Archive for the ‘ uni ’ Category

Do transmedia narrative extensions of ‘Fringe’ add or detract from enjoyment?

Image source: Created and produced by J. J. Abrams, Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, Fringe began airing in 2008 on FOX and has recently been picked up for a fourth season (FOX, 2011).

This discussion of narrative extensions will use US TV serial Fringe (Abrams et al, 2008) as a case study. Following the trend for shows that have “tightly interwoven plots, extended story arcs, recurring emphasis on backstory and program history” (Jenkins,2006a) and now nearing the end of its successful third season, the primary text (Fiske, 1987 in Askwith, 2007),  Fringe, has numerous narrative extensions, both official and grassroots, and both secondary and tertiary texts (Fiske, 1987 in Askwith, 2007), of which a detailed list can be found in Appendix II. The focus here will be on the two official comic series, Imagine the Impossibilities and Tales from the Fringe and the main Fringe website, FOX, and the grassroots sites Fringe Television and Fringepedia. For the purposes of this discussion, audience/viewers (‘fans’) will be referred to in the following binary distinction: ‘passive’ audiences that wish only to receive the ur-text (Jenkins, 2007a) —or mothership (Toschi, 2009)— to the exclusion of any extensions and ‘active’ audiences for whom the ur-text becomes insufficient to sate their ‘hunger’ for the storyworld. The argument will conclude that, despite the points of detraction raised and having addressed the needs of passive fans, for active fans narrative extensions function to enhance enjoyment, by enabling both solitary extratextual pleasure and by engagement with a multi-functional community of people intellectually and socioemotionally (Baym, 1998 in Jenkins, n.d.) invested in the same storyworld.

Active fans can engage with a range of program extensions (see Jenkins, 2007b) that broadly serve to fulfil fans’ needs for two things: storyworld knowledge and storyworld community, that is, a sense of “social and civic involvement… more immersive, enjoyable sense of entertainment.” (Ems, 2007:4). Storyworld knowledge refers to the desire for the acquisition, distribution and discussion of canon material, including reviews, speculation on motivations and future occurrences with a community of other interested individuals. Murray (n.d., in Jenkins, 2009b) calls this the ‘encyclopedia impulse’ and the resulting knowledge pools are what Levy terms ‘cosmopedias’ (1997, in Jenkins n.d.). These activities often take place within predisposed/dedicated areas, both official (FOX, Fringe Division) and grassroots (Fringe Television and Fringepedia to name just the most comprehensive). Such areas and the people who frequent them are referred to as communities and these communities are lived largely online, where there are very low barriers to participation (Jenkins, 2006c) for anyone likely to watch Fringe. Communities arise from these shared knowledge pools of individuals and enable engagement with the text in the above ways, plus as enabling participation in various subtextual games (e.g. ‘eastereggs’ like the commercial-glyph decoding (see Appendix I and II), hidden glyph and Observer spotting and, retrospectively, next episode clues). Many of the sites link to each other, e.g. Fringe Television has a comprehensive link list at the bottom of the ‘Fringe eastereggs’ page to both unofficial and official sites (including the alternate reality games via and, they host Fringe Benefits Inc podcasts, the Fringe Wiki tab is a direct link to Fringepedia and so on. This can be compared to FlashForward, a show whose narrative extensions were mainly notable by their absence, much to the disappointment of fans who have come to expect transmedia extensions (Jenkins, 2009a).

Operating on the principle of worldbuilding (Freeman, 2008, in Toschi, 2009) narrative extensions of Fringe add to the enjoyment of fans by allowing them to not only immerse themselves in a complex storyworld by offering supplementary information/activities, but also to ruminate on possible directions the plot may take and motivations the characters may have. Sometimes this speculation germinates fanfiction. “Fan speculation may […] seem to be simply a deciphering of the aired material, but increasingly, speculation involves fans in the production of new fantasies” (Jenkins, n.d.) which may serve to fill perceived gaps via the tertiary texts (Fiske, 1987 in Askwith, 2007) that are  fanfiction (Jenkins, 2007a). alone has 2093 stories based in the Fringe universe(s).

The main offline extension of Fringe is the comicbooks, which contribute an insightful, though not essential, window into the backstory of some of the main characters (Walter Bishop and William Bell), but also standalone stories about events that form ‘the pattern’ happening to otherwise unmet characters. Jenkins (2006b) believes comics can be used to fill in gaps in a story and to expand the timeline and the Fringe comics fulfil this function, showing that they are a contribution —not a leech— of the ur-text.

