Buffy Fanfiction

OBITUARY

 

WILLIAMS, SIMON. Born 1982. Passed away on July 14, 2004. Loyal son of James, brother to Gareth, captain of the Sunnydale High football team and friend to all. An inspiration. Taken too early. No service be held.

 

 

POLICE INVESTIGATING HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT FOUND DEAD IN CAR ON THE OUTSKIRTS OF SUNNYDALE

JULY 14 2004

BY DONE REDFORD

 

A high school student was found dead outside of Sunnydale early in the morning.

 

It is known that a loud noise preceded the event and flashing lights of uncertain origin were seen before it occurred.

 

The place where the body was found has been cordoned off indefinitely. A police spokesman has said that officers were alerted as soon as the body was discovered.

 

A short statement was released to the press. “We are working to establish the facts of the case. We don’t need speculation.”

 

 

SUNNYDALE CONFESSIONS PAGE

 

R.I.P. SIMON WILLIAMS!!! – 1Lover

 

I always loved you Simon. You will forever be in my heart. That night we spent together will live forever in my heart. I still have the necklace you gave me, and I’ll keep your secret. – 1Lover

Fuck off. If you really dated him or had his secrets you wouldn’t be on here trying to get us to ask you what they were. I’ve seen you posting this shit so many times before. Stop being an attention whore. – RealNinja7777

ouch – Toocan.

 

good riddance. The bathrooms will be safer without him. – din viesel

What’s that supposed to mean? – RogerMoorefan91

If you don’t know you don’t know. – din viesel

 

does anyone else thingk the librarian’s pretty hot? –

lol no – meangirl

fuck no – twentytwentytwenty

I mena, kinda… –

 

Whose the guy who’s been hanging out with lately? Geeky looking guy. I heard the police want him to talk to him so if you know where he is call them up.

I think his name’s Harris or something? – Toocan

I think you’re mistaken. It’s definitely something else. – Alexxx

What makes you so sure? – Too can

I just know. – Alexxx

??? Well forgive me if I don’t take the word of a stranger on the internet as gospel. – Toocan

 

 

 

Does anyone know how he died?

I’m the one who found his body. He was torn up pretty badly. I didn’t know a human could do that sort of thing. – anon

Oh shiiiit. Maybe it wasn’t human? – 69Guy

 

Tbh I wish those protestors would just SHUT THE FUCK UP and leave the school alone. I’ve got a GPA to maintain.

There’s things that are more important than your grades. There’s a world. – RealNinja777

 

FYI to the cheerleaders in the library yesterday – just cause you decided to date guys who aren’t jocks doesn’t make you smart. If you’re gonna come to the library than keep ur mouths shut. Some of us are trying to study. Ur just idiots.

Preach. – anon

 

Heyooo that girl with the blue sandals at the fountain the other day? Fred Lawson likes you. You should get him to ask you out on a date.

Wish we had more of these. Things have gotten so negative around here lately. – Mollly

Complaining about problems is just creating new problems. You should let go of your tension. – Um, okay?

Uh, okay? – Mollly

Anyone know what happened to that blonde girl in Ms. Moran’s history class? She’s stopped coming to class lately.

Is everyone just gonna talk about Simon Williams now? I’m just worried about midterms. Least we got a few days off school now.

This has gone on long enough .

 

 

EXCERPTS FROM THE DIARY OF WILLOW ROSENBERG

7/12/2004

 

Dear diary,

No, that sounds stupid. I haven’t written inside this diary since I was eight so I guess I don’t need to bother with the formalities now. Only picked this up because I was feeling nostalgic. then the only thing I wrote about was Xander…

 

He’s been acting strange lately. And not like a boy going through puberty way but in a way that’s just off. Ever since Oz and me started dating he’s been distant. He started hanging out with a new crowd recently. He’s never reallyhad guy friends to talk to about stuff with so it’s good for him, but sometimes I feel a little left out. Oz doesn’t really get along with them but I’m glad he’s finally found his people, you know what I mean?…

 

Anyway, I’ll always be his best friend. I probably don’t even need to write that, but it’s true.

 

 

CHAT LOGS – 7/13/04

 

Are you sure this is safe?

 

Positive. I’m going out tonight.

 

Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit. I don’t know man. Maybe we should just ask my friend Buffy to help out. This is a Slayer job.

 

You know what she’d say. We’ve relied on the Slayer too long to solve our problems. The people of Sunnydale have just been ignoring their duties as citizens. It’s out turn to take responsibility. We’ve talked about this.

 

I know. I understand.

 

Do you still have the thing I gave you?

 

Yeah. Why?

 

I need it.

 

[5 MINUTES]

 

Xander? You still there.

 

I don’t think you need it.

 

Yeah, I do.

 

 

Xander. Please.

 

 

 

 

Okay, I’ll give it to you.

 

 

MASKED PROTESTORS OUTSIDE SUNNYDALE HIGH AS GUN IS FOUND

JULY 17 2004

By Done Redford

 

A group of around thirty protesters wearing ‘demon’ masks were spotted outside Sunnydale Town Council at approximately 12-4pm yesterday. The messages on the protest signs were directed towards the perceived negligence of the Town Council to curb the recent rash of unexplained deaths and to open up the possibility they were murders, including football captain and beloved symbol of the town Simon Williams.

 

Protestors also claimed that Sunnydale was being run by demonic forces and that people had simply turned a blind eye. However, none of them would give their name or the name of their organization despite extensive talks with reporters.

 

“We don’t know who could out there to get us. Sunnydale is stranger than you think.” One protestor said. “I’ve seen things. Women who’ll suck the blood right out your blood if you pay them. Creatures that will make your skin crawl just by looking at them. One time while walking home I saw a little blonde girl fighting a homeless man who came up to her begging for food – she stabbed and disintegrated him to dust right in front of me.”

 

One of the young men who seemed to be the de facto leader of the group, leading the chants said, “The time has come to take back the night. We will show them who the real monsters in Sunnydale are. If the Council doesn’t join us then we’ll have to take matters into our own hands.”

 

Further questions were met with dismissive comments.

 

Acting Mayor Huell Carson declined to comment. After the sudden, unexplained departure of the previous Mayor Richard Wilkins he has taken up office temporarily until the next election.

 

Reports of vandalism by the protest group have also surfaced. Eyewitness accounts claim they were found drawing strange runes with chalk on the building’s surface, but when none could be found when police officers searched. When questioned the activists neglected to comment.

 

“There’s always been something wrong with this city,” one mother of two said, while overlooking . “I’m just surprised it hadn’t happened sooner.”

 

 

 

 

EXEGESIS

 

Due to the limited scope of this assignment and most examples of Gomez’s Collective Journey that I could find being in the form of longform content such as television shows, I decided that rather than a short story it may be more effective to take a decentralized approach to the narrative. This fanfiction’s structure was inspired by Lizzie Borden’s film Born In Flames (1983), a documentary style feminist film which utilized fictionalized excerpts from various media outlets (both mainstream and alternative, audio, visual and written) to highlight the multiple perspectives at play and the intersectionality of the issues the film tackled.

 

At heart Buffy The Vampire Slayer is a superhero narrative drawing heavily from Campbell’s Hero’s Journey (1993), where one character is elevated as the protector of the community as an exceptional individual. I wanted to problematize the idea of the superhero or elevated individuals in general, and the idea of vigilantes – people who step outside of the system to correct it. Simon Williams is a character I created to reflect that, as his status is elevated to legend and the person he really was is obscured by the conflicting reports of his personality, as well as the characters’ relationships to him. In another way I wanted Buffy’s role as the Slayer to be called into question, as the person who holds both the power and authority over Sunnydale for all supernatural matters is absent and hides her identity from the people who need her most.

 

Gomez’s Collective Journey (2016) prefers a diverse cast rather than a singular hero, highlighting systemic problems and the various solutions that the community as a whole can offer rather than a singular antagonist to defeat. As a non-linear model for storytelling it is easier to isolate and use elements within the short stories. For my fanfiction I chose to focus on the concept of super positioning and the various ways people project their identity both onto the internet and to the real world, and how that can affect social change on a wider scale. In different contexts online we may behave different and  (Gomez). For those familiar with the show they will be able to place this show around early season four.

 

In an age of superpositioned identities a critical eye becomes important to sorting through the apocryphal nature of internet discourse. I utilized the linguistic tool of passivation Goatly & Hiradhar’s (2016) in the first article written to omit information about who discovered the body, trying to immediately raise questions about who or what could have created. This is an attempt to place the reader into the shoes of the average citizen of Sunnydale, who only has hushed rumours to go on and several contradicting sources from which to choose.

