TBT: When Tokyo was destroyed.

Having had the chance to really look into the Ellis reading a second time around, I’ve decided to re-analyze my initial blog post on the Godzilla (1954) text. It was quite a lengthy and in-depth post, so for the interests of keeping it somewhat shorter, I will only address a few of the topics I brought up in the post. First, a closer look at how I will be making this analysis, with a better look at the way autoethnography is done, and by going through the methods and definitions as outlined in the reading..

The reading states:

As a method, autoethnography combines characteristics of autobiography and ethnography. When writing an autobiography, an author retroactively and selectively writes about past experiences. Usually, the author does not live through these experiences solely to make them part of a published document; rather, these experiences are assembled using hindsight (BRUNER, 1993; DENZIN, 1989, Freeman, 2004).

My initial assumption of writing an auto-e was that I would just present information how I subjectively interpreted it, while relating to my own experiences. I do believe I did that, to a degree, however the nature of those expressions were so anecdotal at times it ran the risk of not being related at all.

Most often, autobiographers write about “epiphanies”—remembered moments perceived to have significantly impacted the trajectory of a person’s life (BOCHNER & ELLIS, 1992; COUSER, 1997; DENZIN, 1989), times of existential crises that forced a person to attend to and analyze lived experience (ZANER, 2004), and events after which life does not seem quite the same.

I feel like I wrote of one ‘epiphany’ when I spoke of my experiences with the 1998 film, however I really didn’t touch much on my own ‘epiphanies’ while viewing the text itself, so I will touch on these further on.

When researchers do ethnography, they study a culture’s relational practices, common values and beliefs, and shared experiences for the purpose of helping insiders (cultural members) and outsiders (cultural strangers) better understand the culture (MASO, 2001). Ethnographers do this by becoming participant observers in the culture—that is, by takingfield notes of cultural happenings as well as their part in and others’ engagement with these happenings (GEERTZ, 1973; GOODALL, 2001).

Here is where I felt my blog was most lacking. My lack of cultural understanding surrounding the film was something I did intend on looking more deeply into, however I still have not done so.

An autobiography should be aesthetic and evocative, engage readers, and use conventions of storytelling such as character, scene, and plot development (ELLIS & ELLINGSON, 2000), and/or chronological or fragmented story progression (DIDION, 2005; FRANK, 1995). An autobiography must also illustrate new perspectives on personal experience—on epiphanies—by finding and filling a “gap” in existing, related storylines (COUSER, 1997; GOODALL, 2001).

I felt that I was able to achieve more of the above quote in my second blog post, which I wrote after I had a chance to briefly gloss over the reason. It is something I will aim to apply below.

When researchers write ethnographies, they produce a “thick description” of a culture (GEERTZ, 1973, p.10; GOODALL, 2001). The purpose of this description is to help facilitate understanding of a culture for insiders and outsiders, and is created by (inductively) discerning patterns of cultural experience—repeated feelings, stories, and happenings—as evidenced by field notes, interviews, and/or artifacts (JORGENSON, 2002).

Here’s where it gets a bit hard for me. To be able to provide this description I feel like I would need to take a deeper look into the culture surrounding the text – in this case, Godzilla – to be able to do this correctly. I do believe I failed that part last time.

With all this in mind, I will briefly re-touch on the text.

So, as stated in the initial blog post, prior to watching this film, my only experience with the Godzilla franchise was the 1998 film. So going into it, I was expecting a little more mindless action, a little more violence, a bit more of Godzilla just killing people. However that didn’t actually happen as I thought it would. Rather, he seemed more focussed on just destroying things that happened to bother him than going out of his way to hunt down humans explicitly.

So imagine my surprise, or my ‘epiphany’ moment, when this was not the case. When the story was a little bit more developed than just those same old Hollywood tropes. How the ending was still bittersweet; there was in immense loss felt throughout the characters after Daisuke sacrifices himself to kill Godzilla with the oxygen destroyer, ensuring that he could die with a clear conscience and his invention would not fall into destructive hands.

After having a brief look over other blog posts on Godzilla from classmates, it seems a few others had trouble digesting the film. Whether this be because the film quality wasn’t so great, or they were used to Hollywood effects like I was, or the film was simply just too hard to follow because they were bored. I suppose all of these need a certain patience to them to be able to get the most out of the experience.

The film was grainy due to the obvious fact that it’s 62 years old, and the effects may seem dated for that same reason. Even if the film was given an HD remake, there would still be a lot of detail lost. The effects, while practical, were telling at some points. But the scale of the miniatures used was impressive; and the fact that they were able to trick the camera using perspective tricks to make Godzilla appear huge compared to the people on the same screen was downright impressive.

godzilla-1954-iii_2898601b

This article seems to shed some insight onto the cult following of the film; the deeply political and environmental messages behind the film, and really gets into the nitty gritty of the scientific significance. I will save myself from regurgitating the contents; however reading it over will be beneficial if one has trouble discerning why the film was so significant.

In future analyses I will keep in mind the methodological approach to autoethnography from the beginning.

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