Critique

Sean Coles podcast series “What the f*** happened to comedy?” is a five part series that takes a look at five different comedians with a Youtube presence. Due to time and equipment restraints a podcast was chosen over something more visual like a video or presentation, considering some of the comedians he looks at are very physical in their performance, the lack of visuals in the podcast becomes a problem. The podcasts work well as a curation of a handful of comedians but has the qualities of a review which it does not handle well. Each podcast is unscripted and as a result, despite feeling more organic, Sean gets opinionated, harming the review aspect of the podcast. Sean focuses on elements of each comedians practice such as, their trajectory, financial possibilities, the quality of the comedy and their popularity. While these elements do end themselves to defining a comedian, they are also contextual. Most of these elements are heavily influenced by factors outside of comedy. Sean tackles and briefly explores new ideas and argues a point in most of his podcasts, bringing something new to the discussion. Unfortunately the points don’t seem to be supported by much research.

The format and platform chosen for this project is a series of audio podcasts uploaded to Soundcloud. It may not be essential to show the comedians work to the audience so that they may relate, Sean did link to some of their work in the description of each upload but he also chose to show a clip of each comedian despite lacking the visuals to make sense of some of the clips. Some of the comedians looked at may be fine audio-only but comedians such as Shooter Williams and Pewdiepie and especially How to Basic, rely heavily on slapstick visuals or visual characters. How to Basic is almost entirely visual besides grunts and slapping noises. As previously mentioned this isn’t entirely essential, just an oversight that could have been easily avoided. A blog would have worked well, even if the podcast is hosted on soundcloud and posted as part of a blog, Sean could have embedded videos into the post quite easily and use several videos as a scope of a comedians work.

“What the f*** happened to comedy?” looks at comedy in various styles, it isn’t made clear if Sean intended to focus on such a narrow focus of comedians but he did well in identifying differing elements within the five comedians chosen to look at. I would’ve liked to have seen a comedy musical group or a female comedian for some variety. While there is a lack of real variety in comedians, the similarity of the comedians does allow Sean to focus on finer differences. A single podcast each for a musical group or female comedian (or an act with both combined) would have been good to look at the legitimacy of musical comedy or to look at the perceived sexism surrounding female comedians.

Each podcast has a central theme and a point to be argued. This gives each installment meaningful content and separates the installments by a purpose. On the other hand, some of the points made are very opinionated and loosely supported by basic references. For example, the podcast on How to Basic loses credibility when it’s argued that How to basic’s crude slapstick humour is “not great” and “doesn’t deserve the views it gets”. This is a perfectly valid critique to make when supported by unbiased research but in the case of the How to Basic episode, Sean looks at another Youtube source for the financial status of a content creator like How to Basic and argues that that style of comedy is not worth that much money. This could have been avoided with some research on what funny is, what makes us laugh, what defines western comedy and slaptstick humour, and the algorithms which determine how much a Youtube content creator makes for each video. This sort of information, even without a script could form the basis of a solid argument and inform audiences on what makes comedy ‘worth it’.

In an era where internet fame is so heavily sought after by millions of Youtube content creators, content can be produced and shared worldwide with just a computer, camera and basic internet connection, and ‘funny’ is the biggest tag on Youtube, creators are looking to find out what is humorous and what is not and how to make money off of this. Sean’s podcasts take a collective of comedians ranging in popularity and with an online presence and outlines their styles, potential future trajectories and financial possibilities, helpful information for anyone seeking to enter into the comedy scene. The focus on Australian and American comedians narrows the audience to a more specific target and gives that audience a more specialised product. With some more research and some carefully selected variety, “What the f*** happened to comedy?” could become a more than excellent resource for content creators and comedy fans alike. As it stands now, “What the f*** happened to comedy?” is a decent review of comedians that demonstrates the viability of different aspects of the profession.

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Research For Social Issue Response Comics

What kind of social issues is South Korea facing at the moment? Are they similar to Australia’s social issues or is there something I hadn’t seen as an issue before? I had to ask myself these questions when deciding what to respond to in my own comics.

Economics

Having to focus on the tension between North and South Korea is a drain on South Korea’s economy, this is especially difficult when considering that Korea is caught between developed countries and rising one’s such as China and is struggling to compete in the world economy for resources and energy. In 1945, following world war two Japan gave up occupation of Korea, the North going to The Soviet Union and the South going to The United States. Since then, tensions have developed between the two countries to the point where the borders are lined with military from both sides. Being in such close proximity to rapidly developing countries, especially China puts stress on the cost of imports making them expensive for a country such as South Korea. South Korea is tenth on the list for world military balance 2015 from the international institute for strategic studies at $34.4 billion. This enormous cost means South Korea doesn’t have the wealth it needs to afford importing resources in the local economy.

