Lost in Translation


The Australian ABC TV show Kath and Kim was an Australian Cultural phenomenon. One of Australia’s most successful comedy shows. It was filmed as a single camera, a fly on the wall style show following the lives of a mother and daughter in suburban Melbourne. The show dealing with middle aged relationships, children, friendships and the day to day interactions of typical Australian people.

It’s not quite a sitcom and not quite a mocumentary, though its use of voice overs, real locations, attention to detail and deadpan humour make it a classic Australian comedy that audiences, not only here in Australia yet around the world fell in love with.

So in 2008, the Aussie series was transformed and renamed into an all American series, with the original creators, Jane Turner and Gina Riley respectively who both played original Kath and Kim serving as producers. The show was thought to be a hit in the United States.

However this was not the case. The show was destroyed by critics and eventually cancelled after one season. Though why did this remake not work?

The show was just going off the success of other U.S remakes of TV shows such as The Office from UK and Ugly Betty from Colombia. These remakes used the same format as their counterparts, just with Americanised backgrounds and culture.

What didn’t translate with American Kath and Kim?

It was basically the whole concept of the show. Kath and Kim doesn’t have significant plotlines or drama, it relies on its character developments, Its Australian slang and hidden idioms used in dialogue.

Phrases like

“Give it a bone”
“I’ve got a feeling in my waters”

and “Clutching at spanners”

Many of these phrases are understood by Australian viewers, and add to the shows character.

What sets Kath and Kim apart is it emphasises the difference in American and Australian cultures even though the use of many elements such as celebrity gossip and shopping centres, commercial products and brand are quite culturally American.

Much like other iconic Australian productions such as the films ‘The Castle’ and ‘Muriel’s wedding’, it is the Australian cultural elements that make it work so well. This is what Kath & Kim also holds. It represents the Australian lifestyle in a parody style that it is extremely difficult for people of other cultures to understand. The Cultural elements of Kath and Kim cannot be succumbed by cultural homogenisation.

Cultural Homogenisation being the aspect of culture being globalised and less diversified so that it fits across many countries.

So in hindsight, it is extremely difficult to capture and translate a narrative that has such cultural roots to another country and remove its elements to satisfy a new audience. Sometimes its best to leave these shows to their authenticity.


Welcome to Nollywood


No this isn’t Hollywood nor is it Bollywood, but it is Nollywood. Nollywood is the film industry of Nigeria. It is also the second largest film industry in the world, in terms of yearly distribution of films, just behind Bollywood and ahead of Hollywood since 2009. Nollywood was a 3 Billion dollar industry in 2014.

For such a big industry it has probably been around for a long time right?
No not exactly.

Nollywood film making began in the early 1990’s when a Nigerian salesman shot a straight to video film ‘Living on Bondage’, on a budget of just $12,000 went on to sell over a million copies. This launched the Nollywood film industry today at its production of straight to video films.

Not a single Nollywood film has been to the theatres.

How is this so?

In the late 1980’s to early 90’s Nigeria’s Capital, Lagos and other African cities became highly dangerous areas of crime and as a result, people wouldn’t leave their houses at night, thus forcing entertainment venues such as movie theatres to close down. People were watching films at home. Films imported from Western cultures or India. Now there are up to 1000 Nollywood films being churned out each year.

The most important aspect of Nollywood is that its films have strong narratives of Nigerian culture.

Nollywood films often reflect on economic, political and cultural transformation in Nigeria. This helps gives Nigerians a sense of cultural identity.  The highest grossing Nigerian film ‘Osuofia in London’ made in 2003 displays the current trend in Nollywood of ‘hybridisation’ of culture. It follows the adventure of Osuofia a poor rural hunter and his travels to London to collect his dead brother’s inheritance. The film displays many themes of clash of Nigerian and British cultures, especially in a scene where Osuofia is trying to order food at a fast food outlet. Osuofia plays a young, childlike character, a simple Nigerian rural worker, who is now being seduced by the wealth and glamour of London.

wgirl1A culturally significant scene in this film takes place, when Osuofia is walking down the street and notices a young woman wearing a skirt sitting on the steps with her legs slightly open, he walks up to her and closes her legs. She is taken off guard and shouts at him. Osuofia explains he is offended with how she was sitting and offended with her reaction towards his assistance. This scene is an emphasis of cultural misunderstanding and shows how his Nigerian background and morals are very different in Western culture.

The constant contrast of cultures also displays the cultural imperialism effect that the western culture has on Nigerian culture. Though is this a common theme in Nollywood films, the aspirations of a ‘better life’ usually in another world, which London is depicted to be.

Photo 1: http://www.arogundade.com/Resources/nollywood-nigeri.jpeg

Photo 2: http://africa.wisc.edu/hybrid/2009/07/07/nollywood-osuofia-in-london/#more-203

Global Citizens…and Australia


We are now living in a globalised society. The phenomenon that is globalisation has taken over how we live our lives not only have we never before, as individuals or Australia as a whole been so connected to other parts of the globe by means of communication, like for instance friends currently in Europe are able to keep in contact with me at every moment.  They’re currently in Scottish Highlands as seen on SnapChat, making me extremely jealous right now. Globalisation is much broader than that.

Globalisation is the interactions and also integration of things such as people, companies, nations and politics driven by economic trade, environmental issue, media relations and information. This transition into globalisation has been fuelled by rapid technological advancement.

Globalisation has created us into ‘Global Citizens’ a role that we now play, not just as local citizen of our country but a citizen who has interactions internationally, a citizenship where we must acknowledge and respect people of our globe who hold different values and beliefs as they come from a different culture than our own.

A class debate this week about globalisation and us being global citizens led to me reflecting on Australian’s and our own cultural identity and how we are now global citizens. We are one of the most multicultural nations in the world and one of the luckiest places to live in the world, in terms of quality of life, so why did one day in 2005 change our history forever?

The Cronulla Riots in 2005 I’m referring to.

Late 2005 saw high racial tensions in the Sutherland Shire between the ‘surfies’ and the ‘lebs’ after a lifeguard was bashed by an alleged Middle Eastern person. By Sunday 11th December, mass text messages had been sent out; the Westerners (surfies) wanted to reclaim ‘their’ beach from the middle easterners who also used it. That morning while all wearing Australian flags as capes, 5000 people went to the streets rioting, abusing and physically attacking anyone who looked of Middle Eastern descent. This event sparks significant outrage in media but also praise by certain journalists, e.g. Alan Jones, and questioned whether white Australian’s were racist and held ethnocentric views.

Ethnocentric view being the belief that one’s culture and beliefs are superior to another’s based on our comparison of our own without further knowledge,

Since our existence, the “Aussie” way of life, especially in the shire region has always been thought of as laid back, larrikin and beach loving. This is a cultural identity that has been perpetuated by media, e.g. movies like Crocodile Dundee.

This ‘cultural identity’ is imagined, it is only an invention. There is no law on what Australians ‘should be’. Current statistics say that 43% of Australian’s have at least one parent born overseas and 30% of Australians themselves are born overseas. We the citizens of our nation and citizens of the globe need to look beyond the stereotypes and accept others race and culture in order to have a fully functioning globalized society.