Thus far there is no evidence that fan action (e.g. discussion boards or fanfiction) has altered the content of the TV show, however it has had an impact on the show’s longevity. Grassroots movement ‘the Fringe Movement’ was born in response to FOX’s decision to move the show to the ‘Friday Night Death Slot’. Dependent on ratings for survival, Fringe needed to keep up viewer numbers so the various grassroots Fringe sites began a campaign (Jenkins, n.d.) to promote the show and do just that (The Fringe Movement, 2011). Extensions, however, do have an effect on the interpretation of the ur-text content. The comics allow for a new understanding of the relationship between Bishop and Bell and the online discourse seems to offer almost as many different interpretations of the ur-text as there are people with opinions of it.

Jenkins (n.d.) states that participatory culture is forming around horizontally integrated media that encourages “the flow of images, ideas and narratives across multiple media channels and demand more active modes of spectatorship” (emphasis added). Jenkins also believes that there is no single ur-text in a transmedia narrative and that the story cannot be fully experienced without consuming all segments (2007a, 2009d). This certainly is a problem if (passive) viewers just want to watch the show, as Bordwell (in Jenkins, 2009c) contends. With the exception of the comics, you do have to watch the show to enjoy the extensions, but as Ross (2008, in Jenkins, 2008) asserts, with Fringe “you don’t have to go online to enjoy the show”. In this respect there is no need to seek out extensions to enjoy the Fringe story and as long as etiquette is followed with regard to signposting spoilers (Gray and Mittell, 2007), passive audiences do not need to engage with extensions at all if they do not wish to, thus extensions are not a detraction from enjoyment. The exception to this was the much slated ‘Twitter TV experiment’, where a live Twitter debate regarding the program was displayed on the bottom of the screen as the episode was broadcast. Audiences found this annoying and distracting and subsequently the experiment was dropped (Eaton, 2009).

Extensions such as merchandise can generally just be seen to capitalise off the success of the show, though in some instances the term ‘profit’ may be going a little far as oftentimes e.g. desktop wallpapers are free to download or the result of engaging with other extensions, e.g. the hidden glyphs game on the FOX site. Profit may be accrued by the inclusion on DVDs of ‘bonus’ material such as behind-the-scenes footage and blooper reels, which do not contribute to the actual narrative being told, but do contribute to the knowledge pool of fans and thus their holistic experience.

In conclusion, narrative extensions are engaged with by fans who are excited/intrigued by the storyworld and desire either to expand their knowledge of a world or to share their knowledge, feelings and thoughts regarding the narrative with a community of other fans, to fill in gaps in the narrative (either by consuming more canon material or by creating it, as in fanfiction). Viewers who do not want to use narrative extensions do not have to to enjoy the story and can easily avoid extensions, including spoilers, so long as etiquette is not breached and they are clearly signposted.

And now… time to go out on a song:

© Geo. S. Willis

To cite this post in Harvard style:

Willis, G. S. (22nd April 2011) Do transmedia narrative extensions of ‘Fringe’ add or detract from enjoyment?, The Third Word. Available from:


Abrams, J. J., Kurtzman, A. & Orci, R. (Creators and Executive Producers) (2008) Fringe [television series], Bad Robot Productions, Warner Bros. Televison, Connecticut and Vancouver, FOX Broadcasting.

Askwith, I. (2007) Televison 2.0: Reconceptualising TV as an Engaging Medium, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Available from: Accessed: 24th March 2011.

Eaton K. (4th September 2009) Fox’s Twitter TV Experiment Tweets Its Way to Epic Failure, Fast Company. Available from: Accessed 11th March 2011.

Ems, L. (2007) Television and Interactivity: Patterns and Categories in the United States, T585 Interactivity and New Media Research Paper 1. Available from: Accessed: 24th March 2011. stories on Fringe. Available from: Accessed 28th March 2011.

FRINGEonFOX (25th March 2011) Fox renews “Fringe” For Fourth Season – in Both Universes. Available from: Accessed 25th March 2011.

The Fringe Movement (2011) Project Fringe Friday. Available from: Accessed 26th March 2011.

FringeTelevision (2008) Fringe Radio Spots – Find The Pattern, FringeTelevision. Available from: Accessed 27th March 2011.

FringeTelevision (2008) Two New Fringe Radio Ads, FringeTelevision. Available from: Accessed 27th March 2011.

Gray, J. & Mittell, J. (2007) Speculation on Spoilers: Lost Fandom, Narrative Consumption and Rethinking Textuality, Particip@tions. Vol. 4, Issue 1. Available from: Accessed 18th March 2011.

Jenkins, H. (23rd August 2006b) Comics and Convergence Part Two, Confessions of an Aca-Fan. Available from: Accessed: 22nd March 2011.

