How to Translate a Genre (with Michelle Cho)

In this week’s episode, guest Michelle Cho discusses her article “Genre, Translation, and Transnational Cinema” which analyzes Kim Jee-woon’s Korean western film The Good, the Bad, the Weird as emblematic of both the transnational adaptation of popular genres and the international rise of South Korean cinema in the early 21st century. Cho proposes a theory of genre translation that does not require audiences to know all textual references in a film and that accounts for the embodied pleasures and therapeutic sensations of globally popular genres, such as westerns.

“The appeal of genre films for a lot of viewers is that familiarity offers the space and opportunity to re-experience sensations and feelings that are pleasurable or, you could even say, therapeutic. Genre films give audiences an opportunity to go through a range of very intense sensations and emotions in a safe container or a safe space.”

Episode Transcript (opens as PDF)

Show Notes

03:54 The Good, the Bad, the Weird by Kim Jee-woon

09:20 about the myth surrounding the Lumières’ film Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat

11:17 a timeline of the Asian financial crisis of 1997-98

16:15 New York Times profile on Bong Joon-ho, from his early films to winning the Oscar for Parasite

18:40 more on the Manchurian western genre

35:30 A brief history of different colonizations of Manchuria

41:30 K-pop stans political interventions during summer 2020

43:05 Michelle Cho’s chapter on K-pop video culture

About the Guest

Michelle Cho is Assistant Professor of East Asian Popular Cultures and Graduate Faculty in Cinema Studies at the University of Toronto. She has published on Asian cinemas and Korean wave television, video, and pop music in such venues as Cinema Journal, the International Journal of CommunicationThe Korean Popular Culture Reader, and Asian Video Cultures. Her first monograph is about 21st century South Korean genre cinemas and she’s currently at work on a project focused on gender, media, and fandom in Korean-wave media.