How U.S. audiences view Korean films

How U.S. audiences view Korean films

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How U.S. audiences view Korean films a case study of OldBoy
Cha, Sung Taik
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[Tampa, Fla]
University of South Florida
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Cultural imperialism
Uses and gratifications
Interpretive community
Reception theory
Dissertations, Academic -- Mass Communications -- Masters -- USF
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theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )


ABSTRACT: Prior studies have shown that the information and cultural product flow is dominantly one direction from large/wealthy markets to smaller markets. Extending this position through the underlying research, it is expected that the audiences in the United States, one of the largest cultural product exporters, may have shaped certain perceptions on the scarcity of Korean films in their domestic film market. By studying the users in an internet film discussion community, this research aims to provide useful ideas about how American audiences perceive Korean films. This qualitative case study conducted a content analysis of the actual postings by the participants on the Internet Movie Database ( as they discuss the Korean movie "OldBoy." Then, in-depth interviews with volunteered users were performed.Foreign films, such as Asian films like OldBoy, seem to especially satisfy their needs of alternatives due to these films' scarcity in U.S. market. In other word s, participating in community discussion is a means of finding new foreign films, and watching new foreign films works as a way of contributing to their film viewing communities. Also, contributing the community enhances their perceived prestige as film enthusiasts.The investigator started this research from the assumption that the scarcity of Korean films made U.S. audiences ethnocentric. However, study observed that the scarcity of Korean films and the foreignness of this film is treated as one of the most attractive aspects to this subset of viewers.This study has shown that by contributing to and participating in message board discussions, the viewers built a film viewing community in the IMDb website. The discussions with others in the film viewing community helped them build and enhance their prestige as serious film-goers as they built an interpretive community. Tracking the posts and respondents' answers, the investigator could predict that they are building exchange networks i n their foreign film viewing community, and this process may influence to their future foreign film viewing.
Thesis (M.A.)--University of South Florida, 2006.
Includes bibliographical references.
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by Sung Taik Cha.

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How U.S. audiences view Korean films :
b a case study of OldBoy
h [electronic resource] /
by Sung Taik Cha.
[Tampa, Fla] :
University of South Florida,
3 520
ABSTRACT: Prior studies have shown that the information and cultural product flow is dominantly one direction from large/wealthy markets to smaller markets. Extending this position through the underlying research, it is expected that the audiences in the United States, one of the largest cultural product exporters, may have shaped certain perceptions on the scarcity of Korean films in their domestic film market. By studying the users in an internet film discussion community, this research aims to provide useful ideas about how American audiences perceive Korean films. This qualitative case study conducted a content analysis of the actual postings by the participants on the Internet Movie Database ( as they discuss the Korean movie "OldBoy." Then, in-depth interviews with volunteered users were performed.Foreign films, such as Asian films like OldBoy, seem to especially satisfy their needs of alternatives due to these films' scarcity in U.S. market. In other word s, participating in community discussion is a means of finding new foreign films, and watching new foreign films works as a way of contributing to their film viewing communities. Also, contributing the community enhances their perceived prestige as film enthusiasts.The investigator started this research from the assumption that the scarcity of Korean films made U.S. audiences ethnocentric. However, study observed that the scarcity of Korean films and the foreignness of this film is treated as one of the most attractive aspects to this subset of viewers.This study has shown that by contributing to and participating in message board discussions, the viewers built a film viewing community in the IMDb website. The discussions with others in the film viewing community helped them build and enhance their prestige as serious film-goers as they built an interpretive community. Tracking the posts and respondents' answers, the investigator could predict that they are building exchange networks i n their foreign film viewing community, and this process may influence to their future foreign film viewing.
Thesis (M.A.)--University of South Florida, 2006.
Includes bibliographical references.
Text (Electronic thesis) in PDF format.
System requirements: World Wide Web browser and PDF reader.
Mode of access: World Wide Web.
Title from PDF of title page.
Document formatted into pages; contains 103 pages.
Adviser: Kenneth C. Killebrew, Ph.D.
Cultural imperialism.
Uses and gratifications.
Interpretive community.
Reception theory.
Dissertations, Academic
x Mass Communications
t USF Electronic Theses and Dissertations.
4 856


How U.S. A udiences View Korean Films: A Case Study of Oldboy b y Sung Taik Cha A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment O f the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts School of Mass Communications College of Arts and Sciences University o f South Florida Major Professor: Kenneth C. Killebrew, Ph.D. Kim berly Golombisky, Ph.D. Dong y oung Sohn, Ph.D. Date of Approval: March 3 2006 Keywords: cultural imperialism, uses and gratifications interpretive community, reception theory, ethnoc entrism Copyright 2006, Sung Taik Cha


i Table of Contents Abstract iii Introduction 1 Background 1 Rationale of Study 2 Background of Study 5 World Film Market 5 Cultural Imperialism 7 Active audience approaches 9 Possible barriers 10 Review of Literature 1 1 The History of Foreig n Films in the United States 1 1 Foreign Films in the United States 1 1 Asian Films in the United States 1 2 Theoretical Framework: Taking the Audiences into consideration 1 4 Uses and Gratifications 14 Reception Theory 16 Possible Barriers 19 Ling uistic Barrier Subtitle versus Dubbing Debate 19 Cultural Barrier Ethnocentrism 24 Object of Case Study: OldBoy 30 Methodology 3 5 Results 43 Searching for alternatives 44 Cynical to ward Hollywood system 45 High dislike to Hollywood s Asian film remaking 46 Searching for alternatives Independent films, foreign films 48 Discovery of OldBoy 49 Asian films : a good source of refreshing entertainment 50 Asian / Korean films can be the alternative 51 Interests in Korean film s 53 Foreig n films as prestige agents 54


ii The league of film connoisseurs 55 Prestige as a trend leader 57 Barriers 58 The dubbed versus subtitled battle 59 Ethnocentric view? Nope! I am an open minded film connoisseur 61 I am not ethnocentric. Rather, I ju st want everything to be standardized 6 3 Cultural differences / Cultural agreement 6 3 Koreans are eating live octopus? 6 4 Not every film has to reflect the source culture exactly, but films cannot exist without the influences from the source cultur e 67 Criticism of the Asian film boom 69 Discussion 7 3 Conclusion 82 References 88 A ppendix Examples of IMDb OldBoy board 9 7


iii How U.S. Audiences View Korean Films: A Case Study of OldBoy Sung Taik Cha ABSTRACT Prior studies have sho wn that the information and cultural product flow is dominantly one direction from large/wealthy markets to smaller markets. Extending this position through the underlying research, it is expected that the audiences in the United States, one of the largest cultural product exporters, may have shaped certain perceptions on the scarcity of Korean films in the ir domestic film market. By studying the users in an internet film discussion community, this research aims to provide useful ideas about how American au diences perceive Korean films. This qualitative case study conducted a content analysis of the actual postings by the participants on the Internet Movie Database ( ) as they discuss the Korean movie O ldBoy. Then, in depth interviews with volunteer ed users were performed. Foreign films, such as Asian films like OldBoy seem to especially satisfy their needs of alternatives due to these films scarcity in U.S. market. In other words, participating in c ommunity discussion is a means of finding new foreign films, and watching new foreign films works as a way of contributing to their film viewing


iv communities. Also, contributing the community enhances their perceived prestige as film enthusiasts The inves tigator started this research from the assumption that the scarcity of Korean films made U.S. audiences ethnocentric However, study observed that the scarcity of Korean films and the foreignness of this film is treated as one of the most attractive aspect s to this subset of viewers. This study has shown that by contributing to and participating in message board discussions, the viewers built a film viewing community in the IMDb website. The discussions with others in the film viewing community helped them build and enhance their prestige as serious film goers as they built an interpretive community. Tracking the posts and respondents answers, the investigator could predict that they are building exchange networks in their foreign film viewing community, a nd this process may influence to their future foreign film viewing.


1 Introduction Background As Sinclair (1992, as cited in Hoskins, McFadyen, & Finn, 1997) claims cultural products are the mirrors that reflect the society (p. 3) ; c ultural products are based on real life and refle ct the society itself. Moreover, i t i s also believed c ultural products can affect every aspect of human lives, and through this process, they can influence the value s culture even the future of that society In sum, social trends and values are reflected and are also challenged in cultural products. In this respect, cultural products can be treated not just as industrial products, but rather as leader s of the culture and indicator s of the future of the society. Among cultural product s film is considered one of the most powerful media becaus e all the aspects and genres of culture can converge in film. Films reflect music, fashion, food, family, social life, trends, and even the language of that society. Moreover, film not only reflects the society but also can lead the society by creating new trends. In other words, films possibly influence the cultural norms and the values of a society for their strong power of influence to the audiences and the society The problem here is that most films in the world are made and exported by U.S. producer s. In dominating the w orld film market the United States has exported its


2 cultural norms with the film products and has affected and changed target countries culture s Consequently, as scholars like Varan (1998) have suggested in this world of globaliza tion, many countries are worrying about the contamination of their indigenous culture s by Hollywood E ntire societ ies and culture s are being influenced by American view s and lifestyle s either consciously or unconsciously In some instances the indigenous cultures are losing their uniqueness and diversity, and are becoming homogenized (Furguson, 1992). For these reasons, many countries are striving to escape the influence of U.S. popular culture backed by Hollywood On the contrary, the U.S. film market i s attractive to filmmakers in other countries because it is the biggest one in the world; moreover, it act s like an information terminal. All information comes into the center and goes out to the rest of the world. Therefore, foreign filmmakers have been t rying to expand to the world film market using the U. S. market as an effective information terminal. T hey think that if they can effectively break into the U.S. film market and grab even a small vein of this information flow, they can share the cultural i nfluence s on the world with the dominant film supplier the United States ( S. Kim 2003). Rational e of study T his case study examines the specific impressions and ideas that U.S. users in a internet film discussion website (Internet Movie Database, IMDb ) have about a specific Korean film OldBoy and Korean culture that are reflected in that film. The study also examines what barriers and concerns the U.S.


3 users may face when they watch foreign fil m s The investigator suggests two major barriers First, the researcher suggests a linguistic barrier Most of the foreign film s are made in their native language rather than English. The investigator assume s that U.S. users may have a certain impression o f translation methods. The other is about the cultural barrier. T he investigator s assumption i s that U.S. film products domestic market domination may influence U.S. film viewers attitudes toward the foreign cultures. In this respect, this study examine s how these barriers may work when U.S. audiences watch a film from Korea. A Korean movie OldBoy wa s chosen for this qualitative case study. It is the 2004 Cannes Film Festival Grand Prix winner and also was commercially successful in the Asian market a s well as in Europe. It was released on U.S. screens in March 2005. However, it failed to achieve commercial success even with its fame from Cannes and commercial success in Europe and Asia. It should be noted that in this study we will use the idiom Asia n despite our understanding that this is a very generic term and can not be specifically linked to a single people or culture. Despite this understanding, many members of the U.S. film audience categorize the peoples of Asia as Asians; a category that i s without true distinction. Two overarching ideas that inspired this study are cultural imperialism and active audience approaches Cultural imperialism is one of the most applicable theor ies to explain the U.S. film market and Asian films in the U.S. mar ket A ctive audience approaches are helpful to understand audiences attitudes toward OldBoy


4 This s tudy perform ed a content analysis of posting discussion s amo ng OldBoy viewers in the Internet Movie Data b ase (IMDb ; ) website s OldBoy exclusiv e board and perform ed in depth interviews with multiple board users via e mail. Th is study has four research questions 1) What impressions of Korean life and culture a re evident to OldBoy viewers? 2) How a re those impressions expressed? 3) W hat technical problems d o viewers encounter when viewing OldBoy ? and 4) What aspects of this Korean film and potentially other such films attract U.S. audiences?


5 Background of Study World film market. As Vany (2004, p. 267) stated, Most of the mon ey has to be spent up front to produce a movie before anyone knows how much it is worth ; b ecause of the high risk, a stable profit model is essential for the major film makers. Therefore, media firms have been trying to build vertically integrated organiz ations to control the whole spectrum of exhibition windows. This vertical integration guarantees that the companies reduce their risk and make continuous profits by selling the same products in different media forms. In theatres, pay per view channels, and DVDs, films can be consumed repeatedly. In other words, if a company can control films at all levels, it can effectively continue its own profit circulation. Getting a larger audience directly leads to elevation of quality because filmmakers can put more resources into their film products if they have more profit coming in. In this situation, p roducers gain a competitive advantage in trading media products because there is a causal relation between investment in a films production and the films quality, diversity, and popularity; conclusively, this circle reinforces the infrastructure of domestic film industry. (Hoskins, McFadyen, & Fin, 1997; S. Kim, 2004; Lee & Bae, 2004; Wildman & Siwek, 1988).


