Tuesday, November 22, 2016

BJBABY too British? Japan, Greece, US etc considered

A nuanced view of WT's strategy.
Starting with Saunders' excellent Telegraph article I'll look at arguments that BJB is too British for the US market; non-English markets experience a radically different Bridget through culturally-weighted translations (eg Spain) - and even censorship (Japan). Japanese subtitles reposition Jones as closer to a traditional stereotypical female through certain formalities of grammar. Greeks were among many non-UK/US (Australia/NZ/Canada?) audiences to be left none the wiser when Aretha's Respect kicked in at a key point in the original movie - iconic tunes that 'everyone knows' don't necessarily cross Western, English-language borders.
Saunders cites a number of academic studies in doing so - this is a much-studied franchise and cultural phenomenon, so challenge yourself and look out for more in-depth reading!
One such example that I will re-read in due course, not least as it presents intriguing arguments on the tensions between WT and Richard Curtis' script between appealing to the domestic and US markets: Jones is at once Americanised and critical of American culture ... is the book Falling in Love Again: Romantic Comedy in Contemporary Cinema (Abbott, Jermyn eds. (2008)). 
I'll get to view the film in due course - but your own (or second hand) observations from this would be welcomed (post a comment).

Headline for the Saunders piece.

On the one hand WT's aspiration for success with US audiences is glaring ... but films such as this do retain some uncompromising culturally British notes that don't sit so well with a mainstream audience:
Bridget, a loveable shambles, “refuses the model of efficient consumer in her personal life,” Marsh writes, suggesting that her self-deprecating view of her life runs counter to American cultural norms. In other words, by valuing a sense of "community" and romance, and caring less about material wealth, Bridget is the opposite of the "soulless profit-maximizing individual" modern capitalism encourages us to be.
This is taken from Saunders' astute analysis of factors limiting BJB's US success (Telegraph article), in which he cites 'since the release of the first film in 2001, a sizeable field of serious essays have been published analysing both the film franchise and the novels by Helen Fielding on which it is based'.

He also cites a 2001 study in a linguistics journal which argued that British and US expectations of diary language, or diary-speak if you like, are markedly different, Americans tending to stick to clear personal pronouns whilst Brits often drop the I and use more clipped language:
According to the paper’s authors, “There is an interesting divergence in the reactions of British speakers and of American speakers” when presented with this kind of writing. “The British informants we consulted were ready to accept the examples from our corpora quite easily, whereas for American speakers these examples felt sharply ungrammatical.”
It has been a hit in many other international, including non-English markets - but their reading (Stuart Hall) may be radically different to a British audience's, such is the culturally-specific nature of some of her swearing in particular.
Even if Bridget Jones may not be America’s cup of tea, the films are certainly popular elsewhere: Bridget Jones’s Baby has already topped the box-office chart in 24 different countries, including Australia, Russia, Spain and the Netherlands. However, critics have suggested that international audiences are actually engaging with an entirely different Bridget, as different translations can create an entirely different sense of the character’s personality.
Jose Santemilla homes in a single example, "f**kwittage", pointing out that it 'is translated into Spanish as the much more bland “sexo sin compromiso” (‘non-committed sex’)'. Is Jones a (post-)feminist icon for such countertypical conduct (whilst the 'ladette' is a 20 year old concept in Britain, and US TV shows like The Wire casually threw in tougher-than-the-guys female characters, the demure female remains a recognisable stereotype)?
The word represents “a conscious effort to coin a trendy, attractive and unprejudiced term to identify an independent, cosmopolitan female attitude to life,” Santemilia suggests. “It’s a newly-coined term which poses a direct problem to translators, as it strives to reflect the complexity of a type of literature which tries to be fresh and ingenious, free from gender bias, and offering a site for women’s self-affirmation.”
Even the massive hits featured in the OST (the example here is from the 1st movie) aren't necessarily a selling factor beyond the UK or US. Everyone knows Aretha's feminist rallying cry, Respect, right?! Nope - not in Greece to take one example:
Even the soundtrack has caused problems: when Bridget quits her job in the first film (“frankly, I’d rather have a job wiping Saddam Hussein’s a---”) Aretha Franklin’s Respect begins to play on the soundtrack. According to another study by the University of Surrey’s Dr Louisa Desilla, "The overwhelming majority of British viewers recognised the song and were conscious of its function,” but presented without subtitles “the tune proved much more difficult to identify for the Greek audience. Only [one viewer] could provide the title of the song and a relevant explanation for its use.”
This UGC/fan-made video, uploaded back in 2012 and linked to BJD1+2, is an example of why the producers would have felt this was a safe and highly audience-friendly choice. NOTE: The video contains accurate dialogue scripting, with frequent swearing as is the point of this post! (many foreign audiences not being presented with the marketed character)

Japan is another market considered, citing Dr Hiroko Furukawa's research:
  • The Japanese subtitles for her dialogue use a series of hyper-feminine speech markers, which – though common in translations of literary fiction – are far rarer in real Japanese women’s speech
  • Furukawa’s research notes that Bridget’s swearing is censored: the first film’s use of the phrase “the bloody bastard” is bowdlerised in the Japanese subtitles as “Usuratonkachi no rokudenashi” (literally, ‘a foolish good-for-nothing’), while “Oh, bugger bugger!” is left with no subtitled translation.
  • According to Furukawa, “the nuance is modified” and “Bridget’s foul-mouthed character is lost”. At a crucial moment in the first movie, when Bridget believes she has lost Darcy forever, she runs barefoot out into the snow, and exclaims: “Bollocks!” In the Japanese subtitles, this becomes, “Tsumetai!” (‘It’s cold!’), and the real, emotional meaning of her line is left out.

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