 

BtVS takes place during the early 2000s when the internet was still in its infancy and before social media had fully taken hold, but this nascent form of the internet could still provide a world a space in which people could be anonymous or create wholesale personas with which to express their opinions, especially in a small town such as Sunnydale. This is further compounded by the presence of old media such as newspapers which have their own spin on events. Its portrayal of the internet and technology in general has varied from passably entertaining to wildly inaccurate (Season One’s “I, Robot… You Jane” being the worst offender) but there is much untapped potential here.

 

I did not accomplish as much as I would have hoped to and the execution needs a lot of work, but I believe I have at least communicated the main ideas with this fanfiction. My intent was to leave things up to interpretation so that the reader could puzzle out. Xander Harris’ presence is hidden among the various texts of this page, under the guise of anonymity. I intentionally chose him because he is the most “normal” out of the main characters, without superpowers or special skills, but also represents what much of the alt-right looks for in terms of recruitment as a pop culture obsessed straight white male. I also intended to add a blog post from Simon Williams in which he would act as a sort of gateway into the group of masked protestors who would eventually be shown to commit acts of violence or torture towards demons. Despite the Slayer’s job to face evil she is completely absent from the conversation of how the community should handle ,  and as a result the citizens who do realize that something is going on are left in the dark and feel the need to take the law into their own hands. It is an intensely flawed approach but it is still an attempt to correct injustice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

References

 

Borden, L. (Director). (1983). Born in flames [Motion picture]. United States: Lizzie Borden

 

Campbell, J. (1993). The hero with a thousand faces. Fontana. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.aut.ac.nz/login.aspx?direct=true&db=cat05020a&AN=aut.b11216438&site=eds-live

Gomez, J. (n.d.) Collective journey. Retrieved from https://blog.collectivejourney.com/

 

Goatly, A., & Hiradhar, P. (2016). Critical reading and writing in the digital age : An introductory       coursebook. Retrieved from https://ebookcentral.proquest.com

 

 

Dominic McAlpine

The Future of Reality TV and YouTube

  1. Where do you think the future of reality television shows is heading? Will new forms of technology for example make an impact?

 

Reality television has become ingrained into the current cultural landscape, but it has shifted definitions and features so much overlap between itself and other genres it takes elements from (such as documentaries, educational content and cinema) that while reality television began has a bengre it has “evolved into a discourse” (Lorenzo-Dus & Blitvich, 2013, p11). However, as move deeper into the information the worst excesses of reality television have come to the forefront as controversial or sensationalist news, whether true or not. Attention translates more readily into money and advertising potential than factual accuracy.

 

I would argue that much of the original appeal of reality television – that of seeing normal people (as opposed to celebrities) in unique situations or going about their daily lives – has been somewhat supplanted by websites like YouTube or Instagram. Sometimes entire formats find themselves transplanted into these new environments. For example Allen Funt’s candid camera, which he claimed to be for the purposes of informing and educating the public, find themselves echoed by the “social experiments” which are meant to reveal how the public would react to unique situations. Likewise, stunt reality television are echoed by prank channels and the However, these two genres of videos overlap with each other, and the majority of the time are faked. While this could usually be passed off as harmless entertainment the majority of the time many of these contain outright hateful messages and faked news. For example, in the leadup to the 2016 American elections the YouTuber Joey Salads performed a “social experiment” where a car full of pro-Trump propaganda was left in a neighbourhood with a predominantly black population, and a camera was supposedly left there filming as a gang of black men found and vandalized the car. It was later revealed that those men were paid actors and the entire video was staged, despite being presented as true (Sommer, 2019).

 

This reduces reality television to its basest form, “…a morbid and depressing display of dysfunctional people whose lives are in turmoil. … a human form of bear baiting which goes under the guise of entertainment.” (Cadwalladr, 2008, p. 5). Social media influencers brand themselves and sell a heightened version of their personality and lives, or project a persona in order to reach a mass market. Much like Lamb’s (2016) comparison of Cathy Comes Home and Benefit Streets, although the Salad’s video pretends to be educational content it is completely fabricated, and has the potential to cause lasting damage to society as a whole. He has since announced his big for Congress in a move reminiscent of Donald Trump’s move from reality television to politics.

 

Perhaps most disconcerting about reality television’s translation into the age social media is the lack of consistent regulation on these videos. Jake Paul, one of YouTube’s are aggressively being targeted towards children with tactics that would not be allowed on television in the United States due to its manipulative marketing, sexually inappropriate content and up to 50% of the videos’ runtime being advertisement. However, because it is on YouTube they do not have to abide by these laws and the influencers can talk to their fans directly – equivalent to a child’s favourite character on a show telling them to buy toys for the show (Nerd City, 2018). “Children under the age of 8 are mentally incapable of interpreting advertisements with a critical eye, and have difficulty distinguishing between fantasy and reality” (the American Psychological Association, as cited by Nerdy City, 2018) One of the greatest controversies to come out of YouTube in recent years comes as a result of this uneasy blend of reality and fiction. Jake Paul’s brother Logan, who stars in his videos and creates the same type of content, found the body of a man who had committed suicide in Japan. Rather than stop filming he continued to keep vlogging and delivered a woefully inappropriate speech about the value of life in an attempt to promote his brand and image as a positive role model.

 

References

Cadwallader, C. (2008). When reality bites, it leaves deep scars. The Observer, September 7.

Cook, J. (2019). 1 year after his infamous ‘Suicide Forest’ video, Logan Paul is bigger than ever. Retrieved from https://www.huffpost.com/entry/logan-paul-1-year-suicide-forest_n_5c2e9b92e4b05c88b70798f5

  1. Klein, H. Klein. [h3h3Productions]. (2016, March 13). The deleted social experiment. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5IoTGVeqwjw

Lamb, B. (2016). Cathy Come Off Benefits: A comparative ideological analysis of Cathy Come Home and Benefits Street. Journalism and Discourse studies. Retrieved from https://blackboard.aut.ac.nz/bbcswebdav/pid-4929988-dt-content-rid-10599612_4/institution/Papers/ENGL602/Publish/Cathy%20Come%20Off%20Benefits_%20A%20comparative%20ideological%20analysis%20of%20Cathy%20Come%20Home%20and%20Benefits%20Street%281%29.pdf 

Lorenzo-Dus, N & Blitvich, P. (2013). Real Talk – Reality television and discourse analysis in action. Basingstoke, UK:  Palgrave Macmillan.

Nerd City. (2018, September 1). Parents’ worst nightmare: Jake Paul [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ywcY8TvES6c

Sommer, W. (2019). Joey Salads, YouTube star famous for racist pranks, launches congressional bid. Retrieved from https://www.thedailybeast.com/joey-salads-youtube-star-famous-for-racist-pranks-launches-congressional-bid

 

Dominic McAlpine

The Future of Reality TV and YouTube

  1. Where do you think the future of reality television shows is heading? Will new forms of technology for example make an impact?

 

Reality television has become ingrained into the current cultural landscape, but it has shifted definitions and features so much overlap between itself and other genres it takes elements from (such as documentaries, educational content and cinema) that while reality television began has a bengre it has “evolved into a discourse” (Lorenzo-Dus & Blitvich, 2013, p11). However, as move deeper into the information the worst excesses of reality television have come to the forefront as controversial or sensationalist news, whether true or not. Attention translates more readily into money and advertising potential than factual accuracy.

 

I would argue that much of the original appeal of reality television – that of seeing normal people (as opposed to celebrities) in unique situations or going about their daily lives – has been somewhat supplanted by websites like YouTube or Instagram. Sometimes entire formats find themselves transplanted into these new environments. For example Allen Funt’s candid camera, which he claimed to be for the purposes of informing and educating the public, find themselves echoed by the “social experiments” which are meant to reveal how the public would react to unique situations. Likewise, stunt reality television are echoed by prank channels and the However, these two genres of videos overlap with each other, and the majority of the time are faked. While this could usually be passed off as harmless entertainment the majority of the time many of these contain outright hateful messages and faked news. For example, in the leadup to the 2016 American elections the YouTuber Joey Salads performed a “social experiment” where a car full of pro-Trump propaganda was left in a neighbourhood with a predominantly black population, and a camera was supposedly left there filming as a gang of black men found and vandalized the car. It was later revealed that those men were paid actors and the entire video was staged, despite being presented as true (Sommer, 2019).

 

This reduces reality television to its basest form, “…a morbid and depressing display of dysfunctional people whose lives are in turmoil. … a human form of bear baiting which goes under the guise of entertainment.” (Cadwalladr, 2008, p. 5). Social media influencers brand themselves and sell a heightened version of their personality and lives, or project a persona in order to reach a mass market. Much like Lamb’s (2016) comparison of Cathy Comes Home and Benefit Streets, although the Salad’s video pretends to be educational content it is completely fabricated, and has the potential to cause lasting damage to society as a whole. He has since announced his big for Congress in a move reminiscent of Donald Trump’s move from reality television to politics.