6 According to Hoskins, McFadyen, and Finn (1997), the inc rease in film production investment shifts the demand curve for domestic films upward. This shift has the dual effect of increasing box office revenues and enhancing domestic films power against foreign films. Furthermore, the stable profit model makes th e film industry export products of higher quality for lower prices than competitors. If the demand for domestic films w ere elevated, cultural distance and linguistic handicap s decrease the demand for foreign films, and the self sufficiency ratio of the dom estic film market increases. Now consider the preceding argument in the world film market. Filmmakers in Asian countries are only targeting their own regional market s, unlike U.S. producers, who target the whole world. Lower expectation s of profit make th e Asian film industry put smaller budgets into their products than U.S. filmmakers, and this lower concentration of capital and resources reduce the quality of film products. Consequently, this difference of market size generates a vicious circle (Hoskins, McFadyen, & Finn, 1997). According to Y. Kim, Lee, H. Kim, and Do, (2004), in 2002, there were 17,368 media companies in the world. Among them, 15,544 companies were based in North America and Europe, and their share is 89.5 percent. Most Asian companies are Japanese, so it can be said that approximately 95 percent of the world media market is dominated by the United States, Europe, and Japan, so called advanced countries. Hancock (1998) also showed the gap between the Asian film industry and Hollywood in investment size. While the Asian film industry is making slightly more films than North America, the budget of North American film industry is about ten thousand times bigger than that of


7 Asia. In 1997, Asia produced more than 800 films, while North Ameri ca was producing about 700. In contrast, North America invest ed $10 billion U.S. while Asias budget was 20 times less than that of North America (Hancock, 1998). Although North American studios produce fewer films, the revenue that flows through the integ rated distribution mechanism is far more than that of Asia. Cultural imperialism. One of the most applicable ideas to explain the environment of the film market is cultural imperialism. C ultural imperialism explains the power balance and flow of culture and information between groups by looking at who has more power to shape or influence other cultures ( Crane, 2002 ). S. Kim (2003) points that all images made by U.S. film producers are being consumed by world film audiences, so the audiences have high ten dency to adopt those ideas and assimilate the dominant views. According to this view, the longtime domination by Hollywood made U.S. culture a universal norm; in addition, scholars like Hollifield (2001) add that this cultural domination eventually helped many other U.S. industries easily advance and spread to the world. Through this process, U.S. products and lifestyle became one of the most important icons for the consumers in the world. This cultural homogenization is the basic assumption of cultural imp erialism. It assumes that the cultural domination of Western countries spreads Western values around the world, and this homogenization re makes national cultures and identities in Western tradition s. Through this, all indigenous cultures would become simil ar to each other and lose their


8 uniqueness. This process weakens the diversity of the global culture. Herbert Schiller suggested the word Cultural imperialism in his 1976 work Communication and Cultural Domination to explain how large, multinational corporations in developed countries had dominated developing countries. Schiller suggested there are global imbalances between the Center, or the advanced countries in the First World, and Peripheries, or advancing or Third World countries. According to Sc hillers view, information and technology are controlled by the center nations, and their flow is in one direction from the core to the periphery, with little opportunity for peripheral nations to participate in that process. According to the cultural impe rialism viewpoint, the center will continue to enhance its power, and the periphery will become weaker and more dependent upon the cultural center for information. Although one way flow of information and cultural products is evident, the reality is that advancing modern media technology and the new network paradigm are making the world more intertwined. This makes the one way flow model more complicated (McQuail, 1994). Therefore, cultural imperialism has advanced by adding discussion of cultural counter flow. For instance, the cultural flows and network model has explained recent global information and culture flow that cultural imperialism cannot (Crane, 2002). Cultural flows and network s model s suggest an alternative perspective on the flow of informat ion and culture. This model says information is not originated only from the center, and it does not only flow from the center to the periphery. Instead, receivers can also be the producers, and the center can also be a receiver (Crane, 2002).


9 Active audi ence approaches. Watson and Hill (2000) write, The notion of the active audience considers audiences proactive and independent rather than docile and accepting. The active audience is seen to use the media rather than be used it (p. 15). While cultural imperialism focuses on the producers, nations or organizations to explain the flow of information and media products, active audience approaches can add the role of audiences to this discussion. In addition, they would be a keystone of this study because active audience theories move attention from the state of the film market to the viewpoint of audiences, which are the ultimate subjects of this research. Salwen (1991) asserts that the interpretation of the cultural products varies according to the conte xt in which reception takes place and the audiences social characteristics (education, gender, ethnicity, etc.). Fiske (1987) says, Television audience is composed of a wide variety of groups and is not a homogeneous mass These groups actively read tele vision in order to produce from it meanings that connect with their social experience (p. 84). These ideas from two scholars are built on the assumption that audiences also have a certain power on mass communication processes. In order to understand activ e audience approaches, the researcher suggests two major theories in this study. One is uses and gratifications (fraction of selection), and the other is reception theory (reception studies, reception analysis). Possible barriers Segrave (2004) says fore ign films have not been successful in the U.S. film


10 market because of their quality. This term quality here does not mean artistic quality, rather the perfection as commercial goods, and the possibility of commercial success. In this respect, quality of films is highly related to the budget of the films. Wildman and Siwek (1988) proposed that producers in larger and wealthier linguistic markets have an incentive to make larger investments in media products. In other words, it is easier for other English s peaking countries and European countries to break into the U.S. market because of their linguistic similarity and /or cultural ties with the United States than for Asian countries to break into the market. Additionally, film critics like Major (2004) believ e that U.S. audiences do not enjoy foreign films with subtitles or dubbing because they are not used to them Long lasting success of the Hollywood film industry has made Hollywood films acceptable to others, but U.S. viewers may not have many opportunitie s to be exposed to foreign films (Major, 2004). In this context, t his study suggests two major possible barriers that U.S. audiences can face when consum ing foreign films. Those are linguistic barriers and cultural barriers.


11 Review of Literature The history of foreign films in the United States F oreign films in the United States Prior to World War I, more foreign films were shown to U.S. audiences than domestic films. According to Segrave (2004), at that time, two thirds of films shown in U.S. t heaters were produced in Europe However, World War I which was fought on the European continent, weakened the European film industry The war gave U.S. films an opportunity to overcom e European domination and reverse the flow of film trade between Europ e and the United States. For instance, in 1927, U.S. films dominated French theaters with an 80 percent market share, and only five percent of films which were shown in French theaters were domestic ones (Segrave, 2004). During that era, screen quotas em erged in Europe to protect the domestic market D uring the 1950s, foreign films faced strong er barriers in the U.S. market than they had ever experienced before. Block booking was one of them. When a studio sold a major film to a theater, that theater had to buy several other mediocre films in order to buy the d esirable one. Because major U.S. film producers had already seize d their domestic market and had enough films to fill domestic screens only with their own products, they could adopt th ese strong bar rier s confidently (Robinson, 1973) According to Aberdeen (2001), Adolph Zukor, who built Paramount into the first


12 vertically integrated film company in Hollywood originated the block booking system. By p ackaging B films with major and powerful films st udios had stronger profit model which made investments easier and reduced risk The U.S. film cartel manipulated domest ic theaters with this strategy. As a result, U.S. studios bec a m e bigger and overwhelmingly powerful both in finances and quantity of pro duction In contrast foreign films e xperience d severe difficult ies break ing into the U.S. film market. A fter the 1950s the foreign film market share in the States did not begin to improve until recent days. Asian films in the United States Out of the 5 4 foreign films with the greatest gross earnings up to the year 2000, there are two Japanese films : Shall W e D ance (1997, ranked 17), and Ran (1983, ranked 26) There are two Taiwanese films : Eat Drink Man Woman (1994, ranked 2 7) and The Wedding Banquet (1 993, ranked 30), and one Chinese film : Farewell My Concubine (1993, ranked 44). Except for these five Japanese and pan Chinese films, there have not been any Asian films among the top earning foreign films The rest were from European countries except for one Mexican film Like Water For Chocolate (Segrave, 2004). Moreover, the Top r anked Asian film Shall W e D ance had box office earning s of $ 9.7 million U.S. This is less than 2 % of the top gross earning U.S. film Titanic ($ 600,779,824) I t is even les s than 10 % of Jumanji which is ranked 330 among all time U.S. top gross earning films (IMD b 2005). A s Chen (2004) stated American film audiences havent been broadly excited by international films in a long time (Para. 31), Asian films successes we re also short


13 ones. The Japanese art house boom, led by Kurosawa, Imamura and Ohshima, and the partial success of the Hong Kong martial arts action film boom in the 19 70 s and 1980s also failed to continue the boom with their successors. To explain Asian films failure to continuous ly succeed in the U.S. market, Zuckerman and Kim s (2003) idea is worth considering. They write that the character of film can be defined from the process of production and distribution, not according to the character of the fil m itself. In other words, many factors contribute to a films placement among the spectrum of blockbusters for the mass market or independent films for niche market s In the case of Asian films, most are released on a small number of screens in the U.S. ma rket and promotion budget s are also low. A ccording to this categorization, they can be defined as independent films for niche market s Whether they are blockbuster films in their regional market s or are commercially succe ssful domestically most are treat ed as independent films for niche market s in U.S. theaters because of their distribution process in the United States. Because Asian films have few examples of commercial successes in the U.S. market, it could be a hard decision for distributors to releas e Asian films nationwide and put a lot of money into promotion ; consequently, the possibility of commercial success also becomes lower. This is the vicious business spiral of Asian films in the U.S. market. Zuckerman and Kim (2003) argue that the differenc e between independent films and blockbuster s is not whether they are produced by major film producers or independent filmmaker s but whether they are made by major U.S. film producers or by the others including Asian majors.


14 Theoretical Framework: Taking the audiences into consideration Uses and Gratifications Herta Herzog is often credited as the originator of the uses and gratification s discussion. According to Baran and Davis (2000), her 1944 article Motivations and Gratifications of Daily Serial Li stener s is considered the seminal research in this discussion. Through in depth interviews with radio listeners, she assessed their reasons for using media and experiences with it. In Wilbur Schrams book The process and Effects of Mass Communication h e also asked the question W hat determines which offerings of mass communication will be selected by a given individual? (1954, as cited in Baran & Davis, 2000, p. 19) Schrams answer for this question was fraction of selection. W hen people choose what to see, hear, or consume, their choices are based on their own expectations of their reward s from consuming media product s Blumer and Katz are considered the main theorists of uses and gratification s In their book The U ses of M ass Co mmunications: Curren t P erspectives on G ratifications R esearch (1974), they argued that media users play an active role i n choosing and using the media based on their expectation s of rewards Audiences or media users are seeking media sources that can better meet their needs w hen they have alternative choices to satisfy their need s The researchers said consumers have a free will to decide how they use the media and how it would affect them ( Baran & Davis, 2000 ) This theory suggests that media are trying to achieve their goal t o attract audiences; on the other hand, audiences also are trying to increase the effects, rewards, or


15 gratifications that they can earn from consuming that media product. Th is argument support s the idea that th e process o f media flow is not the one way flow from media to audiences, but is the multi directional process between media and audiences According to McQuail (2000), the basic assumptions of this active audience approach are as follows: 1. Media and content choice is generally rational and directe d toward specific goals and satisfactions (thus the audience is active and audience formation can be logically explained). 2. Audience members are conscious of the media related needs that arise in personal (individual) and social (shared) circumstances and can voice these in terms of motivations. 3. Broadly speaking, personal utility is a more significant determinant of audience formation than aesthetic or cultural factors. 4. All or most of the relevant factors for audience formation (motives, perceived or obta ined satisfactions, media choices, background variables) can, in theory be measured. (pp. 387 388) In sum, a s also shown in McQuail s (2000) argument, uses and gratification s theory assumes that the audiences are active and choose and consume media in or der to achieve their goals It is also assumed that these goals are linked to the audiences own cultures or characters Uses and gratification s theory provides m ass c ommunication scholars insight into how people experienc e media content Because this theo ry allows


16 multi directional information exchange s between media and users, it is thought to provide useful insight s into the adoption of new media (Baran & Davis, 2000). The u ses and gratification s approach brought audiences to a more central position in t hinking about media. Reception theory While uses and gratifications theory tries to assess audiences rewards from media consumption many research er ha ve focused on the way that audiences resist the constructions of reality preferred by the mass media a nd construct their own, often oppositional, meaning for media texts. Since much of this work is concerned with detailed investigation of audiences reception of media messages ; it is generally known as reception study. Different from uses and gratification s research, reception study generally uses qualitative methods to dis cover the meanings which groups of readers generate for media texts, focusing on the audiences particular situations. I n sum, r eception theory concentrat es on how audiences interpret med ia. For the purpose of understanding the viewers attitude s and impression s of a certain film, reception theory could be the main and one most important theoretical framework for this study. Limited effect s paradigm which was developed in the 1950s, is t he view that media reinforc e and enhanc e existing social trends rather than challenging the status quo. A school of social theory, widely known as British c ultural studies, emerged among Neo M arxists in Britain in the 1960s to challenge the limited effects paradigm. British cultural studies scholars asserted that people may resist hegemonic ideas and propagated interpretations of the world. Starting with the deterministic


17 assumptions about the influence of media, their work focus ed on audiences reception o f media content ( Watson & Hill, 2000). British cultural studies scholar Stuart Hall applied French semiotic theory to argue that every media product is a text that is made up of signs which are related to one another in specific ways. To make sense of a text or to read the text, audiences have to be able to interpret the signs and their structures. Hall argued that when making media messages, producers generally intend for audiences to read their messages according to the producers original aims; howeve r, their messages can be interpreted in other ways. P opular media have a preferred meaning that can agree with and enhanc e the status quo, but audiences also can make alternative interpretations. Hall (19 80 )s idea is that media messages are interpreted i n various ways because they are open and polysemic and are interpreted according to the context and the culture of receivers. This discussion can be connected t o Halls own model of encoding and decoding Codes are systems of meaning whose rules and conven tions are shared by members of a culture or an interpretive community (for instance, fans of the same media program, genre, author or performer) (Hall, 1980) P eople make sense of the world by drawing on their understanding of communicative codes and conve ntions. Particular gestures, expressions, forms of dress and images carry more or less unambiguous meanings that have been established by usage and familiarity within particular cultures In his model of the process of encoding and decoding, Hall (1980) portrays the television program as a meaningful discourse. This is encoded according to the meaning


18 structure of the mass media production organization or the producer but decoded according to the different experiences and frameworks of knowledge of diffe rently situated audiences. Receivers can read between the lines and even reverse the intended direction of the messages. It is clear that this model and the associated theory embody several key principles: the multiplicity of meanings of media content the existence of varied interpretive communities and the primacy of the receiver in determining the m eaning. The central idea of this approach focus es on how different audience members make sense of specific forms of content. Reception theory focuses on peo ples ability to make sense of specific forms of content. Readers of media texts often apply their own negotiated and oppositional meanings to the preferred readings intended by content producers. In other words, audiences can be considered as the active p roducers of meaning, not only the consumers of media meanings. A udiences decode media texts in ways which are related to their social and cultural circumstances and the ways that they individually experience those circumstances. Similarly reception study argues that audiences do not perfectly take the view of the message producers; rather they try to find their own meanings and interpret the message according to their own perceptions and background. T o support this, Fish (198 0 ) suggested the notion of int erpretive community. According to Fish (1980), there is not objective knowledge, but rather, the knowledge is always socially conditioned. H is argument is that the knowledge and thoughts one has are constructed by the community


