Fanfiction + Commentary, Popular Genres Assignment Two

Old newspaper articles littered my office, I was trying to read one of the articles but my eyes blurred over the lines and after a while, the words looked jumbled together. It was about a man who visited a little town called Innsmouth about twenty years ago, he instigated a Government investigation into the town but disappeared shortly after and was declared missing by state police. 

I had gone through stacks of articles and transcripts of that same missing person case –  a few conspiracy theories as well. Over the years this case has been opened and closed numerous times, no concrete evidence was ever found so the case was never solved. Some reasonable people claimed he drowned, others with less realistic claims thought he joined the creatures under the sea and those creatures took over the town as well. Those were the kinds of claims I ignored completely. Sea creatures. Unless you’re talking about a new species of pufferfish then those kinds of claims were absurd.

My office door was pushed open, revealing Tobias smiling slyly. Broad-shouldered and wearing his classic brown trench coat, he placed a thick folder, containing more articles and papers, on the edge of my desk. 

“This is boring,” I tell him. Can I be assigned a different case?

Shrugging his shoulders, he said, “Cold cases don’t reopen very often and we need our best to handle it.” Which was a clear contradiction because I heard him telling other officers and detectives that I should have stayed in Med School.

“Nothing happens in Innsmouth.” It’s been almost 20 years since this guy went missing. He’s probably dead. 

He raised an eyebrow, but he didn’t look convinced. 

“C’mon, small towns always have issues, a few missing people don’t make them any special.” He flipped through the file I was going through and picked out an image of the person he’s hoping I’ll find. After working with him for the last few years I learned that he has a thing for small-town mysteries. He was from a small town himself and got interested in detective work after he helped a neighbour solve where their lambs ran away. Turns out the lamb was butchered and eaten by another neighbour.

“Besides,” I continued, “Innsmouth is a sea-side town, this guy was from the suburbs, he probably drowned somewhere off the coast, maybe he got curious about the sea – city folk are like that, too snobby and think they know everything, walked into the sea, tried to swim and then realised he couldn’t fight the currents as he drowned, pretty old case as well, attitudes were different back then.” I paused for a moment to check if he was paying attention, and he was to my surprise and signalled for me to keep telling him my deduction.

“The town is practically empty and locals testified that he was just passing through, and he stayed at a hotel, not in someone’s guest room. That proves that he didn’t know anyone from there, so there couldn’t have been any foul play involved, so murder is already out of the question.”

He laughed at my conclusion. “See you are one of our best.” False praise “But seriously, how can you be so sure that he didn’t know anyone there just by reading all these case briefs? For all we know he had a secret lover there – city folk can be like that right?” I thought I trained you better, was what he was really trying to say. 

“Because there’s no evidence of foul play,” I replied matter-of-factly and slightly annoyed.

“Exactly, there’s no evidence. Go find it.” He lost his slight playfulness and threw the folder he was holding back on my desk.

And that’s how I ended up driving myself to Innsmouth for the long weekend. On the passenger seat, I had a list of a few people of interest. They’re probably long gone, but Tobias always told me to walk down every lane, and if there’s a dead-end, walk down another lane. So that’s what I was going to do.

The man I’m looking for had stayed at a hotel called the Gilman House for a short time. The lobby was decorated with a round looking chandelier which vaguely reminded me of a lighthouse, calling you home, it shone bright and was almost blinding to look at. The rest of the lobby had dark stormy blue wallpaper, there were paintings on the walls depicting strange humanoid figures with octopus tentacles crawling out the mouth. Very quaint for a sea-side town.

The receptionist mentioned that this hotel was supposedly haunted, my case files said the same thing. Weird noises and ghosts creeping down the halls at night were reported by numerous ex-hotel guests. I dismissed her story immediately. Regardless, the receptionist still told me that if I wanted to check into a different hotel I was welcome to do so. She was a middle-aged lady, she had a few wrinkles on her face but somehow still looked youthful. She had some sea emerald green paint splattered on the tips of her hands, it was, after all, a long weekend, she must be getting ready to celebrate later this evening. “Strange people live here now,” she warned, “don’t come crying to me if something happens.”

