MEDIA AND EVERYDAY LIFE

I.                 Introduction

The innovations of Internet and mobile phones set the stage for extraordinary capabilities of mediating information. “Network society” (Castells 2005) becomes essential mechanism for information distribution, and interactions between individuals regardless of geographic location (Liener et al n.d.). Similarly, mobility through mobile phone helps people to connect with family, friends, and access to information instantly (Kensington, 2004). This chapter argues that networking has revolutionised the traditional media’s model. The transformation process from a broadcast model to network model allows everything to be published and shared on Internet forums. This raises concern about media’s power. Producers’ control over media is gradually converted into consumers’ hand.  The chapter also argues that ‘mobility’ through mobile phones’ applications blurs out the boundaries between private and public spaces because it enhances opportunities to create social space at private place and vice versa.

II.            Method and Conceptual Framework

          II.1. Research

The central data of this qualitative research is a set of 7-day dairies and interviews collected from my older cousin – Tim Tran. Dairy-recording method was selected due to its advantages explained by Louise Corti (1993, p. 1). Initially, records of all the media used were conducted from 29th March to 4th April. He was required to note the time of the usage, context of use (i.e. what shows are watched or sites visited), mean of communication, and reasons to choose a type of media.  The diaries were used to discover the central patterns in media use of the object. In the second phase, depth and narrative interviews with semi-structure style were conducted.  Face-to-face depth-interview looked for the object’s opinion on current topic (Weerakkody 2009, p.178). The objective was to investigate how the object values the importance of networking and mobile phones and his awareness of currently issues such as privacy, the shift in media’s power and the blurred boundaries between private and public. Narrative interviews were used to collect personal stories about the changes in media’s life cycle. Interviews with semi-structure style offer a flexible interview’s process. According to Weerakkody (2009, p.167), depending on the responder’s situation, structures and orders of open-ended questions which are prepared by the researcher can be varied. New questions can also be added. This style carries perspectives of interviewer and interviewee, so thus is preferred.

II.2. Network and Media

In this globalisation’s century, ‘networking’ has gained importance in people’s daily routines. Fritjof Capra (2002, p.9) stated that networks represent the basic pattern of life. Users become dependent on networks and spend hours connecting to others via networking tools.  According to Castells (2005, p.3), people are connected together without the central body or hierarchy in “network society”. Everyone has equal access to the network, and communications occur on direct bases. Examples of Facebook and Twitter incorporate the above ideas that there is no centre as they exist virtually, with millions of interconnecting nodes of users. The concept of ‘network’ has expanded from their original function of connecting people to controlling members’ mass media engagement. Online news and TV programs are widely available on the associated network to be downloaded and watched at any time. Teraso Rizzo (2007) argues that the personal digital recorders such as Foxtel IQ and Tivo control the flow of broadcasting sequence. Users now hold the ability to create their own sequence of flows through networks and playlists.

The concept of controlling out networks leads to a shift from broadcasting model to network model. Axel Bruns (2008, p.3) concluded that this is because broadcast networks is separated from the Internet networks, and do not provide network neutrality. Evidently, nature of broadcast model that is influenced by corporate and institutions has moved to more user-personalised networks that can be shared mostly for free by unlimited amount of individuals regardless of time and location.  In the age of content disintermediation, the monopolistic power that certain TV broadcasters and newspapers previously enjoyed has passed (Dumenco 2010). They now need to reorganize some of their businesses online and place emphasis on other online aspects of their information services (Nightengale & Virgina 2007, p.149). This is evident by the expansion of TV channels’ and newspapers’ online networks such as Yahoo!7, Nine MSN, SMH on Twitter etc. Nevertheless, this transformation network model should not be perceived as a threat to traditional model (Even and Wurster 2000, p. 39 – 44).  Lester and Huchins (2009, p. 580) analyse the use of internet by environment reporters, and confirm that “environmental groups are using the internet to reaffirms the historical and cultural dominance of print and electronic news media, as opposed to forging new models of media power embedded within the specific networking capacity of the internet and web”. This transformation is rather an ‘enhancement’ process of traditional media in responding to the challenge of internalisation (Nightingale and Dwyer, 2006).

II.3. Mobility and The boundary of public & private

In a globalising world, mediating activities can be carried everywhere through mobile devices (McIlvenny et al. 2008, p. 1879).  People have the ability to connect and coordinate activities at a distance in new ways.  Mobility has changed many social interactions. Mobile phones permit public conversations to be taken at private places and private conversations to be discussed publicly. Consequently, the territories between public and private are blurred out. Ito’s research (2005, p. 137) on mobile phone use by Japanese’s teen girls claims that the phone helps to overcome the boundary of the home. Kirsten Drotner (2005, p.55) agrees that the phone is an instrument of social coordination and interaction beyond the boundaries of the home since it is embedded individual ownership and priority of use.  Alternatively, the story told by Scheloff (2002, p. 285 – 5) about the woman’s mobile phone conversation on the train illustrates how public places are interfered by private lives. The story highlights that a woman is in the ‘public’ setting of the ‘train carriage’, and having a ‘private’ talk (Moores 2004, p.30). She is extending her private space into the shared space. The private conversations concerned the public places and public performances (e.g. sms to vote for a candidate of Australian Idol) conducted in the privacy of the home are examples of how mediating activities through mobile phones should serve to question the notions of what is considered as public and private space (Drotner 2005, p.55). People unconsciously violate their boundaries through mobile phone conversations that can be exchanged anywhere.

III.       Findings and discussions

III.1. Network and its debates

With rapid expansions of online forum networks and fast internet connections, television programs can be easily downloaded than ever before. TV shows in different countries are uploaded and shared on the network almost instantly after they finish. Network models eliminate the time lags between two episodes to be shown. Here is an excerpt from an interview with Tim.

 

Why did you decide to watch downloaded TV series instead of watching them from TV?

“Normally Australian TV series are one week behind the US, so downloading allows me to watch my favourite series as soon as they come out. I can also forward and reverse during watching.”

 

The idea of timeless time in network model is illustrated. With the ability watch TV prior than the scheduled time, the flow of time is violated (Rizzo 2007, p.125). There is no longer a sequence of time. Viewers do not need to be on time to watch TV shows, and can reverse or forward any part of the program. They enjoy this benefit of the network model. Thus to satisfy this demand, normal broadcasting model has gradually shifted to network model. My interview with Tim proves for this idea.

 

What changes have you noticed in your ‘TV watching’ experience since you started downloading them?

“I start to be impatient with advertising when watching normal TV. Now, I only watch news on TV, and download other programs from social forums.”

 

The producers must bear the costs associated with downloading TV programs. Privacy issues have called many attentions recently. The content problem reflects the difference in funding models between the Internet and traditional media. Revenue of broadcast is from the sale of audiences to advertisers.  Internet forum’s revenue depends on their ability to attract visitors. Because internet users are generally not willing pay for something they can access for free, file-sharing sites might not concern about privacy as much as increasing the number of visits.  ‘Downloaders’ may unconsciously breach copyright, censorship law or other content regulation (Nightengale & Dowyer 2007, p.27).   This issue is realised in an interview.

 

Are you downloading them from the TV channel official website or other social forums? Why?

“I use social forums to download TV series because it is free. Also contents that provided by official websites are embedded with advertising for downloading them.”

Do you concern about privacy issues when downloading from social forums?

“Copyright should be the responsibility of the forum’s administrator to decide whether or not to disclose the materials publicly. If materials are freely downloadable, there should be no concern about copyright. Else, they would have charged some costs for it.”

If you are charged for downloading, will you be happy to pay?

“Not for things can be watched freely on TV next week.”

 

Since networking also bears number of unresolved issues, the network model is still perceived as a supplement for traditional model at current time. In the future, the transformation from traditional broadcasting model to network model would be implemented with tighter copyright regulations to avoid such disputes.

 

III.2. Mobility and new social practices

Mobile phones’ conversations have blurred out the territory between private and public. The notion of public place is challenged. It is no longer a place where people come and share voices together. It becomes a ‘transitional’ space where people use to carry on their private lives. Public places are ‘polluted’ with conversations between one person and an electronic device. Overhearing is no longer intentional, but rather unavoidable and sometimes annoying the listener when one’s privacy is voluntarily brought in a shared place. When was asked, Tim seemingly agreed with this problem.

Do you feel annoyed when people talking on the phone in public places?

“Yes, especially after a long-working day and someone behind or next to you keep mumbling a foreign language.”

Do you overhear phone conversations?

“It’s unavoidable if someone talks so loud in public places. I sometimes really didn’t want to, but was forced to do so.”

 

To solve these problems, Ito (2005, p.142) gives one example of the Japanese Youth texting to ask permissions before giving a call.  In addition, covering mouth, rejecting coming calls or shortening conversations are other examples. Abstract below is how Tim mobile phones use’s practices in public places.

Do you feel comfortable when talking with your partner in public places?

“Not as much as if I am at home. I especially don’t talk about sensitive matters while I am at crowding places. The conversations are usually short and focusing on necessary matters.”

Do you worry that someone else will be overhearing your conversations?

“Yes. Although I sometimes speak in my language, I usually cover my mouth or talk softly to reduce my volume. I do not only concern that people will overhear me but also to less interfere other people.”

Finally, the use of mobile phones has naturally implied a set of behaviours that are expected to follow in public places. More rules would be implemented in the future to reduce the ‘pollutions’ of private conversations in public places

IV.          Conclusion

This chapter has studied the impact of social networking on media industry. There is likely to be a transformation from broadcast model to network model in mediating information. However, privacy issues should be given great considerations to protect both media producers and consumers. Secondly, the chapter also researches of how mobile phones influence the boundaries between private and public. It is concluded that while these boundaries are blurred out, new social practices will be implied to ensure that there will be no conflicts in the merger between public and private places.

References

Axel Bruns 2008. “Reconfiguring Television for a Networked, Produsage Context”, Media International Australia Incorporating Culture and Policy, No. 126

Capra, F.  2002, Hidden Connections: Integrating the Biological, Cognitive and Social Dimensions of Life into a Science of Sustainability, New York: Random House.