19 that he or she belongs to, a nd one cannot think beyond the limits imposed by culture. Fish (1980) argues that because the community members are inside the interpretive community itself, it is difficult for them to think outside the consensus boundaries of their own community : How c an any one of us know whether or not he is a member of the same interpretive community as any other of us? The answer is that he can t, since any evidence brought forward to support the claim would itself be an interpretation (especially if the other wer e an author long dea d ) The only proof of membership is fellowship, the end of recognition from someone in the same community (Fiske, 1980, p. 173). Possible barriers Linguistic Barrier s / Subtitle versus dubbing debate Watching foreign films means tha t audiences are encountering foreign culture s which are less familiar than their own, and audiences also are not familiar with the foreign language. Therefore, films must be translated into the language being used by the target audiences. Nowadays, two fr equently used methods for film translation are dubbing and subtitling. Dubbing is the re recording of actors lines while preserving the original soundtrack as much as possible Subtitling displays translated phrases on the screen to help a udiences underst and the film (Szarkowska, 2005). Serban (2004) analyzes the debate between s ource oriented translation s versus target oriented translation s Source oriented translation stresses presentation of the


20 original; target oriented translation aims to help audie nces easily follow and understand the story despite some loss of the original production Serban (2004) divides the approaches into domesticating versus foreignising (p.3) methods. D ubbing would be a domesticating method, and subtitling could be categori zed as a means of foreignising. In this respect, the translation mode that the country chooses shows the countrys attitude toward foreign films and culture (Szarkowska, 2005). Subtitling has many advantages. For instance, it s costs in budget and time are not high Furthermore, the original soundtrack can be preserved perfectly. However, it also has many disadvantages Subtitles contaminat e films visual image s and audiences attention can be split between the images and subtitles. In addition, subtitling often reduces the original dialogue in order to guarantee enough time for reading the subtitles Usually, dialogue must be reduced to one third of original (Serban, 2004). Although longer subtitles lower the possibility of harming the content and allow a udiences to understand more details of that film, fewer subtitles allow the audiences to take less time reading and focus more on enjoying the film. The alternative, dubbing, also has drawbacks. It is more expensive and time consuming; in addition to the c ost dubbings serious disadvantage is in losing the original soundtrack. The dubbing process loses the original actors voice s and can change s the balance of the film, which was carefully mixed according to the directors intention (Mera, 1991). In this sense, as Danan (1991) writes Dubbing is an attempt to hide the foreign nature of a film by creating the illusion that actors are speaking the viewers language (p. 606) dubbing is the more


21 target oriented translation mode. S ubtitling is a n example of source oriented translation. While d ubbing aims to improve audiences understanding but sacrifices originality, subtitling preserv es that films foreignness. Continuous exposure to an original soundtrack constantly reminds the audiences of the origin of t he film. Danan (1991) says subtitles also cultivate audiences interest in that source culture. S ubtitling and dubbing are located at opposite ends of the translation spectrum. Danan says, Subtitling corresponds to a weaker system open to foreign influen ces. Dubbing results from a dominant nationalistic system in which a nationalistic film rhetoric and language policy are promoted equally (1991, p. 613). A mong European countries, dubbing is usually applied in France, Germany, Italy, and Spain while many other countries favor subtitles. Danan argues that this difference is derived from commercial and historic causes (Danan, 1991). B ecause dubbing needs more resources to be used in production, it is favored by countries that have big economic market s and high possible box office revenue. On the other hand, for same reason, smaller countries usually accept subtitling for foreign films. However, t he case s of Germany, Italy, and Spain should be approached from a different angle. Each country experienced fasc ist government. Nazi Germany, Mussolinis Italy, and Spain under Franco were aware of the importance and impact of film propaganda on national unity; consequently, film industries fell under government control. Moreover, s trong nationalism tends to restric t outside influences resisting its


22 superior tradition. As a result, translation in a nationalistic environment must be more target oriented than source oriented In these environments, foreign material in films is localized to make sure the foreign languag e cannot reach the masses easily and compete with the national language (Dana, 1991). The nationalistic countries did not allow subtitled foreign films on their domestic screens. In addition t hey all considered the use of the national language to be essen tial for national unity, so they prohibited dialects or minority languages. Frances dubbing preference history has a similar rationale but different root. Historically, France has displayed a strong preference for cultural centralization. The country requ ired the use of proper French, and this policy has made dubbing common (Danan, 1991). Szarkowska (2005) classified countries in to four categories according to the translation modes they employ. T here are source language countries (Para. 6), dubbing cou ntries (Para. 7), subtitling countries (Para. 8), and voice over countries (Para. 9). She categorizes major English speaking countries such as the United States and United Kingdom as source language countries They are strong film exporters and hardly import foreign films. In these countries, foreign films tend to be subtitled rather than dubbed. F oreign films are considered minority and independent film s in these countries. Because of these commercial reasons, foreign films highly tend to be subtitled in these countries. According to The I nstitute of Communication S tudies at The University of Leeds (2003) and Danan (1991), some scholars argue that most viewers would prefer dubbing if


23 they have choices between subtitled and dubbed version s They assert that dubbing foreign films can appeal to larger masses because people dislike read ing subtitles while watching films. However, some studies about television viewers strongly refute the notion that audiences reject watch ing foreign films with subtitles. Ac cording to these studies, audiences in countries where subtitled television programs are dominant prefer subtitles and do not feel uncomfortable with that translation method. In contrast, in countries where dubbing is dominant, audiences prefer dubbing A s shown in research by Luyken (1987 ; see Danan, 1991, and The I nstitute of Communication S tudies at The University of Leeds, 2003), it can be concluded that audiences tend to be accustomed to the translation mode they have experienced and favor that traditi on. However, research by t he Institute of Communications Studies at The University of Leeds show s a somewhat different view from previous results. The institute performed a study with 48 students watching dubbed and subtitled films. Most of the students w ere anti dubbing. Although they dislike d subtitles, they hated dubbing much more. Researchers conclude d that there was no enthusiasm for a specific translation method, but that most prefer subtitling. However, another study by the institute provides a dif ferent view about the audiences preference toward subtitles. The institute did the same research, but this time, it did not t ell the students that they would watch a dubbed version. In just minutes, students noticed that the film was dubbed, and they said they were disappointed. However, over the course of the film, they got used to the dubbing and their attitudes


24 toward dubbing changed. They admit ted that dubbing was also suitable As seen in those studies audiences may have preference s toward the mean s of translation, but the preference is hard to measure under experimental situations In fact, the preference can change such as the case of Luyken (1987) an Italian student whose preference toward translation method changed after living in a foreign co untry (see Danan, 1991, and The I nstitute of Communication S tudies at The University of Leeds, 2003). T his case study will not carelessly attempt to identify which translation mode is favored by foreign film s in the United States Rather the approach will be to define the feelings of foreign film s toward the language differences and the problems or barriers they experienc e from the linguistic di fferences and translation methods Cultural Barrier / Ethnocentrism Another barrier that U.S. audiences might face while watching foreign films is the effects from stereotypes and impression s of foreign culture. Because of the long consumption of Hollywood films and spread of Western culture in the 19 th and 20 th centur ies Asians experience few barrier s toward Hollywo od heroes. On the contrary, Asian heroes are not easily acceptable to U.S. viewers. With the exception of some cases like Jet Li and Jackie Chans martial art s action films, U.S. audiences are much more accustomed to European or African American actors in their films. That is one of the most important reasons that Hollywood prefers to remake rather than releas e original Asian films (Major, 2004). Japanese a nimations disguise their cultural origins to overcome this problem. They have hidden their cultural c haracters instead of expressing cultural uniqueness


25 (Chen, 2004) A nimation heroes hair is dyed red, brown, green, or blue, and their faces are not ethnically distinctive. This allows audiences to identify with the characters Through this process, Japani mation has been successful not only in the U.S. market but all over the world including European countries with less cultural resistance. Scholars like Haubl (1996) and Chen and Chang (2003) suggest that there can be a positive causal relationship betwee n the impressions of a country and the preference of product s from that country. In other words, a consumer who has a good impression o f a country favor s the countrys products too. Haubl (1996) called that the halo effect (p. 80). In Taiwan, naming new products in English was commercially more successful than naming the m in Chinese (Warden, Lai, & Wu, 2002), and French speakers in Canada evaluate French products more favorably than English speakers do (Wall & Heslop, 1986). Another notable point is that language can bring individuals with various backgrounds into one group. On the basis of the argument above people call themselves group members who share culture and identity (Anderson, 1991). In this context, one assumption arises. U.S. citizens may ten d to feel some superiority about their culture and country because of the power of English and the United States in the world. If so, that would be one reason that Asian films cannot easily aro u se sympathy among the U.S. aud iences. E thnocentrism helps exp lain this relationship and provide s a helpful theoretical bas is for this study Ethnocentrism is to regard ones own group or culture supreme to


26 others. According to Dennen (1986), ethnocentrism can be considered a different way of thinking between the in group/out group. In addition, ethnocentrism can be defined to regard the culture of ones own race is superior to others (p.1). Dunbar (1986) defined ethnocentrism as a belief in the superiority of ones own group or race (p. 54). In short, ethnocentri sm can lead group members to think outsiders and their cultures are basically inferior to their own group. The blind patriotism toward their own group makes members feel superiority to others (Stein, 1986) Dennen (1986) argues that adopting one certain ethnic groups norms and values makes people reject other ethnic group s and culture s For example Nazis used anti Semitism to promote the unity of Aryans and control people. Flohr (1986) argues that if someone does not like specific group, the person will try to avoid contact with i t and will not behave or think according to any concept of those people and their culture. Flohr (1986) also mentions that distancing oneself from strange things and people is a natural behavior and a basic instinct of all livin g things including human beings. Xenophobia is the term for the human fear of strangers. Infants tend to turn away from strangers, avoid eye contact with them and start to cry when they are touched by strangers (Flohr, 1986). In this respect, exclusive to other ethnic groups and other culture s is a common behaviors of human beings. E very group reg ards others as possible enemies, and group members share suspicion and distrust of other groups (Nuenke, 2003). According to Ike s (1986) explanation, the group identity that individuals identify with is the motive for xenophobia. T his kind of hostility works effectively to unite the group because hostility


27 toward the out group makes the group members depend on and trust each other. Historically, political leader s who feel threatened politically also tend to commit wars or support discrimination against weaker and smaller groups in order to uni f y in group members Dennen (1986) also points that leading people to discriminate and hate outsiders can make group memb ers easily follow the control of hierarchy, enforce the principles of the society and conclusively unite group members. In this process of uniting people in groups and against others, group members develop stereotypes about others whether manipulated or self built. Flohr (1986) argues that individuals can develop stereotypes in two ways. P eople can build their own views with the help of biasing mechanisms that constructed earlier or they can adopt opinions from their social environment without considerat ion. As Demers (1999) writes mass media and society influenc e and reflect each other regarding ethnic problems in societ y Media producers watch things through their own viewpoint s shaped by the standard s of the ir own culture s T he stereotypes that they h ave been built are at work during media product ion In a different view, most of the leaders of global media are base d in developed countries T he content of major global media ha s continued to generate strong support for Western values, lifestyle, and c ulture. Alternative social systems, cultures, behavioral patterns or ideas have been marginalized. A lthough some unique aspects of Asi an culture have been welcomed in the U.S. Asian cultural products are not widespread. It has been difficult to achieve l ong term box office hits in mainstream U.S. audiences, who share


28 cultural ties to Europe and have considered European culture as the only foreign import for decades The concept of e thnocentrism is also important in the foreign marketing process. Usually when the companies based outside w estern countries try to advance to a w estern market for the first time, they hide their countries of origin and pretend to be domestic suppliers. I n the same situation, companies from advanced countries emphasi ze that th ey are from developed and advanced w estern countries. Sony, now one of the worlds biggest and most famous electr onic companies also accepted the origin hiding policy in its first foray in the U.S. market so that U.S. consumers did not connect the company with Japan whenever they use d Sony products. Because the nation al image of Japan until the 1970s, specifically before the Tokyo Olympics, was not positive U.S. consumers did not give credibility to products originating there. Sony adapted this strategy t o break into the U.S. market I t worked successfully for the company (Matsumoto, 1997). Brand image and country image are closely related to each other. Through the 1970s and 1980s, success stories of Japanese brands made U.S. consumers believe that the Ja panese make durable and good products. The g ood reputation of Japanese products has spread to all product s from Japan. Fernandez (1993) gives a clue as to why this difference exists among companies based in the West and others. According to this research many U.S. citizens like the sound of French, German, or British accent s in English, but they complain that South Americans do not speak English in nice tones, and that Asian accents are too rough and


29 hard to understand. Although such stereotypes are not universal, in many U.S. films, intelligent characters tend to have British accent s rigid grocery store owners tend to have strong Asian accents and audiences tend to associate illegal immigrants with strong Spanish accents. As previously mentioned in d iscussing linguistic barriers, strong nationalism causes people to reject outside influences and gives people pride and self confiden ce in their own language, ethnic group, and culture. Although the environment of the United States can not easily be explain ed with this concept, there is the possibility that long lasting one way flow of cultural products contributes to American ethnocentri sm


30 Object of Case Study: OldBoy Oh Daesu was just a mediocre man who had a wife and a daughter. One night he was abducted on the way home. When he woke up, he found that he was imprisoned in a small sealed room, where he had to survive for fifteen years without knowing why he was imprisoned. One day Daesu saw TV news that said his wife was murdered, and he, who had been missing one year, was suspected of the crime. At that time, he determined to seek to revenge on the person who imprisoned him. In his fifteenth year of captivity, he was released at the place he was abducted fifteen years before. At a Japanes e restaurant, Daesu met Mido, a sushi cook. Daesu, who had eaten only fried dumplings, delivered from the same Chinese restaurant for fifteen years, asked Mido for something fresh to eat. This live octopus eating scene has been criticized by audiences for its brutality. On the other hand, that scene also has been complimented by others for showing Daesus vengeance, rage, and grief very dramatically and very successfully. With a small piece of paper, which he found in a dumpling when he was imprisoned, as a clue, he visited every Chinese restaurant named Blue Dragon, which was printed on that paper, and to tr y their dumplings to find the taste he ate for fifteen years. Finally, he found the restaurant. He found the hidden private prison between the seventh