“I’ll be fine,” I smiled and walked up the creaky stairs to my room.

Sleep was the only thing I could think off after the long drive, and my sleep was almost uninterrupted that night. In a dreamy haze at around 3 am, I somehow woke up to the sound of footsteps and marching outside my window. Pulling the curtains aside, the moon gleamed into my room engulfing everything in a cold blue-white light. I saw a mob of people gathered on the street in front of me, in blue-grey fish scale outfits with sharp, pointed fins.

Rolling my eyes, I crawled back into bed whilst trying to recall the last time I ever went to a parade. 

The next morning I made the effort to talk to some locals and maybe find a few people on my person of interest list. I wasn’t optimistic, this case was old, people die, people move out, whatever evidence Tobias thinks might still be here is long gone. So, the goal was to actually just find out more about the town – Innsmouth isn’t exactly popular with tourists, but nonetheless, according to the witness testimonies I had back in my office, there is something strange about this town. Unfortunately, the testimonies were old and vague on the details, I have no idea what they meant by ‘strange’, were the people strange? The buildings? What was so abnormal about Innsmouth? The town looked normal to me. 

Looking around I found the local grocery store, my reports stated that the police investigated a few leads here, back when the case was fresh. They didn’t get very far, they found out about an Innsmouth local, Zadok, who had talked to the missing man. However, he was the kind of guy who warned passersby about human-like sea monsters and the imminent destruction of the world. Climate change. He was right about the imminent destruction part. Regardless, Zadok could have been useful to the investigation, especially since he knew about the missing man, and since it was also rumoured that he disappeared around the same time the man went missing. But the previous investigators didn’t think he was important to their case and wrote him off as unreliable. I made a mental note to check later if there was any missing person case filed for Zadok.

I ended up walking to the seaside and took in the salty sea air as the cold waves washed over my feet. This was another open-and-shut case. The man drowned. Zadok could be the only person who could confirm this but finding him was another issue entirely. Other than that, this case is really not that complicated. After reading and listening and analysing all those police documents, drowning is the only reasonable explanation.  

Sighing, I walked deeper into the sea and stopped when the water reached my knees. I saw something glimmer in the water just in front of me. Pearls maybe? Innsmouth was known for fishing and seafood, there could be clams here. I walked in deeper into the sea, the waves splashing harshly at my waist, soaking my clothes.

My phone started ringing furiously in my hand just as I was about to lean down and pick up the pearl. It was Tobias no doubt, most likely calling me to check for any leads or updates on the case. I let the call go to voicemail and leaned close to the water surface, I was so sure that I had seen something shine in the haze below the sea.

My eyes widened and dropping my phone in haste I ran back to my car as fast as I could, but the heaviness of my wet clothes slowed me down.


This fanfiction was inspired by The Shadow Over Innsmouth by H. P. Lovecraft (1936). Lovecraft wrote his story in the first person POV so, his narrator is the only person who knows the full story, and everyone else knows nothing about what happened in Innsmouth. My fanfiction is an outsider’s perspective of what happened to Lovecraft’s narrator and I attempted to incorporate both of Volger’s (1998) character archetypes and mythic narrative structures into my fanfiction. 

Concerning Volger’s (1998) character archetypes, the hero of my fanfiction is the unnamed narrator. I portrayed her as someone who has zero interest in the case – that was her character flaw, all the evidence of what happened to Lovecraft’s narrator was in front of her, yet her ignorance and disinterest prevented her from discovering the truth, until the very end. I decided to combine the roles of the mentor and the herald into one character which is the male detective, Tobias. The vagueness of his relationship with the narrator (Are they friends? Are they strictly colleagues?) made their interactions a little bit more interesting since his intentions could be interpreted in different ways. But, Tobias’ main role was to motivate the hero to engage more with the community and to be her call to action. The threshold guardian was the old lady who worked at the hotel reception. Her warning to the narrator to go stay somewhere else was important in the sense that she symbolizes the change from natural to the supernatural – all the strange things start happening after her warning. Since Vogler’s (1998) character archetypes state that the shadow character can wear different masks, they are represented by the Innsmouth locals. The locals have a close relationship with Deep Ones, while by day they seem like ordinary townspeople, by night they morph into sea creatures. I ultimately decided not to include a shapeshifter character or a trickster character into my fanfiction mainly because I didn’t want to over-complicate the story.