Wealth

South Korea is also suffering from a wealth gap in it’s society. South Korea’s Gini coefficient (which is a common measurement of inequality ranging from 0 being complete equality and 1 being complete inequality) “for 1990–1995 was 0.258, but with rising inequality its coefficient increased to 0.298 in 1999, two years after the onset of the financial crisis. It continued to increase, reaching 0.315 in 2010” (Koo, 2014). To put this into perspective Australia had a coefficient of 0.317 in the mid early 2000s, 0.315 in the mid 2000s and  0.336 in the late 2000s. While Australia’s Gini co-efficient is higher the change over the years is much greater overall in south Korea.

Population

Both Australia and South Korea are experiencing low fertility rates and aging populations. In 2013 Australia had a recorded 1.88 babies per woman while South Korea had 1.19 per woman this combined with a rising average lifespan leads to a higher expected standard of living among youth which is not sustainable, a gradual decline in population leading to decreased productivity and a larger percentage of older population increases the unemployment rate. A recent multicultural policy has greatly increased immigration to South Korea which is helping to slow some of the effects of the aging population and low fertility rate while simultaneously focusing on foreign cultural education and Korean cultural immersion programs. Australia, on the other hand, has numerous policies for and against immigration that make it difficult to migrate to Australia to work or live.

Same-sex Marriage

According to a survey an overwhelming number of South Korean women support gay marriage where as South Korean generally do not. Despite this same-sex marriage remains illegal in South Korea. This is somewhat similar to Australia where Australiamarriageequality.org shows that the Australian public largely supports same-sex marriage although the Australian government is yet to allow it legally.

South Korean Satire In Decline

Most mornings I wake up, writhe in the discomfort of being awake and not being a morning person at all and angrily check reddit for my daily news. Anticipating my mood in the morning I have a multireddit with a bunch of serious news sources and some satirical stuff mixed in to make things a little easier on myself and let me tell you, sometimes I see some jokes and comics that absolutely tear into a politician or policy and I think to myself “How is that ok? How has this person able to get away with this especially when other comics have been jailed for saying anything?”. In researching for my individual ethnographic biography I’ve found there are plenty of political drama manga but it’s all fantasy/sci-fi/post apocalyptic/alternative reality stuff set in some other universe, rarely referencing real politics.

It’s a Case of National Security

Political satire rides the Korean wave” by Hazel Mejia explains that South Korea has a national security law that allows for the criminalisation of satire. The law serves as a defence strategy against communism which supporters believe is necessary considering South Korea’s proximity to North Korea. Despite this, South Korea ranks higher on the press freedom index than Japan China and most other parts of Asia.

Naggomsu

In 2011 an online podcast known as Naneun Ggomsuda began that satires specifically the Government of South Korea. The podcasts founder Kim Ou-Joon claims the he has ten million listeners which, if true, makes Naneun Ggomsuda (aka Naggomsu) one of the most popular podcasts in the world. South Korea has a population of fifty million, assuming that maybe half of the ten million listeners are in South Korea that would mean one in ten people in South Korea have listened to this podcast. I doubt on in ten people I know have seen Pewdiepie, the most subscribed channel on Youtube (I know a lot of older folks that don’t use computers). Because of it’s popularity Naggomsu is constantly subject to threats and lawsuits, Naggomsu is considered anti-government content and is not allowed to be viewed by members of the South Korean Military.

The Need To Talk

How can Naggomsu be so popular despite being an online podcast considered semi-illegal? It’s beloved because supporters deem it necessary to good politics. Critics see the national security law as a form of oppression to keep people in line. Funnily enough the law is intended to defend people from oppression. Pure freedom is arguably not an option but the ability to communicate and criticize gives us the power to make our own decisions and live with them. This ideology of control to protect has come under fire following the Terror attacks surrounding Charlie Hebdo Magazine in Paris in 2015 highlighting how limiting satire is crushing freedom of speech.

“The limited understanding of satire in the political realm has led to abuses of the law by the government, experts point out.” (Hyun-Ju and Hye-Jin 2015)

The Readening

This is just a video of myself reading cheese in the trap with no prior experience with the comic and no understanding of the writing (because it’s in Korean and I don’t speak Korean).

Side notes:
At the beginning of the video where I repeat “I can’t” a bunch of times it’s because I lost my train of thought and couldn’t think of the words ‘read Korean’.

This was just a trial run which I’m not particularly happy about, I’m gonna aim to be a little more energetic and ‘in the moment’ as well as check to make sure the comic I’m reading is a little dynamic at least.

If I were to respond to this comic I might look into the representation of females in Korean texts.