31 floor and eighth floor in a building by following a deliveryman. At that time, Woojin, who imprisoned Daesu, appeared by himself in front of Daesu. Woojin suggested a game to Daesu: if Daesu can find the reason he was imprisoned, Woojin will kill himself i n front of Daesu. While following the clues that Woojin intentionally left, Daesu discovered the answer. Woojin and Daesu were in the same high school in a small town. One day, Daesu happened to see Woojin and his sister Soo a h making love in a vacant clas sroom. Daesu told his friend Joowhan what he saw and asked him not to tell anybody else, but Joowhan told his girlfriend what he heard from Daesu. That rumor became widespread in that town while Daesu had already moved to another city. Soo a h suffered from that rumor; furthermore, she developed a pseudo pregnancy Finally, she jumped from a dam in front of her brother, Woojin. Because Woojin thought that his sister died because of Daesus rumor, he imprisoned Daesu to give him more pain than his sister expe rienced. However, Woojins plan was not that simple. Daesu felt isolation and loneliness for years, and it also gave Woojin time to hatch an elaborate plan of revenge. Mido, Daesus new lover, was Daesus daughter. Woojin killed Daesus wife and had been s ecretly watching Mido for fifteen years. When Mido grew up, he released Daesu. Before releasing him, Woojin hypnotized both of them to fall in love easily Daesu and Mido fell in love without knowing their relationship. After knowing that, Daesu was shocke d, but he begged Woojin not to tell Mido about the truth. Finally, Daesu cut out his own tongue with scissors, which was the


32 beginning of this revenge game. Woojin finally got his revenge, but because his life was only for the revenge of his sister, finall y, he shot himself in the head. Daesu let the hypnotist erase the part that he heard about Mido from his memory and meets Mido again. Above is the plot of OldBoy This film is based on a Japanese comic book of the same title. Japanese mystery story writer Garon Tsuchiya wrote and Nobuaki Minegishi drew the cartoon. OldBoy was published in 1997 by Hutabasha in Japan (Hutabasha, 2005). The incest theme, which was missing in the original comic, was put in by the films director, Chan w ook Park, and screen writ ers Jo y un Hwang and Chun h yeong Lim. With this choice, they provided a clearer motive for the revenge game and improved the plot of film, although this film has been criticized for this sensational choice. Director Chan w ook Park majored in philosophy in co llege and released his first full length film, Moon is the Suns Dream, in 1992. In 2000, with JSA Join Security Area a film that was about a tragic story between North and South Korean soldiers in the demilitarized zone of national border, he achieved co mmercial success and critical acclaim (Cine21, 2005). Boksuneu n Naui Geot Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance went into limited release in U.S. theaters in 2005 after OldBoy However, i t already was widely known to Asian film fans in the United States and also h ad drawn U.S. film critics attention to P ark even before OldBoy On the other hand, Park also has been criticized for his style of shocking and sensational scenes daringly (Cine21, 2005). OldBoy was first released in Korea 2003 in joint production and di stribution by Show East and Egg Films and has been seen by more than three million viewers in Korea


33 alone. In 2004, it won the Cannes Grandprix prize. Old B oy is the first Korean film and seventeenth Asian film to win the Cannes Grandprix; Teinosuke Kinugas as Japanese film Gate of Hell was the first Asian film to win that prize. I ncluding Nagisa Ohshimas Empire of the Passions (1978), Akira Kurosawas Shadow Warrior (1980), and Shohei Imamuras The Eel Unagi (1997), Japanese films have been the only Asia n films in Cannes. Furthermore, pan Chinese films were introduced to Cannes in the 1990s, starting with Kaige Chens Ba Wang Bie Ji Farewell My Concubine (1993) and Edward Yangs YiYi A One and A Two (2000) The only Asian film in Cannes Grandprix, tha t was not Chinese or Japanese was Samira Makhmalbafs Panj E Asr At five in the Afternoon from Iran (Cannes, 2005). Following its success in Cannes, OldBoy has been released in 29 countries worldwide : four Asian countries (Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore a nd Korea), five American countries (Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Mexico, and the United States), 19 European countries (Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Israel, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Russia Spain, Sweden, Turkey, and the United Kingdom), and Australia (IMDb, 2005). In the United States, OldBoy was released on March 25 2004 by Tartan Films USA. Starting in New York and Los Angeles, it has been shown on 26 screens in Chicago, San Francisco, S an Diego, Seattle, Portland, Houston, Austin, Atlanta, and St. Louis for six months until the end of August 2005 (Tartan Films USA, 2005). According to IMDb (2005), it has earned $ 703,000 U.S. box office gross (Aug


34 26, 2005) in U.S. release, $ 272,509 U. S. in Germany, and $ 579,447 U.S. in the United Kingdom (Cine21, 2005). Comparing the market size of those countries, the U.S. release does not seem so successful. It is even smaller than the film s box office gross in Japan, $ 816,865 U.S. (Nov 19, 2005) (IMDb, 2005). According to IMDb (2005), following the tradition of U.S. studios remaking successful Asian films, Old B oy is also planned to be remade in the United States in 2006.


35 Methodology Creswell (1998) defines qualitative research a s an inquiry process of understanding based on distinct methodological traditions of inquiry that explore a social or human problem. The researcher builds a complex, holistic picture, analyzes words, reports detailed views of informants, and conducts the study in an natural setting (p. 15) Qualitative research attempt s to understand the broad picture of a phenomenon. Creswell (1998) states that q ualitative research aims to get an expansive idea of the research subject and to create an understand ing of th e complexity of that case This is accomplished by providing thick and various d escription s (Creswell, 1998). Denzin and Lincoln ( 2000 ) also explain qualitative study in a similar way. They write Qualitative research is multi method in focus, involving a n interpretive, naturalistic approach to its subject matter. This means that qualitative researchers study things in their natural settings, attempting to make sense of or interpret phenomena in terms of the meanings people bring to them (p. 2). In this respect q ualitative research requires an extensive commitment to study ing research questions, and demands time and resources. Basically, through the data gathering process, qualitative research demands that the investigators spend a large amount of t ime i n the field. Later, while engaging in the complex and time consuming


36 process of data analysis, qualitative researcher s strive to sort the large amounts of data and reduce them into several themes and categories. In this process, qualitative researchers mus t interpret subtle ideas and images which are different from quantitative data that consist of numbers and can be interpreted much more clearly Creswell (1998) suggest s five major traditions of qualitative research : biography, phenomenology, grounded t h eory, ethnography, and case study. Biography is the story of a single individual. When an individual can illuminate a specific issue, biography is applied. Phenomenology is used when investigators need to understand the meaning of experiences of individual s who share a phenomenon worth studying The purpose of grounded theory is to generate a theory. Ethnography s purpose is to study the behaviors of a culture sharing group and define the character and culture of the group through observation and interview This research is a case study which is an exploration of a bounded system or a case over time through detailed, in depth data collection involving multiple sources of information rich in context (Creswell, 1998, p. 61). Specifically, this is an intri nsic case study, discussed fully in the following paragraph. Case studies can use various sources together. Data includes observations, interview, audio visual material, and documents The multiple sources allow the researchers to approach a case from vari ous directions and diverse aspects so researchers can look at the case in various perspectives. According to Stake (2000), there are three types of case studies. I nstrumental case stud ies are done when the purpose of the research is to gain a wide underst anding of


37 a certain phenomenon through examining a specific case and if the researcher aims to generalize those findings In other words, in instrumental case studies, the case is not the main interest of the researcher, but rather, it facilitates our und erstanding of something else (Stake, 2000, p. 437). A c ollective case study can be considered the extension of an instrumental case study for enhancing the generality of the case If the researcher wants better understanding of a specific case, that could be called an intrinsic case study. T his study can be categorized as an intrinsic case study because understanding the viewers of a specific Korean film cannot be easily generalized and cannot be directly applied to all Asian film viewers in the United Sta tes. However, Stake (2000) argues that even if intrinsic case studies concentrate on a specific case, every case study should have a clear expectation of potential generalizability to other cases (Stake, 2000). In this context, this study can be seen as an important first step to understand ing how some viewers in the United States characterize Korean films. Like any case study, the main purpose of case study is at least to contribute to generalization producing (Stake, 2000, p. 439) and to become an oc casional early step in theory building (Stake, 2000, p. 439). Therefore, it can b e said that the more specific and unique the object of study the greater the usefulness of that study. In other words, to become a valuable case study, selecting the case an d clarify ing the boundary of that bounded system is most important (Stake, 2000). This qualitative case study examine s the characteristics of U.S. audiences who watch Asian film products and define s the barriers or problems they face when watching


38 Asian fi lms by studying the viewers of one specific Korean film: OldBoy U.S. audiences who watched OldBoy and posted their opinions and participated in the message board discussions at the OldBoy exclusive board in the Internet Movie Database (IMD b ) website are considered the in group members of the case. People who watch ed OldBoy and voluntarily suggest ed their opinions on OldBoy through the IMD b opinion section and depth interviews with U.S. respondents create the case that is studied in this research. A conte nt analysis wa s conducted on viewer opinions and postings from a message board and user comments at the IMD b website. In addition, in depth interviews with selected users were conducted. IMD b has exclusive boards to target e very single film on its database That database was used in this study, as well as multiple users interviewed through e mail communications. These interviews we re performed to get wider and deeper understandings of the users. IMD b a family company of is a free public websit e about films. Once a film is placed in its database, IMD b makes a board exclusive to that film, and posts overall profiles about the film. I nformation can be omitted, added, and edited by IMD b editors and even by IMD b users suggestions and reports Each exclusive board for every film has detail ed information about the film including business facts. The m ain research subject for this qualitative case study is the opinion section consis ting of user comments, external reviews, newsgroup reviews, awards and n ominations, user ratings, and recommendations. Among them, this study m ainly analyze d user comments and message board discussions. Up to Decemb er 20 2005, 2 96 user comments ha d been


39 posted on the OldBoy board and over 200 discussion topics ha d been sugg ested by users on the message board. The u ser comments section is individual users opinions and reviews on this film. The m essage board section wa s operated by topic leaders and repliers. Once an individual suggests a topic, other users voluntarily contin ue the discussion. According to the IMDb (2005) website homepage, it has more than 420,000 films and entertainment titles and 1.8 million cast and crew member profiles. IMD b was chosen for th is abundan t database and its vigorous discussions by user s. T he global quality of t he Internet allows suggestions and opinions from film viewers in countries around the world to be found in the IMD b opinion section ; h owever, all user names in user comments include nation ality information of the person posting comments Because this study aims to define U.S. film viewers attitude s toward Asian film, opinions from the audiences of other countries are not considered in this study R ather, only U.S. viewers opinions are used The investigator sen t e mails to multiple boar d users in order to get their permission to participate in an e mail interview. This study asks the following research questions : R 1. What impressions of Korean life and culture were evident to OldBoy viewers? R 2. How were those impressions expressed? R 3. What tec hnical problems did viewers encounter when viewing OldBoy ? R 4. What aspects of this Korean film and potentially other such


40 films attract U.S. audiences? As previously mentioned, t he information was gathered by two sources. The opinion section discussions wer e the first data colle c ted for this study. In addition the investigator conduct ed semi structure d open ended interviews with multiple message board participants through e mail. According to Miles and Huberman (1994, as cited in Creswell, 1998), this appro ach can be categorized as an opportunistic sampling which is following new leads; taking advantage of the unexpected (Creswell, 1998, p. 119). The investigator sen t e mails to all 375 U.S. users who posted their opinions on the website from August 6, 2 005 to February 5, 2006 T he investigator initially contact ed them to ask w hether they ha d interest in participating in this research. Moreover, in the initial contact, the investigator asked their nationality for a double check. T wenty three of those U.S. American users agreed to participat e in interviews via e mail. Because this study is a questionnaire through e mail communication, the investigator could not get respondents actual signatures. Therefore, the investigator used a cover letter to get their agreement on this human subject research, rather than using the informed consent form. The cover letter, which was delivered via e mail before sending the questionnaires contains language showing their rights and privacy information protection. The invest igator used the contents of informed consent form < IRB Form: ICadult LR SBv17 >, which was recommended by the University of South Florida Institutional Review Board. Only the signature section of this form was omitted for electronic communications.


41 S ixtee n of twenty three individuals, who agreed in initial contact process, agreed upon this consent E lectronic versions of the actual questionnaire were then distributed to those 16 individuals. I t was a qualitative questionnaire on the impressions and opinion s the web participants have on OldBoy All of those 16 users responded to the questionnaire The investigator contact ed some of them two or three more times for clarification or expansion on the initial information they provide d The data gathered then we re ordered by open coding. Asking questions in the interviews and analyzing the responses allow ed various categories and themes to emerge. Every detail of data gathered was analyzed in order to understand the meaning and context behind the responses given by participants W hen a user participated in a certain discussion topic, or the participant emphasized a particular question, it showed that she or he wanted to argue a certain point and that this topic was important to her or him H owever, some answers th at were only casually mentioned also proved to be important E very comment and response was analyzed to construct the themes and categories presented in discussion section. In this study, the investigator attempt ed to draw from interviews and web postings the nature of the realities created by these subjects through their viewing of OldBoy It wa s expected that the themes and sub themes that emerge from this material w ould create a sense of a constructed reality around which these participants view the K orean culture in general. This constructivist approach ( Creswell, 1998, pp. 74 76; Denzin & Lincoln, 2000, p. 165) is necessary in this particular study because of the nature of the


42 contacts with the subjects through online conversation. Guba & Lincoln ( 2000) report that applying the constructivist ontological paradigm is one where the researcher uses quotes and themes in words of participants and provides evidence of different perspectives (p. 75).