Jenkins, H. (6th September 2006a) Television Goes Multiplatform, Confessions of an Aca-Fan Available from: Accessed: 22nd March 2011.

Jenkins, H. (20th October 2006c) Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century (Part One), Confessions of an Aca-Fan Available from:

Jenkins, H. (22nd March 2007a) Transmedia Storytelling 101, Confessions of an Aca-Fan. Available from:

Jenkins, H. (2nd October 2007b) Announcing Futures of Entertainment, Confessions of an Aca-Fan. Available from: Accessed: 22nd March 2011.

Jenkins, H. (11th October 2008) Inviting Our Participation: An Interview with Sharon Marie Ross (Part Two), Confessions of an Aca-Fan Available from: Accessed: 22nd March 2011.

Jenkins, H. (13th September 2009c) The Aesthetics of Transmedia: In Response to David Bordwell (Part Two), Confessions of an Aca-Fan. Available from: Accessed: 18nd March 2011.

Jenkins, H. (16th September 2009d) The Aesthetics of Transmedia: In Response to David Bordwell (Part One), Confessions of an Aca-Fan. Available from: Accessed: 18nd March 2011.

Jenkins, H. (12th December 2009a) The Revenge of the Origami Unicorn: Seven Principles of Transmedia Storytelling (Well, Two, Actually. Five More on Friday), Confessions of an Aca-Fan. Available from: Accessed: 22nd March 2011.

Jenkins, H. (12th December 2009b) Revenge of the Origami Unicorn: The Remaining Four Principles of Transmedia Storytelling, Confessions of an Aca-Fan. Available from: Accessed: 22nd March 2011.

Jenkins, H. (n.d.) Interactive Audiences? The ‘Collective Intelligence’ of Media Fans, Publications. Available from: Accessed 24th March 2011.

Toschi, A. (2009) The Entertainment Revolution: Does Transmedia Storytelling Really Enhance the Audience Experience? Accessed 22nd March 2011.


Appendix I – Glyph decoder

Appendix II – expanded list of extensions

Main Fox website ( includes:

  • previews/trailers/promos
  • character/cast profiles
  • picture and clip galleries
  • plus other information that fills out the background to the story such as
    • Tales From the Fringe web comic – monthly 6-issue limited edition.
    • Fringe 101 for both universes (‘Over Here’/‘the Blue universe’ and ‘Over There’/‘the Red universe’/ the ‘Altiverse’),
    • Alt. Universe Articles that have to be unlocked using the glyph code cipher (Appendix I) and are news articles from the Altiverse, e.g. regarding JFK’s actions in the UN, of which he is a current member,
    • Fringe Files which is an interactive application enabling UGC [EXPAND ON THIS],
    • Science of Fringe in the form of downloadable lesson plans pertinent to each episode,
    • Fringe Community;
    • hidden elements game where you have 60 seconds to locate all the glyphs in the picture to unlock exclusive wallpapers;

Secondary official extensions include:

  • the Massive Dynamic (MD) website alternative reality game (ARG). Massive Dynamic is the fictitious biomedical research company that serves as antagonist for the first season. At time of writing, the website has an employee access point (which currently denies all access attempts) and a careers section where fans can submit their resumes.
  • (showing ‘case file 0091’, fake footage of ‘sheep circles’;
  • a website where on completion of a puzzle, users can download an exclusive screensaver and twitter, MySpace and Blogger skins.
  • comics Imagine the Impossibilities (monthly 6-issue limited edition, prequel to season 1) and Tales from the Fringe (monthly 6-issue limited edition, between seasons 2 and 3)
  • web comics (monthly 6-issue limited edition, Tales from the Fringe between season 2 and season 3 (
  • a website run by the creative team for fan interaction with them and among themselves (Fringe Division);
  • Twitter accounts: @FRINGEonFOX (main); @JWFRINGE & @JPFRINGE (producers); @LabDad1, @FringeLabRat, @PeterBishop1 (characters) that are used for that are used for promotion and interaction with fans, including encouragement for fans to play the ‘spot the Observer’ game.
  • Facebook:  ( used for promotion,  interaction with fans and also to encourage fans to play the ‘spot the Observer’ game.
  • MySpace: . Largely unused currently.
  • YouTube:
  • Spot the Observer game – the Observer, occasionally a supporting character, is hidden in every episode that he is not featured in and viewers attempt to spot him. Screenshots of his sightings are posted on fans sites such as FringeTelevision.
  • Glyphs code game – The glyph code is a simple substitution cipher. The decoder (Appendix I) is available from Fringepedia. The glyphs are shown immediately prior to the commercial breaks in the original broadcast and together spell out a word that is pertinent to the theme of the particular episode.
  • Eastereggs (collectively displayed at:
    • Next episode clues, e.g. the periodic table in the background of episode 315, with episode 316 being titled Osmium.
    • Show glyphs hidden in the back- or foreground of a scene in the episode. These, again are posted on fans sites such as FringeTelevision.
    • merchandise (,default,sc.html?src=wfrfans ) such as posters, desktop wallpapers, mugs
    • marketing materials
      • prelaunch radio ads
        • These enigmatic ads, did not actually name the show, but the repeated phrase ‘find the pattern’ served to intrigue listeners who would then search for the phrase online and find one of two identical websites (see Appendix II) that played trailers for the show, introduced the glyphs and the comics  (FringeTelevision, 2008)).  Through these paratexts, audiences got a taste of what was to come and were actively invited to participate (Jenkins, n.d.).
  • prelaunch websites
    • smart/iPhone apps (e.g. glyph decoders).

