Fanfiction and Commentary

Fanficition

In amongst the peach trees, Hana sits on a large root, staring down into the half-filled basket, contemplating her surroundings. Things are strange for her; she doesn’t remember how she came to Granny’s place, nor where she was before then. She doesn’t remember her family or friends, what her old life was like, or who gave her the name Hana. One day she woke up amongst the peach trees with a tag on her dirty shirt front – 花 was all it said. She didn’t even remember that being her name.

“Hana what are you up to? The tea’s getting cold.”

“Nothing Granny, I just got lost in my head. I’ll be right there.”

Hana scurries to pick more peaches, making sure to be gentle as she piles them up in her basket, and rushes back towards the house. Resting the basket on her hip, she slowly opens the door and feels the warmth of the fire against her face.

The table has plates of biscuits, slices and cake already cut up ready to eat. In the centre the teapot billows steam from the spout, two cups of tea on either side of it. Granny takes another forkful of cake into her mouth and beckons Hana over to the table. “Put the peaches next to the teapot, we can have some after our afternoon snacks.”

Hana takes her seat, eyebrows furrowing as her mind wanders back to the questions in her head. “Granny, where did you find me?”

“What do you mean, child?”

“When I first came here,” Hana clarifies. “I don’t remember anything from before I woke up here. I don’t know how I got here or where I used to call home. Do you know?”

“I’m afraid I don’t, child. You were brought to me out of the blue. There was a knock at my door and when I opened it my lantern took me towards the peach orchard.”

“No one else was there when you found me?”

“I didn’t see anyone. Why, are you missing home?”

“I don’t have a home to miss, Granny.”

Granny watches Hana take a bite out of a biscuit, her eyes downcast, gliding over the specks of chocolate chips. She couldn’t help but feel sorry for the girl – with no memory of her life she didn’t have anywhere else to go or return to. The minty-silver flash she caught out of the corner of her eye the day she found Hana springs to mind. I’ll have to have a talk with him.

**

“My dear sister, how long it has been. I see that elaborate bathhouse of yours isn’t doing anything for those wrinkles.” Zaniba sneers, glaring down at her sister across the table.

“You can hardly talk, you’re barely lifting a finger round here and you’ve got wrinkles as deep-set as mine. Where is that assistant of yours, I am waiting for a hot cup of tea.” Yubaba bites back, distaste riding on her gaze as she surveys the little cottage her sister lives in. Like a dingy shed, she’s like a swamp goblin.

“She doesn’t do all the work around here, Yubaba. If I ask her to make tea for the two of us than who is going to look after the flowers, hmmm? They won’t pick themselves.”

“You do have a lot of flowers, I don’t see why you need them all. The least you could do is give them to me for my bathhouse. I could have them crushed up and used in my herbal soaks.”

“You have your own garden, you’re not touching mine.”

Hana heaves a deep breath, fingers anxiously picking away at the seam of her long sleeves. Yubaba intimidates Hana greatly, so much so that Hana can barely answer a single question in her presence. She isn’t like Granny; Granny is kind and gentle whereas Yubaba is harsh and impatient. She demands answers the moment she’s finished speaking. Hana doesn’t like being in the room when Yubaba visits. Nevertheless, Hana slowly opens the door and creeps inside, careful to stay as quiet as possible to avoid catching Yubaba’s attention.

Hana quickly sets down the bunches of flowers she’s gathered on the benchtop, gathering them up into small groups to make them easier to handle. After she’s done that, she starts plating up some sweets for the table and nervously steps closer to the two witches. “Here are some sweets, Granny.”

“Thank you, child. Why don’t you go and see if there are more peaches to pick? I do believe I saw some at the tops of the trees this morning.”

“Yes, Granny.” Hana bows towards her, the necklace around her throat slipping free of her shirt. Yubaba sees the golden seal hanging against her chest as Hana rises back up and scurries back outside. A wicked grin begins to spread across her face.

“That assistant of yours, have you had her long? She looks so strong, I could use her at the bathhouse.”

“She’s staying with me, you greedy witch. You’ve got more than enough slaves in that tower of yours. Keep your slimy hands to yourself.” Zaniba hisses, giving Yubaba a heated glare.

Yubaba huffs, deciding to change the topic to something more bearable. Her thought stays with Hana and the golden seal sitting around her neck. How could she get it? And of all the magical things her sister possessed, why did she give the most powerful to that little girl to hold onto? How powerful is she?

**

Hana doesn’t feel right. There is something off in her bones – like a storm is nearing or a dark presence is heading their way. There is little she can do to push the feeling away so she heads out to the peach orchard to see how the trees are doing. There won’t be many peaches left but they have more than enough in the cottage. As for flowers, the shelves are filled from floor to ceiling so there’s no need to pick anymore. At the time of the year, there isn’t anything urgent to do so Zeniba gives Hana a lot of free time.

Shuffling through the grass, Hana’s hand can’t help but go to the seal around her neck. Maybe I should go back to the cottage, Granny would be able to keep an eye on me. Nodding to hersef, Hana takes one sweeping look at the trees and vows that she will return later before turnign on her heel and heading back to the cottage with a little more speed than before.

