Week 7

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

Hergé was amongst the comics artists considered to have been the best and most prolific in the 20th century. His work, The Adventures of Tintin, made him attract both positive and negative criticism. The negative reception of the franchise was majorly based on how it treated or portrayed geographic, cultural, and ethnic others. It has been argued that the early adventures of Tintin were characterized by shades of ethnic chauvinism. This criticism further goes on to allege that Hergé’s early comics had a connection with propaganda. This alleged connection emanates from his works The Blue Lotus, Soviets, and Tintin in the Congo, as well as from his contributions in Le Soir.

It is alleged that The Blue Lotus applies western anti-Japanese wartime propaganda as it dehumanizes the Japanese in a bid to humanize the Chinese. Critics holding this view argue that while it might have been unconscious, this use of propaganda arguably erased Chinese features (Mountfort, 2012). In trying to negative portray the Japanese, the critics contend, The Blue Lotus hyperasianized the Japanese and deasianized the Chinese. According to one such critic, Alexander Lasar-Robinson, this particular work exaggerates certain Asian features in depicting the Japanese but lessens the same features in depicting their Chinese counterparts. This was allegedly an effort to make the Japanese appear more ‘alien’ and the Chinese as more European-friendly or ‘neutral’ (Mountfort, 2012). This is viewed as propaganda since both the Japanese and Chinese are both Asian and are differentiated by few features if any.

The first two albums of Tintin are also accused of having purely applied propaganda in support of the right-wing. One of the albums, Soviets, is alleged to have propagated anti-Bolshevism doctrines with a view to painting Bolshevism in a bad light (Mountfort, 2016). It might have been an early attempt at opposing communism in solidarity with middle-class citizens, republicans, and landowners. Mountfort (2016) goes on to point out that Tintin in the Congo, another album, ascribed validity to the then Belgian colonial enterprise in spite of the enterprise has been appalling by all standards. In this instance, comic art propaganda was used by the album to portray Belgium’s colonial activities positively.

In Le Soir magazine, the adventures of Tintin allegedly appeared side by side with Nazi propaganda. Mountfort (2012) describes this appearance as having been recto-verso and included anti-Semitic diatribes. Consequently, productions by Hergé during this period have been brought under serious scrutiny. One such production, The Shooting Star, is accused of having presented as the villain or mercenary one Blumenstein, a Jew based in New York. In the production, the European pan crew assembled by Tintin and his friends face opposition from an American expedition led by Blumenstein. According to Mountfort (2012), this was an effort by Hergé to defuse the stereotype that the Jews were malevolent. This was apparently why he portrayed Blumenstein as ineffectual.

Strong allegations connect Hergé’s early comics with propaganda. In those allegations, critics of the artist point out how various early works in his series The Adventures of Tintin use propaganda to valorize certain ethnicities and races while vilifying others. The Blue Lotus, Soviets, and Tintin in the Congo are some of the works that have been heavily criticized for being full of propaganda. The Shooting Star is also accused of having contributed to the propaganda in Le Soir magazine. However, whether or not these allegations are true is open to an individual’s interpretations.

Reference:

Mountfort, P. (2012). ‘Yellow skin, black hair … Careful, Tintin’: Hergé and Orientalism. Australasian Journal of Popular Culture, 1(1), 33-49.

Mountfort, P. (2016). Tintinas spectacle: The backstory of a popular franchise and late capital. Journal of Asia-Pacific Pop Culture, 1(1), 37-56.

Week 5-6

4. Discuss how Hill’s three characteristics of Cult TV can be applied to a recent TV series (including those on Netflix, etc)

Cult TV is a term used to describe movies or television programs that have dedicated or fan following. The audience for such programs is so committed to watching them that they would not want to miss even a single episode. According to Hills (2004), Cult TV has three characteristics, the first being that their definition may be based on textual analysis. The second is that the programs can be defined inter-textually by analysing secondary texts. The third is that the definition of Cult TV can emanate from an analysis of the practices and activities of its audiences. A recent TV series upon which these characteristics can be applicable is Stranger Things.

The first characteristic, as stated above, implies that Cult TV programs share certain qualities. They can thus be considered a group of texts coming from such genres as horror, fantasy, and science fiction and can, therefore, be referred to as cult texts (Jenner, 2015). Stranger Things fits into this description as it as it is based on supernatural horror as a boy goes missing mysteriously. Those watching the series can easily develop a feeling of nostalgia just like they would do while watching any other horror film. The series is thus a cult text hailing from the genre of horror. It, therefore, deserves to be considered a Cult TV program.