43 Result s The content analysis of t he IMDB message board and e mail in depth interviews with participants among the board users provided a wide array of data. I deas from the data can be categorized in to six major themes: 1) searching for alternatives, 2) discovery of OldBoy 3) foreign film s as prestige agents 4) barriers, 5) c ultural difference/ c ultural agreement, and 6) criticism of the Asian film boom. Analyzing the web posts of OldBoy in IMDb was helpful in understanding the overall character of the people in this case. According to the data, it was found that the majority of board users can be described as film goers who share a cynical view of Hollywood s major production system and enjoy experiencing foreign cultures. Through sharing their opinions in the IMDb website, users are disco vering Korean films as well as other foreign films. As shown in OldBoy s example, users consider those films as good alternatives to Hollywood films. Furthermore, through analyzing respondents interviews and their postings, it was also shown that the boar d users build prestige as serious film goers through their regular foreign film viewing. S ome board users differentiate themselves from mainstream U.S. film viewers and enhance their pride as trend leaders. The investigator previously suggested two major p roblems that foreign film viewers may face, linguistic and cultural barriers. I nterestingly the majority of respondents insist that they did not feel any


44 linguistic or cultural barriers while watching OldBoy It was also shown that some viewers are viewin g the recent Asian film boom negatively. These viewers point out that including Korean films, the quality of Asian films is overestimated and are complimented too highly. These six themes also include various sub categories. T he following results examine each theme in depth. Searching for alternatives The Searching for alternative theme identifies th e members of th is case who have a cynical view of Hollywood s major production system. They have become disenchanted. The majority of respondents claimed th at Hollywood s Asian film remaking boom shows how well this system works in hiding the original and trying not to lose its dominant power in the market. Eventually, the respondents are disappointed and demand alternatives. I n that process, OldBoy was captu red in their radar. T he searching for alternative theme has three sub categories. They are: Cynical towa r d Hollywood system High dislike of Hollywoo d s Asian film remaking Searching for alternatives Independent films, foreign films By concentrating on ly on profits, Hollywood has become focused on creating blockbuster giant films aiming to make money, rather than creat ing art. T his cynical viewpoint of Hollywood is well shown in the debates on U.S. film industry s Asian film remaking boom. T his negative reaction to Hollywood makes the viewers seek alternatives such as independent films and minority films that can cover the niche. By categorizing


45 themselves as film enthusiasts, respondents tend to search for uncommon and unique films that are rarely seen in U.S. theaters. Asian films like OldBoy are attracting these viewers because of their scarcity in U.S. film market. Cynical t o wa r d H o l lywood system Users of OldBoy board share a cynical view of Hollywood. In order to lower the risk, Hollywood is makin g similar style films; in other words, market tested ones. B ecause Hollywood is inclined to reproduce previously successful models to guarantee profits, the products become more similar and los e their diversity. One of the most strongly suggested reasons f or viewers prais ing OldBoy was because of its creativity. I ll just say that I m completely sick and tired of typical Hollywood movies same plots, same action, same dialog, same endings, same twist (P 36). Across the world, people are staying away f rom U.S. films. T heir home box office is dropping. W hy because they turn everything into one style of beige cinema To the point that everything that they make is market tested and focus grouped to death I t s fair to argue that after almost a ce ntury of making films, original ideas are few and far between, but that still doesn t justify the actions of the American film industry This is a movie that American studios are simply incapable of making (I should state the fact that I am an American from N e w Jersey.) So while I do love American movies more than most patronizing foreigners think I should, I also concede the OldBoy is just of a different breed of film


46 High dislike of Hollywood s Asian film remaking To understand the character of U .S. OldBoy board users, it was useful to analyze the ir reactions to and opinions on recent U.S. film makers Asian film remakes. OldBoy also is plann ing to be remade in 2006 in the United States. The majority of respondents expressed a high degree of disgu st to the remaking of OldBoy Respondents voiced similar postings to other Asian film remakes. Board users share the view that those remakes are Hollywood s attempt to eliminate foreign films from its domestic market and monopolize the market. Users pointe d out the phenomenon that Hollywood films are spending great amounts of money on the promotion process. They see if Hollywood majors invest big budgets to promote foreign films, those films also could be commercially successful in the U.S. market. However, by remaking those films rather than promoting the original, Hollywood majors are separating U.S. viewers from foreign originals. R espondents also see that these remakes are being done without any respect to the original and source culture. W ithout careful consideration, foreign films are being Americanized according to American standard. So Hollywood studios go for a safe bet, a plot that already had success in other countries, even if it doesn t make a killing, as long as it makes some money. T hey pre fer this instead of taking a risk with a totally original script. In that same way it can be applied to best selling books adaptations, comic book adaptations, sequels and so on Why can t the U.S. distributor pick up the original and release it to the masses? H ell, if it s the old subtitles chestnut, well dub the bloody thing We ll see the usual American Cinematography and quick rush action editing for sure


47 Apparently, the U.S. studios are focusing on the Asian cinema boom as a threat. T hey will remake everything to keep the foreign market out. J ust another sign of the evil U.S. machine trying to control everything but every film that Hollywood puts out is backed by a marketing campaign that is often more expensive than the film itself If they did this with foreign films, I guarantee people would go and see them. O ver time they d stop asking, Is this subtitled or Is this foreign, they d just go and see it for the same reasons that they d go to any other film A ny cultural refe rence gets chopped off into this big recycling cannibalistic machine. T he original movies get limited releases, or none at all, while the remake gets a wide open release with lots of publicity What really gets me about these things is that the remake s are often done with little respect for the source material and are sanitized and Americanized till they little resemble the original more formulaic, mildly popcorned version of one of the best foreign films I ve ever seen, coming off an assembly line of more of the same Some users argue that the remaking of foreign films can lead the audiences to the original, so U.S. remaking also has a certain positive role for foreign films in the U.S. market. However, negative views toward this idea were also shown by some other users, and th is negative view is the majority in this case. They argue that the U.S. public is not accustomed to enjoying foreign materials with foreign language, foreign settings, and foreign faces. I n these circumstances, if the U.S. audiences have two choices between the original and rema k e, they tend to choose the remade version. Was the idiot audience really going to see OldBoy in Korean anyways? No Way! But, there is one thing to remember: I may inspire people to check out the original. A nd this is gold. F or any


48 of those middle of the road film goers or budding true film lovers, a bad remake may guide them to the original, a damn fine film if there had never been an American version fewer people would have enjoyed it And yes. I concede that many people have shallow taste in film, but there are also people who have other hobbies and can t go search out every obscure foreign/indie film they may like, then watch all those and enjoy a subset Y ou think that after se eing the Brad Pitt ish Americanized version, all those who enjoyed it are going to seek out the original Korean version? B ullsh**. T hey ve already seen the film why would they want to watch it again? With subtitles? I t s great when it makes people look for the original. B ut the fact of the matter is that Hollywood does not have this intention. T hey bury the fact that the film is a remake in among the end credits where only a very select few (probably the ones who already know it s a remake) end up l ooking. I t s great if it gets people to look for the original but that usually doesn t happen. I know someone who saw Verbinski s The Ring and when I suggested they see the original said, But I ve already seen the film now Would it not be better if Holly wood companies would use their vast financial resources to just release the films as one of their own Searching for alternatives Independent films, foreign films Out of disenchantment with Hollywood, board users tend to devote themselves to search ing for new and uncommon films. U sers share the view that Hollywood is not the only source of film, and there are far more films that are new and available outside of Hollywood majors, including U.S. independent films. Users say they want more unusual and unco nventional films with new and challenging themes. They insist that Hollywood seems not to have any intention to make these films. Disappointment with Hollywood


49 makes people seek alternatives independent films and minority films that can cover the niche In the context that Asian films are also characterized as independent films in the United States because of their promotion process, ( Zuckerman & Kim 2003) Asian films can also be attractive alternatives to them. I am willing to watch more daring or unconventional films, as well as subtitled films, but since Hollywood doesn t create that kind of cinema there isn t a niche for it, at least in mainstream context T hey don t seem to have the balls to take a challenging theme/subject and make a film a bout it America has a fine independent film scene that deserves better than to be lumped in with Hollywood H aving said this, there are good U.S. films, but it s mostly independents T here are still good American directors, like Todd Solond s or Jim Jarmush; they just usually work outside of the big studios Discovery of OldBoy Asian films are considered a good source of refreshing entertainment by this group of viewers It seems that OldBoy was discovered by the se viewers in the process of Asian film viewing and discussion s rather than from their interest in the films from a certain country, such as Korea. E ven though the majority of respondents recognize themselves as Asian film lovers, rather than Korean film enthusiasts, they claim tha t they also have become interested in Korean films and culture. The theme discovery of OldBoy includes these sub categories.


50 Asian films: a good source of refreshing entertainment Asian/Korean films can be the alternative Interests in Korean film s By sh aring their Asian film viewing experiences with other IMDb users, board users are searching for other films according to their national interest, style, and sometimes even by the directors or actors as links. E ven the distributors and production companies are being used as links for users to find other Asian films. I nterest in Asian films eventually led the users to discover Korean films as a subset of Asian films. M any respondents said that they could not pick up any scenes or settings that depict peculiar aspects of Korean life I t seems that they do not differentiate Korean films from other Asian films. O n the other hand, being introduced to OldBoy some respondents also say that their interests have expanded to enjoy other Korean films. Asian films: a g ood source of refreshing entertainment Asian films are considered a refreshing film T hey view Asian films that are unique and different from Hollywood major films that they have been watching. Board users say discovering Asian films is like encountering a different breed of film because of their stylistic differences. In this sense, users assert that Asian films would be one important step for people starting to become film connoisseur s E xactly, when I first got caught up in the whole Asian Scene (Th nx ASiamania! ) It was like finding a whole new genre of movies. Horror, Action, Asian etc. Why? C ause most of them are unique ways of showing ordinary films film and cinema from Asia is much more pleasing than most


5 1 from America. I t tries many new things and leans towards pleasing its audience aesthetically as well as emotionally Eastern cinema is often the most refreshing and often the first step for people who truly begin to realize there is more than Hollywood (please everyone) films A sian culture is very vibrant and interesting, and I predict 10 20 years from now, we are going to be watching more Asian (or their Hollywood reincarnates) than Hollywood movies Asian/Korean films can be the alternative Respondents say Korean films provid e them a different paradigm that is missing in today s Hollywood films. In this sense, it can be said that the respondents share the view that Korean films can be an alternative to Hollywood. However, here is one notable point. When this group of vi ewers expresses its opinions or impressions about OldBoy they tend to use the words Asian film in general or Asian films, especially Korean films. I t seems that they do not differentiate Korean films from other Asian films. M ore specifically, they ar e interested in experiencing unconventional Asian films, and as one new Asian film, OldBoy was found. Thus, although this one film from Korea possibly influenced their impressions on Korea and might help them to be interested in Korean culture, it also mig ht influence on viewers impressions about Asian films and culture in general. T he difference, and indeed the main reason that Korean film or Asian film seems legitimate to single out Hollywood is because of the creative environment that it has surround ed itself with I t gives us something American action movies seem helpless to provide (notwithstanding the overly didactic efforts of the


52 Matrix series), a film that allows us to gorge ourselves on thrilling images while inviting us to ponder, should w e choose, the nature of our existence Korean films, or rather Asian movies in general, are only popular amongst hardcore movie buffs like Quentin Tarantino, which is a shame because they are a much superior to the crap fest Hollywood keeps shoving dow n our throats lately I watch and own many Asian films (Korean, Thai, Japanese, Chinese) and I don t generally pay a lot of attention to a lot of the differences. I used to, but I don t find that in general things seem that much different I defini tely enjoy decent foreign films over any type of Hollywood BS, but I have an observation. I n OldBoy similar to other Asian films I ve watched in the past, the romantic relationships tend to be greatly over dramatized I am a big fan of Asian cinema an d have seen many different films from many different directors. OldBoy is by far the best Asian film I have seen to date. Chanwook Park is an amazing director and I can t wait to see his next project Sympathy for Lady Vengeance There were two other p oignant aspects of the film for me. O ne, I almost thought we were going to have a fully formed human female character in the film, when Daesu goes to the sushi restaurant and Mido starts talking with him. Oh, yes real adult male female interaction. But n o. Mido and the sister of Woojin, the two main females are only objects of contention and possessions for the men. You did not protect her. Women are manipulated or controlled, protected or used. I cannot find any Asian movie or work of art fully complet e or accomplished when it embraces such full frontal sexism, even if inherent in a culture


53 Interests in Korean film s Even after this one film, some viewers say they have become interest ed in other Korean film s Using d irector, actor, brand as clues, they search other Korean films and widen their gaze toward whole aspects of this country. The Korean film list in one post is a good example : W ell thus far I ve seen OldBoy Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance JSA Spring Summer Winter etc, Memories of Murder A T a le of Two Sisters and I m ordering Failan and Friend very soon I liked all of them .anyway, what other ones can you recommend (I m not interested in stuff like Vo l cano High ) Th e se films have high correlation s among each other. F or instance, OldBo y JSA, and Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance are directed by same director, Chan w ook Park. Sympa t hy for Mr. Vengea n ce s hero also acted the leading role both in JSA and Memories of Murder M oreover, Failan s hero is Min s ik Choi, who acted Oh Daesu in OldBoy and The Tale of Two Sisters is released by Tartan USA, which is the U.S. distribution company of OldBoy and Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance I would certainly consider this a serious film But like a lot of other Korean films, they inject moments of Black Comedy effectively and naturally. M emories of murder is another great example of this A s far as I can tell, Korea is by a distance the most creative Asian country .. K orea is propping up Asian cinema as a whole and giving it more credibility than it perhaps deserves L ike OldBoy Korean films don t hesitate to portray people


54 realistically, unlike Hollywood movies where the MR characters are like big cute kids who are only here to help others learn valuable life lessons (See House of D or The Other Sister ) T here is no Kung FU style kind of unrealistic actions Korean movies. Y ou would see realistic fighting scenes of the kind you saw in OldBoy well of course in a very Korean style In fact, Korea is the only country I can think of in which their do mestic cinematic output outperforms Hollywood imports consistently T he only draw back is that I wish I knew Korean such that I could understand the making of feature and get a better understanding of the movie I was puzzled when I finished this m ovie the first time though, don t get me wrong, I loved it, because of this movie, I m going to learn as much as possible about Korean cinema I just rented OldBoy and found it fascinating. Can anyone recommend any other Park films that are available o n DVD in the States I f I rent a DVD, I always look for the TARTAN releases Foreign films as prestige agents The foreign films as prestige agents theme provides this study with a turning point, and it is important because the following discussion should be read in consideration of this theme. Building prestige and pride as serious film goers is motivated by sharing their disenchantment with Hollywood films, and the prestige influences their views on Asian film viewing. F oreign films as prestige a gents theme includes two sub categories.