Volger’s (1998) mythic structure was easier to incorporate than his character archetypes; according to his theory Act Two is the longest with around 50% of the story spent on it and 25% respectively spent on Act One and Three. However, I focused a little more than necessary on Act 1 because my fanfiction is picking up the story twenty years after the events that occurred in Lovecraft’s original story. So, I wanted to establish the main character and background a little bit more for the reader’s benefit. In Act Two the narrator’s character flaw becomes more prominent because essentially it is that character flaw which is preventing her from solving the case – fans of Lovecraft’s story will pick up the easter eggs which signal that the town has been taken over by the Deep Ones. So, the reason why it may not seem like she faced any obstacles in the story is because her character flaw is actually the largest obstacle she has to face. That is why Act Three wraps up pretty quickly because once she sees the Deep Ones swimming up to the surface, she realises that all the strange things she’s encountered in Innsmouth was real and runs back to the ordinary world with that information. 

Ultimately, I managed to incorporate some Volger’s (1998) theories into my writing but not to a large extent as I had combined a few elements together and didn’t include others. 

Reference List:

Lovecraft, H. P. (1936). The Shadow over Innsmouth. Visionary Publishing Company.

Vogler, C. (1998). The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers. Studio City, CA: Michael Wiese Productions

Shradha Chand
Fanfiction: 1499 Words
Commentary: 566 Words (Excluding References)

Week 11-12, Reality TV – Question One

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

Modern reality TV seems to be a blend of dramatic, competition and/or factual narratives all into one show. This genre also seems to mix entertainment with a very over fantasized discourse about ‘real-life’. There are two major ways that this genre has been lost through the hybridization and diversification of programmes. The first, being through production techniques of reality TV shows such as production techniques and the second being the audience and what they like seeing on TV.

One of the ways that reality TV has been lost is through production and camera techniques. Reality TV has roots in other more established genres such as documentary and soap opera-type media and techniques from those separate genres have contributed and have been adopted by reality TV. According to Hill, the development of reality TV is a great example of how television, to survive, draws upon existing genres to create a hybrid programme which eventually becomes distinct enough to be considered a genre of its own (2005, pg 23-24). For example, in relation to documentary-type media, modern-day reality TV uses a mixture of techniques from the USA, the French and the British. Direct Cinema (early USA type documentaries) were more observational, with no analysis of what was occurring as well as more intimate. While the French Cinema Verite was more concerned with creating a relationship with the subject matter, so viewers would often see an interviewer or a cameraperson appearing in the frame and interacting with the subject. Also, British Cinema brought forward a focus on the everyday mundane life. All these elements and techniques used by early cinema and TV documentary have sculpted the way reality TV is made now and can also be seen in reality TV-styled shows such as Cathy Come Home (which is considered as a docu-drama). While Cathy Come Home has paid actors in, it mimicked a reality show in the sense that it paid attention to a mundane aspect of life (homelessness and family), there were close-ups of the characters allowing the audience to feel a connection to the subjects and so on. Additionally, Lamb mentioned that “reality television has overtaken the docudrama as the most popular form of television programming combining documentary and drama” (2016, pg 6). So, without a doubt, reality TV has been greatly influenced by those techniques mentioned above and thus, has become lost through this diversification and hybridization as it becomes mixed with other genres.

