Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Cultural Proximity and Reflexivity in Interpreting Transnational Media Texts: The Case of Malaysians Consuming Japanese Popular Culture

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Cultural Proximity and Reflexivity in Interpreting Transnational Media Texts: The Case of Malaysians Consuming Japanese Popular Culture

Article excerpt

In developing countries, many foreign products are imported for local broadcasting. In Malaysia, the media entertainment industries have relied heavily on imported products. According to Wang (2010), broadcast hours of foreign programs in Malaysia accounted for more than half of the total broadcast time among four local channels in 2002. The influence of foreign programs on Malaysian youth has been a concern for a long time. In early 2000, American influence on Malaysian television (TV) was seen as a problem, including the formats of local TV programs and language use (Pawanteh, 2006). In late 2000, Malaysian policy makers expressed anxiety over the number of imported television drama series from neighboring countries, such as those from Indonesia and Thailand that were broadcast on the local channels (Hamzah & Md Syed, 2008). In spite of having favorable comments from local scholars (e.g., Pawanteh, 2006) about the imported programs from Asian countries compared to those from Western countries, imported programs as a whole were still considered to be a negative influence on Malaysians' mindset. Free circulation of any uncensored product from outside Malaysia can be a problem because maintaining moral values in a religiously and ethnically diversified society is a serious matter in Malaysia. In fact, the Malaysian government has given exceptional attention to issues on ethnic relations and interreligious matters since major ethnic conflict occurred in 1969 to maintain political and economic stability within the country (Hashim & Mahpuz, 2011). According to the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Content Code (The Communications & Multimedia Content Forum of Malaysia, 2004), "The Communication and Multimedia Act prohibits content that is indecent, obscene, false, menacing or offensive in character with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten or harass any person" (p. 12). Foreign TV programs were selected and altered according to this Content Code, while the contents of Internet pages and audio-visual files uploaded to the Internet are not censored as long as the contents do not threaten national security or touch on sensitive issues related to religion and ethnicity (Rahim & Pawanteh, 2011).

TV programs from Japan are one of the main foreign programs imported to Malaysia (Rahim & Pawanteh, 2011). Japanese drama series (J-drama) and animation (anime) have aired on local channels and their DVDs have been sold at the local shops for decades. According to interviews conducted among university students in 2006 (Yamato & Mamat, 2007), the Internet and self-copied media files with English subtitles emerged as new mediums of J-drama as well as anime around 2004. In addition, Hu (2005) reported that various visual content, such as TV programs and films, began to be circulated for free following the innovation of a peer-to-peer (P2P) transfer protocol. She also noted from her observation of Chinese fans' websites dedicated to J-drama that Malaysian Chinese participated in online discussions with fans from other countries. This indicated that Malaysian Chinese speakers also obtained J-dramas with Chinese subtitles on the Internet. Iwabuchi (2011) highlighted the transnational flows and connections of media culture such as TV drama, animation, film, and music within East Asia. However, Hu's note and my observations about consumption of Japanese popular culture implied that people in Malaysia, a Southeast Asian country, is not far behind in these transnational flows.

In this context, I conducted a qualitative study to explore and understand media consumption of Japanese popular culture including J-drama and anime among Malaysian adults. According to Storey (2006), a common meaning among the various definitions of the popular culture is "a culture that only emerged following industrialization and urbanization" (p. 1). For this study, a popular cultural product is considered a commercially produced item for mass consumption which is associated with leisure and the mass media. …

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