hollywood undeniably has competition.

The growth of media capitals is yet another result of globalisation, and, despite a lot of confusion, in the long term, I think we can expect to see more positive outcomes from an increase in media from all over the world, not just select places.

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Curtin, M 2003 ‘Media Capital: Towards the Study of Spatial Flows’,International Journal of Cultural Studies, vol. 6, no. 2, pp. 202-228.

Khorana, S 2012, ‘Orientalising the new media capitals: The Age of Indian TV’s Hysteria’, Media International Australia, vol. 145, pp. 39-49.

Crossover Cinema: Orientalism

The term ‘Crossover cinema’  describes a form of film involving the crossing over of cultural borders in terms of influence, production and distribution (Khorana 2014, p.2). When a film references another culture, or tries to adapt a different country’s film into their own, it is thought of as a cultural hybrid or crossover film (Khorana 2014).

Crossover film impacts the every-day viewer, as it shapes our ideologies about foreign cultures and countries. It can be a window into various lands that we have never had the chance to experience and allows us a look into their way of life. It is a form of hybridisation to fit other markets as American directors see aspects of foreign film and attempt to adopt it into their own cinema productions.

Crossover cinema, however, doesn’t always (or ever) paint the truest picture of the foreign cultures the films try to represent and therefore fall subject to stereotypes and other prejudices. One trope in particular that is rampant in Hollywood cross-cultural films is Orientalism. Films like Eat Pray Love, Price of Persia, Sex and the City 2 and (all?) Disney films all contain it.

Eat Pray Love:a contrived re-telling of everything we've ever allowed ourselves to believe about the East.

Eat Pray Love:a contrived re-telling of everything we’ve ever allowed ourselves to believe about the East.

Orientalism, coined by Edward Said (1978), it is where Westerners believe that they are superior to Orients (East Asia, Middle East and India). Orientalists stereotype these countries with a sweeping generalization of either fear or desire. We all know that this is not the case!  

The Orient was almost a European invention, and had been since antiquity a place of
romance, exotic beings, haunting memories and landscapes, remarkable
experiences…. Unlike the Americans, the French and the British…have had a long
tradition of what I shall be calling Orientalism, a way of coming to terms with the
Orient that is based on the Orient’s special place in European Western experience.
The Orient is not only adjacent to Europe; it is also the place of Europe’s greatest and
richest and oldest colonies, the source of its civilizations and languages, its cultural
contestant, and one of its deepest and most recurring images of the Other. In addition,
the Orient has helped to define Europe (or the West) as its contrasting image, idea,
personality, experience. (Said pg.1-2)

A cross-over film, I have only recently watched recently is full of Orientalism- The Living Daylights (1987), from the famous James Bond series. Some may argue that James Bond is a British spy in a British film; however, British and U.S. interests tend to mirror each other with respect to foreign policy, and the James Bond movies are ultimately Hollywood films, primarily aimed at American audiences. The influence of U.S. foreign policy can be seen in The Living Daylights, when Bond finds himself imprisoned on a Russian military base in Afghanistan.

Orientalism in The Living Daylights image viahttp://talkbacker.com

Bond escapes with another prisoner, Kamran Shah, the leader of the local leader of the local Mujahideen. Shah agrees to help Bond stop the plot of a corrupt Russian general. The film portrays Shah as a clean-cut, Oxford educated leader speaking perfect British English. He and his Afghan militia are viewed as allies of the West in their ongoing struggle to defeat the occupying Russians.Ironically, many of the Mujahideen during the time of the Russian occupation would later on become the Taliban that the U.S. continues to fight today.

image via basementrejects.com

This depiction of Shah and his men runs contrary to the more modern (post-Soviet) orientalist views of the Afghan people. The stereotypical image (Clifford 1988) of a man such as Shah would be describe him as a terrorist, an uncivilized, violent, guttural man speaking broken English. However, this orientalist portrayal was partially suspended in The Living Daylights due to the fact that these “orientals” were, at that time, allies of the U.S. (due to the fact that they shared a common enemy). The disparity between the way a man like Shah was depicted in 1978, and the way other Afghan men are portrayed now in 2014, is the perfect example of how orientalism takes many of its ques from the political climate of the West.