A flash of minty-silver catches her eye in the sky. The form was forming fast, swimming through the air with ease. Hana studies it carefully and her eyes widen. A dragon!

Hana feels her heart drop into her stomach as a memory lifts up to the surface of her mind. The minty-silver. Numbing cold throughout her whole body. The ear-piercing sound of thunder. There’s a heaviness in her chest that squeezes her lungs.

By the time she’s shaken herself out of her head, the dragon is just ten metres away. Hana bolts for the cottage, calling out for Zaniba as the dragon’s breath heats the back of her neck. A strong force like a wall of water pushes her to the ground and the dragon gnashes its teeth at her, claws digging into her arms as she fights to protect herself. Hana manages to roll onto her back, gritting her teeth as her tries to push the dragon off of her. “Granny!”

The dragon leers at her, raising one of its arms high to slash down on her arm. Hana cries out, rolling to the side, and the dragon swipes again. The string tied around her neck rips, the seal flying free. Before Hana can reach across to grab it the dragon has swallowed it up.

“You filthy, greedy leech! How dare you come here and attack her! Have you no manners?! No respect?! Do you not remember what you did?!” Zaniba fires off at the dragon, throwing curses at it and summoning paper birds that slice at its scaly skin and draw blood. The dragon flees, followed closely by the paper birds, and leaves Zaniba and Hana in the middle of the dirt road. Hana clutches her wounded arm close to the chest, whimpering in pain. Zaniba acts quick, healing her wounds and leading her back inside the cottage to rest.

**

“Granny?”

Hana sits up in her bed, looking down at her pale, scarless arm. The pain of the dragon’s claws is still fresh in her mind and she can’t help but let slip a few tears. Glancing up, she spots Zaniba by the stove, pulling out some biscuits from the oven. Zaniba’s eyes meet hers as she places the tray on the benchtop.

“Ah, my child. How are you feeling? Does it hurt at all?”

“It doesn’t hurt now, but I remember it hurting a lot.” Hana slides out of bed and heads towards the table. It is set out for guests and Hana shakes her head, a frown pulling down at her lips.

“Are visitors coming?”

“Yes, they should be here soon. You’ve been asleep for a whole day – you must be hungry.”

Hana nods slowly, peering at the cake sitting on the table. A low rumble in her stomach pushes her to take a seat. As she does so the front door swings open and Zaniba welcomes the two guests inside. One is a little girl with brown hair and a green striped shirt. On her shoulder is a mouse and a little bird, a strange duo but fitting nevertheless. The other is a spirit of some kind, one that Hana has not seen before. Hana smiles at the girl softly, beckoning her inside.

The girl heads towards Zaniba at the stove, prsenting her with the seal. “Excuse me, Ma’am. Haku stole this from you. I came to give it back.”

Haku? Hana frowns again. Is that the name of the dragon? Surely this little girl does not know the dragon that attacked me?

“He sliced me in two, y’know, and I’m still angry. Not to mention he attacked Hana after everything he’s done for her.”

“What?” the girl looks up at Zaniba and across to Hana at the table. Hana looks down at the floor, rubbing her arm.

“What, the protective spell is gone!” Hana rushes over to Zaniba to see the seal for herself, noticing too that the seal felt empty in a way, lighter almost.

“I’m sorry, you mean that black slug that was on your seal. I think I squashed it with my foot.”

“Squashed it,” Zaniba laughes, throwing her head back and hands the seal over to Hana. Hana heads over to the spinning wheeel in the corner and picks up some woven string. She makes quick work of making in into a necklace for the seal to hang on once more.

“That wasn’t my slug. My sister put that slug in Haku so she could control him. You squashed it!” Zaniba cackles once more, being able to make sense of Haku’s actions a lot clearer. “What happened to my spell – only love can break it.”

Zaniba beckons the girl over to the table along with her spirited friend. For the evening they talk about Yubaba, the girl’s parents and Haku – the person Hana still doesn’t know what to make of yet. He had been controlled, yes, but the ferocity of his attack on Hana just to get the seal is difficult to forgive.

“Can’t you give me more of a hint than that. It seems that I met Haku before, but it was a long time ago.”

“That’s a good start. Once you’ve met someone you never really forget them. It just takes a while for your memories to return.”

Hana recalls the memory that resurfaced when Haku first showed up. The thunder and the numbing cold and the minty silver washed of colour. Perhaps that will happen for her too. She just needs time.

Hana returns to sitting on her bed with a cup of tea, watching over the Sen whilst the others work on the spinning wheel. After a while Sen goes back over to Zaniba and in the middle of their conversation the windows begin to rattle. Hana jumps up from bed, glancing over to Zaniba.

“What good timing, we’ve got another guest. Would you let him in.”

The girl goes to open the door, peering around before shouting out “Haku!”. Hana shuffles over to the door after the others, anxious to see the dragon standing proudly in front of the cottage.

