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About this book

This book investigates desert islands in postwar anglophone popular culture, exploring representations in radio, print and screen advertising, magazine cartoons, cinema, video games, and comedy, drama and reality television. Drawing on Zygmunt Bauman’s theory of liquid modernity, desert island texts are analysed in terms of their intersections with repressive and seductive mechanisms of power. Chapters focus on the desert island as: a conflictingly in/coherent space that characterises identity as deferred and structured by choice; a location whose ‘remoteness’ undermines satirical critiques of communal identity formation; a site whose ambivalent relationship with ‘home’ and Otherness destabilises patriarchal ‘Western’ subjectivity; a space bound up with mobility and instantaneity; and an expression of radical individuality and underdetermined identity. The desert island in popular culture is shown to reflect, endorse and critique a profoundly consumerist society that seduces us with promises of coherence, with the threat of repression looming if we do not conform.

Table of Contents

Frontmatter

Chapter 1. Introducing the Liquid Modern Desert Island

Abstract
This introductory chapter is structured around two watery concepts: the etymology of the word ‘island’ as watery land and Zygmunt Bauman’s theorisation of the liquid modern. Difficulties arise when one interrogates the idea of a ‘desert island.’ What is an island? What does it mean to be desert(ed)? Who counts as an inhabitant? The introduction surveys and then complicates various contradictory meanings that have been attached to desert islands in post-war popular culture, outlines the critical context and groundwork of the following chapters and summarises the book’s argument.
Barney Samson

Chapter 2. (In)Coherent Desert Islands: Desert Island Discs and Bounty Chocolate in Print

Abstract
This chapter examines desert island texts from the immediate post-war period. Drawing on Zygmunt Bauman’s theory of liquid modernity, it explores the ways in which representations of desert islands characterise identity as structured by choice. In Desert Island Discs (1942–), the island is the vehicle for autobiographical narratives that construct identity as coherent and regulated by patriarchal authority. This is complicated by the endorsement of choice and the suggestion that identity is always deferred. Print advertising for Bounty chocolate (1953–1954) represents a paradoxically remote and accessible desert island. It is fragmentary: only the advertised chocolate can provide coherent identity and erotic satisfaction. The island evokes the underdetermined condition of liquid modern identity; its ontological instability suggests that even the Bounty bar cannot provide lasting satisfaction.
Barney Samson

Chapter 3. Community on the Desert Island: The New Yorker Cartoons and Gilligan’s Island

Abstract
This chapter analyses cartoons from The New Yorker magazine (1957) and the sitcom Gilligan’s Island (1964–1967). These comedic texts present ambivalent desert islands and ambiguous attitudes to liquid modernity. In the cartoons, humour is located in an understanding of identity as communal, which is incongruous on an uninhabited island. However, satirising solid modern behaviours in the ‘remote’ space of the desert island effectively endorses them in their ‘appropriate’ location of urban society. This ideological position is complicated by the cartoons’ representation of eroticism. Gilligan’s Island represents a spatially destabilised desert island that posits and then undermines a sense of coherent identity. A solid modern preoccupation with community is the structuring impulse of individual selfhood but is compromised by gestures towards underdetermined identity.
Barney Samson

Chapter 4. Repression and Seduction: The Blue Lagoon and Bounty Chocolate on Screen

Abstract
This chapter explores desert island representations in the film The Blue Lagoon (1980) and in 1980s television advertising for Bounty chocolate. The Blue Lagoon depicts a desert island that is figuratively both separate from and connected to ‘home.’ Pacific islanders are understood to be threatening antagonists but never appear, complicating the solid modern urge to control Otherness. The protagonists choose to stay on the island but their subsequent rescue recuperates solid modern priorities. Bounty chocolate’s television advertising represents whole, monadic islands evocative of coherent identity formation. Such stable identity is attainable via the consumption of a Bounty, which is equated with desirable female bodies. The adverts prioritise male subjectivity, but compromise this as the male supervision of female bodies is challenged.
Barney Samson

Chapter 5. Mobility, Instantaneity and the Desert Island: Cast Away and Lost

Abstract
This chapter considers the desert island settings of the film Cast Away (2000) and the TV series Lost (2004–2010). Each represents a tension between solid and liquid modernity, as described by Zygmunt Bauman. In Cast Away, Chuck Noland is a radically mobile agent of liquid modern repression. His relationship with a Wilson volleyball speaks to commodity fetishism, but exists alongside his continued preoccupation with repressive time. The film critiques repressive aspects of liquid modernity but endorses a life strategy that depends on those aspects. Lost sets up a desert island governed by repressive control, as abjected characters learn to conform to communal norms. The series’ ‘liquid cinematography’ and the island’s topological and temporal fluidity destabilise this solid modern paradigm, but it is ultimately reasserted.
Barney Samson

Chapter 6. Anxiety and Eroticism on the Desert Island: Dear Esther and Love Island

Abstract
This chapter argues that the 2013 video game Dear Esther and the reality television show Love Island (2015–present) constitute supreme representations of liquid modernity. The texts exemplify complementary aspects of liquid modernity: the underdetermination of contemporary identity and subjectivity, and seductive techniques of social control, structured by consumerism. In Dear Esther, the player-character inhabits a desert island without an avatar, antagonists or explicit aims. The interaction with space is confined to exploration. The game is articulated primarily by underdetermination: rather than constructing a strong subject position, Dear Esther models identity as being inescapably fluid. Love Island offers erotic pleasure, fragmenting and objectifying the human body. The show’s format prioritises choice and radical consumerism, constructing human relationships as unreliable, insecure and anxious.
Barney Samson

Backmatter

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