Of course there are cultural differences, but there are also cultural similarities– we are not binary opposites. In pointing this out, I hope you start to think about if Orientalism is it play in the film you are watching. Even though this concept is over 30 years old, it is still alive as ever in your favourite cross-over films.

 

 

Clifford, James. “On Orientalism.” Predicaments of Culture. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1988. 225–76.

Khorana, S 2013, ‘Crossover Cinema: A Genealogical and Conceptual Overview’, Producing a Hybrid Grammar, pp. 1-7.

Said, Edward W. Orientalism. London: Penguin, 2003.

Sharp, T. 2010, ORIENTALISM, West Coast Line. Simon Fraser University, Burnaby.

 

The Hybrid(e) and Prejudice

Looking at the Transnational film industry, this week as brought us back to the ever appropriate topic of hybridity. Before we delve into that however let us look at what actually defines a film as being transnational. A transnational film encourages itself to not be limited to one specific nation, rather comprising of ‘globalisation… and the counter hegemonic responses of filmakers from colonial and third world countries (Ezra and Rowden, 2006, p.1).

I bet you can list up to five films that all contain transnational elements! One of my personal favourites is the 2006 film, Babel (trailer below):

  • Mexican Director – Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu
  • Narrative set/ and filmed in Morocco, Japan and the United States
  • Languages used: English, Arabic, Spanish, Japanese, Japanese Sign Language, Berber and French
  • Multi-Nation Cast, ranging from American , Australian, Japanese and British
  • Array of funders from France, Mexico and US – Predominately  USA – Paramount  Pictures (from IMDB)

The collaboration, assembling and influences of people from different nationalities makes for an interesting mix of hybridity.  To clarify, cultural hybridity is a mutual inter-mingling that comes from the European (explorer) nations and the Explored nations, which results in a ‘third language’. This is certainly apparent in the evolving state of movie content.   This week’s lecture was interesting in its exploration of the ways that cultural influence becomes apparent in the film industry.

In particular, the modern flow of Bollywood (the second largest film industry in the world) into western cultures demonstrates perfectly the hybridity in transnational film and the implications it faces for various audiences. The reading for this week Problematizing Chindia: Hybridity and Bollywoodization of popular Indian cinema in global film flows (which, despite its name, is quite a succinct and to-the-point article), discussed the modern flow of Bollywood styling into western culture.

The  Bollywood – Hollywood hybridity at play is demonstrated in the 2004 Bollywood take on the 19th Century Austen classic Pride and Prejudice – Bride & Prejudice.  The elements this movie borrows from the Bollywood style – over-the-top-ness and musical numbers, is what makes Bride & Prejudice stand out from other romantic comedies.

Now, Western audiences might see Bride & Prejudice as a piece of Indian cinema, due to the Bollywood-style musical numbers and setting, whilst on the flip side, Indian audiences will observe the obvious western influences – after all, it is based on an Austen novel.   Whilst this movie did fairly well in Western cinemas, the reception in India was lukewarm at best. Below are some reviews of IMDB that highlight the mixed responses to the transnational film.

negreview

 

This is an interesting case of cultural flows operating opposite to the expected system of the U.S to… everywhere else influence – or ‘Hollywood’s hegemony’ (Karan, Schaefer 2010 p.310).  This can be compared to the ‘Eastern’ film Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, which was hugely successful in the West, but not so much in China – the country where it was perceived to have originated from.

This may stem from the attitude of audiences in India and China that these movies portray Westernized versions of their culture – and while the hybridity of Bride and Crouching Tiger are exotic to the Western audience, the stereotypical portrayal of their culture come across as stale to the ‘local’ audiences.

In the end however, I personally think it is great that on a global scale we can all appreciate the art of story-telling through film and the ability it has to bring communities/ cultures/ groups/ people together. You cannot underestimate the power of film in this globalised world and how transnational film, in particular mirrors the eclectic mix of cultures throughout the globe .