 

Perhaps most disconcerting about reality television’s translation into the age social media is the lack of consistent regulation on these videos. Jake Paul, one of YouTube’s are aggressively being targeted towards children with tactics that would not be allowed on television in the United States due to its manipulative marketing, sexually inappropriate content and up to 50% of the videos’ runtime being advertisement. However, because it is on YouTube they do not have to abide by these laws and the influencers can talk to their fans directly – equivalent to a child’s favourite character on a show telling them to buy toys for the show (Nerd City, 2018). “Children under the age of 8 are mentally incapable of interpreting advertisements with a critical eye, and have difficulty distinguishing between fantasy and reality” (the American Psychological Association, as cited by Nerdy City, 2018) One of the greatest controversies to come out of YouTube in recent years comes as a result of this uneasy blend of reality and fiction. Jake Paul’s brother Logan, who stars in his videos and creates the same type of content, found the body of a man who had committed suicide in Japan. Rather than stop filming he continued to keep vlogging and delivered a woefully inappropriate speech about the value of life in an attempt to promote his brand and image as a positive role model.

 

 

 

References

Cadwallader, C. (2008). When reality bites, it leaves deep scars. The Observer, September 7.

Cook, J. (2019). 1 year after his infamous ‘Suicide Forest’ video, Logan Paul is bigger than ever. Retrieved from https://www.huffpost.com/entry/logan-paul-1-year-suicide-forest_n_5c2e9b92e4b05c88b70798f5

  1. Klein, H. Klein. [h3h3Productions]. (2016, March 13). The deleted social experiment. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5IoTGVeqwjw

Lamb, B. (2016). Cathy Come Off Benefits: A comparative ideological analysis of Cathy Come Home and Benefits Street. Journalism and Discourse studies. Retrieved from https://blackboard.aut.ac.nz/bbcswebdav/pid-4929988-dt-content-rid-10599612_4/institution/Papers/ENGL602/Publish/Cathy%20Come%20Off%20Benefits_%20A%20comparative%20ideological%20analysis%20of%20Cathy%20Come%20Home%20and%20Benefits%20Street%281%29.pdf 

Lorenzo-Dus, N & Blitvich, P. (2013). Real Talk – Reality television and discourse analysis in action. Basingstoke, UK:  Palgrave Macmillan.

Nerd City. (2018, September 1). Parents’ worst nightmare: Jake Paul [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ywcY8TvES6c

Sommer, W. (2019). Joey Salads, YouTube star famous for racist pranks, launches congressional bid. Retrieved from https://www.thedailybeast.com/joey-salads-youtube-star-famous-for-racist-pranks-launches-congressional-bid

 

 

Doppelgangers

How does Mountfort (2018) argue that the technological doppelganger differs from its Romantic precursors?

 

The major differences Mountfort (2018) cites are that in the shift from supernatural to scientific origins the doppelganger is now intertwined with an “ambivalence” or outright distrust of scientific progress. As such there is a greater focus on urban environments, especially facilities in which these doppelgangers were created (Lynda as cited by Mountfort, 2018). While they keep the idea of the doppelganger as a sign of ill fortune this is now tied with society’s anxieties about the development of new technology.

 

 

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?

 

Bioshock Infinite

The premise of Bioshock Infinite rests on multiverse theory, and takes place in an alternate history where a city in the sky called Columbia was created which separated from America to form a nationalistic, racist state of it’s own. This makes the game as a whole part of the uchronie genre and explores how society could . Much of the appeal of these stories comes from what they reveal about the decisions and turning points made in history, as well as the possibility of synchronicity which may underly all of it (Mountfort, 2016). The doppel gangers are quantum doubles in a true sense and many references are made to many worlds theories, and they become a vehicle to explore the various

As such the main characters encounter various doppelgangers both of themselves and others, many of which reveal a darker side to their personalities. For example, the character of Daisy Fitzroy is portrayed as a pragmatic freedom fighter at the beginning of the game, but in another world she leads a violent revolution which throws the city into chaos and results in widespread death and destruction, to the point that she is willing to kill the child of one of the city’s noble elites. It is left up to interpretation whether the Daisy from this world and the one from the previous one would act under the same circumstances, but exists

Similarly, the main antagonist of the game and ruler of the city of Zachary Hale Comstock, who is revealed at the end of the game to be an alternate version of the main character. Although I would argue it did not make for effective gameplay and the story was not very cohesive as a whole, the inevitability of fate is a recurring theme in the story both in the gameplay – no matter the player’s choice that are lead down a linear path, and although the main characters try to escape their  mistakes they unknowingly recreate their sins. Despite the endless sea of possibilities, all roads lead back to their sins. At the end of the game it is revealed that the many parts of the game paralleling the first game where more than simple homage, but an intentional distortion of the previous games. The city of Rapture under the sea founded on Randian Objectivism may at first glance seem like the inverse of Columbia’s ultranationalist religious segregationist state, but they stem from the same roots and suffer similar fates as broken dystopias.

 

 

Doctor Who

Doctor Who – There are various examples of sinister doubles scattered throughout the franchise’s, but one of the more recent and direct versions of them are the Gangers from the series 6 episodes The Rebel Flesh and The Almost People. They are officially called “The Flesh Avatars” but gain the name “Gangers” from the word doppelganger, and possibly a pun on the fact that “Ganger” is a British term for the foreman of gang of labourers. They are genetic doubles (Mountfort, 2018) but are an unusual example of such, with more disconcerting implications for working-class people than anyone else in society. Mountfort draws parallels between Orphan Black and real world cases attempting to copyright DNA –  “late capitalism’s relentless commercialization of life” (Mountfort, p. 71). While the birth of Gangers are an accident rather than the result of careful deliberate control over the populace they raise similar questions about the value of human life as it becomes increasingly easy to duplicate and exploit cloning technology, and the ethics of treating these genetic doubles.

 

The Gangers are made from a flesh substance which takes on the shape of the humans they are based off, and are telepathically controlled by factory workers in order to work in toxic or dangerous environments that are too dangerous for human beings to work in. The show introduces us to this concept by showing one of the workers in a hazard suit falling into a vat of toxic waste only for the others to roll their eyes, indicating that this sort of death and lack of workplace safety is commonplace among them. It is only after a strange atmospheric event and a bolt of lightning that they are animated and begin to move on their own, containing the memories of the people they were made from.

 

Knowing that they have a double threatens the human workers’ sense of identity and security in their unique qualities as human beings, fearing that they will be replaced or made obsolete in some way by the existence of their Gangers. On the other hand the gangers are also forced to confront the existential terror of knowing their memories are constructed and must consider whether they are equally valid. This seems almost a variant on the Ship of Theseus thought experiment (Worley, n.d.) in which an object has all its parts replaced (e.g. a car or a ship) and the question raised is whether they can be considered the same object as they were before.

 

At various points they are shown to be sympathetic and at one point a ganger and his human counterpart discuss the possibility of raising his child together. For most of the story the show seems ambivalent about the positive effects of this technology, and one of the Gangers is revealed to be killing the rest of the cast, deceiving them through her . Notably, as she kills more people she becomes more deformed, a corrupted version of humanity, and the Gangers themselves often lose cohesion and their features are distorted as the telepathic link grows weaker. Ultimately the Gangers are concluded to be just as valid as human life as plot twist reveals that a double of the main character has sacrificed his life to save the rest of the cast, and even his closest friends could not tell the difference.

 

This also plays into the themes of the episode, as the workers themselves are considered disposable by their employers and they work dangerous, low paying jobs far away from their homes. The parallels to migrant workers are obvious, and the episodes speak to working-class anxieties of being easily replaced and disposable.

 

References  

 

Mountfort, P. (2016). The I Ching and Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle. Science Fiction Studies, 43(2), 287-309. Retrieved from: https://blackboard.aut.ac.nz/bbcswebdav/pid-4926610-dt-content-rid 10490437_4/institution/Papers/ENGL602/Publish/Mountfort%202016_High%20Castle.pdf

 

Mountfort, P. (2018). Science fictional doubles: Technologization of the doppelgänger and sinister science in serial science fiction TV. Journal of Science & Popular Culture, 1(1), 59-75.doi:10.1386/jspc.1.1.59_1

 

Worley, P. The ship of Theseus. (n.d.) Retrieved from https://www.philosophy-foundation.org/enquiries/view/the-ship-of-theseus

 

Mononoke and Nausicaa + Genres

  1. In what ways is Nausicaä intended as a warning, and what attitudes does it express towards humanity, nature and the future?