Castells, M.  2005, ‘Informationalism, networks, and a network society: a theoretical blueprint’, in Elgar (ed), Network Society, pp. 3-7, 36-45

Corti, L (1993), ‘Using Diaries in Social Research’, Social Research Update, Issue 2, March 1993, accessed on April 5th 2010 <http://sru.soc.surrey.ac.uk/sru2.html>

Drotner, K 2005, ‘Media on the move: personalised media and the transformation of publicness’, Journal of Media Practice, Vol. 6, No.1, pp. 53 – 64

Dumenco, S. 2010, ‘Google drinks your milkshake! It drinks it up! But how much do we, as consumers, care?’, Advertising Age,  Vol. 81, Issue 8, pp. 20

Evan, P. & Wurster, T.E. 2000, ‘Blown to Bits: How the New Economic of Information Transform Strategy’, Harvard Business School Press, Boston, Masachusetts

Ito, M. 2004, ‘Mobile phones, Japanese Youth and the Replacement of Social contact’, in Ling, Rich and Perdersen (eds), Mobile Communications: Re-negotiation of the social Sphere, London: Springer – Verlag, pp. 131 – 148

Kensington, K. 2004, The Importance of Cell Phone in Modern Society, Ezin Article, accessed 25th May 2010,  <http://ezinearticles.com/?The-Importance-Of-Cell-Phones-In-Modern-Society&id=7446>

Lester, L. & Hutchins, B. 2009, ‘Power games: environmental protest, news media and the internet’, Media Culture Society, No. 31, pp. 579 – 595

Leiner, B. M. et al. n.d., A Brief History of Internet, Internet Society, accessed 25th May 2010, <http://www.isoc.org/internet/history/brief.shtml#Authors>

McIlvenny, P. et al. 2008, ‘Communicating place, space and mobility’, Journal of Pragmatics, Vol. 41, pp. 1879–1886

Moores, S 2004, ‘The Doubling of Place: Electronic Media, Time – Space Arrangements and Social Relationships’, in Couldry et al (eds), Media space: Place, scale and culture in a Media age, London: Routledge, pp. 21 – 37

Nightingle V & Dwyer, T. 2006, ‘The Audience Politics of “Enhanced” Television Formats’, International Journal of Media and Cultural Politics, Vol.2, No.1, pp. 25 – 42

Nightengale, Virginia 2007, ‘New Media Worlds? Challenges for Convergence’, in Nightengale, Virgina and Time Dwyer (eds), New Media Worlds: Challenges for Convergence, South Melbourne, VIC: Oxford University Press, pp. 19 – 36

Rizzon, T. 2007, ‘Programming Your Own Channel – An Archaeology of the Playlist’, in Kenyon, A. (ed), TV Futures, Melbourne: Uni Press, pp. 108 – 134

Schegloff, E. A. 2002, ‘Beginnings in the Telephone’, in J. E. Kats and M. Aakhus (eds), Perpeptual Contact: Mobile Communication, Private Talk, Public Performance, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Weerakkody, N. 2009, ‘Research Interviewing’, in Research methods for Media and Communication, London, Oxford, pp. 166 – 185

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THE MYTHS OF DRAGONS

Dragons are legendary creatures, typically with serpentine or reptilian traits, that feature in the myths of many cultures. Although dragons occur in many legends around the world, different cultures have varying stories about this creature that have been grouped together under the ‘dragon’ label. In addition, the portraits of this creature vary between regions, and even within a specific countries, dragons’ images are diverse through different periods of history. Therefore, this research paper purposefully studies the similarities and differences in various perspectives of this same cultural objective. Since the dragons are often held to have major spiritual significance in various regions and cultures around the world, thus detailed investigations of specific region’s cultural and historical aspects attached to the images are necessary. The effort of this research is concentrated on the imaginary dragons – the dragons in mythology, rather than the animals which are called as the ‘Komodo’ dragons in scientific expression. The dragons appear in the legends of many countries. However, within the time constraint, the research primarily investigates the dragon’s images represented in the myths of China, Japan, Korean, Vietnam, Britain and Greek.

The two targeted interpretations of dragons are European dragons, derived from various European folktales, and the unrelated Oriental dragons exist in many legends across Asian countries. The English word ‘dragon’ derives from its Greek origin. It is traditionally means of a huge size, like water-snake animal. In aggregate, there are parallel correspondences between the dragons’ images in European and Asian mythologies. Both describe dragons as a giant, able-to-fly snake. In the book ‘An Instinct for Dragons’, anthropologist David E. Jones (Routledge, 2000) suggests a hypothesis that humans have inherited instinctive reactions to snakes, large cats and birds of prey. Dragons have features that are combinations of these three. Our distinctive fear for these three would explain why dragons with similar features occur in stories from independent cultures on all continents. However, European and Asian dragons bear number of significant variations in their physical appearances as well as the cultural spirits implied behind those images.

Dragons in Asian mythologies

The history of Eastern dragons is hidden deep in Asian myth and history. Drawings and symbols of this mythological animal can be traced back to prehistoric tribal peoples of China. Evidence of the dragon’s importance in Chinese culture can be traced to dragon figures and other artefacts unearthed from the Yin Dynasty (3000 years ago). Though there are dissimilarities, most Asian Dragons often bear some cohesion.

First of all, unlike European dragons, most of Asian Dragons have no wings but they are able to fly in the sky. They could also shift their shape. Historically, these features were implied by ancient people that the dragons are able to adjust and adapt with variety of environments which the dragons pass by as well as that personality of adaptation and adjustment of those countries’ citizens that the dragons’ images represent. They could take the form of different creatures, such as beasts or man. Whensoever they did this, they were always the most beautiful and kind of all the species. In turn, other animals, including humans, could become dragons. Mainly through magic, people could turn into one of these amazing beasts. One story is of a man studying the magic to change into a dragon. Another has it that a boy swallowed a dragon pearl and transformed into one.

Secondly, Asian Dragons are usually associated with rain, water and wisdom. This notion corresponds with many Asian art painting masterpieces. Asian painters usually have rainfalls as dominant themes in their painting because water represents endless beauty. According to Binyon in his book of ‘The flight of the dragon’, water can become the softest of things but can also be the hardest one. Therefore, Asian dragons are adopted as infinite creature with power the water. This is evident in many Asian folk stories.  In Chinese mythology, the Chinese dragon (Lung) was a divine bringer of rain, which is necessary for the agricultural industry. Throughout Chinese history the dragon has been equated with weather. It is said that some of the worst flooding were caused when a mortal has upset a dragon. Chinese mythology uses the tale of ‘The four Dragons’ to explain the origins of four great rivers in China. In this tale, the four Dragons bring rain without the Jade Emperor’s permission to the Earth to help the farmers to grow their crops. The Four Dragons are then imprisoned by the Jade Emperor because they disobey the rules. They, however, never regret their actions and then turn themselves into four famous rivers in China, the Heilongjian River, the Huanghe River, the Changjiang River, and the Zhujiang River. Vietnamese people also believe that dragons associate with water as they share the same tale of the ‘Dragon Gate’ as in Chinese myth in which the Dragons are originated from the carps. The carps must practice through a tough training period to achieve certain personalities to be able to swim to and jump across the ‘Dragon Gate’. Once they pass through this gate, the carps will be transformed to the Dragons. The image of the carps jumping and crossing over ‘Dragon Gate’ reminds the ability to resist hurdles and achieving success. They are able to persistently resist hardship, swim upstream and rapidly jumping above the water to reach heaven to symbolize great achievements in ones pursuit or high ambitions of a lifetime

Chinese Tale: The Four DragonsOnce upon a time, there were no rivers and lakes on earth, but only the Eastern Sea, in which lived four dragons: the Long Dragon, the Yellow Dragon, the Black Dragon and the Pearl Dragon.

One day, the four dragons flew from the sea into the sky. They soared and dived, playing at hide and seek in the clouds.

Come over here quickly!’, the Pearl Dragon cried out suddenly

What’s up?’ asked the other three, looking down in the direction where the Pearl Dragon pointed. On the earth, they say many people putting out fruits and cakes, and burning incense sticks. They were praying! A white-haired woman, kneeling on the ground with a thin boy on her back, murmured:

Please send rain quickly, God of Heaven, to give our children rice to eat’

There had been no rain for a long time. The crops withered, the grass turned yellow and fields crack under the scorching sun.

How poor the people are!’ said the Yellow Dragon. ‘And they will die if it doesn’t rain soon’

The Long Dragon nodded. Then he suggested, ‘Let’s go and beg the Jade Emperor for rain’. So saying, he leapt into the clouds. The others followed closely and flew towards the Heavenly Palace.

Being in charge of all the affairs in heaven, on earth and in the sea, the Jade Emperor was very powerful. He was not pleased to see the dragons rushing in. ‘Why do you come here instead of staying in the sea and behaving yourselves?’

The Long Dragon stepped forward and said, ‘The crops on earth are withering and dying, Your Majesty. I beg you to send rain down quickly!’

‘All right! You go back first, I’ll send some rain down tomorrow’. The Jade Emperor pretended to agree while listening to the songs of the fairies.

‘Thanks, Your Majesty!’ The four Dragons went happily back.

But ten days passed, and not a drop of rain came down.

The people suffered more, some eating bark, some grass roots, some force to eat white clay when they ran out of bark and grass roots.

Seeing all this, the four Dragons felt very sorry, for they knew the Jade Emperor only cared about pleasure, and never took the people to hear. They could only rely on themselves to relieve the people of their miseries.

Seeing the vast sea, the Long Dragon said that he had an idea.

‘What is it? Out with it, quickly!’ the other three demanded.

‘Look, is there not plenty of water in the sea where we live? We should scoop it up and spray it towards the sky. The water will be like rain drops and come down to save the people and their crops.’

‘Good idea!’ The others clapped their hands.

‘But’ said the Long Dragon after thinking a bit, ‘We will be blamed if the Jade Emperor learns of this’

‘I will do anything to save the people,’ the Yellow Dragon said resolutely

‘Let’s begin. We will never regret it’. The Black Dragon and the Pearl Dragon were not to be outdone

They flew to the sea, scooped up water in their mouths, and then flew back into the sky, where they sprayed the water out over the earth. The four Dragons flew back and forth, making the sky dark all around. Before long the sea water became rain pouring down from the sky.