“Haku, I will forgive you for stealing my precious seal and for hurting dear Hana, but in return you must take care of this girl.”

Haku bows to Zaniba and bows to Hana, locking eyes with the girl. The group leave, No-Face staying behind to help out around the cottage. Zaniba turns to face Hana, giving her a reassuring nod. “He will return and explain everything to you. Then you will know who you really are.”

**

Haku returns the next morning, knocking on the door this time. Hana opens it with a nervous shake, bowing to Haku. “Granny said you would be back to explain everything to me.”

“Indeed, it is only right. Would you like to go to the peach orchard, you seem to enjoy that place a lot.”

“Sure,” Hana leads the way, keeping her eyes locked to the ground. Once they’re in the orchard she turns to face Haku. “Can you start at the beginning. How did I get here?”

“Long ago, you use to visit a river. The Kohaku River. You would talk to it and it would listen. One day, you stayed too long and you got caught in a storm. You slipped on the bank as you stood up, hitting you head, and you fell into the water.” Haku pauses, glancing up at Hana. “I am the spirit of the Kohaku River. I tried to save you but you drowned. I saw you as a friend so I wanted to bring you to the spirit world so you could still enjoy your life and tell stories to others like you told me. I couldn’t bring you to the bathhouse, Yubaba would enslave you for eternity. So I brought you here.”

“I…drowned?”

“I’m sorry.”

Hana looks down at her hands, her arms and her feet. They feel real. Now can I be dead?

“Zaniba put a spell on your spirit so that you would appear as human as possible. You would be able to do things like a human would – work and drink and eat and sleep.”

“You sent Sen back to the human world, didn’t you?”

“Yes.”

“But I won’t be able to return to that world, will I?”

“No. This is your world now.”

Hana would be stuck in this world. She belongs here now, not living but not dead. A new life – an immortal life.

~

Commentary

For my fanfiction piece, I decided to create a character, and tell the story from their point of view, that goes through their own journey within Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away. However, she does not have the same ‘happy ending’ as Chihiro. Chihiro is allowed to return to the human world with her parents after completing her challenge. Hana does not have that chance.

Hana’s journey takes her from the mortal world into the world of Kami (Spirited). Having no recollection of how she got there, Hana must work hard and do her bit to help Zeniba, the old woman who took her under her win. Along her journey she is met with challenges and her curiosity and naivety of the spirit world tries to deter her from her path.

The revelation point comes when Haku steals the seal Hana has been told to protect. During this moment she is injured and scared by Haku’s dragon form. From this point onwards, Zeniba begins to tell her of how she came to the spirit world, who brought her here, and why she must stay here. This is her transformation period as she begins to understand who she is now and how her life has changed. The atonement between Hana and Haku marks the ends of the unknown period of the hero’s journey.

Hana’s return is not the tradition return to the known like Chihiro’s. With Hana’s new understanding of who she is, her return is more a figurative one to normality instead of literal return to the human world. Hana learns to accept who she is now and to settle into her new norm of life.

With how I have written the fanfiction, it begins at the threshold of the unknown. Through the rest of the journey the beginning of her journey, the call to adventure, supernatural aid and threshold guardian is discovered. I found that writing it this way kept up suspense and made for a more interesting plotline and relationship line development. I found that with anime the endings are not spectacular and happy ever afters like with western stories and so I aimed to replicate a more eastern story ending with the return to normality in the world of Kami than the return to the world of humans.

Overall, I believe I have utilised several, if not all, of Gomez’s plot points from the Hero’s journey circle and have developed a believable character with a well-structured story line into the pre-existing world of Spirited Away.

Weeks 11 – 12 – Reality TV

In what ways has the genre of reality television been lost through the hybridization and diversification of programmes?

Reality TV used to be a look into the real-life happenings of people, such as their everyday lives and mundane jobs, to glimpse what others were doing with their lives that you weren’t doing with yours. Since social media wasn’t around in the 20th century, people were restricted with their knowledge of news and the private lives of others. Documentaries showing peoples’ lives and what life was like in other areas of the world was more than just entertaining – it was educational and informative. Especially during the war, news reels and interviews with people regarding their part in the war was seen as ‘real life’. Reality TV was a way in which you could look into a different kind of life than yours without leaving the safety of your own home.

As entertainment and technology evolved, reality TV too evolved – or in my opinion devolved – into the various kinds of tv we see nowadays. Cooking shows, talk-shows, survival shows, as so forth all span from the same roots which were the reality tv of the 20th century. People got bored of watching the same stuff over and over again so a whole variety of ‘reality TV shows came about to keep up the viewing numbers and entertainment factor of the shows. The further away from the origins the crazier and less ‘reality’ the TV shows become.

To keep up with the consumer’s want for entertainment and scandals, shows diverge from the traditional means of informative and educational TV to that of eliciting reactions from the audience. Shows like the Bachelor/Bachorette, Survivor, Masterchef, Love Island and so on have become more and more scripted and falsely portrayed throughout the years to keep up with the level of engagements from the audience. The more scandalous or obscene, the more viewers and therefore the more money the company will get. It isn’t about the reality of everyday life anymore, instead the narratives have been designed for the sole purpose of bringing in income and attention.