Reference List:

Ezra, E., & Rowden, T. (2006). Transnational Cinema: The Film Reader. London: Routledge

Karan, K and Schaefer, DJ (2010) ‘Problematizing Chindia: Hybridity and Bollywoodization of popular Indian cinema in global film flows’ Global Media and Communication Vol 6: 3, pp. 309-316

Citizens of the Education System

They say you learn something new everyday. And, with such an international mix of students in our universities and higher educations today, we really meet someone new from somewhere different everyday. Thus, the true definition of an Australian student these days is a constantly changing complexion. The engagement of our international seekers has influenced the ‘student identity’ as Australia is one of the most popular destinations for international students.

Despite being one of the most popular education destination it still has its challenges: social, financial, racial and communication barriers have meant the international student has a lot more stress than finishing that assignment on time.

THE POOR UNI STUDENT: The study by the HSBC (in US Dollars) imgae via AFR

THE POOR UNI STUDENT: The study by the HSBC (in US Dollars) image via AFR

Vogl and Kell (2007) claim that some international students feel intimidated from aspects of Australian life, most predominantly the language and knowing what to talk about. With over 200 languages spoken in Australia, the lack of communication strips confidence from foreigners. Yet the language that most causes trouble for students is the Australian vernacular.

So it is no surprise that Marginson (2012) the achievement of success for international students is not only their academic adjustment, but also their adjustment to the social and cultural environment.In my experience students around the university seem to hold a conversation quite well over a coffee or drink at the UniBar. Aussies however certainly have a distinct way of communicating with each other, with a quick tongue and greetings which may seem derogatory to international students however perfectly friendly to locals. A lack of adjustment to the Australian social language and environment can definitely lead to an international student feeling uncomfortable. Carl Barron demonstrates our off-putting way with words.

This lack of adjustment is most commonly not to the lack of effort of the international student either, as a study by Kell and Vogl (2007) found that local students have become disinterested in bridging the gaps between them and their international counterparts, putting it down to that the local student is just ‘too busy’.

Australians can often come across as too parochial, trapped within an Australia-centred view of a diverse and complex world.  Kell and Vogl (2007) suggest that particularly Asian students in this matter express disappointment from a lack of connection with Australian society and students. This seems to be an important issue as 80% of international students are from Asia (Marginson 2012). If local students were to have a greater engagement and interest with the international students simply by saying hi or giving a smile, this sense of parochialism could be diminished.

Education allows for personal growth through two main avenues: multiplicity and hybridity. Described by Simon Marginson multiplicity is the process of ‘living more than one life’; essentially that a student creates a new life to fit into the proximities of the country that they are studying in. Now this doesn’t sound ideal but it just shows that international students learn the capabilities of adapting to different situations and in that they show higher levels of motivation and determination. I’m not saying that those that don’t have to travel aren’t motivated or determined, just that international students are essentially ‘thrown into the deep end’ and have to learn to adapt maybe more quickly than those that don’t.

Hybridity on the other hand seems like the more culturally complex option and ties in with globalisation, as it involves the integration of the new culture with their own, original one. This essentially creates a citizen of the world or cosmopolitanism rather than a citizen of, or belonging to, a particular nation-state.

In the end it all comes down to feeling like that you are at home- like you belong. So I think it is important to remember as we study our courses, we should not just accept different cultures but go a little extra and perhaps start a conversation with the people you see in your class. It is the little things like talking about the weather or asking what their favourite subject is at the moment that could really help a student feel more at home and plus you get to make new friends too and maybe a couch to sleep on when you backpack around their country, now how is that for a worldly citizen.

Sources:

Kell, P and Vogl, G, 2007 ‘International students: Negotiating life and study in Australia through Australian Englishes’, Everyday Multicultralis Conference Proceedings, Maquarie University 28-29 September 2006

Marginson, S, 2012 ‘International education as self-formation’, Morphing a profit-making business into an intercultural experience’, Centre for the Study of Higher Education, University of Melbourne