‘It’s raining! It’s raining!’

‘The crops will be saved!’

The people cried and leaped with joy. On the ground the wheat stalks raised their heads and the sorghum starks straightened up.

The god of the sea discovered these events and reported to the Jade Emperor.

‘How dare the four dragons bring rain without my permission?’ The Jade Emperor was enraged and ordered the heavenly generals and their troops to arrest the four dragons. Being far outnumbered, the four dragons could not defend themselves, and they were soon arrested and brought back to the heavenly palace.

‘Go and get four mountains to lie upon them so that they can never escape’ The Jade Emperor ordered the Mountain God.

The Mountain God used his magic power to make four mountains fly there, whistling in the wind from afar, and pressed them down upon the four dragons.

Imprisoned as they were, they never regretted their actions. Determined to do good for the people forever, they turned themselves into four rivers, which flowed past high mountains and deep valleys, crossing the land from the west to the east and finally emptying into the sea. China’s four great rivers were formed — the Heilongjian (Black Dragon) in the far north, the Huanghe (Yellow River) in central China, the Changjiang (Yangtze, or Long River) farther south, and the Zhujiang (Pearl) in the very far south.

 

Asian dragons are born with their colours and based upon the age and colour of their parents. Dragons are usually drawn with bright colours such as red, blue, green and yellow. These colours usually represent luck, positive outcome, sufficient fortune and prosperity in Asian cultures. Black dragons are children of a black-gold dragon. They are symbols of the North. They caused storms by battling in the air. Blue dragons are children of blue-gold dragons that are eight hundred years old. They are purest blue colours, and they are the sign of the coming spring. They are they are the symbol of the East.Yellow dragons are born from yellow-gold dragons who are one thousand years or older. They appear at “the perfect moment” and at all other times remain hidden. Red dragons descend from a red-gold dragon who is about one thousand years of age. They are the symbol for the West, and are much like black dragons. They can cause storms in the skies when they fight.White dragons come from white-gold dragons of a thousand years of age. They symbolize the South. White is the Chinese colour of mourning, and these dragons are a sign of death. Therefore, dragons are often perceived as positive images. They are life-savers rather than destroyer. Dragons are benevolent creatures and they should be praised as if people have to praise their Emperor.

Most Eastern Dragons are beautiful, friendly, and wise. They are the angels of the Orient. Instead of being hated, they are loved and worshipped. Temples and shrines have been built to honour them, for they control the rain, rivers, lakes, and seas. Although Asian dragons that exist in the legends of each countries share some similarities, it is, however, a threat to categorise all Asian dragons as same images. The dragons’ features vary in between countries and between different historical periods within the same country.

Firstly, it is noticeable that number of dragon’s claws is not the same. It is argued that number of claws closely links to the nation’s identity that is which country is the origin of the dragons. Chinese argue that their dragons have five claws because they believe that all Eastern dragons originated from China. They believed that when the dragons flew away, they began to lose toes. The farther and farther the dragons flew the more toes they lost. So, Korean dragons have four toes, and Japanese dragons have three. The Japanese, however, rebut this belief and insist that the Dragons appeared first in their country. They traditionally had three claws and once they began to leave Japan, they gain more toes. The farther the dragons went the more toes they gained. Korean dragons have four toes and are believed that all eastern dragons originated from Korea. When the dragons leave Korea and go toward China, they gain toes. When the dragons leave Korea and go toward Japan, they lose toes. There is another interpretation of the Dragon’s claws and is also arguable. According to several sources, including official documents from earlier times, ordinary Chinese dragons had four toes, but the Imperial Dragon had five. It was a capital offense for anyone other than the emperor to use the five-clawed dragon motif. Korean sources seem to disagree with this theory, as the Imperial dragon in Gyeongbok Palace has seven claws, implying its superiority over the Chinese Dragon. This dragon image is hidden in the rafters of the palace and not entirely in view, even to those who know it is there, suggesting that while the ancient Koreans viewed it as superior, they also knew that it would be offensive to the Imperial Chinese Court. It can be concluded that strong national identities are recognised through the images of dragons. Countries use the number of dragon’s claws and the stories behind it to explain the origin of their dragons and imply their relative power to other neighbour countries.

There are also differences in structure of the dragons’ body.  The Chinese dragon is made up of nine entities. The head of camel, the eyes of a demon, the ears of a cow, the horns of a stag, the neck of a snake, it’s belly a clam’s, it’s claws that of an eagle, while the soles of his feet are that of a tiger, and the 117 scales that cover it’s body are that of a carp. The Vietnamese dragon is, however, a combination image of four animals, i.e. crocodile, snake, lizard and bird. The head of Vietnamese dragon is very different from Chinese dragons. Vietnamese dragons have beard, no horn, the eyes open widely, and the tongue is thin and long. The Japanese Dragon has the head of a camel, horns or a deer, eyes of a hare, scales of a carp, paws of a tiger, and claws resembling those of an eagle. In addition it has whiskers, a bright jewel under its chin and a measure on the top of its head which enables it to ascend to Heaven at will.

Eastern dragon is said to be a spiritual creature which represents the power of the Emperor. However, this notion is viewed differently in Chinese legends as compared to the Vietnamese. Originally Chinese mythology believed that the dragons were the ones who talked directly to the Gods. The Emperor was given the God’s will for his people and he in turned passed on this message to the people through his growing bureaucracy.
As time went on the Emperors apparently decided to cut the Imperial Dragons out of the deal and claimed to be able to communicate directly with the God’s. Of course to protect this monopoly no one but the Emperor was allowed to try and communicate with the Dragons. Therefore, the emperor was the only one who should be allowed to connect to the Dragons. However, Vietnamese legend insist that every all of Vietnamese citizens are connected to the Dragons because they were all originated from the Dragon’s family and thus are carrying the Dragon’s blood. Every Vietnamese person knows the legend of Lac Long Quan and Au Co. Lac Long Quan (King Dragon of the Lac Bird Clan) is known as the forefather of the Vietnamese people. He is said to have been the son of a dragon king, while his wife, Au Co, was the daughter of the bird king. Au Co gave birth to one hundred eggs, which hatched into one hundred sons. The first-born son became the king of Lac Viet, the first dynasty of Vietnam, and proclaimed himself Emperor Hung Vuong. The First was followed by Hung Vuong the Second, Hung Vuong the Third and so on, through 18 reigns. Thus, Vietnamese people believe that they are ‘Children of Dragon, Grandchildren of Fairies’. Not only the national identity, the dragons’ images can also represent the personal identity of the each country’s citizen.

Although, Eastern dragons are respected among the East because they usually help humans in difficult times, however, not all Eastern dragons are life-savers. There are also myths about cruel dragons which appear as the monsters. The Uwabami dragon in Japanese legend is portrayed more like the stereotypical evil Western dragon. Uwibami was a great beast that would snatch men from their horses and eat them. From the Indian subcontinent, there are multiple stories of the serpent-dragon named Vitra. He was said to have absorbed the cosmic waters from the universe and coiled around a great mountain. In order to bring water to both the gods and the humans Indra battled this dragon and proved victorious when he used his thunderbolts to kill this monster and released the waters of life for all. Furthermore, the 21st-century Korean film titled ‘Dragon Wars’, two Imoogi were seen, one of whom took the Yu-Yei-Joo in the form of a blue crystal sphere and by this means became a dragon. In this film, however, one of the Imoogi, Buraki, (the one that failed to become a dragon) was portrayed as evil who destroys New York City to search and eat Yu-Yei-Joo, but finally was killed by the one that became a dragon.

Within a specific country, the images of dragons are also transformed through different stages of the history. There were different dragons’ representations through different reigns of Vietnamese history. The visual aspects of the Vietnamese dragon were determined by the particular dynasty in effect at the time. Different characteristics started to appear, including wings, arms, and horns. During Ngo Dynasty (938–965), the dragon was short, with a cat-like body and a fish’s backfin. The Ly Dynasty (1010–1225) dragon had rounded bodies curve lithely, in a long sinuous shape, tapering gradually to the tail. The body had 12 sections, symbolising 12 months in the year. On the dragon’s back, the fins were small, uninterrupted. The head held high, and had a long mane, beard, prominent eyes, crest on nose, but no horns. The legs were small and thin, and usually 3-toed. The jaw was opened wide, with a long, thin tongue; the dragons always kept a jewel ball in their mouths which is a symbol of humanity, nobility and knowledge. These dragons were able to change the weather, and responsible for crops. The Tran Dynasty’s dragon (1224 – 1440) was similar to that of the Ly Dynasty but had some new details which were the arms and the horns. Its fiery crest was shorter. Its slightly curved body was fat and smaller toward the tail. The Tran’s dragon symbolised the material arts because the Vietnamese had to fight with the Mongol during this period, so strength was emphasised. During the Le Dynasty, the Vietnamese dragon’s image was influenced by the Chinese dragon, because of Confucianism‘s expansion policy. These dragons were majestic, with lion-heads. They had a large nose. Unlike the dragons in previous time, their bodies only curved in two sections. Their feet had five sharp claws. During the early part of the Nguyen dynasty, the dragon (1802–1883) was represented with a spiral tail and a long fiery sword-fin. Its head and eyes were large. It had stag horns, a lion’s nose, exposed canine teeth, regular flash scale, curved whiskers. Images of the Dragon King had 5 claws, while images of lesser dragons have only 4 claws. In the later period (1883–1945), the dragon image degenerated and became unrefined, losing its natural and majestic shape, and was seen as a signal of the decline in art of the last Vietnamese dynasty.

Overall, most Asian dragons share similar appearances. They are made up of several different species, and each species contributes a piece of the dragon. They are usually associated with nature and weather. Eastern dragons, however, also vary in their ways of representation from Japanese, Korean, Chinese and Vietnamese. These differences cannot be overlooked as they are crucial for the recognition of national identity as well as personal identity for each country’s citizens. The dragon images are also affected by significant events in the countries’ history. Citizens of each country could use those dragon images to communicate to their neighbours many messages which range from political status of the country, their power stance relating to others, and the dreams about their country’s future.

