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Über dieses Buch

Why do screen narratives remain so different in an age of convergence and globalisation that many think is blurring distinctions? This collection attempts to answer this question using examples drawn from a range of media, from Hollywood franchises to digital comics, and a range of countries, from the United States to Japan



Introduction: The Contexts of Contemporary Screen Narratives: Medium, National, Institutional and Technological Specificities

Introduction: The Contexts of Contemporary Screen Narratives: Medium, National, Institutional and Technological Specificities

The emergence of digital modes of content creation and distribution, combined with the domestication of Internet technology and digital consumption devices, has led to the digital integration of the production and circulation of narrative content across media. An accompanying industrial shift towards conglomeration has led to horizontally integrated media corporations disseminating narrative content globally across myriad media platforms. These technological/industrial conditions have provided new means for content producers and distributors to construct and circulate screen narratives. These conditions have also given audiences greater control over the framing of screen narratives and enabled them to more easily generate and disseminate their own screen narrative content. Media studies commonly refers to these conditions as the era of media convergence.1 This book investigates the relationship between screen narratives and varied contexts of production, circulation and reception within the media convergence era, charting the ramifications for storytelling across a range of different media and national and institutional sites. It considers the manner in which contemporary media conditions:
  • shape the events, characters and settings of screen narrative story-worlds;
  • inform screen narrative modes of storyworld presentation (such as particular visual styles and plot structures); and
  • influence — via processes of paratextual framing — the potential interpretations of screen narratives.
Anthony N. Smith, Roberta Pearson



1. Super Mario Seriality: Nintendo’s Narratives and Audience Targeting within the Video Game Console Industry

At the conclusion of Super Mario Bros. (1986), the archetypal side-scrolling platform game, the player-character Mario confronts his arch-nemesis Bowser for the first time. The demonic monster Bowser — King of the Koopa — awaits Mario upon a drawbridge spanning a lava sea. The player’s game-long narrative goal is Mario’s freeing of Princess Peach by defeating Bowser, her captor;1 the player must guide Mario beneath the Koopa King, who hops up and down hurling axes, having him then leap upon a larger glowing axe hovering at the opposite end of the drawbridge. Successful completion of this task results in the disintegration of the drawbridge and Bowser’s descent into the lava below upon which Mario enters an adjacent room where Peach awaits. Screen text conveys her highness’ gratitude — ‘Thank you Mario!’, confirming that the hero’s ‘quest is over’.
Anthony N. Smith

2. The Muddle Earth Journey: Brand Consistency and Cross-Media Intertextuality in Game Adaptation

In reviewing the current state of adaptation studies in 2008, Thomas Leitch argued that many scholars — even those claiming to have overcome the age of moralistic comparative novel-to-film studies that value fidelity above all else — have found it very difficult to escape the grip of literary status and the fixation with novel-to-film adaptations. Leitch argues that they should instead focus on Bakhtinian intertextuality, according to which ‘every text — adaptation or not — is influenced by a series of previous texts from which it could not help borrowing’.1 Says Leitch: ‘[D]espite the best efforts of […] virtually every other theorist of adaptation past and present, the field is still haunted by the notion that adaptations ought to be faithful to their ostensible source texts.’2 Two main and connected conclusions can be drawn from Leitch’s review: (1) ‘there is no such thing as a single source for any adaptation’; and, (2) scholars should no longer engage in value-comparative studies that persistently devalue adaptations into newer media by negatively comparing their narratives and aesthetics with typically highbrow literature source texts.3 In what follows, I take up two of Leitch’s suggested avenues of inquiry for a reinvigorated adaptation studies, investigating questions about ‘different kinds of fidelity’ raised by ‘adaptations of other sorts of texts than canonical literary works’ and about ‘relations between adaptation and other intertextual modes’.4
Claudio Pires Franco

3. Distortions in Spacetime: Emergent Narrative Practices in Comics’ Transition from Print to Screen

The medium of comics is undergoing a transition, as digital display becomes an increasingly popular mode of consumption. This is a transition that has been underway since before the general adoption of the World Wide Web and recent developments in portable display devices have advanced the pace of this change. Smartphones and tablet computers now provide a single platform that supports a wide range of visual, narrative and interactive media. As comics gradually leave behind the trappings of print and embrace those of the screen, it becomes necessary to re-examine the fundamental storytelling practices of the medium in the context of these changes.
Daniel Merlin Goodbrey