Nausicaa: Valley of the Wind is essentially an environmental parable in which acts as a messianic figure and intermediary between nature (represented by the toxic jungle and the Ohmuu, giant insects who roam it) and humanity. Nature is portrayed as a force that will outlast humanity and on same level is fundamentally good for the planet as a whole, but the Ohmuu themselves are neither good or evil. They are a purely automatic and reactionary force who only react violently to human beings when they interfere in their purification of the soil. Thus the onus is on human beings to live responsibly and realize that they are not the cause of the toxic jungle but it’s solution. Co-existence means humanity must accept it is no longer the apex predator, and the post-apocalyptic landscape of the film is a result of human arrogance. The film is not anti-scientific however – the irony of producing a piece of art only possible through technological means would be enough to discount this as a serious interpretation – Nausicaa only discovers the truth behind the toxic jungle through experimentation. The people of the valley are also shown to act in self-defence, claiming that while they use fire like the Tolmekians they do so in small amounts. In order to survive human beings must show mercy and compassion to the environment, and play their part in the ecosystem rather than hunger for power.

While a fundamentally simple story about the virtues of self-sacrifice Nausicaa raises interesting questions about environmental issues and how human beings should negotiate their relationship nature. Much of the nuance and political intrigue of the manga did not make its way to the feature film but nonetheless a clear theme is established and a delivered on.

An interesting comparison can be made between Nausicaa and Miyazaki’s later film, Princess Mononoke. While they deal with similar themes and questions the latter offers more complex answers and situations, and as such both films can be seen as sort of thematic sequels or prequels to each other.

The most obvious differences are the visual aesthetics of the films. Princess Mononoke portrays a mythical version of 14th century, where rampaging Samurai and peasants live alongside animal gods of the forest. In contrast Nausicaa takes place in a futuristic post-apocalyptic wasteland drawing on various cultures and influences – Nausicaa herself takes her name from a Princess from the Odyssey and her affinity with insects from a Japanese folk tale) (Miyazaki, 2004 Nausicaa), and various implications scattered throughout the manga imply the story takes place somewhere in the Middle East. In this way the films are set apart by their perspectives. Nausicaa’s world is one where humanity is at the mercy of nature personified by the Ohmuu, while Princess Mononoke’s gods of the forest and humans are on roughly even footing and fighting for supremacy.

In contrast to Nausicaa’s straightforward morality play Princess Mononoke at its “most fundamental level… asks: Can we live ethically in a cursed world? And if so, how?” (Napier, 2018). While Prince Ashitaka is compassionate and prefers pacifism martyrdom is not his defining trait, and he kills several people throughout the film in self-defence, unlike Nausicaa. He is first motivated by the chance of saving himself from a curse and the wise woman of his village tasks him to “See with eyes unclouded”, rather than save the forest or his people. He is an outsider to all the factions involved in the story and his goal is not to side with any one of them (and finds himself accused by every side of being part of another group) but to understand them. This is a difficult task as the people he meet are complex and morally ambiguous, questioning his true allegiance at any turn. Like Nausicaa he also longs for peace.

The titular Princess, San, is filled with disdain for humanity and prefers the . In many ways she is a more appropriate mediator than Ashitaka or even Nausicaa, with connections to both worlds through her nature and . However, she is unable to forgive the humans for what they have done by the end of the film, despite loving Ashitaka the two are separated although they promise to keep in contact.

Lady Eboshi has the traditional markers of a villain – heavily associated with industrialization and the cause of Ashitaka’s injury, as well as displaying deep ambition. However, these qualities are not shown to be inherently evil, as it allows the village to sustain itself and allows her to do good things. Lady Eboshi uses her power to set free prostitutes and help the sick, giving them all fair work in her village. As such she is as well-beloved in her Ironworks as Nausicaa is by the people of the Valley of the Wind.

Nature is portrayed as less of a monolithic, passive or automatic force than in Nausicaa. The Gods of the Forest have their own voices and can explain their reasonings, and do not need a human being to speak on their behalf. The wolves, apes and boars come into conflict and alliance at various points of the film, and rather than being a dominating force is in the process of being subjugated. The only exception to this is the Deer God who represents a level of order above nature. The Emperor of Japan is never seen in the film but has a huge presence in the plot, sending his assassins to kill the Deer God and residing over humanity in a similar role, representing an order above normal humans – even Lady Eboshi finds herself in his service, albeit unwillingly – but never actually has to participate in violence and destruction he has caused.

In many ways the environmental message is superseded by the anti-war themes, but an overall optimistic outlook is still portrayed despite what could be interpreted as a very bleak. Miyazaki’s intentions seem to fall within Napier’s (2019) interpretation of the film, in which characters are celebrated for living a persevering rather than winning. “We are not trying to solve global problems with this film. There can be no happy ending to the war between the rampaging forest gods and humanity. But even in the midst of hatred and slaughter, there is still much to live for. Wonderful encounters and beautiful beings still exist.” (Miyazaki 1997b, p.20; cited in Callavaro, p. 123).

Overall, while Nausicaa is much more idealistic and didactic in its message and acts as a cautionary tale of the consequences of destroying the natural world, Princess Mononoke is a deconstruction of conflict itself. Both films highlight the challenges of pacifism and conversation.

 

References

Miyazaki, H. (2004). Nausicaa: valley of the wind, volume 2. Retrieved from https://kissmanga.com/Manga/Nausica%C3%A4-of-the-valley-of-the-wind/1?id=75669#138

Napier, S. (2018). Hayao Miyazaki’s cursed worlds. Retrieved from  https://www.theparisreview.org/blog/2018/10/22/hayao-miyazakis-cursed-worlds/

 

  1. What genres/subgenres of anime can you identify?

As I previously discussed much of anime is commercially driven and as such has created a unique creative culture around it. Most genre descriptors used for anime originally come from manga which, although cheaper to produce, are also intensely commercial. Manga magazines market themselves heavily towards key demographics, the most famous of which being Weekly Shounen Jump/Weekly Boy Jump (the magazine which serialized Dragonball, One Piece, Naruto and various other mainstream hits). Therefore many subgenres that can be housed within these demographics – a shounen romance and a shoujo romance are two very different genres and follow different convetions. As such there are too many variations to define in this blog post so I will instead some of the more unique genres found in anime rather than subsets of generic genres (e.g. action, romance, comedy).

In addition anime is not limited to commonly accepted Japanese genres. Director Shinichiro Watanabe is famous for taking on Western and global cinematic influence to create his most critically acclaimed work, Cowboy Bebop, and appropriates hip hop culture for Samurai Champloo – a jazz-infused Space Western (with additional influence from Chinese heroic bloodshed, Kung Fu, noir, Kubrick and various other sources) and meditative chambara road trip adventure respectively. His work shows a playfulness and awareness of Western genres that, within the anime industry, is largely unique to him as a director.

Two genres which find few true counterparts in other cultures or forms of animation are the mecha genre and iyashikei. Mecha anime portray giant robots and machines, and can be further subdivided into Real Robot and Super Robot, with the former placing more emphasis on the how the mecha actually functioned and portraying the effects of war, while the latter was closer to a Saturday morning cartoon in tone and content and more generally aimed at children. Landmark titles in the genre include Gundam, Armoured Trooper Votoms and Macross. This genre saw it’s peak in the 1980s largely due to the merchandising, toys and models of the mecha portrayed in the show, as well as the cult popularity of science fiction stories at the time.

Iyashikei is often translated “healing story” and is often used interchangeably with the “Slice of Life” genre but has a more specific meaning than that. These stories often feature alternative realities or rural environments, with little to no conflict, portraying the everyday lives of its characters in great detail. Their intention is to elicit positive emotions within the viewer and to act as escapist fantasies, but they are not thematically weightless. A notable example is Yokohama Kaidashi Kiko (Yokohama Shopping Log) which is a post-apocalyptic take on the genre, taking place on a future version of Earth that is slowly being flooded and retaken by nature. The plot is largely unconcerned with explaining how or why this happened, or how so much of the small remaining population of the planet are ageless androids largely indistinguishable from humans. Instead the story follows the main character (an android herself) in her daily life running a café. Despite what would normally be a dark setting and distressing topic the story is able to subtly explore the quiet acceptance the characters feel towards humanity’s extinction. This very much originates from the concept of “mono no aware” – a Japanese term which is difficult to translate but roughly means an acceptance of the impermanence of things. (Afshar, 2018)

Much of what makes anime fascinating is the cultural perspective it offers, and iyashikei in particular offers an appeal that is very different Western media generally more conerned with conflict based storytelling. Many people around the globe are able to emphasize more strongly with anime than their own culture’s art for the alternative viewpoint it provides.