The diversification and hybridisation of Reality TV shows as disfigured the intentions of Reality TV. Reality TV is no longer about glimpsing people’s real lives and the mundane jobs they have. Rather, it has blown up into a false sense of identity, a false image of ourselves to show people the best side of ourselves or the more glamorous side of ourselves to appeal to the masses and to get views and money. It’s like social media, which can be argued to be this generation’s self-directed form of Reality TV. We show the most appealing, most scandalous, most attractive side of ourselves and our lifestyle to garner attention and praise. We hide the real side of our lives because it is simply not attractive or entertaining enough for people.

Week 10 – Alternate History

What other TV shows or movies can you think of which have sinister doubles in them and which of the above category do you think they belong to?

There are multiple shows out there that have used the doppelganger or shapeshifter character in some way. Such shows include Supernatural (2005-), The Vampire Diaries (2009-2017), The Originals (2013-2018) and the X-men franchise.

Supernatural, a sci-fi horror thriller fantasy creation, works with several characters and creatures such as shapeshifters and demons/angels that use the doppelganger trope in different ways. Shapeshifters, as the name suggests, turn into another thing or person and disguise themselves as that person – as seen throughout the series in multiple seasons. Angels and demons on the other hand inhabit the original character and become them, taking over their body and using it as their own. Though this may not be traditional doppel-ganging or shapeshifting technique, for other characters interacting with this character they believe they are talking with the original person and therefore there is an element to the ideas surrounding doppelgangers and doubles being sinister powers or harbourers of ill-fate. These doubles align more with the synthetic doubles type as they are taking the shape of something/someone ‘organically’ rather than ‘technologically’.

Image result for supernatural shapeshifter
A Shapeshifter using Dean as a disguise
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A shapeshifter shedding their skin and morphing into another person

The Vampire Diaries is a notorious show for doppelgangers. The main character Elena Gilbert has two known doppelgangers – Katherine Pierce whom we see from the first season onwards and Amara, the original doppelganger in the Petrova Doppelganger line, who comes into play in Season Five.

Image result for amara elena and katherine
Katherine Pierce, Amara, and Elena Gilbert

On top of that we have Stefan Salvatore and Silas, Silas being the original of the Salvatore Doppelganger line who turns up in Season Four. These doppelganger lines have been intertwined throughout history and they are critical for the series. These are all genetic doubles with a considerable repetition cycle in play – had Stefan had children before he was turned into a vampire you can be there would’ve been another doppelganger of the Salvatore doppelganger line the same age as Elena. As these are all naturally occurring doubles, or as natural as you can get, there align themselves within the genetic-doubles category.

Image result for stefan and silas

Mystique from the X-men franchise is another shapeshifter who has the ability to morph into other people. Though this is a genetic mutation and could therefore be argued that Mystique can be a case for both genetic and synthetic doppelganger alignment, Mystique is generally regarded as a synthetic double. She uses her own mutation as a means of wearing another person’s skin and we have seen in both comics and the movies how she does so.

Image result for mystique shapeshifting gif
Mystique shifting into her ‘preferred’ appearance

Week 9 – Cosplay

3. What are some of the major fan convention, when did they begin and how to they differ from each other?

In America, the biggest fan play convention is Comic-con, established in San Diego in 1970 by Shel Dorf, Richard Alf, Ken Krueger, Mike Towry, Barry Alfonso, Bob Sourk, and Greg Bear. Staring out as a comic book vending place focused more on fantasy/sci-fi television shows and content, it has since evolved into a large-scale fan convention containing cosplayers, merchandise, panels of actors, directors, etc. from all genres and areas of popular culture and brings in over 130,000 people, growing each year[1].

In Japan, there are several popular culture, anime and manga events that garner a lot of fan attention. These include Comiket, Anime Japan, and Jump Festa. Comiket started back in 1975 and had only 600 attendees in its first year. Now it brings roughly 500,000 attendees every year. Much like Armageddon, Comiket has plenty of popular culture pieces available and ten of thousands of comics for sale. There is also a cosplay culture within Comiket, as is there with Comic-con and Armageddon. 

Anime Japan started in 2014 and focuses more on showcasing new animation products and special effect-based products or services associated with this field[2]. Anime Japan brings in roughly the same numbers as Comic-con with reports of 130,000 attendees in 2016.

Jump Festa started up in 1999 under the name Jump Festa 2000 and its popularity grew to similar numbers as Anime Japan and Comic-con. Jump Festa, sponsored by Shueisha – the creators of the Jump anthologies – is used to showcase new animes, mangas from the Jump properties, and presents new games, game trailers, gameplay footage or game demos from Bandai Namco, Capcom and Square Enix[3].