The aspect of intertextuality, on its part, essentially means that a program passes as a Cult TV if it is labelled so by publicity or journalistic coverage. The implication is that the program has to be discussed and analysed as a Cult TV by commercial fan magazines and other popular press (Hills, 2004). These media texts discuss the programs as primary texts. Journalistic coverage has portrayed Stranger Things as a Cult TV by analysing and comparing it with other past series of the same genre, including Stand by Me, Predator, and Commando. The secondary texts consider how the series “borrows” from these past movies in terms of costuming and such other production elements.

In the third characteristic, how fans treat or receive a television program determines whether or not it may be considered a Cult TV. This has to do with fan passion, views, and reactions towards the program. One way or another, the show has to appeal to the passion of an audience (Hills, 2004). Stranger Things is one such television program. Its fans have developed so much passion for it to the extent of thinking that they can guess who particular characters in the series refer to in real life. For instance, as pointed out by Michallon (2019), they think they know “the American” in season 3.

Overall, as seen, Stranger Things fits well into what may be deemed Cult TV. The three Cult TV characteristics, as described by Hills, are easily applicable to it. It can be defined by subjecting it to textual analysis. It has also been analysed through inter-texts, or secondary texts, which have gone ahead to classify it as a Cult TV. Finally, it has a dedicated and passionate fandom, a characteristic expected of any Cult TV program. 

Reference:

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.

Jenner, M. (2015). Binge-watching: Video-on-demand, quality TV and mainstreaming fandom. International Journal of Cultural Studies, 20(3), 304-320.

Michallon, C. (2019). “Stranger Things fan thinks they have guessed who ‘the American’ is in season three”. Independent. Retrieved August 25, 2019 from https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/tv/news/stranger-things-three-the-american-who-hopper-billy-death-watch-a9063026.html

Week 4 Horror

According to Carroll (????), 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?

The torture porn franchises Saw and Hostel normalise torture. They are in line with a working definition that attempts to describe torture porn to mean horror sub-genre films in which physical or mental torture, imprisonment, binding, and abduction are centralised (Reyes, 2014). The bodies of the victims are subjected to immerse torture and suffering with the intent of generating certain anticipated consequences. The consequences are expected to have an impact on the audience and send given messages to the world. Specifically, according to Reyes (2014), the role of torture in Saw and Hostel is to directly appeal to the bodies of viewers by using disgust and pain to make them feel somatically empathetic.

The two franchises apparently recognise that moments of violence can be used to generate maximum affect in the bodies of spectators. This is known as fictional threat, a situation whereby viewers are compelled to identify with the body of a tortured victim so that their (the viewers’) bodies may develop fear (Reyes, 2014). The concept is based on the conception that the human flesh is vulnerable to terrorisation. After watching the films, it is expected that a viewer would become wary of torture such that they would not want to be associated with it whatsoever. They would develop special fear for anybody or anything they think might want to torture them.

The two series of films also use torture as a tool for socio-political retribution, especially as depicted in Hostel. For instance, residents of countries that are not in good terms with the United States may want to torture Americans as retribution for globalised American aggression (Reyes, 2014). They may sadistically exploit the capacity of the human body to suffer by exposing American citizens to gothic horror if they may get the opportunity. In such instances, the aggressors would see themselves as moralistic or vigilante torturers or killers (Reyes, 2014). In their minds, they would be doing it in honour of their countries.

These purposes of torture might be relatable to the socio-political environment of the early 2000s in America. This was the period when the country was grappling with such socio-political issues as the 9/11 attacks and the Abu-Ghraib torture scandal. Those responsible for 9/11 must have wanted to “revenge” or execute retribution for what they might have thought as being America’s aggression against their country, or religion, or even race. This might have been why they targeted such important facilities as the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon (History.com. Editors, 2019). In the Abu-Ghraib scandal, the torturers might have had the intention of instilling fear in the detainees and sending a strong message against getting into conflict with America. The actions of the torturers, as observed by Hilal (2017), violated a series of universal human rights.

In general thus, Saw and Hostel depict torture as a tool for instilling fear and exacting revenge or retribution. According to them, the human body is susceptible to torture. This is why a person or people may be tortured into submission, as might have happened in Abu Ghraib. It is also why people might use terror or torture to hit back against their perceived aggressors, as might have been the case in the 9/11 attacks.

 

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.