4. Lengthy Interactions with Hideous Men: Walter White and the Serial Poetics of Television Anti-Heroes

In his collection of short stories Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, David Foster Wallace creates a resonant implication between the two adjectives in his title — if we’re going to spend time in the company of hideous men, it best be brief.1 Most fictional television abides by this implication, where distasteful and unpleasant characters are treated briefly, whether as unsympathetic figures on an anthology programme like The Twilight Zone (CBS, 1959–1964) or single-episode villains emerging in the course of a procedural’s police investigation or medical case. But as I argue elsewhere, serial television is distinguished by the long timeframes it creates, and thus any interaction with hideous men found in an ongoing series’ regular cast will last quite awhile.2 One common trait shared by many contemporary serialised primetime programmes is the prominence of unsympathetic, morally questionable or villainous men at their narrative centre, a trend typically identified by the character type of the anti-hero. The rise of serial television’s anti-heroes raises a key question: why would we want to subject ourselves to lengthy interactions with such hideous men?3
Jason Mittell

5. It’s a Branded New World: The Influence of State Policy upon Contemporary Italian Film Narrative

This chapter explores the influence of Italy’s recently introduced law on tax credit and product placement upon national film production. This law, passed in 2010, but enforced in 2011, encourages non-media companies to invest in Italian film production using the twofold incentives of tax credit and product placement. In Italy product placement, which consists of ‘incorporating brands in movies in return for money or for some promotional or other consideration’, has been legal since 2004.1 However, this chapter argues that the association of product placement with tax credit, which has no equivalent in other EU states to date, increases the financial involvement of private companies in film production in a way that enhances commercial influence upon the narrative and aesthetic features of the films. The chapter verifies this hypothesis through the analysis of a case study, the 2012 comedy The Commander and the Stork (Il Comandante e la Cicogna — hereafter The Commander), directed by Italian film-maker Silvio Soldini. In accordance with the new law, Lumière & Co., the Milan-based production company that made the movie, signed a partnership with Italian company ILLVA Saronno, allowing the famous Disaronno liqueur brand to star in one of the film’s scenes and the company to benefit from tax credit on its investment.2 This film is a particularly interesting case study not only because it is one of the very first (and, as will be discussed, still very few) implementations of the law, but also because of its production and artistic profile.
Gloria Dagnino

6. Memento in Mumbai: ‘A Few More Songs and a Lot More Ass Kicking’

On 25 December 2008, Geetha Arts India released Ghajini, a Hindi language remake of a Tamil film of the same name from 2005. Directed by A.R. Murugadoss, the film closely replicates much of the plot from the earlier film and is representative of a broader trend within the Hindi language industry for producing remakes of South Indian cinema. What is especially significant with Ghajini, however, is that the Tamil film was itself an unacknowledged remake of the American independent film Memento (2000). Borrowing many of the narrative elements from director Christopher Nolan’s film, yet adapting them to fit with the dominant narrative structure of commercial Indian cinema, the case study of the Hindi Ghajini presented in this chapter offers a privileged insight into the adaptation of narrative forms across different national and institutional contexts.
Iain Robert Smith

7. A Case of Identity: Sherlock, Elementary and Their National Broadcasting Systems

In March 2014, the BBC announced the closure of its youth oriented digital channel BBC3. Director General Tony Hall provided an explanation for this radical and unprecedented decision in the popular tabloid newspaper, The Daily Mirror.
Roberta Pearson

Circulation and Reception


8. Storyselling and Storykilling: Affirmational/Transformational Discourses of Television Narrative

Storytelling in the digital age has undoubtedly become a significant topic of academic debate. What has been dubbed ‘transmedia storytelling’ involves the extension of franchises’ hyperdiegetic worlds across media.1 But such extensions have not only traversed media, they have also moved across and between what can be understood as production discourse and fan discourse, with producers aiming to reward loyal fans via niche transmedia paratexts, even while such fan-oriented strategies have often remained subtextual or absent in the primary television text.2 And while the rise of ‘viewer-created paratexts’ has perhaps promised a democratisation of media-related meaning-making, such promise has been far from borne out.3 As Elizabeth Minkel puts it, writing for the New Statesman’s website: ‘However fluid … once-impermeable fan-creator barriers may appear, television is not actually a democracy.’4
Matt Hills