The Fandom of the Anime

For 5 years now I have been regularly attending anime and manga conventions in and around Sydney and my home town, I’ve cosplayed on occasion, participated in various activities and spent unfunny amounts of money on random display swords, artwork, comics, etc. Anime is infamous for it’s intense and loyal fans around the world but why are anime fans considered so fiercely loyal? Why is anime typically associated with geeks and as such has had a negative stigma? Is this still the case?

It’s Just About Everywhere

There’s no doubt that anime is becoming rapidly more popular over time. In 1991, Japanese Anime film Akira made its way overseas via vhs distributions, it was uncommon in western markets but quickly found itself acceptance among a growing number of cyberpunk fans. The visually stunning, surrealist style allowed for a film that could capture the visuals and themes of cyberpunk that was previously, only successful in a book format. Following the rise of the internet and subsequent digital distribution networks, anime has more readily been accessed by a considerably wider audience.

It’s Re-made

In an article on “Transcultural creativity in Anime” ,Rayna Denison writes, “The phenomenon of ‘digisubbing’,the production of fan-subtitled anime via digital reproduction technologies,is also changing the relationship between fans and anime texts considerably. While on the one hand enabling greater fan creativity in the reproduction of anime texts, it is also enabling a vast increase in the illegitimate flow of anime outside Japan” (Denison, 2010), Digisubbing is the digitisation of the task of subtitling anime, effectively splitting the task among several fans regardless of geographic location, this way, anime texts can be reproduced in various subtitled languages quickly, aiding faster global distribution of these texts. This digitisation of the text has also evolved into various other practices such as abridged versions of anime and animated music video (AMV) just to name a couple.

Abridged anime is the re-cutting and re-dubbing of anime to create a new text or side text while AMVs are the re-cutting of anime to a song or some music as a new text or simply a fan made music video. The popular use of anime to create new texts and concepts such as head canon (fan made lore as an addition to an existing story) simultaneously personalise anime to it’s fans and isolate any new comers to the genre who are struggling to comprehend the scope of anime as a pseudo transmedia/multimedia text, die-hard fans might argue that you don’t really ‘know’ an anime unless you engage with multiple forms of the text.

What’s Not To Love?

The term Otaku is often used to refer to the die-hard fans of anime and manga and while it’s often used endearingly in the west, it has a history of negative connotations in Japan where the word originates. In a blog post on ‘Japanese Level Up’, Adam takes a loot at the word “Otaku”, and what it means. He notes that it can be used as a word for ‘fan’, ‘expert’ or ‘mania’ but specifically within the context of a hobby or interest that is not considered socially acceptable. Despite having overwhelmingly positive reviews around the world, Ghost in the Shell is still considered a ‘cult classic’ that appeals to a ‘niche audience’ with ‘special interests’, why is it that anime struggles to get recognition alongside more classic media forms such as live action film and television?

Anime hasn’t previously been considered ‘mainstream’ due to it’s association with subcultures and not being widely accepted as a legitimate form of media but recently anime has begun to permeate into what is considered mainstream for example, the long running American animated sitcom The Simpsons had an episode as an homage to the films by Studio Ghibli. Mainstream is what is considered normal and anime is not considered normal but following the popularity of anime and it’s permeation into other mainstream media, it’s just about abnormal to have not had any experience with anime.

Denison, R 2010 ‘Transcultural creativity in anime’, Creative industries Journal, vol.3, no.3, pp.221-235.

A Boy and His TV

It’s late at night, the verge of midnight, and the cold glow of my crt television fills the room, most likely turning my eyes square as I sit on the cold linoleum floor of my room. I flick through the channels hoping to find anything worth watching, constantly double checking that the volume is as low as possible so that I can still hear it but it won’t alert the attention of the footsteps outside my door. Late night news, infomercials, static, late 90’s sitcom, static, then something catches my wandering thoughts. It’s a cartoon of some sort but it looks amazing. There’s teenagers, like me but they’re piloting these great machines against these mind boggling monsters. The sexuality, the violence, I feel like I shouldn’t be watching but I shuffle closer and decrease the volume just a little more, I couldn’t look away.

I am a Fan

Besides Pokemon and Yugi-oh, etc. that I’d seen occasionally on tv but preferred the games, Neon Genesis Evangelion was my first ‘anime’. I remember uncovering this show with all these themes that I hadn’t been confronted with before and really enjoying how ‘genuine’ it felt, unlike the family friendly programming I was familiar with, I felt like I wasn’t being patronized. I was (and still am) a huge fan of robots, monsters, mystery, girls and cool visuals and Evangelion brought  it all and tied it in with deeper philosophies and ideologies and the subversion of religion (Which really spoke to me at the time but that’s a different story). Since then few texts have really satisfied me like Evangelion, these few including Code Geass, the Bioshock games, the Muse album ‘Drones’ (Don’t judge me), and Ghost in the Shell.