Armageddon Expo is Australasia’s biggest popular culture event, first held in Auckland in 1995, Wellington in 2001 and Christchurch and Melbourne in 2007. In recent years, it has evolved from its roots of showcasing comics and trading cards to computer and video gaming, animation, film and television, cosplay, comics, live wrestling, and retailers selling pop-culture merchandise. The convention hosts celebrity guests from the worlds of movies, TV shows, animation, cosplay, YouTube, comics and gaming.[4] On average, Armageddon Expos across NZ and Melbourne garnered a combined yearly attendance average of over 120,000 attendees which sets it on the same shelf as Comic-con, Anime Japan and Jump Festa in terms of its attendance rates.

Whilst these conventions all attract roughly the same number of fans, they differ in their environmental atmosphere and their ways of running entertainment for the attendees. I can only speak about the atmosphere of the Auckland Armageddon Expos for that has been the only popular culture convention I have attended, but from what I have seen in pictures and videos, each convention has its own style and uniqueness that carries through into the expression of cosplay and freedom of cosplayers in these conventions. Armageddon, debatably, has the most freedom when it comes to cosplay as there are no restrictions to where one can and can’t go in cosplay (that don’t apply to everyone) and, if anything, it is encouraged to walk the floor in cosplay.


[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/San_Diego_Comic-Con#Accidents_and_incidents

[2] https://www.tokyocreative.com/articles/18682-3-large-anime-conventions-in-japan

[3] https://www.tokyocreative.com/articles/18682-3-large-anime-conventions-in-japan

[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Armageddon_(convention)

Week 8 – Anime

3/5. Looking at both Napier and Cavallaro (2006), discuss how these critics suggest anime is culturally ‘located’ – i.e., in the East or West, or somewhere else? What does she suggest about the differing status of animation in Japan and in the West?

Napier suggests that Anime holds a differing standing in the East than it does in the West. She states that “The culture to which anime belongs is a present a “popular” or “mass” culture in Japan, and in American it exists as a “sub” culture[1].” She also goes on further to report that anime in Japan is being perceived as an intellectually challenging art work that has garnered scholarly attention and writings as a result of the recent cultural shift in Japan. In contrast, Susan Pointon states that “perhaps what is most striking about anime, compared to other imported media that have been modified for the American market, is the lack of compromise in making these narratives palatable[2].”

Cavallaro suggests in his work that “western audiences tend to regard animation as a second-rate art form and – when judging specifically Japanese animation – [tend] to dismiss it as violent, superficial, cliched and technically “cold”[3].” He further states that “[Western audiences] do not take into consideration the distinctive importance of cartoons and animated films in the context of Japan, failing to acknowledge that in that culture, manga (and their cinematic correlatives) are an integral component of literature and popular culture[4].

4. Is anime a high or low cultural genre/media, according to Napier (2005)? How does she frame her discussion and argue her case?

Napier perceives anime as a high culture genre/media as it has roots in high culture and “clearly builds on previous high cultural traditions. Not only does the medium show influences from such Japanese traditional arts as Kabuki and the woodblock print (originally popular culture phenomena themselves), but it also makes use of worldwide artistic traditions of twentieth-century cinema and photography.[5]” She also states that the issues anime explores reflect those seen in high culture literature (both in and out of Japan) and viewers of the contemporary art cinema scene.


[1] Napier, S. (2005). Why anime? in ‘Anime: from Akira to Howl’s Moving Castle’. Hampshire: Palgrave/ Macmillan, p. 4.

[2] Napier, S (2005), p. 9.

[3] Cavallaro, D. (2006). Introduction in ‘The Anime Art of Hayao Miyazaki’. London: McFarland & Company, p. 12.

[4] Cavallaro, D. (2006), p. 13.

[5] Napier, S. (2005) p. 4.

Week 7 – Tintin and the Blue Lotus

1. In what specific ways is Tintin a forerunner of late 20th – 21st century transmedia storytelling franchises?

Herge’s Tintin had a strong European audience in the late 20th century. This can be attributed to Herge’s cinematic style of storytelling, where the audience feel like they’re follow the comics from different camera angles and the flow of the scenes work very much like a film. “Acutely aware of the key aspects to be considered in the production of a dynamic film narrative— movement, action, and scene splicing—[Hergé] endlessly varies angles and shots with the express intention of making his stories as authentic as possible.[1]” This allowed Tintin appeal to many and, furthermore, to be developed into other modes of media, including short animated films such as Tintin and the Blue Lotus, other forms of literature as seen with Tom McCarthy’s Tintin and the Secret of Literature, Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson’s 2011 adaptation of Tintin and the Secret of the Unicorn, and models for merchandising. There is also Herge’s museum near Brussels filled with Tintin pieces which garners a lot of attention. With Tintin’s success only in competition with the Harry Potter franchise for its scale and mass audience numbers, Tintin has remained one of the most popular franchises in the 20th – 21st centuries.