Another reason why reality TV has been lost could be because the audience dictates a reasonable amount of what reality TV show creators can successfully produce. Regardless of how good or bad a reality TV show is, ultimately, it is the audience which decides if the show is entertaining enough to keep airing on TV. Since it has been established in the previous paragraph that reality TV shows constantly reinvent themselves and are a mixture of different genres; one of the reasons they do this is to stay interesting to their public audience. Reality TV shows tend to put ordinary people in unrealistic situations – such as Survivor where the contestants are taken to an isolated island and are expected to survive without modern comforts as well as compete in sports activities as well. Survivor itself is a combination of sports TV, tabloid, competition as well as confessional and dramatic. All those elements and genres are put into one reality show and thus there are various factors in the show which attract audiences. This idea is supported by Brent and Cohen who stated that (concerning the show Big Brother) viewers enjoyed watching people living without modern comforts and of hearing the contestants thoughts on different events (Hill, 2001, cited in Brenton and Cohen, 2003). And so to conclude, the mixture of other genres as well as the audience, play a role as to how the reality TV genre has been lost.

Brenton, S., & Cohen, R. (2003). Shooting People: Adventures in Reality TV. New York: Verso.

Hill, A. (2005). Reality TV: Audiences and Popular Factual Television. London: Routledge.

Lamb, B. (2016). Cathy Come Off Benefits: A comparative ideological analysis of Cathy Come Home and Benefits Street. Journalism and Discourse Studies, (2), 2-21. 

Week 10, Alt History/ SciFi – Question Two

What role did the I Ching play in the novel’s composition and philosophical underpinnings?

Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle is an alternate history novel where Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan won World War II and occupied their respective areas of the USA. In fact, according to Mountfort (2018), The Man in the High Castle is a formative example of parallel universes as a science-fiction device (pg 62). Dick’s novel was heavily inspired by the I Ching, an ancient Chinese divination text, in relation to important elements in his novels such as the novel’s composition and philosophical underpinnings.

The I Ching played a huge role in both the lives of the characters in the novel and with Philip K. Dick in the process of actually writing The Man in the High Castle. Essentially, both the author and his characters had consulted with the I Ching and asked the oracle several questions which ultimately has affected the storyline and the narrative. For example, Philip K. Dick consulted the oracle for inspiration and ideas for his novel; he asked about turning points in the novel and also asked questions about what should happen next to his characters and how those characters react to it and so on. So, the I Ching was used by Dick to help develop his story, however, he took it a step further and also incorporated the I Ching into his novel. So now, Dick’s characters also use this divination text in the novel for their own purposes. As mentioned previously, the I Ching is a divination text, and by going through its processes can predict the future or give the user an idea of what to do next. The oracle is seen as an important aspect of the novel as it allows the readers to understand the characters more – because when those characters consult the oracle they can learn more about what is bothering or worrying them. Therefore, the I Ching is important in the sense that it “… introduces an element of chance…” in the novel and “…suggests that alternative possibilities always exist.” (Mountfort, n.d, pg 288). So, it is evident that the pure anatomy and makeup of The Man in the High Castle rely on the I Ching.

The I Ching also played a huge role in The Man in the High Castle’s philosophical underpinnings. The story itself gives readers an alternate reality as to who won the second World War (Nazi Germany and Japan) and everything else which occurred as a result of their victory. In relation to his, Saavedra (2015) asked in his article “What is reality? Is there a real reality and a false reality? Can there truly be two realities? Those are the types of questions that PKD sought to answer during his long trips into the darkest caverns of the mind and society.” Philip K. Dick did answer those questions in his novel, for example, while in our reality it was the US and Russia who were locked in the Cold War in the twentieth century, but in Dick’s novel, it was Germany and Japan who were in a silent nuclear arms race. In fact, Germany was perceived as being more technologically advanced in the novel than the actual winning side of the War in our reality. Not to mention the I Ching is woven into all of these circumstances created as a result of the Second World War. There are characters from different sides and affiliations in the novel who consult the I Ching’s philosophy. So, through an alternate reality of the plot, The Man in the High Castle is also exploring different philosophical views.

Mountfort, P. (2018). Science fiction doubles: Technologization of the doppelganger 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.

Mountfort, P. (n.d). The I Ching and Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle. Science Fiction Studies, 43, 287-309.