Dragons in European mythologies

European dragons also exist in folklore and mythology among the overlapping cultures of Europe. In European folklore, a dragon is a serpentine legendary creature.  The dragon is generally illustrated as having an underground lair or cave, making it an ancient creature of the earth element as contrasting to Eastern dragons which usually represent the water element. Cave dweller dragons stay most of the time in the coldness of the dark. The caves, filled with fire and water, are easily guarded and located close to towns, where food is convenient.  They are typically with reptile features but may also have fur or feathers. They usually have dark colours but always shinny. Some have forked tongues, crests, fringes, or some other adornment. It always has the ability to belch forth blazing fire and fumes. The western dragons have four legs. Commonly, there are two hind legs and two fore legs, and, while the dragon may walk on all four of them, the dragon can also sit back on the haunches and use its fore legs.

British folklore is littered with stories of dragons and their relatives. Although contemporary literature paints the dragon as a large, winged, fire breathing entity, this was not always the case. The dragons which roamed the UK countryside could be completely different to one another; some huge, others tiny, some confrontational, others shy, some flew, others slivered, some wandered, and others had homes. The most common dragon to appear in British folklore and perhaps the earliest root of the dragon legend is the worm which stems the Anglo Saxon word Wyrm or vurm. In appearance the worm is wingless and scaly with no arms or legs, very similar to a gigantic snake but with the added dread of poisonous breath, and the ability to rejoin after being cut into pieces.

The common thing that connected the creatures was their disdain for people – dragons were not friendly, although in all fairness, people did not react particularly well when a dragon came by. An important English legend is St. George and the Dragon. As the story goes, Saint George was a Christian martyr who killed a dragon in order to rescue the princess Silene. Saint George is the patron saint of England. The story of the Lambton Worm is another UK’s most well known dragon story. While a lad skipping church, John Lambton caught a small snake-like creature while fishing, and discarded it down a nearby well. Many years passed, and John grew up and ventured off to fight in the crusades. While overseas, the creature John once threw away emerged from the well, now long enough to wrap itself around the local Penshaw Hill three times. The worm killed anyone who tried to attack it, aided by its ability to quickly heal any wound, and snacked on sheep and small children. John’s father eventually pacified the creature, daily feeding it the milk from nine cows. Seven years later, John returned to the Lambton estate, only to find his home in a state of fear. The knight discussed the problem worm with a witch, and was told to cover his armour in spikes and to only engage in battle near a river. John did so, and as battle between man and beast raged, the spikes prevented the worm from wrapping itself around him. John hacked the monster into chunks, which were carried away by the river before they had the chance to heal.

The Golden Legend – Saint George and the DragonThe story of Saint George and the Dragon is a popular one in Europe. The legend takes place in a town called Silene, in Libya. The legend states that this town had a large pond where a plague-bearing dragon dwelt. To appease the dragon, the villagers would feed it sheep and maidens. The maidens of the village would draw lots to see who would be sacrificed to the dragon.

One day, the lot fell upon the princess of Silene. The king, distraught with grief, told the people they could have all his gold and silver and half of his kingdom if his daughter were spared. The people, fearing the wrath of the dragon, refused. So, the princess was sent out to the lake, dressed as a bride, to be fed to the dragon.

Saint George, hearing of this predicament, rode on horseback to the lake. The princess, trembling, sought to send him away, but George vowed to remain and fortified himself with the Sign of the Cross.

The dragon reared out of the lake as George and the princess were talking. Saint George charged at it on horseback and pierced it with his lance. Then he called to the princess to throw him her girdle, and put it around the dragon’s neck. When she did so, the dragon followed the girl like a dog on a leash. They led the dragon back into town, where it terrified the people at its approach. But St. George called out to them, saying that if they converted to Christianity and were baptized, he would slay the dragon before them.

The king and the villagers agreed, 15,000 men plus women and children, and were converted and baptized. George then drew his sword and slew the dragon. On the site where the dragon died, the king built a church, which bore a spring whose waters cured all diseases.

Similar to Asian dragons, the images of dragons in European legends also vary across different historical periods. In earlier times, most of the European dragons were actually symbolic of good things, similar to their Asian cousins. From the very start Dragons were seen as guarding treasures, holding back the floods, and dispensing knowledge. They also are battled by gods or heroes from the very beginning. In many cases stories from the Sumerians were borrowed and slightly changed by the preceding civilizations. However, during the medieval times the dragon became a symbol of all things evil. This downfall of the Dragons is explained by the legend of Medieval Knights. According to the mythology of dragon lore, knights of the Medieval times had to protect their kingdom and their elaborate Medieval castles from fierce and threatening dragons by the tradition of fighting and slaying the dragons to not only protect their Medieval culture, but also to capture their hidden and protected treasures. Knights of the Round Table were eager to prove their faith and would battle dragons to death. Occasionally, dragon monsters would wander into villages, and leave great destruction and death in their wake. This led many a brave knight to attempt to hunt down and slay dragons, as recounted in many medieval writings of the Middle Ages.  Since then, the dragon was represented the devil, hell, sin, destruction, war, and greed. The article ‘Unnatural History of Dragons’ by Louise W. Lippincott (1981) affirms that the dragons in Greek legend occupied springs and rivers, which they guarded fiercely. This legend reached Europe in Roman times in a letter from Fermes who was a traveller in the East to the emperor Hadrian in Rome, and was absorbed in a variety of Roman and medieval treatises on natural history and the marvels of the East. Fermes described a territory east of the Nile and Brixontes rivers, inhabited by giant dragons. These dragons were so terrifying that no one dared to cross the rivers where they lived. In addition, in Paris Bordone’s painting (figure 7), the painted dragon is clearly scaring off travellers who desire to cross the river at the fording place.

 In the Middle Ages, during the Festival of the Rogotian (which proceeded Ascension Day), an image or statue of a dragon was carried around the village as a representation of evil and sin. On the last three days of the festival, the dragon image was kicked around and stoned by the villagers as a way of ridding themselves of evil and sin. Since that time, most western dragons were pictured as particularly cruel creatures that horde gold and torture small towns. Dragons become evil beasts. In many legends, they like to feed upon human flesh and prefer young people and those who are weak. They also hunt large game animals such as deer, elk, and sometimes livestock. In folklore, it is depicted that they typically take a flight at night to terrorize the villagers and cause pestilence over the land. Western dragons are not necessarily evil – but they often are. At the very least they tend to be solitary and bad-tempered.

Dragons vary as much as people do. Although many Western dragons are brutal, ignorant creatures who kill and eat humans others are ancient, wise creatures more akin to those found in the East. There are also many accounts of dragons giving assistance to weary travellers or acting as guardians or protectors over sacred forests or treasures. Some Western dragons are also very intelligent, and in many cases capable of speech. Legend has it that Western dragons held secrets, knowledge or power that may only be claimed when the dragon is slain. The one who killed the dragon must drink its blood and eat its flesh in order to have these secrets revealed.

Both Western Dragons and Eastern Dragons have details and behaviours that make them extraordinarily interesting. Beside some exceptions, the major differences between Western and Eastern dragons are their outlooks and the representational spirit that each carries. However, it is also dangerous to categorise all Western dragons as same kind. The interpretation of different types of Western dragons must consider the historical events as one of the important aspects.

Conclusion

In almost everything we read about dragons, the author has had to decide which type of dragon to focus on, the Eastern or the Western. This usually depends on where the author is from and so the type of dragon that he or she is most accustomed to. When talking about dragons it can almost be impossible to talk about a dragon without being biased to one culture or the other.

It could be that the reason each dragon is different between cultures is because the people had never actually seen one, only heard stories and descriptions of them.

But whatever their origin, dragons today are not just a survival of beliefs and motifs from the past. They live on in popular culture and in fiction, not as a static symbol but as images which may be used in different ways and given different functions. In the twentieth century, many works of fiction have featured dragons, more so than ever since fantasy fiction became a successful publishing genre in the last thirty years. These dragons are not all alike. Some have obvious links with their literary predeces-sors or with traditional stories but use their materials in new ways. Others introduce new elements, sometimes borrowed from elsewhere in folklore or legend. Such changes can arise from a desire to develop fictional characters of greater individuality, whether for the dragon itself or for those who react to it, or just from a desire to write something new. But the ways in which writers choose to do this point to changes in the way they, and presumably their readers, think and feel about traditional stories and the traditional image of the dragon. They show how folklore material can be used to express changes in social attitudes and ideas, not merely to reflect the past.

Writers today are more likely to have access to a wide range of folklore collections and studies than at any time in the past. McCaughrean’s novels show how different traditions may be combined to make a successful fictional world, convincing in its own terms. In different ways, the other novels mentioned here do the same. But the changing role of dragons in modern fiction expresses deeper changes in society, as well as in approaches to fiction. One is a change in the attitude towards dangerous animals, noticeable in Pratchett as well as Dickinson and Rowling. Another is a change in attitude to humanity, which means that fictional evil is more convincing and more frightening when people, not dragons, are the true enemy. And perhaps that a happy ending is more likely to work if it is not absolute: if the dragon lives to fight another day.