 

References

Afshar, S. (2018). What Is mono no aware, the Japanese love for impermanence?. Retrieved from https://theculturetrip.com/asia/japan/articles/what-is-mono-no-aware-the-japanese-love-for-impermanence/

(n.d.). Manga demographics. Retrieved from https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/UsefulNotes/MangaDemographics

 

Dominic McAlpine

Cosplay

  1. What is a workable definition of cosplay?

The word cosplay originates from Japan being a combination of the word costume and play, and refers to the practice of dressing up as a character from popular culture, most commonly anime, films, games and TV shows – but this can be extended to a character in any medium. This is cosplay in its simplest form, but it accommodates a whole host of possibilities. While gatekeeping occurs in the community as to what does or does not constitute cosplay (e.g. whether cosplayers look enough like the characters, whether the costume is store-bought or handmade, or if the costume is accurate enough) these are ultimately trivial and unimportant to cosplay’s definition.

 

Furthermore, the costumes do not necessarily need to be of specific characters from a text. At conventions generic character types such as vampires and zombies can be found, as well as fashion and art styles such as Lolita and Steampunk (Matthew Hales as cited by Mountfort, 2019). Another form of this is crossplaying, a term which can have an uncertain meaning. It has been used in the past to describe cosplayers who have dressed as an opposite sex version of a character but in my experience is more commonly used in common parlance to describe cosplayers who dress as the opposite sex (for example, the subreddit r/Crossplay on Reddit). It appears Mountfort (2019) has done both with Fig. 14 and 48, as the former example does not seem to be presenting as female while the latter is. Crossovers and mash-ups of different texts or franchises are also quite popular, although these tend to be the domain of more experienced cosplayers trying to expand the possibilities of cosplay (Mountfort, 2019). A one-to-one authentic recreation of a character is admired, but it is not the only way to cosplay.

 

Although cosplay is closely linked with photography it does not need to be photographed to be defined as such. Naturally though taking photos is a large part of the appeal, both for the cosplayers wishing to be photographed (especially true for those that have created their own costumes) and for fans wishing to have photos taken with the characters. “Cosplay is a performance medium in which embodied textual citation and photographic practices come together” (Mountfort, 2019), and as such photographs can act as an extension of this performance, either through the visuals themselves or through social media. Dynamic poses tend to be favoured for this reason, as they allow the cosplayer to act in-character while staying still for the camera. Similar to costuming, there is a wide range of investment and effort that can go into cosphotography, with some preferring the more casual, impromptu shoots with personal cameras or phones, and others preferring to focus on authenticity, using sets and professional equipment to recreate scenes from the source materiel (Mountfort, 2018).

 

Overall, while there are various forms cosplay can take it is in essence a celebration of media, and creates a space where people can challenge societal norms for the purposes of self-expression and creativity. By adopting the guises of favourite characters cosplayers can take on roles they do not in their daily lives, whether that be as a superhero or another gender. Conventions foster a subculture in which these cosplayers can interact and socialize with each other, and this social force can be an industry unto itself.

 

References

 

Mountfort, P. (2019). Cosplay at Armageddon Expo. Journal of Geek Studies, 6(2) 91-110.

 

Mountfort, P., Peirson-Smith, A., & Geczy, A. (2018). Planet cosplay: Costume play, identity and global fandom. Chicago University Press.

i’d rather be a pig than a fascist

  1. According to Callavaro (2006), what does Miyazaki think about happy endings, and how do manga and anime more generally diverge from Western narrative conventions?

Callavaro (2006) believes that while Miyazaki’s films are incredibly effective due to their dedication to realizing the fantastic worlds and scenes depicted within them, but rather than function as pure escapism they also highlight the difficulties of life and treatment of the Other. Rather than evil forces that exist only to manufacture conflict and be defeated the antagonists of Miyazaki’s works tend to be people or forces that the protagonist must make peace with (such as the Ohmm or Kingdom of Tolmekia of Princess Nausicaa, or Princess Mononoke’s various factions). As such while the endings of his films are most often happy and achieve catharsis the characters’ developments are never entirely finished. “I gave on making a happy ending in the true sense a long time ago. I can go no further than the ending in which the lead character gets over one issue for the time being.” (Miyazaki, 1988 as cited by Callavaro, 2006, p. 6).

Callavaro also states that much of anime’s freeform and unusual structure is the result of adaptation from other media (these are most often manga or light novels but include countless examples). This focus on longform, serialized storytelling lends a different character to the work as they are not bound by the traditional three-act structure and anime itself has come in various formats. Bencivenni (as cited by Callavaro, 2006) notes that Japanese audiences do not necessarily go to see something new but to experience how the text has been transformed into another medium. I would add that a major contributing factor to this is the financial context of Japanese animation. Anime is costly to make, and animators have had to struggle with managing budgets, style and expectations since television anime first came to prominence with Osamu Tezuka’s Astro Boy, which was itself an adaptation of a popular manga but also had to utilize limited animation and stock visuals to maintain a weekly schedule, as well as being offered at a price below what world normally be asked for (Ban, 2016) – a controversial move which even Miyazaki (2012) has argued has damaged the state of modern anime. This incentivizes the industry to continue expanding on transmedia franchises with dedicated fanbases rather than take risks on new ideas (Schilling, 2017). As such many anime presuppose knowledge on the viewer’s part, particularly Original Video Animations (OVAs) which often heavily condense their source materiel to fit within budget constraints. Another example is the famous Pokemon anime, which was built around the assumption that its audience had already played the game.

However, Ghibli distinguishes itself from most anime by focusing on original feature films. One exception to this is Nausicaa: Valley of the Wind (while technically not a Ghibli film, Nausicaa was created by the same staff and with the same ethos), which was still being serialized at the time the film was released. The film ends roughly around the second volume of the manga and excises much of the complex political intrigue of the world in order to act as a standalone film, but unintentionally creates a plot hole by killing Nausicaa’s father is killer far earlier in the story in order to hasten her character development, despite their being no reason for the antagonists to kill him. After the film was made the manga would continue to be updated intermittently throughout the years to come.

Overall though, most of his films narrative oddities are a consequence of his production process, and the unique composition of the studio as a whole. In interviews and various documentary series (Kingdom of Dreams and Madness, NHK Documentary series) Miyazaki openly admits that he does not write scripts and skips straight to storyboarding, with only vague estimates on when the film will be finished, and production of the film undergoes while these storyboards are still in progress. Similarly, Ghibli’s other accomplished director Isao Takahata (another co-founder of Ghibli whose works are equally compelling although do not have the same international appeal as Miyazaki’s) is infamous for delaying his films and perfectionism (Loveridge, 2018). However, due to their talent and financial success Ghibli was able to sustain auteurs with a strong artistic voice in a way few animation studios can. Miyazaki focuses very strongly on individual moments, stating that because he has no clear ending in mind each one seems the most important to him. The ending of the film can almost be mistaken as an afterthought. This a running theme of in his works which often leave a hint of ambiguity, leaving the audience to wonder for themselves what became of the characters. They are constantly in a state of flux and development and are fully realized characters because they can exist the bounds of the film. In a 2002 Midnight Eye interview around the release of Spirited Away Miyazaki stated, “I believe the human brain knows and perceives more than we ourselves realise. The front of my brain doesn’t send me any signals that I should handle a scene in a certain way for the sake of the audience. For instance, what for me constitutes the end of the film, is the scene in which Chihiro takes the train all by herself. That’s where the film ends for me” before going on to describe how it relates back to the first time he took the train and how he had unconsciously come to draw the scene the way it was. The rest of the film is not simply in service to its ending – they are all important.

 

References

Ban, T. (2016). The Osamu Tezuka story: A life in manga and anime. Retrieved from https://www.amazon.com/Osamu-Tezuka-Story-Manga-Anime/dp/1611720257

Cavallaro, D. (2006). The anime art of Hayao Miyazaki. London: McFarland & Company.

Hayao Miyazaki. (2002). Retrieved from http://www.midnighteye.com/interviews/hayao-miyazaki/

Loveridge, L. (2018). In new book, Ghibli’s Suzuki reveals Isao Takahata as notoriously difficult director. Retrieved from https://www.animenewsnetwork.com/interest/2018-08-13/in-new-book-ghibli-suzuki-reveals-isao-takahata-as-notoriously-difficult-director/.135444

Schiller, M. (2016). Japanese animation turns 100 and remains vital force in film, television. Retrieved from https://variety.com/2016/tv/asia/japanese-animation-100-anniversary-osamu-tezuka-1201889290/

 

Dominic McAlpine

 

 

 

Tintin

Prior to the Blue Lotus Tintin’s adventures were more straightforwardly propagandistic in nature as Hergé’s only exposure to the countries Tintin visited were all second-hand and influenced by the decidedly xenophobic culture surrounding him. The Land of the Soviets portrays an anti-Communist fever dream and includes a brief appearance of Chinese torturers dressed in archaic clothing with long pigtails. Even more egregiously Tintin In The Congo is an entire adventure dedicated to portraying the Belgian colonisation of the country as a positive, protective force rather than cruel exploitation of the indigenous population. Africans are drawn with stereotypical “Ju-ju lips” and they are shown to be stupid and completely dependent on their white masters (Mountford, 2014).