Saavedra, J. (2015, November 19). Why The Man in the High Castle is Essential Science Fiction. Retrieved October 5, 2019, from
https://www.denofgeek.com/us/books-comics/the-man-in-the-high-castle/242951/why-the-man-in-the-high-castle-is-essential-science-fiction

Week 9, Cosplay – Question Three

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

Fan conventions have offered fans from different fandoms to express their love for their interests. Over time, there has been a variety of different fan conventions which have developed into annual and prominent events in their own right such as the Armageddon Expo and the San Diego Comic-Con.

The Armageddon Expo has been holding events for the fans for (approximately) the last 23 years. According to Mountfort (2018), “it began as a comics and trading card event” in Auckland with follow-up events occurring in 1997 (pg 91). Due to its popularity and demand, the Expo spread to Wellington in 1998 and then in 1999 to Melbourne, Australia. Additionally, the event has been running as an almost yearly event ever since. With the events running more frequently, the size of the venues also expanded. The Expo started in small community centres and then with the increase of its popularity, eventually moved into larger convention centres. Meanwhile, with the growth of the Armageddon Expo from a small trading card event, it has evolved into a convention which celebrates fandoms from different genres, such as sci-fi and comics, with the various events they hold during the Expo weekends. This is evident by the planned cosplay contests, tournaments and celebrity guest panels which allows fans to meet, get an autograph and attend photo sessions with their idols, just to name a few ways the event attracts people to attend it. So, without a doubt, the Armageddon Expo is a major fan convention in Australasia.

The San Diego Comic-Con in the USA is another extremely popular fan convention which started in the 1970s. Comic-Con was the result of a meeting between acquaintances in 1969 who were interested in comics and cosplay and the fandom culture. According to an article by the Chafin for the Rolling Stone (2017), the creation of the event was inspired because they “were all outsiders who worked together to make a place where outsiders could feel at home”. So, evidently, the purpose of Comic-Con was so there could be a safe place for fans to express their interests without being isolated. In fact, similar to the Armageddon Expo, Comic-Con also provides fans with numerous opportunities to meet their heroes, get their autographs, buy merchandise, and of course, to cosplay without harsh judgment. Over time, as this event managed to grow and develop into one of the biggest fan conventions in the world, and over time, also achieved their goal of mainstreaming and normalising such behaviour and events.

While the San Diego Comic-Con and the Armageddon Expo are both major fan conventions and are similar in many ways, there are also quite a few differences between the two events. One of the major differences would relate to the commercialisations Comic-Con utilises to their benefit, while the Armageddon Expo does not do so explicitly. While earning money from events like this is not unusual in the USA (Coachella does this very similarly), it has been raised as an issue for a lot of people. For example, the prices of the tickets to enter the convention centre have increased and “comics publisher Mile High announced they would no longer attend… due to the rise in the cost of a booth… from $40 in 1973… to $18,000.” However, regardless of this commercialisation, Comic-Con fans have a lot of loyal fans willing to go no matter what. Comic-Con provides rare opportunities for fans to get “sneak previews of highly anticipated new movies and encounter the likes of Gal Gadot, Chadwich Boseman and Tom Holland in the flesh.” (Sommerlad, 2018, for the Independent (UK)). Movie companies and TV channels and streaming services etc. also hold back their special announcements for plans, solely so they can announce it at Comic-Con – such as how HBO would previously promote Game of Thrones. That experience and prestige created by Comic-Con outweighs the monetary aspects of the industry and thus, continues to succeed and attract more attendees.

Chafin, C. (2017, July 19). San Diego Comic-Con: The Untold History. Rolling Stone. Retrieved from https://www.rollingstone.com/culture/culture-features/san-diego-comic-con-the-untold-history-194401/

Mountfort, P., Peirson-Smith, A., & Geczy, A. (2018). Planet Cosplay: Costume Play, Identity and Global Fandom. Chicago University Press.

Sommerlad, J. (2018, July 18). Comic-Con 2018: How the San Diego pop culture festival became a commercial juggernaut. Independent (UK). Retrieved from  https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/films/features/comic-con-2018-san-diego-popularity-cosplay-cult-superhero-movies-marvel-history-a8452236.html

Week 8, Anime – Question Six

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

At first glance Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind can be seen as just a Japanese animated sci-fi adventure film, but, there are important messages conveyed in the narrative. While anime as a genre can be perceived as something for children, Nausicaa, in particular, contains important messages and warnings concerning multiple topics such as humanity, nature and the future.