References

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Antiques and Dynasties 2004, The Chinese Dragon, accessed 17th May 2010, <http://antiquesndynasties.com/chinese_dragon.htm>

Binyon, L. (1911), The flight of the dragon, London: Murray

Chinese Dragons n.d., accessed 17th May 2010, <http://www.crystalinks.com/chinadragons.html>

David E. Jones (2000), An Instinct for Dragons, London: Routledge

Dragons of the world n.d., European Dragons, accessed 17th May 2010, <http://www.majorproject.mkysplace.ca/europeandragons.html>

Kylie McCormick 2010, Chinese Dragons versus Japanese Dragons, Circle of the Dragon, accessed 17th May 2010, <http://www.blackdrago.com/japvschin.htm>

Kylie McCormick 2010, Eastern Dragon Overview, Circle of the Dragon, accessed 17th May 2010, < http://www.blackdrago.com/easterndragons.htm>

Louise W. Lippincott 2002, The Unusual History of Dragons,

Philadelphia Museum of Art Bulletin, No. 334, pp. 2 – 34, accessed 19th May 2010,<http://www.jstor.org/stable/3795303>

Mythical Creatures & Beasts 2009, Western Dragons, accessed 17th May 2010, <http://www.mythicalcreaturesguide.com/page/Western+Dragon>

Unerman, S. 2002, Dragons in Twentieth-Century fiction, Folklore, No.1, pp. 94 – 101, accessed 19th May 2010, <http://www.jstor.org/stable/1261010>

Trevor Mendham 2003, The Western Dragon Tradition, Dragonorama: All about dragons, accessed 17th May 2010, <http://www.dragonorama.com/western/index.html>

Vietnam Culture 2006, Tale of Vietnamese Dragon, accessed 17th May 2010, <http://www.vietnam-culture.com/articles-221-34/Tale-of-Vietnamese-Dragon.aspx>

Ward Jones 2010, Dragon Articles, Crystal Dragon of Taiwan, accessed 17th May 2010, <http://www.cdot.org/history/dragon_articles.htm>

Wikipedia 2001, Chinese Dragons, accessed 17th May 2010, <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_dragons>

Wikipedia 2001, Dragon, accessed 17th 2010, <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dragon>

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Yona Williams 2010, Dragon Symbolism in Worldwide Cultures, The Apricity Forum, accessed 17th May 2010, <http://www.theapricity.com/forum/showthread.php?t=15313>

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THE IDEOLOGY OF THE MARKET – ECONOMIC RATIONALISM

Introduction

 

Economic rationalism refers to Australia’s economic policy during the 1980s and 1990s. This economic orthodoxy was also known as neoliberalism.  The term was used as a favourable description of market-oriented economic policies under Whitlam government in the early 1970s. This briefing paper is served to elaborate the meaning of the term ‘Economic rationalism/neoliberalism’ and to explain the appropriate role of the state perceived by this economic theory.

 

Economic rationalism: definition and features

 

Economic rationalism/neoliberalism, supports the principle that markets are more efficient than government in organising society and providing for freedom. Economic rationalists believe that the market is the best way of deciding what to produce, how to produce, and thus market incomes should be determined by the market (J.W.Nevile 1997, p.5). This ideology follows a school of economic thinking known as ‘laissez fair’ or ‘neo-classical economics’. Economic rationalism is a sub-category of liberalism which stresses on the self-governing individual and freedom (John Carroll 1992, p.185).

 

The basic assumption is that everyone is motivated by self-interest. People will try to get as much as they can for themselves. Human well-being is, therefore, supposed to be best achieved through the expansion of free markets and free trade, and the state should be designed to encourage those practices. Government should have fewer interventions in the markets, and make it more like a market itself (John Dryzek).

 

Emergence of ‘economic rationalism’ in the Australia’s economic policy making process

 

The revolution of ‘economic rationalism’ initiated in the 1970s. During that time, there were extraordinary economic events that the dominant economic model of the time could not manage. Failures of the Keynesianism’ economic model applied in the late 1960’s placed Australia’s economy in dilemma with slow economic growth, increasing unemployment, increasing inflation, and falling productivity. Inflation was a consequence of the excessive supply of money, while unemployment was due to the labour market not operates efficiently. Business regulation was excessive and discouraged incentive investments. Those breakdowns challenged the effectiveness of government interventions. A new economic policy, ‘economic rationalism/neoliberalism’, which places emphasis on the market’s forces rather than government’s interference, was desired.

 

Implementation of economic rationalism

 

Financial deregulation is an early application of ‘rationalist’ economic policy (Ian R. Harper and Phillip J. Leslie 1993, p. 84). Foreign exchange controls and restrictions on Australians investing overseas were eliminated, exchange rate was floated, entry of foreign trading banks was approved, Australian stock exchanges were deregulated and restrictions on the terms of bank deposits were removed.

 

In the public sector, New Public Management was introduced in the 1980s to raise ‘efficiency’ across the public sector and increase private sector involvement in service delivery, asset management and ownership. Managerialism was implemented in which rules and regulations concentrate on workforce accountability, efficiency and effectiveness (Carolynne James 2003, p.95). The privatisations of Qantas, Telstra were some illustrations of institutional reforms in the public sector during that time. Competitive business conditions were improved by National Competition Policy which consists of industry plans, the abolition of protections (25 per cent cut in tariffs rate passed by the Whitlam government in 1973(John Carroll 1992, p.9)), contracting-out of government services (e.g. outsourcing of the Commonwealth government’s IT (Carolynne James 2003, p.97)).

 

In the labour market, there was a major shift from centralised to workplace determination of wages and working conditions. Industrial awards and collective agreements were abandoned in replacement of individual contracts to employ workers. There was an increase in number of casual and non-standard work forms, and decline in trade union memberships.

 

Globalisation is another implementation of economic rationalism. Government participates in international economic forums such as APEC and cooperative economic international agreements or treaties such as WTO, GATT, and OECD (Carolynne James 2003, p.97).

 

The role of the State and impact on social and economic policy making

 

The state is expected play a minimal role in governing the markets through enacting regulations to achieve efficient market mechanisms. The State thus performs three main roles under economic rationalism. Firstly, they should protect the system. Government should intervene to prevent private enterprises from corrupting the environment. Regulations (e.g. Trade Practices Act) are implemented to protect consumers, and the market atmosphere. Secondly, government impose laws to manage the market failures. Collusion between large corporations which creates monopolistic market needs to be avoided by price regulations. Rationalists believe that the State should provide public goods such as defence and so on. Thirdly, market should be extended by government through the process of privatisation and globalisation. Examples include selling of Power Station in New South Wales, and introducing private prisons.

 

The Australian state is less directly involved in providing services and the composition of assets has been significantly reduced. However, there has been no reduction in its size. The Australian state has developed a new and extensive ‘micro-structuring’ role through new regulatory instruments and institutions. The priority is to maintain acceptable level of employment, the conditions for long-term prosperity.

 

Criticisms of Economic Rationalism

 

Disjuncture between rhetoric and practice is the first criticism. The main purpose of economic rationalism is to minimize the government intervention. In practice, the regulatory role, however, is strongly increasing (i.e. regulations for competition). Free trades and ‘natural’ market competition can never be achieved unless the State takes action.

 

Second criticism is the assumptions of rationality and perfect information. Individuals do not only act to maximise their self-interest. Consumer choices are affected by other elements such as commitments, ethical issues, sympathy, and cultural restrictions etc. In addition, information is not equally distributed to everyone in the economy. There are always trade secrets and various laws to protect those secrets between corporations.

 

The treatment of labour process is also challenged. There is an incentive to overlook the qualitative difference between human labour and other inputs to production to treat labour market as similar to other markets. Desirability for leisure, for example, is not accounted for by the supply-demand models of economic rationalism.

 

Failures of 1980s rationalism

 

In John Carroll’s book, the author summarises various consequences of the application of 1980s economic rationalism. Those categories of losses include rising debt levels, increasing interest rate and unemployment rate,  and overvalued currency. The Australia’s overseas debt rapidly increased in from $15 billion in 1980/81 to $137 billion in 1988/89.  Throughout the 1980s Australian interest rates remained markedly high. The productive sector of the economy and the tradeable goods sector were served by lot of bankruptcies. Unemployment rate jumped from 6 per cent in 1988/89 to over 10 per cent in mid-1991.  Floating of the dollar put the local loans in risky property development. The dollar remained over-valued. Many investments facilitated by deregulation went into unproductive areas. Australia was at the mercy of an irrational international market and the result was the permanent economic recession in the 1990s.

 

Conclusion


There are ongoing debates about whether the economy should be constructed through market forces or whether it should be interfered by government policies. The recent swing in public debate in an interventionist direction was supported by most political leaders at the state level. A successful return to intervention will have both political and practical dimensions. It will depend on a realist government, and a policy structure.

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Macroeconomic Strategy

Macroeconomic policy is the policy framework managed by the Commonwealth Government in Australia that addresses the policy needed to develop the overall economy. In particular, macroeconomic strategy follows Keynesian ideology in which the governments should be responsible for economic problems (i.e. unemployment or inflation etc) rather than relying on market mechanisms. This article will examine important components of macroeconomic policy while compare and contrast to the alternative policy (i.e. microeconomic policy). In relation to Global Financial Crisis (GFC), it then critically reviews the current government’s macroeconomic policies such as the stimulus packages and adjusted monetary policy, and evaluates the costs and benefits of those policies.

Macroeconomic policy

Macroeconomics is one division of Keynesian economics that deals with issues of the entire economy. Keynes schools of thought studies aggregate indicators such as GDP, unemployment rates, and inflation etc to understand operations of the economy as a whole. Their models explain the relationship between aggregate factors such as national income, output, consumption, unemployment, inflation, savings, investment, international trade and finance. To stabilise the economy during economic crises, government use these models to assist them in making policy adjustments. The State believes that the economy’s strength and growth would be retained through the success of these adjustments.

Policy’s goals

The goals of macroeconomic policy include achieving economic growth. Economy should be expected with full employment, and incomes increases. Policies ensure stable monetary system and prices. Resources would be allocated to correct areas and used efficiently. Government should be responsible to provide public services such as national defence, public infrastructures, education and health.

Policy instruments

Policy instruments of macroeconomic management include fiscal policy, monetary policy, income policy, investment and industry policy (Stillwell 2006, pp. 291)

Fiscal policy manages the overall level of income, output and employment. The government macroeconomic policy adjusts budgetary behaviour to provide either expansionary or contractionary stimulus to the economy. According to Stillwell (2006, p.291), the budget’s deficit should deal with recession and unemployment. During recession, social security expenditures increase as there are more claims for unemployment benefits. Tax revenues tend to fall because less people are working thus lower average incomes. Injection of government expenditure into the flow of income helps to boost the overall level of economic activity and thus survive the recessions. In contrast, excess demand and inflation appear during economic boom because of falling government expenditures and rising tax revenues.  Budget’s surplus helps to reduce the rate of economic growth and inflationary pressures.