Not a “Fan of Anime”, Just a Fan

In class a few weeks ago, we were presented with an option, watch Gojira or Ghost in the Shell, much to my surprise, the response was a resounding “Ghost in the Shell”. I don’t know why I seem to think anime is still such a niche thing, almost everyone I know has watched at least a Studio Ghibli film or Dragonball Z or something mainstream. Perhaps it’s because saying you’re a “fan of anime” has a negative stigma, perhaps it’s because the statement would be a gross exaggeration. Brenda Velasquez of Asian Avenue Magazine wrote,

“At first glance, anime, which features handdrawn or computer animation, appears to be simply Japanese-style cartoons for children, but anime in fact caters to a wide-ranging age demographic with a plethora of themes like love/friendship, coming-of-age, good vs. evil and so on. Similarly, anime spans a variety of subgenres from fantasy and sci-fi to horror, romance and comedy.” (Velasquez, 2013)

It’s hard to be a “fan of anime” when there’s so much of it to experience, it’s more likely that you’re a fan of a genre that is explored well in anime or quite prominent within anime as a trope. Being raised on western media and only encountering the very successful anime that transcend national boundaries or is fan subbed by a cult following and not being exposed to it in mainstream media, it’s easy to think that it’s a niche industry, and fans are often mistaken in the assumption that they are a fan of Japanese media and therefore Japan as a culture when in fact Japan has a $350 billion dollar media industry in which anime is only a small section of.

Post In The Shell (Warning: Spoilers)

After watching Ghost in the Shell in DIGC330: Digital Asia, one though comes to mind first: “the dialogue’s complicated yo”. I’ve gotta say as much as I love sci fi settings, anime, cyborgs, tackling philosophical questions, Japan, and so many more elements present in Ghost in the Shell, it’s not high on my list of favorites (Don’t get me wrong, it’s an excellent franchise by all means, it just doesn’t resonate strongly with me). I get the feeling that this may be because I don’t fully relate to some of the themes that reflect certain cultures in Japan.

No Trade And No Tourism Makes Japan a Unique Place

In the early 17th century Japan introduced a policy of sakoku which effectively minimized relations with other countries for 200 years. Following the end of sakoku, Japan caught up in terms of technology relatively quickly. This relatively fast introduction of modern technologies to a previously closed off society arguably gave rise to fears surrounding humanities relation to technology. The character Togusa says he uses his revolver instead of an automatic weapon because he ‘likes’ it but Kusanagi say’s he doesn’t have to “worry about the mechanics jamming up”, this coupled with the fact he doesn’t have many augmentations, to me, reflects a fear of relying too much on technology.

Don’t Dead Spoiler Inside

Despite much of the movie exploring technology in a pseudo dystopian setting, there are montages of suburban settings with a subtle technological presence, accompanied by music containing both classic and more modern aspects of music in harmony. This and the ending where kusanagi awakes in a new, younger body, after merging with the puppet master and the audience is left with this ambiguous feeling for the future reflects a desire to live alongside technology despite these cultural fears.

You Said Someone, Not Something

Ghost in the Shell feature quite a lot of the naked female body and nude imagery but what I found interesting is that it was at no point explicitly sexual. Japan has very strict censorship laws on all pornography, video games, tv and film and anime, where all genitals and depictions of genitals or sexual acts must be obscured with pixelation or bars, etc. Nudity in Ghost in The Shell featured nipples at most. I think the abundance of the naked and semi naked bodies further reflects these fears of technology I previously mentioned but also in tandem with Japan’s arguably stifling sexuality culture with censorship and traditional views and opinions leading to a decline in sexual activity despite Japan’s infamous stigma of a colourful fetish scene.

ghost-in-the-shell-1995-02-g

If You Can’t Say Anything Nice, Explore It Through Metaphors And Fictional Worlds

Watching Ghost in the Shell in a class at uni, I was in a position to be thinking about concepts such as the internet of things, wearable tech, cyberculture and more and it lead me to question why a Japanese anime seems like such a perfect platform to be exploring these concepts through a fictional story? I think a history of isolation and being thrust into modern technology and embracing it so widely most likely puts cyberpunk themes in the public sphere and issues surrounding declining sex ual activity puts issues of sexuality and personal identity in a public sphere.

What do you think about Anime being a platform for exploring taboo topics and fears? Perhaps you disagree and think the relationship between the key elements of Ghost in the Shell and the culture it’s conceived in are more complex than I’ve implied.