55 The league of film connoisseurs Prestige as trend leaders Through the discussions and opinion sharing with other film viewers in IMDb, some viewers seem to build prestige as film connoisseurs. In addition to th eir prestige as film connoisseurs, they also seem to build their prestige as trend leaders who are watching unconventional Asian films and foreign films that the U.S. public has not seen in U.S. theaters. Even some of these trend leaders are inclined to co nsider themselves different from mainstream U.S. film viewers; furthermore, they separate themselves from the American population. This differentiation is important background for understanding following themes. The league of film connoisseurs OldBoy boa rd users find Asian films are attractive because they are different from Hollywood major films. W hatever the board users view s Asian films are not be welcomed by the majority of U.S. audiences, who are accustomed only to Hollywood style. This argument is created because the users differentiate themselves from mainstream U.S. film audiences. Here is one more notable point. While some board users complain that this film is too difficult, and even some respondents criticize the director is nihilistic, many o ther users observe that the vagueness of the film attracts them. T hey assert that they like this film because it is difficult, and it forces them think. In this manner, it seems that these respondents are feeling prestigious as film connoisseurs watching A sian films that are not popular to mainstream audiences


56 A major problem with the movie is that they don t explain the history of the villain perhaps the main problem with the film is the severe lack of information given to both Daesu and the view er T he only reason I didn t give it a 10 is that there was a couple of moments which were hard to follow, but it could be something with the translation S ome films just do not allow themselves to fall into generalizations and these films pose con undrums when one tries to explain them A fter I saw this, I read some interview with the cast and crew, and apparently some of this vagueness is intentional we re supposed to be left unsure. W ell, the movie is successful in that, but I think it s an unworthy goal, an abdication of the artist s responsibility. P eople have bristled at the charge that this movie is nihilistic, but if that really is the point, that the movie s supposed to throw up it s hands and say, hey, I dunno, you figure it out, the n that truly is nihilism For one thing, there s the mature content. It may simply be a differing viewpoint on how a good film is narrated, but this trend is not present in OldBoy : logical leaps are made, and it s your job to keep up with them. I per sonally like the challenge a lot: it s refreshing for a film to require something from its viewers once in a while Just sit, and watch, and take in the full experience. I f you can appreciate an original movie, despite some unpleasant or even disturbin g elements, then this movie will likely hit you like a sledgehammer Remakes are useless. T hey are like translations of a foreign or older film that the average dumb audience wouldn t appreciate otherwise, because it is too strange, too arty, too slow or too foreign, which are exactly the same reasons I prefer them The entire creative process doesn t have to be based on


57 satisfying the average consumer (not that OldBoy doesn t satisfy) N o doubt lots of people would find this work dista steful and I understand why they would think in such fashion, one of the reasons has been the high level of violence Personally, I put OldBoy among the ranks of The Shawshank Redemption The Godfather and Forest Gump as my favorites. T hough they all have distinctive themes and different ways of expression, there s one common thing between them they all make me think, and think hard Prestige as a trend leader After sharing their opinions with other board users, respondents began to recognize themselves as film connoisseurs who were different from U.S. audiences. In this process, eventually they shared their prestige as film connoisseurs with other users. W atching uncommon foreign films was a matter of pride, and they also were proud to become new trend leaders or early ad a ptors who watch uncommon Asian films that most people have not experienced yet. I f you are more into main stream film then you might not like this, but if you are a film buff and know more about movies than the average moviegoer, the n you will not be disappointed O ne of the few good things about living in NYC is being able to know and see more things that you wouldn t otherwise see in Smalltownsville, USA For me there was nothing of the settings or scenes or plots that were difficult for me to understand. I guess I have seen many foreign films to have a viewing grasp of respecting other cultures and their beliefs Mass American audiences will never find this film through as


58 there are few distributors that have the courage to stand behind a film this risky and adventurous as far as the subject matter goes, i.e. the final reveal and the choices that it brings. T he final two minutes alone will have most American audiences gasping in PC shock and most likely offended I li ke they remake foreign films cuz then I can be all pretentious and go psh I ve had the original of this on DVD for ages that makes me unique and cooler than everyone else Barriers B ecause the majority of these trend leaders insist that they are reg ular foreign film viewers, they advocate for subtitles to keep the originality of films and claim open minded attitudes in experiencing foreign cultures This type of open minded attitude toward experiencing foreign culture is also well illustrated by thei r antipathy toward ethnocentric views. This theme barriers closely connects to foreign films as prestige agents theme. The majority of respondents say that it is important to have an open minded attitude as serious film goers. The Barriers theme has three sub categories : The dubbed versus subtitled battle Ethnocentric view? N o pe, I am an open minded film connoisseur I am not ethnocentric R ather I just want everything to be standardized. Some viewers see that watching foreign films with subtitles w ould be prestigious because mainstream U.S. audiences have difficulties with subtitled films. Most respondents said that they did not experience difficulties or feel barriers while watching OldBoy with subtitles because of their regular exposures to foreig n films. However, r espondents also see the mainstream U.S. viewers as ethnocentric toward foreign cultures,


59 but they argue that the U.S. market environment made the American public ethnocentric and that American ethnocentrism is not inherent The dubbed v ersus subtitled battle The dubbed versus subtitled battle is the first sub category under the barriers theme. As previously mentioned, m ost of respondents said that they do not experience difficulties or feel barriers to enjoying foreign films with sub titles because of their regular exposures to foreign films compar ed to mainstream U.S. film viewers This notion also supports the idea in the literature review that tradition and custom are important fac e ts that influence audiences preference s toward the translation method ( The Institute of Communication Studies at The University of Leeds, 2003) I t was also significant that respondents hold stereotype s that mainstream U.S. film viewers hate to watch films with subtitles and prefer dubbing. Respondents se e the scarcity of foreign films in U.S. theaters as the reason why U.S. viewers feel uncomfortable watch ing films with subtitles. In sum, users preference s toward the subtitles closely connect to the ir prestige as film connoisseurs The majority of OldBoy board users, who consider themselves film connoisseurs, see that watching foreign films with subtitles would enhance their prestige because most U.S. viewers h a s difficulties with subtitled films. I just wish I understood Korean because the English sub titles and (worse) dubbing are clearly sophomoric. Y ou miss a lot either way, but I still prefer to hear the actual actor and read subtitles P eople don t go to a cinema to sit for two hours of reading. Hollywood understands this


60 What the hell is wrong with people having problem to read subtitles? A sian films will almost certainly become more popular but I don t see them overcoming the language barrier The majority of Americans have little patience and little interest for things outside th eir sphere and Hollywood knows that. Note. Hero & House of Flying Daggers were dubbed I plunked my $8 down at the film festival counter and watched the movie with snotty film fest crowd who didn t bother to read about the film that they were going to watch. And yes, I chuckled to myself as they gasped and said, Oh it s subtitled And I chuckled when they squired during the more intense scenes Nothing was difficult to understand. A s long as the subtitles were there. M any in the USA don t speak Ko rean I would never watch a film dubbed if there were subtitles and the original audio available I t really blew me away. I tried to watch it in English and that lasted about a minute. I mean you have to watch it in its original language in order t o grasp the power and ferocity of the actual character of Oh Daesu and his enemy I DETEST dubbing! I only go to subtitled non English films BUT subtitles have not improved in decades, except in Hollywood films like Munich T he technology and means do exist for better subtitles Users also have a high level of dissatisfaction regarding the quality of dubbing in OldBoy DVD copies. T his dubbing dissatisfaction may be derived from the fact that the majority of them prefer subtitles. H owever, this antipa thy toward the dubbing of foreign films also closely connects to their poor impression o f dubbing quality o n DVD cop ies


61 I usually watch the dubbed version second to see what I ve missed of the visuals while reading. W HY CAN T THEY GET BETTER ACTORS TO DUB? Daesu s dubber s voice was so much higher than Choi, Minsik s growl. S ame with Woojin s dubber. Y ou CAN T find some actor with the same vocal range? S ince it s just a voice substitute, you can t find someone to mimic the original actor s inflection, e tc. I could care less about the dubber s artistic goals he s a stand in, no creative latitude please. S orry When you dub a movie you re cutting out half of the performance and replacing it with two or three English voices that just don t care T hat dubbing is so funny! I t sounds like Peter Griffin. H ey Joowhan Hey Joowhan get ova hia! E hhheheheheheheheheh. More Family Guy coming up! O h well, it has the Korean track and that s all that matters. D on t watch this in the English dub unless you w ant to cut yourself Ethnocentric view? N ope! I am an open minded film connoisseur U.S. users of OldBoy board had looked cautiously for ethnocentric views and ideas, but the users then separated themselves from the mainstream U.S. audiences because use rs felt that most U.S. viewers are inclined to have ethnocentric views when they encounter foreign culture. H owever, board users also assert that this is not because U.S. Americans are inher ently ethnocentric. Rather, by the elimination of foreign films fr om domestic market, Hollywood has made U.S. viewers narrow minded and ethnocentric Users claimed Asian film remakes also come from Hollywood s ethnocentric strategy.


62 I saw Crouching Tiger in rural Ohio with my girlfriend (and both of us are HICKS, FROM rural Ohio, so let s not accuse me of hick bashing here), and there were actually people yelling at the screen because they hadn t been expecting they d have to read subtitles. Same with Life is Beautiful although it wasn t quite as hostile there, becaus e apparently Chinese sounds funny or something. Most of these people didn t have any problem with The Passion so I can only conclude that it s xenophobia, and not subtitles themselves, that causes this phenomenon I believe that is not that the Americ an audience is so small minded that it forces Hollywood to remake rather than to just re market foreign language films; it is in fact the complete opposite. Hollywood keeps the market small minded by removing foreign from the equation The very notion of remaking a foreign film is racist and fascist to the extreme If I remember correctly the only mention that Ring wasn t a Hollywood original was halfway down the end credits where they stuck in Koji Suzuki as the book author in the middle of a bunch of other random names About the dog thing. Y ou just have to take into consideration of cultural differences. T he way actors and people are in Korea are much different than that of America or anywhere else in the world. This applies to acting and movi e making. T heir methods are much different than ours. I can understand it being laughable. M y friend laughed when he saw it. He thought it was so outrageous because you would never see anyone do that here in America or in an American movie I am not et hnocentric. Rather, I just want everything to be standardized E ven if they are minority of this case, the posts below show how ethnocentric views work.


63 I watched the movie and I don t know what is going on. T he subtitles are making me confused because I hate subtitles! B y the year 2020, all movies must be spoken in English so that I will not have to look down at the bottom of the screen again I love the English dub. T he acting is much better now. I just wished they changed the Korean names to regula r names. Instead of Oh Daesu they should have called Jack. Mido could have been called Jennifer Cultural differences/Cultural agreement To the people who are not familiar with a country, a film from that country may represent the culture of that count ry and provide a certain impression o f that culture. In this context, by watching this film, OldBoy users may develop specific ideas about Koreans M any opinions and discussions on OldBoy s live octopus eating scene have been posted. By tracking those dis cussions, the investigator could gather helpful ideas about attitudes and impressions of Korean culture. I t seems that the octopus eating scene shocked U.S. viewers and possibly gave them certain impressions about Korean life. However, the majority of resp ondents insisted that OldBoy is just a film from Korea and did not reflect Korean life exactly Sub categories for this cultural differences/cultural agreement theme are: Koreans are eating live octopus? Not every film has to reflect the source culture exactly, but films cannot exist without influences from the source culture. It was significant that, with watching OldBoy this group of viewers built certain


64 impressions about Koreans eating habits and food culture, and through sharing their opinions i n the message board, these viewers enforc e or sometimes chang e the ir impressions. Koreans are eating live octopus? It seems that the octopus eating scene shocked many users. The majority of posters and the respondents picked the octopus eating scene as t he most memorable, impressive, and shocking scene. T he great concept soon disintegrates into a pathetic joke as Oh Daesu runs around beating people up, trying to have sex with a young girl who is attempting to use the toilet and eating a live, writhing squid This was such a horrifying scene for a lot of people. T he idea of eating an octopus alive is craziness. T he just idea of having tentacles clenching on your nose while you chew its brain had quite an impact on me The eating of the live octop us. S ickening! Raw? It is a custom in Korea but the thought of eating a slimy food like octopus is revolting T he worst scene for me is at the beginning when Oh Daesu goes for sushi and meets Mido and asks for something live to eat A nyway the fil m lost me when the guy bites into a live octopus and stuffs it in his mouth. I m not interested in seeing this, but I guess with reality TV this is the kind of thing I have to expect I guess this thread relies on the impression that Koreans eat live writhing octopus whole and that s not unusual. I cant tell you where I saw it, but some Korean chef said it s served fresh live and chopped up for service. N ever the way Oh Daesu ate it


65 Eating live octopus is not at all common in Korea. O ften a l ive octopus will be killed in front of the customer, prepared and then served to be eaten. O ctopus is eaten raw often, sure, but not like that. P ark intended on surprising all of his audiences with that scene. B ut you re right in saying that just the place ment of a live octopus is much more common in Korea. Y ou would never see a Philly cheese steak joint carrying a bunch of live octopuses or anything I didn t know that eating live octopuses was common in Korea. Now that I do know S ome people were disgusted with the eating live squid scene. T hat s a delicacy in Asia. J ust because it s not popular here doesn t make it disgusting or weird. E verybody in the West is so ethnocentric W e are not the only culture, and we are not the most prevalent S o me users provide new information on Korean culture with their knowledge earned from their Korean relatives, and/or from their own experiences. O ne more notable point is because of the lack of Koreans o n this English based web site, U.S. users can build ste reotypes and correct the errors by themselves mostly with second hand information. I actually asked my mom about this scene. S he s from Korea and kind of explained it to me. S he said, Yeah, I can see how A mericans can find this kind of strange and gros s. I n Korea, this is nothing. I ve seen plenty of people eat octopus like that. O nly guys eat it like that though. I t isn t all THAT common, but it is still not a surprising thing. S o the octopus scene just seems to be a conflict of culture. T he torture s cene is another cultural example too. I ve heard Korean people are pretty much some of the most brutal when it comes to torturing When Daesu was acting like a dog, I thought it was a little odd and a little over the top, too. M y friend, who is Korean, later explained to me that it wasn t necessarily just out of desperation, insanity, etc. according to her, in Korean culture, dogs are held to


66 a lower standard than in the U.S. Koreans look at dogs as being far more inferior than Americans do. S o, to act like dog, especially another man s dog, was a sign of totally bowing down W omen where treated as prize, which men fight over, and while it is important to update these views for today, that is an important factor in the style of story. A lso, it must b e understood that the characters in this film in particular, are Koreans thus they treat women the way Korean culture does Debates on the newspaper article below show how U.S. board users viewed ethnocentrism The majority of users warned others again st falling into ethnocentrism. V iewers also strongly assert ed that human opinions are formed according to the environment and one s education, so nobody can escape from educated ethnocentric viewpoints. When the hero swallows a live octopus, Chanwook exi ts Kafka and enters the schlocky twilight zone of geek TV. Thomas Delapa, Boulder Weekly I think the reviewer s comments are being taken out of context. H ad he said, These whacky Koreans don t just eat dog; they re crazy for jamming octopus in their faces too!!! THAT would have been ethnocentric A s a happy member of the most ignorant race, I consider my life to be relatively rich and happy, and while my experience is very America centric E veryone s experience is centered on where they ve spe nt their life. It s unavoidable. J ust being born outside the stifling confines of the U.S. doesn t endow you with the wisdom of the world and unassailable sense of perspective America is large enough and diverse enough that saying Americans are this, Americans are that, is a pointless exercise.