Monetary policy influences the supply of money and the cost of borrowing. This instrument can be used as a supplement or an alternative to fiscal policy. According to Stillwell (2006, p.292 – 293), because governments control the supply of money and level of interest rates, they may indirectly influence the ability of banks and financial institutions to provide credit facilities. These measures then influence the levels of consumption and investment in the private sector. With higher interest rates, cost of servicing debt will be more expensive and, thus discourage consumer spending and business investment, while low rates have expansionary effect. Interest rate policy can be a powerful mechanism of stabilising the economy’s growth path.

The government also influence economic activities through income policies and investment and industry policies. Minimum wage standards, centralised arbitration systems, direct controls over professional fees and rent, and other policies to control income sources can have some indirect effects in managing economic affairs. In addition, investment and industry regulations imposed by government also result in direct controls of investment expenditures (Stillwell 2006. p. 294 – 296).

Criticisms of macroeconomic policy

There are number of central criticisms with macroeconomics policy. There are problems in measuring aggregates such as GDP, national income, investment, employment and prices (e.g. CPI). The interactions between these aggregates are complicated. Manipulations of interest rates may influence exchange rates, thus levels of imports and exports. This may adversely affect the policy’s objectives. There are also significant time lags between the policy process and its economic effects (Stillwell 2006, p.294). Before the authority sees the need for a policy adjustment and an adjustment is decided, there may be a long period of time. Then consumer and businesses’ adjustments to their consumptions and investments’ behaviour may take another while, and more time before those decisions affect the output of goods and services. By that time the national economic conditions may have already changed. Moreover, ‘crowding-out’ effect may make fiscal policy to have no real effect on the economy (Peter Kriesler, p.8). If government expenditures were financed by taxation or by borrowing from the private sector, some private investments would be choked off. But, if increases in expenditures were raised by monetary expansion, the only effect would be inflationary.  Furthermore, there is also trade-off between inflation and unemployment as explained by the Phillips Curve. Fiscal policy could have no long run effect on the economy because it only influence inflation levels (Peter Kriesler, p.8). These criticisms of macroeconomic policy give rise to microeconomic policy as an alternative to manage the economy.

Microeconomic policy: the alternative

Microeconomic reform is seen as an alternative to macroeconomic policies designed to manage the economy. Instead of dealing with aggregate quantities to indirectly control the entire economy’s operations, microeconomic policies seek direct reforms in specific industry, organisation and individual to improve efficiency and productivity. Microeconomic reform is the application of market mechanisms to the provision of products and services to maximise the volume of outputs for given inputs available.

The first benefit of microeconomic reform is improved efficiency. Microeconomic reform improves the allocation of inputs to production activity. Efficient allocations of inputs are achieved through the removal of distorting policies. According to Borland (2001, pp. 4), an example would be a removal of tariffs on imported goods. Tariffs on imports raise the profitability of production of import-oriented goods in Australia. Hence more resources are assigned to production of import-competing goods. But Australian firms are not profitable from the tariffs because they might be less efficient than international firms that produce the same product.  A removal of tariffs would indirectly transfer resources to other areas where Australian firms are more efficient. Secondly, it raises the quality of inputs applied in production. For example, the value of output produced by a worker will increase if the skill of that worker is improved. Workers may be willing to undertake more training to increase their skills and hence increasing the range of tasks can be performed. Finally, the reforms result in localised decision making and responsiveness. These systems enable timely decisions to be made without time lags.

However, a microeconomic reform also has number of negative costs to the economy. There is loss of public service’s neutrality. Public goods or services cannot be charged individually for consuming them (Stillwell 2006, p.201), they should be freely provided to the public. Accountability may be lost for the services that have been contracted out. There is also loss of flexibility due to contract orientation. Capacity to produce previously in-house services might be eliminated as the required skills and knowledge are no longer practiced.

Current macroeconomic policy

In 2008-09, Australia had experienced massive implementations of macroeconomic strategy in confronting with the GFC. As the economy was facing the biggest slowdown since the early 1990s, the government announced two stimulus packages which were the $10.4 package in October 2008 and the $42 billion package in February 2009. As reported by the Daily Telegraph (2009), these stimulus plans mainly aimed to save 90,000 jobs over the next two years and protecting Australia against the worst of the GFC. The package was predicted to stimulate the economy by 0.5 per in 2008-09 and up to 1 per cent in 2009-10. At the same time, the Reserve Bank cut official interest rates to 3 percent, the lowest rate in 45 years (Ning 2009, p.4). As predicted by Grattan (2009), if this cash rate cut was fully passed on to commercial rates, it would take off $186 a month from the cost of servicing a $300,000 loan, and bring to more than $700 saving since peaked rates in mid 2008. The aim of this rate cut and bank guarantee were to boost investments in the private sector by reducing their financial expenses and enhance investor’s confidence. The Rudd’s government has simultaneously chosen two major macroeconomic instruments, i.e. the expansionary fiscal policy and monetary policy, to rescue the country from the GFC. The goals of fiscal policy in 2009 – 10 is to support economic growth though boosting aggregate demand by expansionary policy, to minimise unemployment, to boost Australia’s productive capacity and to increase spending on priority areas such as infrastructure, education, pension support (Ning 2009, p. 2). It is necessary to investigate the trade-offs between costs and benefits of these government policies.

The stimulus plan has resulted in number of positive outcomes. Businesses responded favourably to the stimulus packages. Business leaders agreed that it was released ‘quickly and responsibly’, and would create jobs and provide long-term economic benefit (Stafford, 2009).  Switzer (2009, p.4) reported that although the jobless rate rising from 4.5 per cent to 4.8 per cent, the figures however came from a greater number of people looking for work.  Accordingly, Davidson (2009) pointed out that the increase in unemployment is less than the size of the stimulus package suggested. He also suggested that “if our unemployment rate had followed with average OECD expectations, the unemployment rate would be 7.9 percent but still less than the budget forecast of 8.5 percent”. Inflation level has been reduced in from 5 per cent to 3.7 per cent and is expected to be in the 2 to 3 per cent target range of the Reserve Bank by 2010 (Davidson 2009). The export performance has been recorded as the largest annual increase in over 34 years (Switzer 2009, p.4). In addition, the Emerging Market Monitor (2009. p.9) assessed that Australia’s GDP growth remained positive with real GDP rising by a seasonally-adjusted 0.6% in the second quarter of 2009, up from 0.4% in the earlier quarter.  Also, the same statistics insist that Australia economy is revising the full-year growth forecasts upwards to 0.3%, from an earlier -0.8%, while maintaining our 2010 forecast of 1.9%. Private consumption rose by 0.8%, the retail trade sector expanded by 3.8% in quarter 2/2009. Australia’s economy has experienced good results from the government macroeconomic policy.

The costs associated with the stimulus package cannot be overlooked. Its long –term effectiveness is however doubtful. Grattan (2009) reported in her article that growth forecast has fallen from 2 per cent in the 2008 November to 1 per cent in 2008-09 and 0.75 per cent in 2009-10. Nevertheless, the threatening issue is the massive government and Balance of Payment deficits. The fiscal deficit is recorded of $53.1 billion in 2009-10 which will result in equivalent to 4.5 percent in 2009/2010 and 4.7 percent in 2010/2011 (Ning 2009, p.3). This deficit is projected to remain until 2015. Even though, Australia has a lower deficit relatively to OECD countries but it has been increasing rapidly. Mr Turnbull (The Daily Telegraph 2009) has stated that a budget was going from a $22 billion surplus to a $22 billion deficit in nine months. There are concerns about the prospect of a long-term budget deficit, especially if the Government must impose more stimulus measures. This massive deficit means a heavy duty for next generations to work harder to repay these debts. Australia would be in a threat of ending up as in recent ‘Greek debt crisis’ (Bryan, 2010). The stimulus packages may fail to keep the economy from the effects of recession if its consequence is another crisis.

Conclusion

In conclusion, macroeconomic strategies, particularly 2009 stimulus package and interest rate cut, have played an important role in the GFC recovering process. Although, the stimulus is welcomed, it must be ensured that the cash-handouts were used to the best effect as said by Mr Turnbull (The Daily Telegraph 2009). It is now the responsibility of the recipients of those cash bonuses to stimulate the economy and to repay the country’s debts.

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Irvine, J. 2008, ‘Australia’s current policy mix: including features of the 2008-09 budget’, in Eco date, Vol. 22, no. 4, pp. 1 – 8

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Nell, E.J. 1988, ‘The Breakup of the Keynesian Consensus’, in Prosperity and Public Spending, Unwin Hyman, Boston

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Stilwell, F. 2006, Political Economy: The Contest of Economic Ideas, Oxford University, Oxford, pp. 289-312

Switzer, P. 2009, It’s all about perspective, Chartered Accountant Journal, pp. 63 – 65

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White, G. M. 1994, ‘Has Macroeconomic Policy failed Australia?’, in Agenda, Vol. 1, no. 2, pp. 135 – 158

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Drag Performances

Drag queen shows have become one of the most attractive entertaining destinations in Sydney.  A drag queen is a man who dresses, and acts like a “caricature” woman (Drew Shane 2011).  According to Graeme (Langley 2006, p. 70), the actor of famous Mitzi Macintosh, their performances are often for entertaining purposes. As a form of popular entertainment, drag performances employ number of techniques for recognition of popular cultures such as lip-synching pop music stars, or make-up of popular characters.  However, those entertaining performances are not mere aims of drag shows (Taylor & Rupp 2005, p. 2133). The underneath of those camouflages, implies many political tones such as a satire of drag queen’s ‘voicelessness’, a strike for gay’s equality, a negotiation of genders, a criticism of hegemonic masculinity’s confines.  This essay discusses the intersection of those popular entertainment’s conventions and the above political acts in various drag shows of Maxi Shield and Verushka Darling, Claire de Lune, and Dallas Dellaforce.

