Digital Asia – The Host

During the BCM320 – Digital Asia seminar, I participated in live tweeting the screening of ‘The Host‘, a 2006 South Korean monster film directed by Bong Joon-ho. I’ve previously been exposed to the process of live tweeting during the BCM325 – Future Cultures seminars, and I’ve given a detailed account of my live tweeting experience on this blog here.

During the viewing of ‘The Host‘, I was able to determine how my own cultural background affected how I make sense of the film and its context.

I was born in Australia to an Italian father and an Australian mother with European descent. I’ve always experienced western traditions and values while growing up, and I was never exposed to foreign languages other than the native tongue of my Italian grandparents. I was also living in the small, rural town of Orange, so it was difficult to encounter cultures outside of Australian and English speaking European.

It was my love of video games and films that led me to my first cross cultural experiences, this was in the form of titles that originated from non-English speaking backgrounds.

I was introduced to Asian cinema during my early teens while searching YouTube for facts and history about classic films. I came across a content creator known as Horrible Reviews, who was giving a review on the 2003 South Korean neo-noir mystery thriller film ‘Oldboy‘.

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Horrible Reviews

Based on this experience and my subsequent research, I felt like I was going into the screening of ‘The Host‘ with a sound understanding of South Korean culture (their cinema tropes in particular). This enthusiasm was met with the realisation that I knew less about South Korean and Asian culture than I thought. This occurred by narrowing in on the process of analysing key cultural differences between myself and the characters in the film to better understand the text. I used the live tweeting experience to do this.

I first highlighted the scene where Park Gang-du is explaining to a police officer that his daughter is still alive after being taken by the monster. The police officer does not believe him and labels his claim as delusion caused by the virus he supposedly contracted from the monster. When we later find out that Park Gang-du is right, I noticed that this is a common film trope in western cinema, where a main character ends up being right instead of the authority figures who originally didn’t believe them, which seemingly undermines their authority. I thought it was interesting that they included this cliche in a South Korean film, as I am of the belief that eastern culture holds the viewpoint where authority should never be questioned and has absolute power.

In this tweet,   I again realise that my personal framework is shaping how I make sense of the film. Due to my background and experience, I have a clear association of the letters ‘SEO’ as the acronym for search engine optimisation. This association differs heavily from the characters in the film as ‘Seo’ was featured as a prominent South Korean name.

Finally, I consulted an academic article article to gain a further understanding of the differences between South Korea and the West in relation to ‘The Host’. Hsusan Hsu (2009) uses ‘The Host’ as an example of ‘outbreak narrative’, the genre that blames the results of underdevelopment on its victims and legitimates the scientific interventions of the West (Hsu 2009). After reading the article, I noticed this concept more significantly in the film during scenes that featured characters from the United States. Specifically, the response to the outbreak by the U.S. Government showed a sense of disparity between South Korea and the international interventionists. This is something I never considered before reading Hsu’s article, perhaps this is due to my cultural background compared to that of someone viewing this text from an Eastern perspective.

Reference list:

Hsu, H 2009, ‘The dangers of biosecurity: The Host and the geopolitics of outbreak’, Jump Cut: A Review of Contemporary Media, no. 51.

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