9. Whistle While You Work: Branding, Critical Reception and Pixar’s Production Culture

The sheer quantity of media articles that have been written about Pixar demonstrate a commonly recurring desire on the part of journalists and film critics to explain the studio’s track record of critical and commercial successes. Writers have variously justified their coverage in terms of going in search of the company’s ‘secret’, ‘how they do it’, or ‘what makes [them] so special’.1 Particularly interesting is the frequency with which the writers look beyond the studio’s films, and even the key creative staff that make them, and instead focus on Pixar’s headquarters in Emeryville, Northern California.2 As William Taylor and Polly LaBarre of The New York Times succinctly put it in 2006, ‘The secret to the success of Pixar Animation Studios is its utterly distinctive approach to the workplace.’3 Bill Capodagli and Lynn Jackson also hint at this idea in their introduction to Innovate the Pixar Way, describing the organisation as ‘a childlike storytelling ‘playground’ … a place that enables storytellers to create tales of friends and foes who share great adventures in enchanting lands’.4 Note the choice of language here: Pixar is not merely a studio, company, or group of people, but a place.
Richard McCulloch

10. Hidden in Plain Sight: UK Promotion, Exhibition and Reception of Contemporary French Film Narrative

Heavily dominated by Hollywood imports, Britain has long been considered a difficult market for foreign-language films. Despite representing more than 35 per cent of the films released in Britain between 2002 and 2009, subtitled films only gathered 3 per cent of the box-office takings.1 The limited appeal of foreign-language films has often been attributed to ‘the almost pathological British fear of subtitles’, yet the availability of films, determined by their distribution pattern, and their discursive surround equally shape their box-office limitations.2 In 2001, the success of a few subtitled films at the British box office led both film critics and industry members alike to announce the dawn of a new era, a drastic change in the way British audiences would watch subtitled films. Critic Ian Johns claimed that films such as Amélie/Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain (2001) and Brotherhood of the Wolf/Le Pacte des loups (2001) heralded a new trend in French cinema. Arguing that such ‘genre-blending films’ were causing British audiences to reassess their expectations.3 Philippe Rostain, head of international sales for the French film company Gaumont SA, similarly claimed in 2001 that French cinema had finally ‘freed itself from its arthouse ghetto’, while French critic Elizabeth Lequeret claimed that a new era of French genre film was about to revolutionise French cinema’s image.4
Cécile Renaud

11. Serial Narrative Exports: US Television Drama in Europe

In the last decade media convergence and the development of online media have radically altered the operations of television industries on a global scale. A technology-led reconfiguration of television has provided new opportunities for media companies and consumers while also transforming traditional broadcasting logics. Alternative modes of content circulation have resulted in fast, instantaneous distribution that fosters a ‘culture of speed’ where immediate availability and control over media content have become part of digital consumer culture.1 In the United States, the industry has had to mediate between the availability of new technologies, which afford new opportunities to circulate content, and the demands of pre-existing industrial structures and logics.2 While digital convergence has challenged the old ways of producing and experiencing television, this mediation between new technological possibilities and traditional industrial logics has led to a degree of continuity and industrial stability, as exemplified by television multi-platforming. The ensemble of distribution, marketing, content design and other broadcasting practices adopted by producers and distributors to develop and circulate televisual products across multiple media, television multiplatforming takes advantages of new technologies to enhance new business models and services but centres on traditional broadcast content, such as hour long serial dramas.
Alessandro Catania

12. Multimedia Muppets: Narrative in ‘Ancillary’ Franchise Texts

In May of 2011 a trailer appeared online for the ‘film’ Green with Envy (2011). In the first half of the trailer, the narrator signals the genre of the film, which appears to be a typical romantic comedy, introduces Jason Segel and Amy Adams as playing the romantic leads, then stumbles over Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy, becoming more than a bit confused by their presence. Jason Segel ‘stops’ the trailer, turning to the camera and saying, ‘Wait, wait, wait, stop. Are there Muppets in this movie?’ This trailer is then revealed to be the first preview for the 2011 film The Muppets.
Aaron Calbreath-Frasieur


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