First controversy lies in the function of lip-synching in drag shows. Lip-synching is one of the main factors which changed the nature of drag performance irrevocably (Senelick 2000, p. 389). As a form of popular entertainment, lip-synching is used as a vehicle for popular culture’s recognition. According to Langley (2006, p. 10), audience’s enjoyment is encouraged through indentifying various popular culture’s markers such as the iconic songs and iconic performers. Since those well-known songs and well-know stars are considered as popular culture, manipulation of those conventions also becomes popular entertainment for mass audiences. Maxi Shield and Verushka Darling’s lip-synching of Rihanna’s ‘Shut up and Drive’ immediately reminds audience of the pop star’s famous hit. Therefore, lip-synching elevates drag as a peripheral entertainment of minority gay’s community to a new level of popular culture and gradually revolutionizes into a successful art form (Langley 2006, p.14).

Besides, lip-synching also initiates some political acts. Firstly, lip-synching is an object of parody that is used to criticize its imitated popular culture. Some shows satirize the unreasonable application of lip-synching to highlight the performers’ voicelessness. Here, perfect lip-synching is not the main aim; rather excessive dependence on lip-synching is main joke. Claire de Lune’s show is evidence. Although sometimes she clearly stops talking; the pre-recorded soundtrack continues to take over in the background. Attention is drawn purposefully to the mechanic of drag construction. The performer is acting for defiance to strike for a more control on stage (Langley 2006, p. 11-12). This implies the situation of early drag industry in the mid-1990s that drag queens used to be voiceless in their own persona, in employment and in gay community (Langley 2006, p. 14). Thus, lip-synching concurrently marks drag performances as popular entertainment and as political act.

Dellaforce’s performance of the Clown Cult at The Red Rattler Marrickville is another remarkable illustration of drag as popular entertainment and as political act. His make-up as a clown flashes back the popular circus performance. As claimed by Lemon (2011, p. 230), circus performance has always acted as a mirror to popular culture that absorbs cultural influences, and reflects popular fascinations. Especially, the clown character has been viewed as central role in the heartland of popular culture (McManus 2003, p.127). Thus Dallas’s character under the clown’s camouflage emphasizes his intention to perform a popular entertainment that has a long standing in theatre’s history.

As a political act, Clown Cult show affirms a central role of drag in the construction of public gay identity which is often used as political tactic in demonstrations (Newton 1972 & Rupp 1999 cited in Taylor & Rupp 2005, p. 2118). Drag shows are political theatres staging on critique of hegemonic masculinity and mainstream heterosexuality. The stage is used to affirm gay identity, to cross the boundaries between male and female, heterosexual and gay, and to support for the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender cause (Taylor & Rupp, p. 239 – 240). As supported by Kiminski (20003, p. 24), drag is a protest that strikes for gay and lesbian’s equality. Dallas’ use of swearing terms, direct pointing, and sex acts draw the audience into complicity with them, blur the respectability of the audience and the deviance of drag queens. Those strategies shift the power between her and the audience. Dallas’ tearsing down the boundaries suggests that everyone in this theatre is indifferent disregard of their social status ‘out there’ (Taylor & Rupp 2005, p. 2133). Drag is also a negotiation of gender. Drag queen demonstrates that all gender is ‘an imitation for which there is no original. (The Harvard Law Review 2008, p.1989). This is represented in Dallas’ use of same pink colour and balloon material for both the male and female’s sexual organisms. One person can be both a man and a woman, thus the deviances of genders is insignificant. This criticizes the unethical punishment of for gays and lesbians in way to suppress those deviances. Dallas’s criticism moves further to the confines of hegemonic masculinity. According Brown (2001, p.39 – 40)’s claim of a restricted definition of hegemonic masculinity, Dallas acts out conflicts of men who are unsatisfied with a limited definition of ‘real’ masculinity. The ‘femininity’ attributed to gay men is not ashamed, but confident in retaliating against a hegemonic straight world (McNeal 1999, p.346). When acting as an aggressive man who has thickly black eye-browns, Dallas keeps big balloons to create sexy breasts. This implies that men can have female’s attractiveness. They are still men, however, through the revelation of a ‘balloon’ penis when he undresses. This is a strike for an alternative masculinity or a gay masculinity such that a ‘real’ man may be supposed to be pretty.

In conclusion, through different performative components and contexts, drag performance can be an intersection of drag as popular entertainment and drag as a political act.  Drag queens bring laughs to most of their audiences, but those jokes are implied with political messages to inform many aspects the gay and lesbian community that the audiences would carry with them when walk out the theatre room.

References

Brown, J. B. 2001, ‘Doing Drag: A Visual Case Study of Gender Performance and Gay Masculinities’, Visual Sociology, vol. 16, no. 1, pp. 37 – 54

Drew Shane 2011, Is Drag The New Superstar or Is Your Superstar A Drag, Fresh Express, accessed 31 May 2011, < http://thefreshxpress.com/2011/04/is-drag-the-new-superstar-or-is-your-superstar-a-drag/>

Harvard Law Review Association 1995, ‘Patriarchy Is Such a Drag: The Strategic Possibilities of a Postmodern Account of Gender’, Harvard Law Review, vol. 108, no. 8, June, pp. 1973 – 2008

Kaminski, E 2003, ‘Listening to Drag: Music, Performance and The Construction of Oppositional Culture’, The Degree of Doctor in Philosophy dissertation, The Ohio State University

Langley, C 2006, Beneath the Sequined Surface: An Insight into Sydney Drag, Currency Press, Sydney.

Langley, C 2006, ‘Borrowed Voice: The Art of Lip-synching in Sydney Drag’, Australian Drama Studies, no. 48, April, pp. 5 – 17

Lemon, A, ‘Bring in Your Washing: Family Circuses, Festivity and Rural Australia’, in J Conell & Chris Gibson (eds), Festival Places: Revitalizing Rural Australia, Chanel View Publications, pp. 229 – 247

McManus, D 2003, No kidding!: Clown as protagonist in twentieth-century theatre, University of Delaware Press, United States of America

McNeal, K. E. 1999, ‘Behind the Make-up: Gender Ambivalence and the Doubled-Bind of Gay Selfhood in Drag Performance’, Ethos, vol. 27, no. 3, September, pp. 334 – 378, accessed 30 May 2011 from JSTOR, ISSN:

Senelick , L 2000, The changing room: sex, drag and theatre, Routledge, London

Taylor, V & Rupp, LJ 2005, ‘When the girls are men: Negotiating Gender and Sexual Dynamics in a Study of Drag Queens’, Signs, vol. 30, no. 4, pp. 2115 – 2139, accessed 30 May 2011 from JSTOR

Taylor, V & Rupp, L. J. 2005, ‘Crossing Boundaries in Participatory Action Research: Performing Protest with Drag Queens’, in D Croteau, W Hoynes & C Ryan (eds), Rhyming hope and history: activists, academics and social movements scholarship, University of Minnesota Press, pp. 239 – 264

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Popular Culture

For several years, the definitive meaning of the term ‘Popular Culture’ has stirred many cultural debates. The reason may claim that the term is a combination of the most two complicated words in English language as acknowledged by Raymond William (1976). Popular culture together brings varied and sometime conflicting associations. Stuart Hall’s essay on ‘Notes on Deconstructing ‘The Popular’ (1981) constructs a foundational material in popular culture studies as it produced a critical theory of popular culture. Hall derives the meaning of the word “popular” from ‘the tensions and oppositions between what belongs to the central domain of elite or dominant culture, and the culture of the “periphery” (Hall 1981, p.234). In response to that statement, this essay will examine Hall’s elaboration of the ‘popular culture’. The case study of ‘Reality television programs’ will be further applied to inspect those features raised in his theory.

In Hall’s ‘Notes on Deconstructing ‘The Popular’, the author decisively focuses on ‘popular culture’ within the pole of ‘containment and resistance’ (Hall 1981, p.228). He rejects the commercial approach to categorize ‘the popular’ into things that masses of people follow’. Since the audience are not ‘cultural dopes’, they do not passively consume whatever being fed. Rather being purely manipulated, popular culture is a constant battlefield between acceptance and refusal. Popular culture is always closely governed in which it continuously adjusts its forms and filters to avoid ‘pollutions’. While some practices resist to be distorted and survive, others may be displaced with new appearance. There is not only a battle within the popular culture itself, but also a combat between the ‘dominant culture’ and ‘the culture of the “periphery”’ (p.234).  Hall’s definition of popular culture is in fact an ongoing cultural struggle. Agreed upon this idea, Omaya Cruz and Raiford Guins (2005, p.4) also restate that popular is a ‘site of struggle’ where its implication can only be recognized as a ‘significant form of power’.  This notion of Hall is established in his rebut to the meaning of popular culture as “all things that ‘the people’ do or have done” (p.234). As he suggested, popular culture should be carefully considered in relation with the concept of ‘the people’. The authority to label ‘the people’ or ‘not the people’ is eventually a foundation to distinguish what is popular and what is not. Popular culture also entails recognition of ‘cultural hierarchy’: the popular is being differentiated from the ‘dominant’ form of culture (M.Shiach 1989, p.15). However, the items classified under these categories are not fixed, and the relations between two groups can only be accurately described at a particular historical moment. The pressure between the ‘dominant’ and the ‘minority’ causes the shifts overtime. Today ‘low’ popular culture form might be defined as high culture in the future (H. Jenkins et al, p.26). Those relationships are created and destroyed to turn anything from ‘meaning to pleasure’, from ‘the ‘commonplace to the powerful’ (O. Cruz & R.Guins 2005, p.11). Since popular culture is an actively dynamic process, it is the power relation that is essential in defining the term, not the shifting boundaries between and the content of ‘popular’ and ‘elite’ (J. Simons 2003, p.181). The author Morag Shiach also agrees that popular culture is unstable in which he did not satisfy with the historical attempt to claim the nature of ‘the popular’ as constant overtime (1989, p.9). Therefore, there are constant shifts between the dominant culture and the culture of the periphery. This also implies that there is no direct relationship between a class and a particular cultural practice – as suggested by the term ‘popular’ (Hall 1989, p.238). This is evidenced in cases where dominant culture tries to gain a position in ‘the people’ world. For example, to legitimate a production, artists (i.e. music composers, script writers etc) often place themselves culturally and linguistically within the dominant sphere, and simultaneously allege to stand for the perspective and desire of ‘the people’. Hall thus concludes with a waning when reading a sign of popular culture since a single sign is not guaranteed to be the ‘living expression’ of any particular class and . A practical case study would thus be essential to illustrate the above aspects in Hall’s definition of ‘popular culture’.