 

The Blue Lotus marks a turning point in Hergé’s career. Abbot Leon Gosset – a Roman Catholic chaplain who was concerned with how Hergé’s comics affected his Chinese students – introduced Hergé to Tchang Chongren (his name has been Romanized in several different ways, I have chosen to use the one in McCarthy’s The Secret of Literature because I believe it is the easiest to distinguish from the character of Chang), a Chinese art student who introduced Hergé to Chinese culture, art and most importantly their political situation (Farr, as cited by Mountfort, 2014). The two became good friends and this personal lens was instrumental in the his work moving forward. “He broke apart Hergé’s European absolutism, opening it up into a more global, relative vision… as Tintin says in The Blue Lotus… ‘different people don’t know enough about each other.’” (McCarthy, 2016) The character of Chang is an obvious stand-in for Hergé’s good friend, and in their first meeting the Tintin and Chang exchange and laugh at the stereotypes of their respective cultures. The bumbling comic relief characters Thompson and Thomson make a fool of themselves by attempting to disguise themselves in the same clothes and pigtails donned by the Chinese torturers in The Land of the Soviets, drawing the attention of a whole crowd of actual Chinese people, and European businessmen looking civilize China are portrayed as blustering bullies (Mountfort, 2014). Overall this a much more sympathetic take on Chinese culture which criticisms Western colonialism, and the extensive detail Tchang contributed to the art and setting of The Blue Lotus would drive Hergé to continue his extensive research into Tintin’s future adventures (the greatest result of this is arguably his Destination Moon/Explorers On The Moon double album adventure, which was highly prescient and surprisingly accurate in its depiction of space travel).

 

However, despite finding understand through his friend Hergé does not extend this recognition of the other to the Japanese, who are one note villains with no redeeming qualities. This in itself is nothing new – Tintin’s characters and particularly his villains are generally not complicated people, particularly at this early point in his career – the Japanese are also drawn as racist stereotypes, with the main antagonist Mitsuhirato sporting buck teeth, glasses and a snout nose which would later find itself used in anti-Japanese World War II posters. While The Blue Lotus addresses a singular mistake in Hergé’s past it also reflects a more fundamental problem with his portrayals of race that would largely remained unresolved. As a caricaturist he was prone to using exaggerated features and stereotypes as a visual shorthand, and while it may not have been conscious the Asian features of the Japanese find themselves exaggerated while the Chinese’s are downplayed and their features are Westernized, (Mountfort, 2014) resulting in Hergé simply perpetuating the same kind of stereotyping he was trying to destroy.

 

Hergé would later go onto display regret for his work on Tintin In The Congo, but would not go to the same lengths that he did for Chang and China. “The fact is that I was fed on the prejudices of the bourgeois society in which I moved […] It was 1930 […] I portrayed these Africans according to such criteria, in the purely paternalistic spirit which then existed in Belgium.” (Hergé as cited by Mountfort, 2014) Despite this the ju-ju lipped design remained present in future works (Mountfort, 2014). This ‘paternalistic spirit’ could also be seen in Hergé’s portrayal of Native Americans – as Red Indians and noble savages, but also as the victims of American colonisation who have had their land stolen from them. How he could be so critical of America and ignorant of the effect his own country had on the Congo is difficult to parse, but a key part of this contradiction may stem from his childhood experiences as a scout. “For his entire life… he was to remain fascinated by a mythical world of warpaint and feathers… For an entire generation of Belgian ex-scouts, the Red Indian World represented the only escape from the pressures and frustrations of everyday life” (Thompson, 2011,  p. 54) and goes on to describe a bizarre episode in which a Post-WWII Hergé retreated to a monastery in order to set up a Red Indian tent and live there smoking a peace pipe with friendly monks. He was sympathetic to the Native Americans, but he did not understand them as flesh and blood human beings. They were a romantic ideal, and this event illustrates just how susceptible Hergé was to his environment and circumstances. His political alignment was also known to oscillate between both sides of the political spectrum (McCarthy 2006, p. 38) but it easier to see this as him being incredibly impressionable rather than him holding any deep rooted political principles. The crucial difference between Tintin In America and The Blue Lotus is that Hergé had a Chinese friend who he considered his equal, giving him a guiding force towards a more nuanced take on race relations. Tchang contributed so much and Hergé felt strongly enough that even expressed a desire to credit his friend as co-author (Assouline, 2009). This could perhaps explain why he never went to the same lengths to make the same conciliatory moves towards African or any of the other races he had portrayed stereotypically in the past, while the Chinese who only saw one cameo appearance in The Land of The Soviets beforehand and received an entire album dedicated to them.

 

 

 

 

Why should we care today?

 

With plans to make two more films the issue of Tintin’s place in the cultural landscape has emerged once again (Mountfort, 2014) as representation in media has become an important issue. In an incredibly media saturated landscape those who are reflected in that media find a greater advantage. However, it would also be worth addressing even if these films were not to come out, particularly as the historical portrayal of Hergé has been at times grossly inaccurate or mischaracterized. One example of this is the biography Hergé & His Creation which simply deflects from any uncomfortable questions concerning race.

 

When discussing Tintin In The Congo Thompson claims that “Hergé found himself profoundly embarrassed by these drawings [of Africans]. Not that he felt guilty, conditioned as his early work was by upbringing. What did bother him, looking back, was the wholesale slaughter of African wildlife” and goes on to list the many ways Tintin murders the wildlife only to also excuse this as “cruel, but cruel in a very childlike way” (p. 47) . To Thompson everything pre-The Blue Lotus was simply a precursor and largely untouchable by criticism because Hergé had not yet begun writing for a more adult audience. However, in discussing The Blue Lotus Thompson glosses over the criticisms of the Japanese caricatures and portrays it as a simple vendetta – as if the audience today were the same ones who read Tintin In The Congo or that one could not find the portrayal of the Japanese distasteful unless they had read the former adventure. “Those who have never forgiven Hergé for Tintin in The Congo still seek to accuse him of racism towards the Japanese over The Blue Lotus, but this accusation stupidly misses the point of the story” (Thompson, p.79). No argument is offered for why he should be forgiven or what the point of the story actually is.

 

This is a highly reductive and oversimplified portrait of the artist and does little to assuage any doubts about Hergé’s character, or how to interpret these albums, in addition to being incredibly biased as a historical record. While we may never know exactly how Hergé felt his work is still alive, and it is the living who are left to interpret it. So it is important to continue reading critically, to avoid thoughtlessly recreating the same stereotypes like Hergé did. “There is no innocent reader any longer” (Apostolidès 2010b).

 

 

 

 

Reference List

 

#DayofRemembrance: 12 images of anti-Japanese xenophobia from the 1940’s (and earlier). (2014). Retrieved from http://reappropriate.co/2014/02/11-images-of-anti-japanese-xenophobia-from-the-1940s-and-earlier/

Apostolidès, J.-M., & Hoy, J. (2010). The metamorphoses of Tintin, or, Tintin for adults. Stanford University Press. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.aut.ac.nz/login.aspx?direct=true&db=cat05020a&AN=aut.b11704317&site=eds-live

 

Assouline, P. (2009). Hergé : the man who created Tintin. Oxford University Press. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.aut.ac.nz/login.aspx?direct=true&db=cat05020a&AN=aut.b11704251&site=eds-live

McCarthy, T. (2006). Tintin and the secret of literature. London, Great BritainL Granta Books. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.aut.ac.nz/login.aspx?direct=true&db=cat05020a&AN=aut.b11199271&site=eds-live

Mountfort, P. (2012). “Yellow skin, black hair … Careful, Tintin”: Hergé and Orientalism. Australasian Journal of Popular Culture, 1(1), 33. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.aut.ac.nz/login.aspx?direct=true&db=edb&AN=79648340&site=eds-live

Thompson, H. (2011). Hergé and his creation. London, United Kingdom: John Murray (Publishers), An Hachette UK Company.

 

Dominic McAlpine

Cult TV Questions

What role does Hills (2004) suggest the fans play in the construction of cult TV? How is new media central to this?

Hills (2004) outlines three competing definitions of Cult TV but emphasizes that none of these are enough to understand the full extent of the term by itself, but a major factor in the second two definitions is the response of the fans and viewer to the work such as how they make create secondary texts/intertexts commenting on the show in some form, or how it inspires devotion and fan practices. With such a fluid definition Cult TV becomes largely defined by the circumstances and opinions surrounding the shows and their subcultural status. A large part of this is facilitated by the nature of these shows in that they are built  in a way which engenders discussion and long-term investment (often through a potential romantic pairing between characters, although this is not a requirement) and the creation of an interesting and varied world that is most often couched in “fantastic genres of science fiction, fantasy and horror” (Jones, as cited by Hills, 2004) allowing the audience to fill in the gaps with their own imagination.