2. What is the alleged connection between Hergé’s early comics and propaganda?

Herge worked for a right-wing Catholic magazine ‘Le Petit Vingtième’ and had a correspondent who sent him foreign comics to get inspiration from, such as the latest transatlantic development in strip cartoons and his use of speech bubbles beginning in 1928. This correspondent was Léon Degrelle who went on to establish the Rexists, the Belgian equivalent of Fascists, and became their leader in 1935. This political connection led many to believe that Herge’s early comics, such as Tintin in the Land of the Soviets, held anti-communist propaganda or subliminal political views in favour of his former correspondent.

Herge’s politics are evident in his first album, Tintin in the Land of the Soviets, as “[it] is so transparent in its anti-communist propaganda that Hergé himself tried to suppress its publication in later years.[2]

3. How would you characterise Hergé’s politics, and how did they apparently change over time?

I believe that Herge’s views on politics, ethnic groups, ideas, etc. was heavily influenced by the time, especially with the censoring of ideas and information. Herge created his comics in a way that would appeal to the mass audience, whether the stereotypes used were correct or appropriate. For many, generic ideas about other people were the only things they knew about them, for example the Jewish stereotypes about them having long, hooked noses and being obsessed with money. Had Herge tried to portray any ethnic group in the most realistic, humane way, they were no guarantees that audiences would understand the context or scene. ‘Exotic’ comes across as more entertaining that normality, throwing in stereotype widely accepted at the time would increase the entertainment factor and therefore sell more copies.

As times changed and public understanding and social understandings changed, Herge’s politics and approach to portrayal of race and character in his comics too changed. Not significantly, for he still made racist or offensive points in his comics such as his portrayal of Congolese men, Japanese characters, Chinese characters and American characters, but Herge was raised in a time where the politics and social norms accepted the stereotypes that came across of offensive and to ‘unlearn’ the fundamental basics of his life growing up would take a while.

4. What issues do his albums raise in terms of representation of ‘race’, and particularly ethnic and cultural stereotyping?

Herge’s portrayal of race, namely African/Congolese, Japanese, Chinese and American characters and their personalities, sparked controversy across the years. Such stereotyping which may have been accepted prior to WWII was seen in a different light some decades later as the social norms changed. Some albums including these controversies include Tintin in the Congo, Tintin: Cigars of the Pharaoh, Tintin and the Blue Lotus and Tintin in America.

Characterising race through their appearance, such as Congolese men with black skin and big lips or Chinese men with yellow skin and pig-like faces, is offensive and inappropriate. It was only upon meeting a Chinese man, aspiring artist Chang Chong-chen, that Herge normalised the characteristics of Chinese characters and gave them a more human-like appearance (he kept the evil Chinese characters with overtly yellow skin and pig tails – whether this was to distinguish the good and bad is up to you to decide). Such racial stereotypes landed Herge in hot water and resulted in him republishing albums with changes made to remedy the issues (removing the racist portrayals of minorities in place for a white character seemed like his preferred way to go).

5. How decisively did Hergé address this issue from The Blue Lotus on, and in what ways did it remain problematic?

As I previously stated, Herge did attempt to remedy his previous mistake of mis-portraying Chinese characters as yellow pigs by making them more human, however, a new issue arose with the idea that Tintin would come to the aid of Chinese characters in trouble much like a knight would come to save the damsel in distress. This then characterised Chinese people as being unable to care for and save themselves and needing the white man to save them from their problems. This can be seen in Tintin and the Blue Lotus when Chang gets swept away in the river and Tintin goes in a save him and when Tintin steps in the save a rickshaw driver from an American busniessman.

There are still evident issues with the portrayal of Japanese characters such as Mitsuhirato and his cronies. As stated by Alexander Laser-Robinson, “If we can assume that racism can be defined by the identification or disengagement from a group of peoples, then we can begin to see in The Blue Lotus the deasianization of the Chinese versus the hyperasianization of the Japanese.[3]

Bibliography:

Calamur, K. (2016) Is Tintin Racist? Coming to Terms with Tintin. The Atlantic. Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2016/06/tintin/485501/

Laser-Robinson, A. S. (2005) An Analysis of Hergé’s Portrayal of Various Racial Groups in The Adventures of Tintin: The Blue Lotus. p.6. Retrieved from https://www.tintinologist.org/articles/analysis-bluelotus.pdf

Mountfort, P. (2016) Tintin as Spectacle: The Backstory of a Popular Franchise and Late Capital. p.5. Retrieved from https://blackboard.aut.ac.nz/bbcswebdav/pid-4917942-dt-content-rid-10277214_4/institution/Papers/ENGL602/Publish/Mountfort%202016_Tintin%20as%20Spectacle%281%29.pdf


[1] Mountfort, P. (2016) Tintin as Spectacle: The Backstory of a Popular Franchise and Late Capital. p.5

[2] Calamur, K. (2016) Coming to Terms with Tintin. The Atlantic.

[3] Laser-Robinson, A. S. (2005) An Analysis of Hergé’s Portrayal of Various Racial Groups in The Adventures of Tintin: The Blue Lotus. p.6

Weeks 5+6 – Cult TV: Doctor Who

Wilcox and Lavery (2002) identify 9 defining characteristics of ‘quality TV’ – can you apply any of these to other television series that you have viewed recently? Are there any other characteristics that you could add to their list?