Reality Television Programs are considered as remarkable innovation in media industry. Australian Reality Television Programs first arrived in 1992 and have become highly popular with Australian audiences (ACMA 2007, p. 26). In general, reality televisions presents unscripted dramatic or humorous situations, documents actual events and features ordinary people instead of professional actors. This definition makes the Reality Televisions programs fits well in the definition of popular culture as tensions between the cultures of the ‘dominant’ and periphery. Up until the arrival of Reality TV (i.e. the 1990s), the notion of watching ordinary, boring events unfold gained momentum. The dominant culture at that time was passive engagement with media. Main stream of TV entertainment was that professional actors performed on screen for so-called ‘couch potato’ (M. Mike 2000) to watch. Music script to be screened must be played by singers, highly edited by professional publishers, and massively distributed. The arrival of ‘Australian Idols’ brought the new culture of the ‘periphery’ (i.e. the amateur singers) into the music industry.  In addition, reality TV programs have also shifted some perspectives in dominant culture into things that no one has expected before. The shows ‘Britain’s Missing Top Models’ are examples. Dominant portrait of a model should be beautiful women with perfect body shape. Disabled women are classified as ‘periphery’ to that catwalk world. The shows have raised the awareness and profile of disabled people in the dominant culture.  Reality TV is not only a narrative form of entertainment, but also a restoration of citizenship (J. Dovey 2002, p.87). Border Security shows encourage audience’s interaction with national affairs. Performers are no longer dominantly played by the authority as traditionally framed documentary-styled programs but also by any random person. The appearances of illegal immigrants representing the periphery and the authority officer representing the dominant class reaffirm Hall’s statement that popular culture oscillates between the culture of the dominant and the periphery.

In conclusion, the term ‘popular culture’ houses a broad range of meanings. Since there is a continuously cultural struggle to identify what belongs to the ‘popular’ and what does not, as Hall suggested, a definitive implication must be analyzed in light of the power relations between the cultures of the dominant and the subordination rather than the contents of each category. Reality TV Programs is used to illustrate the above definition. However, further research should examine other forms of popular cultures, such as displayed museums, theme parks, Blackface Minstrelsy performance etc to reaffirm the aspects in Hall’s definition of ‘popular culture’.

References

Australian Communications and Media Authority 2007, Reality Television Review, ACMA, Canberra

BBC n.d., Britain’s Missing Top Model, accessed 25 March 2011, < http://www.bbc.co.uk/missingmodel/>

Dovey, John. ‘Firestarters – Reviewing Reality TV’ in Freakshow (London: Pluto Press, 2002): 78 – 91

John Simons, 2003 ‘Popular Culture and Mediated Politics: Intellectuals, Elites and Democracy’, in Corner, J & Pels, D (eds), Popular Culture & The Restyling of Politics, SAGE, London, pp. 171 – 189

Hall, Stuart. ‘Notes on Deconstructing the Popular’ in Raphael Samuel (ed) People’s History and Socialist Theory (London: Routledge, 1981): 227 – 240

H. Jenkins, T. McPherson & J.Shattuc, 2002, Defining popular culture, London Duke Press, Durham

Michael, Mike. “Disciplined and Disciplining co(a)agents: The Remote Control and the Couch Potato.” In Reconnecting Culture, Technology and Nature: From Society to Heterogeneity. London: Routledge, 2000, 96-166

Morag Shiach, 1989, Discourse on Popular Culture: Class, Gender and History in Cultural Analysis, 1st edn, Stanford University Press, USA

Omaya Cruz & Raiford Guins, 2005 ‘Entangling the Popular: An Introduction to Popular Culture: A Reader’, in O Cruz & R Guins (eds), Popular Culture: A reader, SAGE Publication, London, pp.1-19

Williams, Raymond. ‘Popular from Keywords’ in A Critical and Cultural Theory Reader. Anthony Easthope and Kate McGowan (eds). (Buckingham: Open University Press, 1996): 213 – 232

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Film Review: Rabbit-Proof Fence (2002)

RABBIT-PROOF FENCE 2002

Story

Rabbit-Proof Fence is a 2002 Australian drama film directed by Phillip Noyce based on the book Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence by Doris Pilkington Garimara. The film represents the true picture of Australian Government’s policy in 1931 which announced that all mixed-raced Aborigine children should be taken from their homes and detained in custom-made camps with the aim of assimilating them to white society. It is the journey of three Aboriginal girls – Molly, Gracie, and Daisy – who ran away from the Moore River Native Settlement in Perth and walked for nine weeks along 1,500 miles Australian rabbit-proof fence to return to their “mother” in Jigalong, while being tracked by the White authority and an Aboriginal tracer.

Comment

The film is grounded on the historical issue so-called the ‘Stolen Generation’. Though it carries a political sense, the feminist theme creates a mild touch, and is gently absorbed by the audience. The movie, therefore, serves a heartwarming, emotional story to enjoy, and also stands as an important social document in Australian history.

The notion of ‘nationalism’ is depicted noticeably all over the movie’s storyline. Nationalism helps to make a country independent of foreign domination (Jacka 1993, p.111). Thus, the film is differentiated itself from the trend of Americanization which has been dominating domestic box offices. Two major national stories are illustrated through the girls’ journey.  Firstly, it is the contrary in perspectives between two societies – the ‘White’ and the ‘Colour’ people.  As stated by the Chief Protector of the Aborigine Populace, Mr. Neville (Kenneth Branagh) that “in spite of himself, the native must be helped”, Australian Government perceived its policy as generous and in-need for the natives.  However, the Aboriginal took this on opposite view. It is inhuman and cruel as Molly affirmed “make me sick … these people”. She looks at the White people as scary as ‘monsters’. This can be felt by the audience through her ‘hard-breathing’ sound when walking towards Mr. Neville, or her numb-face expressions every time confronting with any White persons.  Questions that are being raised throughout the film include ‘what is the authority for one to decide what other people should be?’, and ‘to what extent one can judge whether others are in-need of our helps? ’. The running, screaming, crying scenes all illustrate the Aboriginal’s anger for the Government’s interference in their lives which is always masked with kind purposes. The movie stirs again the debate over the claims of the ‘Stolen Generation’ by successfully contrasting different views on the Government’s civilization policy in the 1930s.

Secondly, it is the confusion lies in the definition of the word ‘country’. The Federation in 1901 has reunited Australia as one country. However, the Aboriginal girls only see ‘Jigalong’ as their country. This is proven by the narrations at the end “Daisy and me, we’re here, living in our Country … Jigalong”. Although they are still living in same country, they do not feel it as ‘home’ because they are allowed to speak in their mother language which should be freely used in a ‘home’ country. This represents a true situation for Aboriginals in the Stolen Generation.  They have suffered from destruction of identity, family life and culture. They were struggling on the way to find back their ‘origins’. But this is a half-chance journey. Some may succeed as Molly and Daisy; some may end up like Gracey and never return to their ‘home’ country. This journey does not only require physical strength but also an eternal flame of hope. We never see defeat in Molly’s eyes. The character makes us believe that she is the one who can bring the unexpected into expectable.

The movie success grants in its uniquely Australian representation. Those unique Australian features are not only represented through the issues raised as outlined above, but also through the music, the wildlife theme.  There is a great combination in the wayRabbit-Proof Fence was put together. According to Davis’s comment in the article ‘Working Together: Two Cultures, One Film, Many Canoes’, language is one of many important aspects to inspire the movie’s form and meaning (2006, p.4). An adaptation of Aboriginal melodies and narration is haunting and effective to identify its ‘Australian-ness’. The camerawork allows the beauty of the Australian outback to create an impression of how glorious the countryside is. The endless desert scenes show the beautiful landscapes of Australia. These elements together promote the Australia’s national identity throughout the movie.

Unfortunately, there are also three major criticisms of the film.  It only briefly touches on the hardships they encounter while attempting to make it through the harsher areas of desert. The audience is left with uncertainty that how Molly and Daisy can return to Jigalong after waking up in the middle of the dessert where there is no clue of directions, except her imagination of the fence. The Aboriginal “Tracker” character also plays too little connections with the main theme excepting tracing the three girls through the Outback. His family situation is left hanging with unfolded story that his child is also captured in the camp. Furthermore, the movie is felt unfinished as it does not describe the horrifying cruelty underlying the Stolen Generation. The audience does not understand why the girls have to escape from the camp as it seems to be a nice place with nice people.

Overall, the movie is worth to view.  It is an exciting journey exploring the heart and soul. This is ‘a big film about one of Australia’s biggest secrets’ as stated by Meegan Spencer. Rabbit-Proof Fence would be proudly called a successful Australian movie in 2002.

Reference

Elizabeth Jacka (1993) ‘Australian Cinema: An anachronism in the 1980s?’ in Nation, Culture, Text: Australian Culture and Media Studies, Graeme Turner (ed.) Routledge 106 – 122

Rabbit-Proof Fence, 2002, accessed 15 March 2011, <http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/rabbitproof_fence/>

J, Berardinelli, 2002, Rabbit-Proof Fence, Reelviews, accessed 15 March 2011, <http://www.reelviews.net/movies/r/rabbit-proof.html>

M, Spencer, Rabbit Proof Fence, The ABC, accessed 15 March 2011 <http://www.abc.net.au/triplej/review/film/s485339.htm>

Rabbit Proof Fence, Urban Cine File, accessed 15 March 2011, <http://www.urbancinefile.com.au/home/view.asp?a=5769&s=reviews>

Rabbit-Proof Fence 2004, Movie Gazette, accessed 15 March 2011 <http://movie-gazette.com/936/rabbit-proof-fence>

Rabbit-Proof Fence 2002, The BBC, accessed 15 March 2011, <http://www.bbc.co.uk/films/2002/10/16/rabbit_proof_fence_2002_review.shtml>

Therese Davis (2006) ‘Working together: Two cultures, One Film, Many Canoes’ in Senses of Cinema, Vol. 41

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