According to Cavallaro (2006) Miyazaki, “…has brought to life intricate fantasy realm, building each from scratch… Within these domains, Eastern and Western traditions, ancient mythologies and contemporary cultures, the magical visions of children and the pragmatic outlooks of adults intriguingly coalesce” (pg 5). Ironically, during a large portion of the film, it is the adults and people in power who, as a result of their ‘realistic and pragmatic’ beliefs and actions, that there is a disassociation from one another. That disassociation can be said to have created tension between the Pejite and Tolmekia, rather than working together they lower themselves to harming one another. Their relationship can be seen as a warning to audiences, essentially when dissociation occurs, humanity lessens. Humanity can roughly be defined as a collective unity and harmony with each other. In the film, Nausicaa is the only one who shows any sympathy and humanity towards others. For example, after the murder of her father, she’s been advocating for peace and called for the violence to stop because she understood the pain of losing someone, and so she didn’t want other people to go through the same torment of losing a loved one. Audiences can see Nausicaa’s humanity again when she tries to rescue and pacify the baby Ohmu. Needless to say, Nausicaa’s actions were important and impactful.

Like many other kinds of anime films, there is usually a focus on nature and the environment. Similarly, films directed by Miyazaki commonly contain themes such as “… the fate of the ecosystem…”, and this is also evident in Nausicaa (Cavallaro, 2006, pg 7). In Nausicaa, the character of Nausicaa herself is a powerful embodiment of how the relationship humans have with nature should be like. For example, countries such as Pejite and Tolmekia express negative attitudes towards nature, both countries although enemies with each other, were willing to sacrifice the ecosystem and burn everything to the ground to spite the other. That negative representation serves as a warning to the audience, that to truly cultivate a successful society, there must be harmony with humans and nature. Additionally, Pejite and Tolmekia’s negative attitudes towards the environment can be compared to Nausicaa’s positive relationship with nature. Instead of trying to destroy something she didn’t understand, it was revealed that she was trying to learn more about the environment, by collecting samples and taking them back to her hidden room. While she is portrayed as strong and wilful, she is also portrayed as understanding and compassionate to the ecosystem. In simple terms, “Nausicaa is the cartoon princess for anyone who likes nature” (Moss, 2014). Thus, this portrayal can be seen as an example that education of the environment can be very beneficial to society.

As mentioned previously, Nausicaa is a sci-fi film and thus, is set in the future. The story takes place one thousand years after an event destroyed most of the planet’s natural and original ecosystem and is now a place where humans live in settlements isolated from each other with mutant plants and animals. In fact, according to Napier (2005), Nausicaa isn’t just a film about the dystopian future, it is an apocalyptic film which expresses a society which has a lot of apprehension about the future (pg 29). This apprehension is evident throughout the film, all the societies introduced in the film showed some kind of concern towards the future. For example, both Pejite and Tolmekia express negative attitudes towards their futures. They are both facing issues with the environment. As a result of their fear (relating to the Ohmu and toxic plants) they are concerned about the survival of their people and this fear adds to the conflict. Nausicaa and her people on the other hand, while they also worry about their future, their worry is not as prominent as what Pejite and Tolmekia express. They express more of a hopeful and positive attitude towards their future, most that that hope results in their trust in their leader – Nausicaa, who also has a positive outlook on their future. This links to Nausicaa’s relationship with animals and the environment and shows that the future depends on how to treat your surroundings.

To conclude, though an old anime film, Nausicaa teaches the audience the importance of compassion and the importance of taking care of the environment.

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

Moss, E-L. (2014, June 11). Why I’d like to be… Nausicaa in Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. The Guardian. Retrieved from
https://www.theguardian.com/film/filmblog/2014/jul/11/princess-nausicaa-of-the-valley-of-the-wind-role-model

Napier, S. J, (2005). Anime: from Akira to Howl’s Moving Castle. Hampshire: Palgrave/ Macmillan.