The television series I will be applying these points to is Doctor Who, specifically the Tenth Doctor’s reign from 2006 – 2010 (I love David Tennant and he is the best doctor, you can fight me on that).

Wilcox and Lavery’s first two point are “Quality TV usually has a quality pedigree[1]” and “Quality shows must undergo a noble struggle against profit-mongering networks and non-appreciative audiences[2]”. Doctor Who has been around since 1963 and it garnered quite a consistent weekly audience at on average 7 million[3] British viewers for the first few doctors, the Fourth Doctor portrayed by Tom Baker raking in on average 10 million viewers each week which was extraordinary for the series. By the Seventh doctor’s reign in 1989, however, weekly numbers had dropped to on average 4 million viewers. Doctor Who certainly had made a name for itself over the two- and-a-half decades it ran for, but near its end it had lost its appeal to some.

The Revived Era of Doctor Who retained the franchises British following and found new audiences across the world. After suffering with the decline of interest from its fans, the resurgence of Doctor Who in 2005 pushed past the boundaries of the former seasons and emerged into the wider world with a plethora of monsters at its disposal, new faces and old friends amongst them. The 16-year break between the seventh doctor’s final season and Christopher Eccelston’s season gave audiences a long enough period away from the Doctor and his companions for the return to be much loved and appreciated across the Whovian community. A ‘Doctor-ranking’ chart based off of the average episode rating for each Doctor, created by Morgan Jeffery of Digital Spy, concludes that the top four doctors as voted by the fans are in fact the Doctors from the Revived Era[4], thought I have a bone to pick with Morgan over his analysis seeing as David Tennant was placed in second behind Matt Smith – no hate for Matt Smith but if this is based off of episode quality the winner is David Tennant’s Doctor.

That leads onto my next point. “Quality TV tends to have a large ensemble cast[5]”. Each Doctor had his companions and other figures which would appear across the seasons. Some examples of the Tenth Doctor’s companions, most of which convene to fight the Daleks in ‘The Stolen Earth’ and ‘Journey’s End’, include Rose Tyler, Martha Jones, Donna Noble, Jack Harkness, Mickey Jones, Sarah Jane Smith, Jackie Tyler, Harriet Jones, Ianto Jones and Gwen Cooper of Torchwood, Wilfred Mott, K9, as well as several others we see across the Tenth doctor’s journey, including fan favourite the Master.

With each new Doctor bringing new faces to the franchise, the audience seldom get bored of the new companions. As each has their own backstory and elements they bring to the season, they keep things fresh and interesting amongst the old and new aliens we come across in each episode.

“Quality TV has a memory[6]”, “Quality TV creates and new genre by mixing old ones[7]” and “Quality TV seems to be literary and writer-based[8]” are all true facts in the Doctor Who franchise. The Doctor clearly remembers the aliens he comes across, having to deal with them more than once across the journey. Not only does the Doctor remember aliens, but also humans and familiar faces such as Novice Hame, Harriet Jones, and his old companion Sarah Jane Smith who was a companion for the Third and Fourth reincarnations of the Doctor. Doctor Who is a science-fiction based tv show, however, due to its nature of using time travel it can be both a historic show and a futuristic show. There are several episodes which take place in the past, including ‘The Shakespeare Code’, ‘The Fires of Pompeii’, and the two-part episodes ‘Human Nature’ and ‘Family of Blood’. There are numerous examples of the Doctor travelling into the future, to different world, different galaxies, and so forth. This blending of genres leads to the franchise appealing to a wide audience and standing out amongst other sci-fi space shows such as Star Trek or Stargate.

Quality TV does have a huge reliance on its writers and the consistency of its storylines. I remember my favourite episodes of Doctor Who being written by the same person – Russell T. Davies. We have series 2’s heart-wrenching two-episode finale ‘Army of Ghosts’ and ‘Doomsday’ where fans were given the sob-inducing goodbye between Rose and the Tenth Doctor. We have ‘Utopia’, ‘The Sound of Drums’ and ‘The Last of the Time Lords’ from series 3 where we see Martha Jones trek across the world to save the planet without the Doctor to help her. We have the series 4 starter ‘Partners in Crime’ and the tail end of the series with such brilliant works as ‘Turn Left’, ‘The Stolen Earth’ and ‘Journey’s End’, and of course we have all the Christmas specials which without us knowing linked together to foreshadow the events of the final special and the Tenth Doctor’s farewell[9]. That “I don’t want to go” ripped many people’s hearts out and I refuse to believe that the emotion in David’s voice at that moment was no genuine. These episodes are not just random picks, the ways in which these episodes are telling their own individual stories and connecting to previous and subsequent stories amazes me and, as a hopeful writer, I hold Russell T. Davies accountable for instilling in me the great need for stories to have flow and connections within them.