The term “post-horror”, according to Rose (2017), refers to the latest generation of films in which the concept of horror is refashioned with an auteuristic sensibility. The journalist’s explanation suggests that these are films that essentially reveal the beliefs and feelings of their directors. It is a new sub-genre of horror that breaks typical conventions and or clichés of horror movies (Rose, 2017). The director is free to redefine the extent to which horror appears in the movie, including making the movie have very few instances of horror. Instead of relying on conventional exorcism and supernatural witch stories, filmmakers create their own versions of horror using themes.

Rose’s conception of “post-horror” has been supported by J. A. Bridges who contends that some horror films are now adopting auteurism. According to Bridges (2018), Rose is right in the sense that a set of horror films produced after the Great Recession are seemingly intentionally characterised with auteurism. Such movies are often written such that they depict families that are in the upper-middle class or are elite. Instead of the elements of surprise and suspense, they frequently emphasise how the future is slowly dreadful (Bridges, 2018). Examples include Get Out, Goodnight Mommy, The Haunting of Hill House, and The Eyes of My Mother. 

The introduction of “post-horror” by Rose has also been heavily criticised. Edwards-Behi (2017) contends that Rose does not clearly understand the function and purpose of genre and is relying on authorship to justify this misunderstanding. In the view of this particular critic, the article by Rose on “post-horror” reveals that the journalist does not like horror hence his suggestion that there needs to be a new sub-genre of horror. Edwards-Behi (2017) further argues that Rose is wrong to “ignorantly” think that there are codes and rules governing horror films. His point is that genres cannot be fixed and that in as much as artists may play by some rules, they can break them to fit what they want their films to be like.

Having watched horror films and also based on the above critiques, I think “post-horror” is a valid term. Just as Rose (2017) points out, there has to be outright scariness in a film for it to be considered a proper horror movie. A film that fails to live up to this expectation can be something else but horror. This explains why there was an outburst on Twitter after It Comes at Night premiered. People had apparently expected there to be such things as vampires or supernatural beings tearing into human flesh or unleashing terror on humankind. It turned out the movie did not have any of these or anything related. I have watched such movies as A Ghost Story and Goodnight Mommy and in my view, they are less than what should be considered horror. As observed by Bridges (2018), these movies and their likes are largely about familial conflict and often depict tragic deaths and hauntings within families. So like Rose, I would not criticise the films as being non-horror; I would rather consider them a new sub-genre and find no problem in referring to them as “post-horror.”

Reference:

Bridges, J. A. (2018). “Post-Horror kinships: From Goodnight Mommyto Get Out”. Bright Lights Film Journal. Retrieved August 18, 2019 from https://brightlightsfilm.com/post-horror-kinships-from-goodnight-mommy-to-get-out/#identifier_1_28847

Edwards-Behi, N. (2017). “Cinema |A response to post-horror”. Wales Arts Review. Retrieved August 18, 2019 from https://www.walesartsreview.org/cinema-a-response-to-post-horror/

Hilal, M. (2017). “Abu Ghraib: The legacy of torture in the war on terror”. Aljazeera. Retrieved August 18, 2019 from https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/abu-ghraib-legacy-torture-war-terror-170928154012053.html

History.com Editors. (2019). “9/11 attacks”. History. Retrieved August 18, 2019 from https://www.history.com/topics/21st-century/9-11-attacks

Rose, S. (2017). “How post-horror movies are taking over cinema”. The Guardian. Retrieved August 18, 2019 from https://www.theguardian.com/film/2017/jul/06/post-horror-films-scary-movies-ghost-story-it-comes-at-night

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

 

 

Week 3 Horror

Carrol (2003) and King (2010) discuss how the “monster” is really a defining feature of a horror story. Using references, explain in your own words how a monster in horror differentiates from monsters in other popular genre.

A monster in a horror story creates panic among readers or viewers. This is because the monster characters are created in such a way that they do not conform to the ordinary order of things (Carroll, 2003). In many cases, monsters are in the form of characters that freak out ordinary people. Their appearance scares viewers or readers. In horror stories, it is what the horror characters do that scare viewers and readers (Carroll, 2003). The main reason for this is that many of them are presented to be dangerous to human characters. Accordingly, many scenes present ordinary humans running from horrific aspects, and it is these scenes that create panic among readers and viewers. Again, horror stories present instances where horror characters spread their horrific nature to human characters forcing them to develop features similar to those they possess (Carroll, 2003). As a result, human characters start abandoning the ordinary life of a human and start living like the horror creatures. In short, in horror stories, the action between characters in the story is what creates fear among readers and viewers.