Week 7, Comics – Question Four

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

Herge’s Tintin albums raise controversial and uncomfortable representations of different cultures and races – in particular, Asian and African characters in Tintin are subjected to this dehumanising characterisation. The controversial representation of those POC (people of colour) groups are illustrated through the heavy ethnic and cultural stereotyping which are evident in Herge’s early comics.

Looking at how Herge portrayed Africans in Tintin in the Congo first, there are clear colonialist and racist themes throughout the album. Historically, due to the Belgian occupation of the Congo, the population of the African nation decreased from twenty million to just ten million as a result of executions, routine torture and mutilation by the Belgians (Mountfort, 2012, pg 37). Keeping in mind that historical situation, Herge had essentially documented and reproduced the dehumanisation and paternalistic relationship between the two races in real life and into his comics. In Tintin in the Congo, Herge relied on the paternalistic imagery between Tintin and the Congolese, making the people in the Congo look like illiterates and child-like characters in need of guidance. Additionally, the African characters are drawn with exaggerated facial features such as extremely large lips. Viewing it from a modern 21st-century lens, it can be collectively agreed that Herge’s stereotypical characteristics of those African characters is racist and is a product of the time. However, it is particularly interesting that, though his depiction of POC characters is uncomfortable and racially ignorant, the Belgian Courts did not ban it. A Congolese student in Brussels filed a case claiming that Tintin in the Congo is racist, however, the Court believed that while it may be racist, Herge did not intend to incite racial hatred – which is an important criterion when deciding if something breaks Belgian’s racism laws (Reuters, 2012). While the Courts stand by their decision, the public has a different point of view entirely. In an opinion piece by The Guardian, Enright (2011) believed that Tintin in Congo shouldn’t necessarily be banned, but it should not be available for children to read. Since Tintin is a comic targeting children, Enright (2011) was concerned that children would learn incorrect opinions relating to racism, and that topics relating to historical cultural relationships should be a topic taught carefully in schools rather than by comics. So, with awful POC representations in Tintin in the CongoThe Blue Lotus could possibly signal a change in Herge’s attitudes towards other cultures and ethnicities.

In The Blue Lotus, Tintin visits China and also befriends a Chinese character named Chang. Before this was published, Herge befriended a Chinese artist in real life, allowing him to learn more about China as well as Chinese art and the Chinese socio-political situation of the time. That real-life influence was evident and also illustrated in The Blue Lotus. For example, the friendship Herge had with the Chinese artist Chang Chong-Chen, was depicted in the comic with Herge introducing a new character, Chang, to the audience. Chang had also saved Tintin near the end in this album, illustrating Chang as a hero figure rather than Tintin. So, on the surface, it does seem that there is a change in how Herge represents POC characters, but there are still some panels in the comics which suggest otherwise. For example, the Chinese characters are drawn with European-like features and the Asian features were more emphasised for the Japanese characters to make those characters seem more antagonistic. So, in order to “… make the Other palatable to a European audience by stripping it of elements that are too powerfully Other…” (Mountfort, 2012, pg 41). In other words, to humanise the Chinese characters, Herge dehumanised the Japanese characters, so in the end, one race is still viewed negatively by the audience. Therefore, while Herge was introduced to a new perspective on POC characters through his real-life friendship with Chang, it is evident that he is still in the sphere of influence concerning the paternalistic views favoured by the rest of his immediate society. So, while his friendship would temporarily take him out of that sphere of influence, Herge is still exposed to the idea that non-European societies are inferior. Thus, the result is that ambiguity of where Herge stands with POC character. Perhaps, in this case, he wasn’t sure himself of how he viewed POC due to those two conflicting ideals.

Enright, D. (2011, November 4). Tintin in the Congo should not be sold to children. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2011/nov/04/tintin-in-the-congo

Mountfort, P. (2012). Herge and Orientalism. Australasian Journal of Popular Culture, 1, 33-49.