The following points I am not sure about just yet: “Quality TV is self-conscious[10]”, “The subject matter of quality TV tends towards the controversial” and “Quality TV aspires towards realism[11]” are all valid point for TV, however, there are some loopholes. A good show will always be aware of its past, its present, and its future – if it doesn’t consider all areas in its decision-making and forward motion than it risks making some big mistakes. Does it mean that these shows which exhibit this awareness should be considered Quality? No. it’s part of basic storytelling, if your characters are not self-conscious than you will lose believability and connection between the audience and your characters. Same goes for the subject matter.

The subject matter does not need to lean towards the controversial in order to make a quality show. Yes, Jack Harkness is gay. Yes, there is interracial relationships between characters. Yes, there are empowered women throughout the series, but that’s not what makes the show quality. Aliens are considered controversial, are they not? Doctor Who has a specific signature which covers many different areas working together – aliens, empowered women, POC, LGBTQ+ characters, past, present, future, space travel, time travel. Alone these elements are nothing new, but together they work to create a believable world that is distinctly Doctor Who.

Realism and time travel, or space travel, don’t really fit in the same sentence. Neither do realism and a raggedy man with a trench coat, converse and a sonic screwdriver, but alas here we are. Quality TV shows can aspire towards realism, however, there are some whereby the contents of their show are anything but realistic. Doctor Who is one of those shows. Does this mean Doctor Who doesn’t have realism in it? No. Realism can be found in the interactions between characters, the actions and reactions to certain events and dialogue, the customs and cultures of these multiple worlds and aliens we see. It may not be 100% realism, but is anything we see on TV?


[1] Wilcox, R. & Lavery, D. (2002). Introduction, in R. Wilcox & D. Lavery (eds) Fighting the Forces: What’s at Stake in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. p. 21. Retrieved from https://blackboard.aut.ac.nz/bbcswebdav/pid-4914230-dt-content-rid-10157823_4/institution/Papers/ENGL602/Publish/Wilcox%20and%20Lavery%202002.pdf

[2] Wilcox, R. & Lavery, D. (2002). Introduction, in R. Wilcox & D. Lavery (eds) Fighting the Forces: What’s at Stake in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. p. 21. Retrieved from https://blackboard.aut.ac.nz/bbcswebdav/pid-4914230-dt-content-rid-10157823_4/institution/Papers/ENGL602/Publish/Wilcox%20and%20Lavery%202002.pdf

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Doctor_Who_episodes_(1963%E2%80%931989)

[4] https://www.digitalspy.com/tv/cult/a852277/doctor-who-ranked-actors-doctors/

[5] Wilcox, R. & Lavery, D. (2002). Introduction, in R. Wilcox & D. Lavery (eds) Fighting the Forces: What’s at Stake in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. p. 22. Retrieved from https://blackboard.aut.ac.nz/bbcswebdav/pid-4914230-dt-content-rid-10157823_4/institution/Papers/ENGL602/Publish/Wilcox%20and%20Lavery%202002.pdf

[6] Wilcox, R. & Lavery, D. (2002). Introduction, in R. Wilcox & D. Lavery (eds) Fighting the Forces: What’s at Stake in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. p. 23. Retrieved from https://blackboard.aut.ac.nz/bbcswebdav/pid-4914230-dt-content-rid-10157823_4/institution/Papers/ENGL602/Publish/Wilcox%20and%20Lavery%202002.pdf

[7] Wilcox, R. & Lavery, D. (2002). Introduction, in R. Wilcox & D. Lavery (eds) Fighting the Forces: What’s at Stake in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. p. 23. Retrieved from https://blackboard.aut.ac.nz/bbcswebdav/pid-4914230-dt-content-rid-10157823_4/institution/Papers/ENGL602/Publish/Wilcox%20and%20Lavery%202002.pdf

[8] Wilcox, R. & Lavery, D. (2002). Introduction, in R. Wilcox & D. Lavery (eds) Fighting the Forces: What’s at Stake in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. p. 23. Retrieved from https://blackboard.aut.ac.nz/bbcswebdav/pid-4914230-dt-content-rid-10157823_4/institution/Papers/ENGL602/Publish/Wilcox%20and%20Lavery%202002.pdf

[9] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Doctor_Who_episodes_(2005%E2%80%93present)

[10]Wilcox, R. & Lavery, D. (2002). Introduction, in R. Wilcox & D. Lavery (eds) Fighting the Forces: What’s at Stake in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. p. 23. Retrieved from https://blackboard.aut.ac.nz/bbcswebdav/pid-4914230-dt-content-rid-10157823_4/institution/Papers/ENGL602/Publish/Wilcox%20and%20Lavery%202002.pdf

[11] Wilcox, R. & Lavery, D. (2002). Introduction, in R. Wilcox & D. Lavery (eds) Fighting the Forces: What’s at Stake in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. p. 24. Retrieved from https://blackboard.aut.ac.nz/bbcswebdav/pid-4914230-dt-content-rid-10157823_4/institution/Papers/ENGL602/Publish/Wilcox%20and%20Lavery%202002.pdf