A striking case study of how new media changed the status of Cult TV is Doctor Who, a show which has wildly fluctuated in popularity throughout the years, arguable falling in and out of cult status through these years. After a gradual decline that lead to ratings at an all-time low the show seemed to be picking up steam again when it was cancelled in 1989, leaving the franchise isolated from mainstream audiences. Due to the fact the show was not perceived one creator or team’s vision (as how Hills criticizes the discourse around shows such as Buffy The Vampire Slayer or Star Trek) and the fact that the format of a Doctor Who story allowed for various styles and genres, a novel series known as The New Virgin Adventures (NVA) became the de facto main timeline of Doctor Who in lieu of the show. This hardcore audience were generally older, and the writing changed to match them adult-oriented, and the series accepted both professional and amateur submissions elevating what would have been fanfiction into a near-canonical level. (Novitz, 2018) A stranger example of a venture by fans came from the obscure company “Bill & Ben’s Videos” – otherwise known as the BBV (possibly to create confusion about whether they were part of the BBC or not) which created straight-to-DVD films using the actors of Doctor Who as thinly veiled versions of their characters or using the show’s intellectual property. Much of this was of dubious legality or blatantly illegal. While it had been a staple of British television for many decades it was only in 2005 with the show’s revival spearheaded by Russel T. Davies, one of many authors who wrote for the NVA, that the show found a mainstream international success. The show also adopted many of the NVA’s such as story arcs and a greater focus on the personal lives of the Doctor’s companions. One of the show’s most critically acclaimed stories (Human Nature/The Family of Blood) is an adaptation of one of the novels.

Before the advent of new media fan practices had a higher barrier of entry, and even re-watching the show was a challenge. Shows such as Star Trek only gained an appreciation society over a decade after it finished airing. (Hills, 2004) Now that social media and platforms such as Reddit, Tumblr, YouTube and 4Chan (each containing their own culture and subcommunities) have allowed fans from across the world to form fanbases, the type of discussion that was once limited only to diehard fans now finds itself played out by people who can afford to be more casually invested. No show is ever truly off air as streaming and pirating have allowed shows to disseminate in unlikely circles and reach a wider audience.

I think that Hills’ outlining of ways that a cult show can be manufactured has actually been achieved for the most part by the entertainment industries, as they realize the value of nostalgic properties (which have attracted those with a strong devotion to their work) and of cultivating a dedicated fanbase. However, that is not to say the idea of subcultures have died out completely, and in fact has allowed many shows to find their own audience. For example – the obscure and quite bizarre Lexx. And while it may not be sci-fi or fantasy I personally would have never been able to watch one of my favourite TV shows, Ikebukuro West Gate Park, if it had not been translated from Japanese by a dedicated group of fans.

 

Reference List

Hills, M. (2004). Defining cult TV; Texts, inter-texts and fan audiences, in R. C. Allen & A. Hill (eds) The Television Studies Reader. London and New York: Routledge.

Novitz, J. (2018). “Too broad and deep for the small screen”: Doctor Who’s new adventures in the 1990s. M/C Journal, 21(5), 1–3. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.aut.ac.nz/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ufh&AN=134034472&site=eds-live

[QuintonReviews]. (2018, December 1). Doctor Who Knockoffs | Quinton Reviews. [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=acI7DRYFUPk

 

 

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?

Buffy The Vampire Slayer (BtVS) made a huge impact on the landscape of television, providing a model for longform series that is still in use today. One example of it’s profound impact is the 2005 Revival Series of Doctor Who. Showrunner Russel T updated the show from a multi-part, 20 minute per episode serial format to the modern forty-five minute per episode show (with occasional two-part stories, similar to BtVS) which the show kept in use until 2018. Although the previous incarnations of the show had built a cast of characters over time they seldom appeared throughout the show. The Revival series which shifted a much of the emotional focus and the story arcs of the series onto the companions. In the first series of the revival this is through the Doctor’s companion Rose, and her relationship with her boyfriend and mother on Earth. This grounded the fantastic sci-fi premise of the show with “emotional realism” (Whedon, as cited by Wilxcox & Lavery, 2002), and saw the development of an ensemble cast – both elements the show shares with Buffy (Wilxcox & Lavery). The show was also writer-based in that Davies had great influence over the scripts (and ever since the show’s eras have been largely defined by the showrunners in charge) but he also created a team of writers that could bring their own voices to the forefront. Notably Steven Moffat was one of the episode writers and would go on to become the showrunner, as well as to create the BBC series Sherlock.

 

This influence extends to two of the shows spinoffs, which shares many of the same qualities but also lifts actual plot elements from the BtVS franchise, although few would argue the latter is an example of quality television – both Torchwood and Class feature rifts in time and space which spew forth aliens and monsters for the protagonists to defeat (functionally identical to the Hellmouth of Sunnydale) which act as metaphors for the themes of the episode. Class has a lot more obviously similar to BtVS as it takes place in a high school, and similarly attempts to deal with controversial and heavy issues facing teenagers (“the subject matter of quality TV tends toward the controversial”, (Thompson, as cited by Wilcox & Lavery, 2002, p. xxiv)), but it is fraught with problems in tone and presentation. Torchwood perhaps parallel’s BtVS’s own spinoff, Angel, in that it follows the exploits of an anti-heroic supporting cast member from the parent show on a quest for redemption – the show even goes so far as to cast James Marsters (actor of Spike) as a rival to Torchwood’s lead protagonist, similar to Angel and Spike’s rivalry in BtVS. Torchwood dealt with controversial issues with varying degrees of success, particularly in its early seasons (the second episode features an alien who is literally ) but eventually found great critical acclaim. However, the majority of the cast was shown to be openly bisexual and the lead character of Jack Harkness, originally from Doctor Who, entered into a relationship with another male cast member, giving representation to same-sex relationships on television in a manner similar to Willow and Tara’s relationship in BtVS. To it’s credit Class does the same with one of its main protagonist, although overall it is the lesser show.

 

Both shows are strange in that they involve much more sex and violence than their parent show, clearly being aimed at a different audience, although in Class’ case this audience may not have existed as the show varied wildly in tone (Jeffrey, 2917) while BtVS was clearly aimed at teens but had enough substance to crossover age demographics. Russel T. Davies was the showrunner for Torchwood and brought much of the same qualities over from that show with a consistent writing team, but Class is more surprising in it’s confused tone as every episode’s script is attributed to the same author – Patrick Ness. Here we see the idea of “high pedigree” as a characteristic challenged, or at least in need of further definition as arguably Ness may not be considered high pedigree depending on how well one likes his work. On paper Patrick Ness seemed perfect for the job – he had already written a hit Young Adult novel and written a screenplay for a fairly successful film. Class itself only had the surface appearance quality TV, stretching itself too thin to delivery on its ensemble cast (with five main characters in only eight episodes) and attempting to tackle controversial subject matter and emotional realism without a proper handle on tone – one particularly jarring scene occurs in the first episode as one of the characters’ girlfriends is murdered in front of him by an alien, showering him in her blood before The Doctor (protagonist of the family-friendly Doctor Who) arrives to save the day, robbing the show’s actual main characters of all agency and relevance to the solution of the episode’s plot.

 

Overall, while I think these characteristics identify many of the key aspects which make this kind of show good I think they are too narrow as they only describe a certain model of television which BtVS pioneered. Quality is largely a matter of taste, and it may be because I live in a post-Buffy world where this sort of discourse in normalized but I see no reason why BtVS needs to prove itself. While BtVS should be applauded for mixing lighter genre conventions with this level of emotional realism, this is not the only valid form of artistic expression television can take. Doing so discounts critically acclaimed shows such as Fawlty Towers or the surreal Monty Python, or the heightened theatricality of Twin Peaks (all shows which existed before BtVS). And while self-conscious television can refer to it’s lineage or other texts to allow extra enjoyment in it’s audience it can it can also be used a crutch to receive praise via association. The worst of form of this is simply name-dropping or referencing franchises with little to know real relevance, as in the film and book Ready Player One. A big part of BtVS’s success in the regard is the fact that most of the characters are teenagers naturally preoccupied with pop culture and references (although this sometimes leads to characters sounding too much like each other or more clever or knowledgeable than they should), but in a show such as Breaking Bad or the almost documentarian approach of The Wire leaning too heavily on the fourth wall in this way would simply compromises the believability of the world they portray. Wilcox & Lavery’s article does not account for the full breadth and depth of what the medium of television has to offer.