However, the situation is different in other genres. This is because they present horrific stories without having to involve horror characters. It is worth noting that most people or the human race, in general, have varying fears that they live with (King, 2010). For instance, many Christian countries that have experienced terrorist attacks in the past remain in fear of terrorism. The same applies to other issues such as climate change, war, drought, floods, and disease epidemics (King, 2010). These are things that are horrific to humans were they to occur. As such, horror in other genres entails creating scenes that relate to the fears that humans in general have. They target the response that viewers or readers will have to varying happenings (King, 2010). For instance, if a movie presents a story where floods engulf the US, viewers will think of what would happen in reality if what they watch were to happen. Having such thoughts creates panic, and it is here that a horrific experience starts. In addition, some stories and movies are created during times when a population is recuperating from a disaster or a heartbreaking experience. Accordingly, viewers are reminded of the struggles and pain they experienced during such times, and this intrigues a panic response.

As such, the main difference between the definition of horror in horror story and other genres is that the latter uses strange experiences to cause fear. However, in other genres, the concerns of the audience are used to provoke horrific experiences (Hendrix, 2017). Accordingly, in the former, it is the actions of the horror characters that create panic among readers and viewers, while in the later, it is the response of viewers and readers that provokes horrific experiences. In the former, experiences presented are unlikely to happen in the real sense, but in the latter, the presented experiences are imaginations of things that are likely to happen in real life.

References:

Carroll, N. (2003). The philosophy of horror: Or, paradoxes of the heart. Routledge.

Hendrix, G. (2017). Paperbacks from Hell: The Twisted History of’70s and’80s Horror Fiction. Quirk Books.

King, S. (2010). Danse macabre. Simon and Schuster.

 

Week 2 Horror

Stableford (2007) details the historical formation of Cosmic Horror prior to Lovecraft. Describe in brief this formation and how it affected the Lovecraftian School of Cosmic Horror which would soon become the gold standard. Can you see any of these historical movements having an influence in The Shadow Over Innsmouth or The Void?

The historical formation of cosmic horror revolves around the superstitious beliefs that early people used to have. Many communities in the past used to believe in supernatural powers that are way different from the ones that people believe in today. Many of these supernatural powers were not friendly to man as they were known to cause harm to those who failed to abide by their rules (Stableford, 2006). The problem is that no one had ever experienced these supernatural powers and therefore, movie creators could only come up with imaginations. They had one standard way of creating horrific creatures, and one of them was making sure that the creatures had the ability to function as a man. Cosmic horror had to appear to be real, and the only way to do so was to ensure that the fictitious characters point to that direction (Stableford, 2006). A creature that serves as a supernatural god must have a higher thinking ability than man, and therefore, they had to be portrayed as humans with extraordinary features. As such, movie creators would add varying features to characters that would serve as supernatural beings, and it is here that the idea of cosmic horror originated (Stableford, 2006). On the same note, all horrific experiences would occur in settings marked by human settlement. Spirits from their supernatural gods would haunt people, and they had to act to appease them. Here, people had to engage in acts that are believed to have been normal during early times, but which create fear and panic among people today (Stableford, 2006). As such, the historical formation of cosmic error entailed creating supernatural characters based on anthropological literature and discoveries. However, these creations appear to be more fictitious than real because there is no evidence that the creatures used on cosmic horrors used to exist.

The Shadow over Innsmouth portrays features of the historical formation of cosmic horror. One of these features is a human settlement as the supernatural powers that are often referred to live among the people (Lovercraft, 2015). In addition, a place inhabited by these supernatural powers or forces appeared to be abandoned by humans, and those left behind live in deprived conditions. According to the description of Innsmouth, it is portrayed as an area that used to be inhabited by lots of people but appears to be abandoned. The structures in the place cause fear and panic as they are uninhabited (Reyes, 2014). The reason for fear is that in the historical formation of cosmic horror, abandoned structures were the breeding places for horrific creatures used by supernatural gods to haunt people. Accordingly, it is expected that strange things must be happening in the area considering the state of structures and the few people living in the area. More so, the area is defined by a limited number of economic activities, implying that people from other areas do not visit Innsmouth. This makes the area to appear more abandoned and scarier, which is what cosmic horror seeks to achieve.

References:

Lovecraft, H. P. (2015). The shadow over Innsmouth.

Reyes, X. A. (2014). Body Gothic: Corporeal Transgression in Contemporary Literature and Horror Film. University of Wales Press.

Stableford, B. (2006). The cosmic horror. Icons of Horror and the Supernatural: An Encyclopedia of Our Worst Nightmares1, 65-96.