Reuters. (2012, February 14). Tintin does not break racism law. Retrieved from http://www.stuff.co.nz/entertainment/6414293/Tintin-does-not-break-racism-law

Week 6, Cult TV – Question Two

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

Hills suggests that with the constant development of new media, fans are able to play more important roles concerning the construction of cult TV. New media plays a more crucial role nowadays as it allows fans to feel more connected to something that they feel passionate about and this is evident in the roles fans played in relation to Buffy the Vampire Slayer and other cult TV shows.

In Hills’ (2004) text, it was suggested that cult TV has a special relationship between the fans and viewers and the show itself, the media also plays an important role in that relationship (pg. 517). For example,  when Buffy the Vampire Slayer was airing on TV in the early 2000s, there would be time gaps between the dates each episode would air on TV. Those time gaps allowed fans of the show to have the opportunity to make up fan theories and predict what would possibly happen next in the show. (Hills, 2004, pg 518). There would be numerous ways for fans to talk about their favourite TV shows, there would be fan meetings and fan magazines just to name a few, available for that kind of discussion. Also, since technology and modern-day media were still in the early stages of developments during that time, for Buffy the Vampire Slayer in particular, “… fan-talk is the more significant mode of engagement here, rather than fan fiction” (Hills, 2004, pg 518). However, as media developed through the years, a lot of changes occurred in the way fans would participate and get themselves involved with cult TV fandoms as well as fandoms in general.

One small change which occurred, that relates to new media is that now, streaming platforms such as Netflix, release all the episodes of a show all in one go. A controversial example of this can be seen in the show 13 Reasons Why. By releasing everything all at once that opportunity to predict what happens in the next episode does not happen anymore. In 13 Reason Why’s, since the whole season is released at the same time, writers, producers, directors etc. get zero opportunity to hear any feedback from their target audience. That means that when they do finally hear about what the public thinks of their show, it may already be too late. For example, 13 Reason Why was heavily criticised for not having any trigger warnings since the show portrayed a lot of sensitive topics. As a result, a lot of viewers have had serious mental health issues since they had watched something extremely traumatic. But, due to the large outcry for no trigger warnings, the second season of the show did have those warnings, so though media has changed, the fan’s voices are still being heard. 

Another change which occurred was that there is a new wave of feminists craving a change in the way characters are portrayed in TV shows. Buffy was a character which “challenges the forces of gender stereotyping… Buffy kicks butt – and viewers rejoice… Clearly Buffy engages the social forces…” (Wilcox & Lavery, 2002, pg xviii). However, opinions and feminist views are something which is always changing to meet the needs of the current social and political standards of the time. So, while Buffy as a character can be considered as a feminist icon, it is very limited to the period the show aired in.

Another important change which also relates to new media is that a lot of the fan discussions went online and thus created an online participatory culture for fandoms. New media gives the public access to information as well as equip them with the ability to provide and create information. Additionally, new media allows people to communicate with a wider range of people at a more expansive reach. Henry Jenkins (2010) stated that with the help of new media, fans can have space online where they can communicate their opinions and creations within a fandom and mobilize their skills towards causes they care about (at 2:23min and at 17:20). Example of this can be seen with the fans of Game of Thrones. With the extreme popularity of the show and the books it is based on, fans have made their love for the show known on new media. There are numerous fan theories available on blogs, images of cosplay can be found on Instagram and fanfiction which are written by fans on websites such as fanfiction.net – where there are over 8,000 published! So, evidently, it can be said that with the help of new media, fans can be more involved in the construction of all kinds of fandoms including cult TV shows.

Hills, M. (2004). Defining Cult TV; Texts, inter-texts and fan audiences. In The Television Studies Reader (pp. 509-523).

TEDxNYED – Henry Jenkins – 03/06/10 [Video]. (2010, April 13). Retrieved August 24, 2019, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AFCLKa0XRlw&feature=youtu.be

Wilcox, R & Lavery, D. (2002). Introduction. In Fighting  the Forces: What’s at Stake in Buffy the Vampire Slayer (pp xvii – xxix).