 

Reference List

Jeffrey, M. 2017. Here’s why the doctor who spin-off class just didn’t work. Retrieved from

https://www.digitalspy.com/tv/cult/a830699/doctor-who-spin-off-class-why-it-just-didnt-work/

Wilcox, R. & Lavery, D. (2002). Introduction, in R. Wilcox & D. Lavery (eds) Fighting the forces: What’s at stake in buffy the vampire slayer. Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield.

 

Dominic McAlpine

Torture Porn + Post-Horror Week 4

 

According to Reyes, what is the role of torture in the torture porn franchises Saw and Hostel? Using references, explain this in your own words. How do you think these purposes might relate to the socio-political environment of that time period and such events like 9/11 and the Abu Ghraib torture scandal?

Reyes (2014, p. 128) identifies Hostel as one of the most profitable and important among a wave of Hollywood horror films which followed Americans traveling abroad in search of “strong experiences, exotics sights or illicit pleasures” only to find themselves at the mercy of killers, torturers and various other misfortunes. While Hostel portrays its protagonists as victims of their own hubris it still remains sympathetic to the victims, as the tension is derived from whether they will survive or escape torture (Neroni, 2015). This role-reversal between perpetrator and victim is a common trope in horror, and holds particular relevance to the socio-political landscape of the time – visual parallels are drawn between the brothel the protagonists visit for sex tourism in the beginning of the film and the factory used for torture. The real life sex trade and the imaginary torture industry both deal in flesh, and the two are equated within the film. “Underscoring all actions in the Hostel franchise is an extreme capitalist – often retributive – ethos that renders everyone interchangeable and reduces everything to its monetary value.” (Reyes, 2015, p.30)

Saw differs greatly in execution, building on serial killer films of the 1990s that was intensely focused on the murder method of Jigsaw, the primary antagonist, who creates mechanical traps and devices to force p. Jigsaw believes that torture and pain are a redemptive force, although his methods yield zero results – even the one person who does survive devotes her life to him, living not for herself but for the person who tortured her, and dying in the third film (Neroni, 2015). The injuries incurred from surviving Jigsaw’s games would be enough to severely impair their quality of life and leave them isolated from society (Reyes, 2014). After the first film the sequels dived deeper into spectacle, forgoing its psychological aspects to instead display increasingly complex torture devices. This is closer to the intended use of torture for information and confession, but Jigsaw only deals further psychological and physical damage until they die, with no satisfaction for torturer or the tortured – aside from the former’s sadistic desires. Jigsaw’s “fantasy of transcendence” is a lie (Reyes, 2015, p. 141). There is no deeper meaning to torture and attempting to construct it as a noble act is simply a justification for sadism.

While horror films had used torture extensively before what really defines torture porn of the 2000s is its reactive nature to 9-11 and Abu Ghraib prison scandal, both of which revealed a darker side to the United States of America’s Government and policy. Torture was not only seeing a boom in horror but found itself into thrillers on television such as the show 24, which promoted what Neroni (2015, p. 27) calls the “contemporary torture fantasy”, in which torture is normalized as a tool in pursuit of the greater good. Torture was given euphemistic terms such as “enhanced interrogation techniques, or outsourced to other countries in order to distance the Government from sanctioned torture. (Kerner, 2015) The Abu Ghraib photos challenge this fantasy, as it is clear from reports and photos that the American soldiers were smiling as they tortured, not pursuing some grand truth or world-saving secret.

The Hostel franchise acts as an exploration of post-911 anxieties about the world outside of America and the West – Kerner (2015) notes that in real life many CIA “black sites” are suspected to be located in Eastern Europe – and the glee with which American soldiers violated prisoners’ human rights for pleasure. In some ways Jigsaw’s machines are the ideal form of torture that the “contemporary torture fantasy” purported to be – an impersonal judge forcing confessions out of their victims, in addition to forcing them to participate in their own mutilation as penance (Reyes, 2014). However, the fact remains that the machines were constructed by another human being who cannot be removed from the equation.

Neroni (2015, p. 91) states that “All torture porn films take torture out of the realm of immediate national need and place it in a more individual and personal level”. While as films they can only act as a substitute for the non-vicarious experience of pain, torture porn can help create empathy with the victims of torture and speaks to a wider cultural shift in America’s (and the Western world in general’s) view of it. Viewers consider why the torturer smiles, how effective torture truly is at obtaining information and what is like to know the people tortured in the film are very much like themselves.

 

  1. Rose (2017) defines this modern boom of prestige horror as “Post-Horror.” What does he mean by this term? Find and read some critiques on his definition online and respond to both. Do you think Post-Horror is a valid term or not? Using examples and references explain your position.

Rose (2017) does not offer a particularly clear cut definition of post-horror but suggests it could be a new subgenre of horror which is unconventional, mainly made up of auteur-driven indie films with low budgets which often divide audiences and critics. I would contend this more a consequence of misleading marketing rather than a dichotomy between how critics judge a film and how the average moviegoer consumes them. However, Rose (2017) claims these films are “reacting against” a mass market of low-budget horror films created by highly profitable successes such as Split or Get Out.

I am at a disadvantage as I do not consume much horror media but Rose’s definition of horror itself seems too limited in scope. At one point in the article he claims that horror is bound by rules and tropes and that post-horror throws off “cast-iron conventions”, suggesting that horror is inherently formulaic. To me this seems equivalent to judging a genre by its worst or least interesting work and creating an unnecessary label to separate it from the films Rose approves of.

Brown (2019) suggests that post-horror is a largely pointless term that stems from a lack of historical perspective on the genre, as people fail to acknowledge that socially aware horror films have existed since the early day and that most post-horror are nowhere near as experimental as what has come before – films such as Eraserhead and Suspiria have “expanded the language of cinema”, and socially aware horror is nothing new. He also notes another recurring aspect in films labelled post-horror is the focus on psychological realism and the domestic, harkening back to the nineteenth-century realist novel. However, “Allegiance to such modes of storytelling not only skip twentieth- and twenty-first-century artistic innovations but also fail to recognise the unique contributions of horror to the history of cinema.” Rose only gives a token acknowledgement of horror’s transgressive nature as a genre, but has a reductive view of it overall. When he encounters horror films which appeal to his sensibilities as a critic he qualifies them instead of simply accepting them as horror. An overview of horror’s history reveals that these films are arguably not even particularly unlikely outliers.

However, Rose is defining post-horror as something that is largely defined by our current time period in reaction to today’s audiences. In that sense the term makes more sense, but it does overstate the subversive qualities post-horror films possess in relation to horror’s larger canon. I do not have the knowledge to say whether or not there are other horror films today which resist categorization of both the typical post-horror mould or mainstream market appeal.

This will be my most speculative claim but there also seems to be an unspoken rule that Rose is using quality as an indicator – he gives little criticism of the films he considers post-horror and places an emphasis on the film’s philosophical subject matter as one of their defining characteristics, and implies they are more worthy as art with other horror films simply being there to simply frighten people. Quality is a dangerous qualifier for a genre to include because it is highly subjective. Including it in the definition of post-horror muddies the discourse and encourages elitistism (whereas even a film like the 2018 Slenderman can be reviled by critics and audiences alike and still find itself in the horror genre alongside a diverse and beloved catalogue of films as The Thing, Halloween and The Shining). Rose (2017) never outright states it because the idea of post-horror is still quite loose, but it speaks to his biases as a critic. I think it is erroneous to assume something must be good to even find value in it as a cultural resource, but that is another topic.

Overall I think Rose has placed too much emphasis on a false dichotomy between critic and moviegoer based on first impressions made by both. It is only natural that people’s expectations affect their enjoyment of a film. The fact that critics and audiences are divided seems to be a consequence of bad marketing rather than a deliberate attempt to defy conventions. Like Brown (2019) I do not think it can be denied that the films labelled “post-horror” share many elements, and I think as a concept it has some use as a way to describe the current crop of horror films which do not fit the mainstream. It has value as a subgenre but the assertion that it is breaking new ground is a spurious one.

 

 

Reference List

 

Brown, M. (2019). The problem with post-horror. Retrieved from https://overland.org.au/2019/05/the-problem-with-post-horror/

 

Carroll, N. (2003). The philosophy of horror : Or, paradoxes of the heart. Retrieved from http://ebookcentral.proquest.com

 

Kerner, A. M. (2015). Torture porn in the wake of 9/11 : Horror, exploitation, and the cinema of sensation. Retrieved from https://ebookcentral.proquest.com

 

Neroni, H. (2015). The subject of torture : Psychoanalysis and biopolitics in television and film. Retrieved from https://ebookcentral.proquest.com

 

Reyes, A. X. (2014). Body gothic: Corporeal transgression in contemporary literature and horror film. Retrieved from https://ebookcentral.proquest.com

 

Rose, S. (2017). How post-horror movies are taking over cinema. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/film/2017/jul/06/post-horror-films-scary-movies-ghost-story-it-comes-at-night

 

Dominic McAlpine