67 T ake a lifelong Manhattan resident, sit them in a room with a Nebraska farmer, a Utahian and, a Californian or two, and see how much they have in common. They all speak English, but apart from that, their real ities are hardly similar That is a very inappropriate, sweeping statement. W hat is an American, fat gav? Americans are black, white, Asian, Latino, poor, middle class, rich, informed, uniformed, depressed, ebullient, polite, dismissive, and caring. T h ose characteristics, with a few exceptions, can be used to describe virtually any developed nation, NOT JUST AMERICA. What the hell is ethnocentric? Not every film has to reflect the source culture exactly, but films cannot exist without the influences from the source culture. Films cannot exist without the influence of the ir source culture O n the other hand, a film does not always represent the source culture exactly. T here is no argument on the thesis that films are influenced by the source culture, and some respondents pointed out Korean culture s influences on this film. However, t hey tend to see this film as either great or disgusting film, rather than seeing it as a Korean film that represents Korean culture. In other words, they do not see OldBoy as a prototype of Korean culture or cinema ; rather they tend to see OldBoy just as a film. Because I interpreted that the film was an updated, re contextualized version of The Count of Monte Cristo I figured it reflected Korean life about as much as t he original Dumas novel reflected French life in its period M y father fought in the Vietnam War and was teamed up on patrol with a group of South Koreans. He had this to say: I'm glad those guys were on our side because those Koreans were some ruthle ss, bloodthirsty mother f ---. I think they actually


68 enjoyed torturing the Vietnamese. Many of them could not speak English; all they could say was "We kill many Cong for you They used to keep rats in cages, starving and tormenting them. When they found some Vietnamese families hiding in holes in the ground, they would unleash the rats into the holes and wait for the people to come out flailing and screaming. Then they would execute them. They also seemed to enjoy burning people alive. The point of my r eply to you was that I believe it is this type of culture that creates a movie like Old B oy a very bizarre and sadistic film I have only noticed that the Korean films that I have seen generally have been a bit violent I am certain that this film was n ot representative of Korean life. Probably the m ost glaring example was when the live sea creature was consumed. One can only hope that this film had NOTHING to do with Korean life in general I recently watched a Korean film festival on cable TV ( ) but those films seemed obsessed too with issues around the former dictatorship. O ne problem for American viewers is knowing so little ab out Korean history in the twentieth century so those references go right by me and other American viewers. I think this film had more to do with the genre of Hong Kong cop and criminal thrillers than it had to do with Korean life styles. It s an art house chopsocky film, not a societal revelation The movie is told mainly from Oh Dae s u's point of view, and Dae s u's life does not exactly qualify as the life of your everyday Korean man ; now does it? In short, the movie does not give much insight into how an average Korean lives his or her life so I am not sure if I can answer this question. There was one scene that made me scratch my head though. It was the beginning sequence when Dae s u was arrested and drunk and started attacking the police officer. In A merica, attacking a man would hardly be tolerated let alone attacking a law enforcement officer yet Dae s u got off the hook without as much as a fine. Another odd thing noticed was that the officer did little to try and stop Dae s u other th a n verbal warning s. I found this quite odd I don t think there is a movie on this Earth powerful or shocking enough to change the way I look at a certain culture. E specially


69 not a fictional movie. I have watched I rreversible and Ichii the Killer several times, but nei ther movie has yet to make me change the way I look at the French people nor the people of Japan I don't think that you need to understand any certain aspect of the K orean culture to fully enjoy the movie really. That's another thing I liked about Old B oy : you don't need to be a Korean culture wiz or a Korean born citizen to enjoy the movie. Anybody can watch it and be impressed When I watched this flick I was not all thinking about Korean life, I was thinking about the scenery, the cinematograph y, and the fantastic plot; not about why my life as an American is different than the lives I was watching on film as Koreans Films show what they want to show, so I don t base my views on other societies or people based on the films they make. I li ved in California for 23 years, and I knew people from other countries. I would not say that I understood another country s lifestyle based on the films they make because I would have to say I understand American lifestyle by the films that are made here, wherein everyone is pretty and every other person is a hip hop tattooed gangster rap hoodlum, or religious fanatic. I m sure other countries have a different approach to the films they make than here, but I watch films for entertainment value and do not base my opinions of other societies and what they re life on what I see in films Criticism of the Asian film boom S ome users suggested problems with the Asian film boom. Those users argue d in many cases, that Asian films are being applauded only becau se they are from Asia. T h ey argue Asian films are being accepted and applauded only because they are made in Asia, a relatively unknown part of world to the U.S. viewers. These v iewers assert that classifying the nationality of films is useless, and film v iewers should evaluate a film by itself.


70 This idea mostly comes from reflection and antipathy toward people who unconditionally compliment Asian films. Although it is a minority, some users highly criticize the trend that Asian films are always applauded by Asian film enthusiasts in any circumstance. Those users argue that many film goers become zealots for violent acting, brutal expressions, unconventional narratives, unusual materials, and shocking styles in order to follow the most important and essenti al path to becoming film connoisseur s. Users felt that this distorted idea keep s viewers from judging Asian films clear headedly and makes them blindly applaud Asian films. I don t consider myself a pretentious film lover who only appreciates foreign fi lms and art pictures but damn it, why can t people appreciate movies foreign and domestic? L ately I ve felt that many Asian films get an automatic pass from the internet community. T hrow an Asian director at something, make sure it s got a good h elping of blood, torture, and sadism and you ve got a guaranteed internet darling. I find this troubling because I ve been watching Asian films for many years now, long before the advent of DVD and the popularization of the internet. P eople have gotten so fanboyish over any new director from Asia that they are ignoring the actual quality of the film. P lace this film in the U.S. give it a gun toting hero instead of a knife/hammer wielding one, and people would be complaining about the massive plot holes T hey simply claim that the unbelievable is believable, that confusion is artful, that violence is creativity, that criticism is racist, that calling a spade a spade denotes lack of comprehension, that cheap acting is good acting and that childish, eleme ntary school like catch phrases somehow contain an infinite wisdom which would be, to aptly quote the title of another movie, Lost in T ranslation Y ou re just the kind of narrow minded everything Asian is


71 cool cinemagoer that this movie is targetin g. W hy don t you try moving beyond the Oh my God, Asians are making cinema too perspective, and try analyzing this film for its real merits which, if I may say, are very few There are both positive and negative opinions toward OldBoy H owever, some b oard users do not consider the flaw as a flaw C riticism of the Asian film boom emerges here. T heir main idea is that Hollywood is being criticized because its films are exposed to all over the world and because they are the most famous and widespread ones. E ventually, because of the frequency of exposure, U.S. films are frequently criticized. I n contrast, because the majority of U.S. film viewers are not familiar with Asian culture and the conventions or innovations of Asian film makers and actors, fla ws are not easily spotted by U.S. audiences. Moreover, Asian films are highly complimented more than they deserve because only a selected few are exported. I t felt like a two hour endurance test O verly stylized visuals of this film focus on distracting the audience s attention from its weak storyline. L et Tarantino keep this amateurish Asian hyper pulp crap of a movie. I personally don t care for it I am a novice when it comes to South Korean cinema, but if this is the best of the best, sorry. I ju st want you to know that I am not at all narrow minded when it comes to appreciating foreign movies, and I do not fit the stereotype of the dumb American well, not perfectly I cannot believe the high praise this piece of nothing is bestowed upon. T his i s a disgusting *and* ludicrous movie. H ammy acting everything is badly done and overdone, like begging for the uneducated viewer s attention T his story of an unbelievably intricate and contrite act of revenge is worse than the worst tabloid story one ca n read in a line at the supermarket I totally disagree with most people on this board. OldBoy was


72 nothing special. I f this film had been made America with American actors, it would have bombed horribly I m sure that if American films were as rare as Asian films are over here in the U.S.: Korea, China, Japan would remake some American movies too. You guys are giving the Asian community a bit too much credit E very country has its talents and its fakes. Hollywood being more popular; it is much e asier to see its failures and more subject to critique. T his does not mean that Europeans or Asians don t produce crap. C rap is everywhere I n general, only good foreign films have a chance to be seen outside their own country. F or example, you will ne ver see an extremely bad Korean gangster comedy. Y ou can see only the masterpiece. T hat s why so many foreign films seem so good The only stereotypes I read were the anti American ones comparing OldBoy in the silliest manner to Hollywood. W hat is H ollywood ? As if all the movies coming from Hollywood would be the same or all bad most not all of them, may be bad, but that s another topic. O n the other hand, some H o llywood ers make dozens of movies by far better than this joke. S o do Japanese dire ctors. A nd Chinese directors. M ost probably Korean too. W hat a pity this particular pathetic pitful piece of junk is the one so rabidly promoted


73 Discussion Results from the analysis of the message board discussions in IMDB website s OldBoy ex clusive board and e mail in depth interviews with participants helped answer the research questions. Suggested research questions of this study were : R 1. What impressions of Korean life and culture were evident to OldBoy viewers? R 2. How were those impressions e xpressed? R 3. What technical problems did viewers encounter when viewing OldBoy ? R 4. What aspects of this Korean film and potentially other such films attract U.S. audiences? First, the majority of respondents could not find any peculiar settings or scenes that represent the originality of Korean culture except the abundant opinions on the live octopus eating scene. This may be because, for the most part, OldBoy s scenes and settings are not exclusive to Korea but could have been filmed anywhere in the world. Thi s seems one of the reasons that many of respondents could not point any cultural influences. Furthermore, because this film was driven by the revenge theme, which might be a universal theme, and was mainly narrated in two protagonists viewpoints, it might


74 not give the viewers enough opportunities to experience the source culture s influences. However, the one most important issue that the investigator suggests is the relationship with prestige as film connoisseurs It can be assumed that the respondents ar e cautious to point out these kinds of opinions as film connoisseurs. O ne of the most significant impression s regarding Korean culture suggested by respondents was that Koreans eat whole live octopus. M ost of the users comments involving this scene conta ined the words shocking, or disgusting. S ome respondents even asserted that they disliked this film for this brutal scene, or that this disgusting scene ruined the whole film. Other than the octopus eating scene, respondents offered little evidence of having constructed Korean stereotypes from viewing OldBoy Nevertheless, these users provide some insight and impetus for future research. Thinking about the film, I d say that the most different aspect of Korean life, to me, was how close everything seemed to be to each other. T here was little use of cars and more scenes involving walking (R 13). It was the beginning sequence when Daesu was arrested and drunk and started attacking the police officer. I n America, attacking a man would hardly be tol erated let alone attacking a law enforcement officer yet Daesu got off the hook without as much as a fine. A nother odd thing noticed was that the officer did little to try and stop Daesu other than verbal warnings. I found this quite odd (R 1). About t he dog thing. Y ou just have to take into consideration of cultural differences. T he way actors and people are in Korea are much different than that of America or anywhere else in the world. This applies to acting and movie making. T heir methods


75 are much di fferent than ours. I can understand it being laughable. M y friend laughed when he saw it. He thought it was so outrageous because you would never see anyone do that here in America or in an American movie (P 37). There were two other poignant aspects of the film for me. O ne, I almost thought we were going to have a fully formed human female character in the film, when Daesu goes to the sushi restaurant and Mido starts talking with him. Oh, yes real adult male female interaction. But no. Mido and the sister of Woojin, the two main females are only objects of contention and possessions for the men. You did not protect her. Women are manipulated or controlled, protected or used. I cannot find any Asian movie or work of art fully complete or accomplish ed when it embraces such full frontal sexism, even if inherent in a culture (R 5). I am not sure if I can answer this question. There was one scene that made me scratch my head though. It was the beginning sequence when Dae s u was arrested and drunk and started attacking the police officer. In America, attacking a man would hardly be tolerated let alone attacking a law enforcement officer yet Dae s u got off the hook without as much as a fine. Another odd thing noticed was that the officer did little to tr y and stop Dae s u other th a n verbal warnings. I found this quite odd (R 1). Willnat, L., Zhou, H., and Hao, X. s (1997 ) research is worth add ing for explaining the influences or roles of the viewers impressions o f Korean culture Through the surveys abo ut foreign media content and stereotype building, they could not find any strong relationship between quantity of foreign media content exposure and specific stereotype building about that origin country Th eir study examined 625 respondents from Hong Kong Singapore, and Shenzhen, one of the special economic zones in China. According to results from that research more exposure to U.S. media products does not guarantee that audiences have significantly positive or negative impressions and images


76 of U.S. Am ericans and the United States. Hong Kong respondents enjoy ed more U.S. media products than those of Shenzhen, but Hong Kong respondents have more negative impression s about America than Shenzhen respondents do (Willnat, et al., 1997). However, researcher s could not find any significant evidence that more exposure increases the negative impression s either. Although individuals impression s about a specific country may be influenced by more than mere exposure to media products, their research provides one of the most important points for this discussion The OldBoy posts below can be said to provide some limited evidence supporting this notion. I wouldn t say my impression of Korean life was changed too much. I f anything, I was so impressed by the quality o f OldBoy that I was more appreciative of Korean culture and what it produced (R 8). I don t think there is a movie on this Earth powerful or shocking enough to change the way I look at a certain culture. Especially not a fictional movies. I have watche d Irreversible and Ichii the Killer several times, but neither movie has yet to make me change the way I look at the French people nor the people of Japan (R 1). OldBoy did not change my impressions of Korean life. They can make movies that have improb able, yet entertaining, story lines as well as anyone else from another country can (R 2). I don t feel I have a clear understanding of Korean life from this film. I have no reality check (e.g. a good documentary) to compare it to. T here were indication s of powerful feelings of love and hate. P erhaps that exaggerated depth of feelings is what represents Korean life or Korean art form I don t know. T he Korean people I got to know superficially in NYC were very modest and polity. I cannot comment further on this (P 16).


77 When people encounter another culture that is not common or sometimes not acceptable to their own culture, people may experience cultural shock. Furthermore, if that cultural phenomenon maintains its primitive shape, sometimes the receiv ers even may feel upset. Ethnocentrism is the academic definition of this phenomenon. I n this sense, ethnocentrism is a natural mental state of people who are encountering foreign cultures. Considering this concept, viewers reactions to th e live octopus e ating scene seem reasonable The majority of respondents had positive opinions and expectations toward Asian films on the whole, not only about Korean films specifically. One of the main purposes of this study was to examine what kind of impressions U.S. board users come to have about Korean life through watching this film. H owever, reactions to Korean films and Asian films did not differ significantly. A lthough the majority of users differentiate Asian films and other mostly European, foreign films, they did not subdivid e Asian films according to genres or nationalities. It seems this phenomenon is mostly caused by the scarcity of Asian films in the U.S. market. Because there are not a large variety of Asian films shown in U.S. theaters, Asian films are r ecognized together as one genre by most of the case members. Films are usually subdivided according to their genres: thriller, action, comedy, etc., but Asian films are usually categorized by their source culture or regions such as East Asian, South Asian, or Middle Eastern. Subdividing Asian films according to the genres or specific countries is only performed by a select few Asian film fans. This may be one more reason why respondents could not pick up the cultural cues from OldBoy


78 T hrough tracking the discussions on OldBoy it also was found that the majority of respondents seem to be cautious about judging a film by relating it to the source culture. As suggested in the foreign films as prestige agents theme, this notion can be related to the idea th at real film connoisseurs do not distinguish the nationality of the film, and do not judge the film by where it comes from. The majority of respondents claimed that even though films cannot exist without the influences of the source culture s viewers who j udge the film should be cautious about applying stereotypes toward the source culture. However, in some cases, bad impressions of Korean culture influence impression s of OldBoy and vice versa. For example, one respondent who criticized this film seems to have been influenced by his prejudice toward Korea while watching this film and this respondent emphasized his own prejudice toward Korean culture M y father fought in the Vietnam War and was teamed up on patrol with a group of South Koreans. He had th is to say: I'm glad those guys were on our side because those Koreans were some ruthless, bloodthirsty motherf ---. I think they actually enjoyed torturing the Vietnamese. Many of them could not speak English; all they could say was "We kill many Cong for you They used to keep rats in cages, starving and tormenting them. When they found some Vietnamese families hiding in holes in the ground, they would unleash the rats into the holes and wait for the people to come out flailing and screaming. Then they w ould execute them. They also seemed to enjoy burning people alive. The point of my reply to you was that I believe it is this type of culture that creates a movie like Old B oy a very bizarre and sadistic film ( R 10 ) The investigator previously suggest ed two possible barriers that viewers may


79 face while experiencing OldBoy as well as other foreign films. Those were linguistic and cultural barriers. To answer this question the investigator examined the reactions of case group members OldBoy s translatio n method. The answer to this question should start from following point. Many of the OldBoy viewers in the IMDb website have a stereotype that real film lovers tend to prefer subtitles over dubbing because they believe, subtitles preserve the film s origin ality Eventually, because of their self categorization as films connoisseurs the majority of respondents strongly favored subtitles. I n consideration of the foreign films as prestige agents theme, this preference is understandable. The term p restige provides one most important overarching idea emerging from this study : Their prestige as film connoisseurs emerged from watching unconventional foreign films and was enhanced through the social connections with other users. C onversely, this prestige worked while watching OldBoy In this context, it is possible to say that respondents recognize themselves as film lovers, and eventually, they prefer subtitles for their prestige. However, one more reason that can be suggested is Asian films limited releases. According to the board users, many of them say that they saw this film at a film festival. It seems that many viewers watch foreign films through non commercial releases such as film festivals, film viewings in community member sharing, or the internet as much as through commercial, official routes including theaters, and DVD copies. As previously mentioned, dubbing requires more time and money than subtitles. Therefore, in the case of non commercial limited releases, subtitles are more common than dubbing Even in commercial releases,


80 because of the market size, Asian films dubbing quality is criticized by the viewers. This also may be one of the reasons that regular foreign film viewers get used to watching films with subtitles. Consider that audiences t end to be accustomed to the translation mode they have experienced and favor that tradition ( The Institute of Communication Studies at The University of Leeds, 2003) The argument on cultural barriers can be connected closely to the first research questio n It seems that the board users felt a strong cultural shock at the live octopus eating scene. However, most of users argued that they were open minded film goers, and they did not have ethnocentric views while watching a foreign film. Thus, because they consider themselves film lovers, they share certain views that film should be judged by the film itself and should not be judged by cultural differences or ethnocentric perspectives. U sers believe that other U.S. film viewers have ethnocentric views and fe el that ethnocentrism comes from one s lack of understanding of the source culture. S ome users complained that the ethnocentrism of the American public comes from the scarcity of foreign film in the United States, not from the inherent arrogance of U.S. Am ericans. I saw Crouching Tiger in rural Ohio with my girlfriend (and both of us are HICKS, FROM rural Ohio, so let s not accuse me of hick bashing here), and there were actually people yelling at the screen because they hadn t been expecting they d have to read subtitles. Same with Life is Beautiful although it wasn t quite as hostile there, because apparently Chinese sounds funny or something. Most of these people didn t have any problem with The Passion so I can only conclude that it s xenophobia, an d not subtitles themselves, that causes this phenomenon (P 35).


81 The final research question asked what aspects of this Korean film and potentially other such films attract U.S. audiences Basically, board users impressions about today s Asian films see m mostly to be based on the scarcity of Asian films in the U.S. market. In the first theme searching for alternative s the investigator could get helpful ideas about the overall character of the case group members. T hey can be defined as the viewers who are not satisfied with domestic films, or who are interested in new and unconventional films. C onsidering that, two points are worth noting. O ne is that OldBoy as well as other Korean films, ha ve a unique style, and the other is that these films are hardl y seen as big releases in U.S. theaters. Although the stylistic differences could not be defined in this study, the influences of the scarcity of Korean films in U.S. market can be understood when consider ing the theme foreign films as prestige agents I t was significant that the scarcity of Korean films in the U.S. market worked as one of the most attractive aspects to promote. By w atching Asian films that are not common in the U.S. market, viewers can contribute to film viewing communities and other us ers with supplying information and participating in discussions. Viewers of new foreign film post their opinions and information on the message board and user comments, and share their opinions with other users. These posts help other users get information about that new foreign one, and the users would watch the film, and possibly look for other foreign films with using many clues, and again, their posts help others discover other films.


82 Conclusion s T his case study was designed to examine U.S. audienc es attitudes toward foreign films specifically, a Korean film OldBoy Through that, four research questions were raised T his research s purpose was to better understand how the members of this case group viewed the film to get a snapshot of their percep tions However, we actually may have learned more about U.S. audiences. First, t his study is important and meaningful in two aspects. T his study can be the foundation for understanding U.S. audiences perceptions of Korean films. Secondly, t his study shows how this interpretive community of U.S. audiences view themselves as foreign film viewers. Considering the theoretical framework previously suggested, this study observed that by contributing to and participating in message board discussions, the viewers buil t a film viewing community in the website. OldBoy s exclusive board also may represent a foreign film viewing communit y. However, users also are participating in other films board discussions in IMDb website and also contributing to the discussions i n other film viewing websites. D iscussions with other film viewers in various film viewing communities help ed them build and enhance their prestige as serious film goers and build an interpretive community based on their own criteria. By tracking the posts and respondents answers, at least, the investigator could predict that they are building


83 exchange networks in their foreign film viewing community, and this process may influence to their future foreign film viewing. Having considered the interpretive co mmunity concept and reception theory, the investigator can conclude that these respondents foreign film viewing experiences and opinion sharing on IMDb message board are closely connected. In this interpretive community, we saw viewers who sought o ut fil ms reco mmended by other users in the community. They then viewed those films. Th e interpretive community s own cultural cues may work while the users are watching and interpreting the films. After watching the films, viewers post their opinions on the comm unity web site Their opinions, which might be somewhat influenced by the community s own culture, also may influence community members, who may not have seen the film. Those new visit ors get information related to those foreign films from message board: U sers may ultimately be influenced by the shared views of that interpretive community. In consideration of uses and gratifications theory, it also can be said that viewing foreign films like OldBoy and sharing their experiences with other board users is th eir efforts and rewards circle. Because of Hollywood majors domestic film market domination, U.S. film viewers have relatively few chances to encounter foreign film products. The majority of respondents tend to have critical views about this U.S. market e nvironment. Foreign films, such as Asian films like OldBoy seem especially to satisfy users needs for cinematic alternatives due to foreign films scarcity in U.S. market.


84 S haring their foreign film experiences with other users, viewers can enhance their understanding of foreign film viewing and get other ideas about foreign film viewing. T he new information that they can get from the foreign film viewing communities helps them find other foreign films, including Asian films and also Korean films. Moreove r, watching the films, which were introduced by the communities, also helps them contribute to the communities. In other words, participating in community discussion is a means of finding new foreign films, and watching new foreign films works as a way of contributing to their film viewing communities. Also, contributing to the community enhances their prestige as film goers. Via message board discussions, users can develop a better understanding not only of a specific foreign film, but also o f foreign fil ms in general. N ew information and views received from the board discussions may lead them to search other foreign films The users, who were helped by other community members, watch the films. They then post their opinions and participate in discussions u sing their new foreign film viewing experiences. In this process, they contribute to the community with their own experiences and also enhance their prestige. While participating in discussions, they may get other information and different views from other users. Again, new information and views may help and enhance the viewers understandings o f their new foreign films experiences. In this context, foreign film viewing and contributing to community discussions work as a means of enhancing one s prestige as a foreign film enthusiast. A s mentioned in the discussion section, one theme that emerges from this study


85 is board users prestige as film connoisseurs. First two themes, searching for alternatives and discovery of OldBoy can be interpreted as use rs rationales for building this prestige Finally, two themes of barriers and cultural differences/cultural agreement show how prestige as film enthusiasts worked when they watched OldBoy In this context, this term prestige may be the key word to u nderstanding this group of viewers, but this term also shows what the limitations of this study are. In the result s section one more notable point was suggested. I n the internet, people get information from a specific site, and the website has wide array of other information related. By clicking the hyperlinks, people can reach other related information about their interested subjects. With the information from outer sources, users encounter and discover other foreign films. Through the OldBoy exclusive board, viewers get i nformation relating to this film including its nationality, director, actors, and even the distribution company. Among those hyperlinks, users can make various choices. Users who are interested in the director s style, also would be in terested in other films by the director. Some users who have an interest in the source country would find other films from that country. T hey may buy DVDs released by same brand or watch other films by the actors in that film. This is the connection that t his study observed. That is the way recommendation and information sharing circle works. This in community information sharing circle can have two major effects that enhances their prestige as serious film goers and encourage s them to seek other foreign fi lms


86 A film from a foreign country can be a very good text to experience that foreign culture. Moreover, because of the power of the film as a cultural product, even though it is second hand, it may be a helpful way for the viewers who are not familiar wi th that source culture to learn about it F ilm viewers in the world have been accustomed to U.S. culture because of their continuous exposure to U.S. films. In comparison because of U.S. films domestic market domination, U.S. viewers may have different a ttitudes toward foreign films from viewers in other countries. T his study s rationale was to get more information about U.S. audiences in terms of how they react to foreign films The investigator expected that OldBoy could achieve commercial success cons idering its mass appeal in world film markets, including Europe. However, OldBoy was released o n ly on a limited number of screens ; consequently, like other Asian films ( except some Chinese martial arts action films ) it d id not reach the wide number of U.S film audiences. Although the DVD was also released, OldBoy is not considered a commercially successful foreign film in the United States. Interestingly, this fact might make OldBoy a better text to understand U.S. film viewers own characters. However, t here is one weakness of the choice of OldBoy. That is the unique but universal theme and expressions of this film OldBoy treats a universal them e rather showing and expressing Korean culture. Therefore, it is hard to say that U.S. film viewers developed any major impressions of Korean culture through this film. Furthermore, the incest theme, scenes of brutal torture, and so me scenes that few Koreans agree with, including the octopus eating scene were adapted for this film These settings might deter viewe rs from experiencing


87 Korean culture, and move their gaze toward these conflicting aspects. In this context, this film might not be a perfect choice to achieve the goal of this study. This study hoped to begin a discussion about U.S. audiences attitude s t oward Korean film products. However, because t his is an intrinsic case study of a specific set of U.S. film viewers t he result s of this study do not generalize to all of U.S. film audiences. R espondents in the present study separate themselves from their own perceptions of U.S. film viewers R espondents enhance the ir prestige as seri ous film enthusiast s through this distinction Among those new film seeking users, viewing Asian films is considered an inescapable step to becoming a film connoisseur. In sum, this group of OldBoy viewers can be defined as film enthusiasts who want to be film connoisseurs through watching and understanding unconventional foreign films but do not wish to be categorized as ignorant U.S. film viewers.


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