Grassroots/non-official extensions:

Fully-dedicated websites

Websites with dedicated Fringe sections


Patriarchy in ‘The Color Purple’ – critiquing the critique

In describing The Color Purple (1982) as a ‘womanist’ fiction, thereby following the ethic of “women who love women —and sometimes individual men— sexually and/or nonsexually” and “feminists of colour” (Walker, 1983 in Berlant, 1988), Alice Walker effectively declares her work a critique on patriarchy and racism, of which the former will be the focus here. The ways in which Walker exacts her critique centre on several subversions and a proposed alternative model. Primarily, the subversions involve the breaking of silence through language, Black Vernacular English (BVE), laughter and song (Tucker, 1988; Hite, 1983; Abbandonato, 1991) and the use of the feminine, personal narrative forms of quilting and epistolary (Selzer, 1995; Berlant, 1988; Abbandonato, 1991). Additional subversions include the usurping of the conventional hetero-normative love story (Abbandonato, 1991; Hite, 1991) and showing how men can also suffer under patriarchy by being forced into a gender role to the exclusion of what they may prefer, for example Albert’s youthful enjoyment of sewing (247).  As contrasted with the grim beginnings of the story, Walker also critiques patriarchy implicitly by offering us a happy ending couched in a redefined, alternative view of how the world could be. This alternative model centres on the linguistic reappropriation of female anatomy and sexual desire (Abbandonato, 1991; Hite, 1991); the ‘disgendering’ and decentralising of God (Abbandonato, 1991; Hite, 1991); and how male acceptance of the fluidity of gender roles ultimately brings happiness and balance (Selzer, 1995; Hite, 1983). This discussion will balance these factors against the contentions of critics that the critique is intrinsically flawed and will conclude in Walker’s favour.

Hite argues that Walker uses the “Afro-American motif of ‘finding a voice’… to decentre patriarchal authority”, allowing women to alter meanings through “articulating and appropriating the dominant discourse” (1983:265). Celie starts the novel by erasing herself from the present[/-tense] when she writes ‘I am’, and subsequently attempts to build herself up from this “site of negation”, a burden shared by all women who try to forge an identity noncompliant with the cultural scripts of gender and sexuality entrenched in patriarchy and manifested through a man-made language (Abbandonato, 1991).

Reaffirming what Tucker calls “language as power” (1988:82) and “[a]ware that ‘the master’s tools can never dismantle the master’s house’ (Lorde, 1999, in Abbandonato (1991:1108), Walker succeeds in offering a different view of the world in part through Celie’s rejection of Standard English (SE). Despite Darlene’s advisement to adopt the ‘proper’ mode of speech (194), Celie finds her voice and her self-worth whilst still writing her letters and ‘speaking’ in BVE. According to linguistic relativity, the language we use shapes our perception of the world (Whorf, 1956), so for Celie, talking in SE means that “pretty soon it feel like [she] can’t think” (194). Of course, SE is also an allegory for patriarchy, both of which she ultimately rejects, reflecting “only a fool would want you to talk in a way that feel peculiar to your mind” (195).This non-conformity shows her resistant position outside the dominant system. Furthermore, “Celie’s vitality is privileged over Nettie’s dreary correctness” Abbandonato (1991:1108) and thus SE’s position as linguistic exemplar is challenged.

Redefining female sexual anatomy (“shifting emphasis from lack or hole of patriarchal representation,” Hite (1983)) permitting female sexual pleasure (Shug’s redefinition of the word ‘virgin’ (Hite, 1983)) and re-envisioning a genderless, colourless, pantheistic God who “love all them feelings” (176) are all done linguistically and collaboratively between women —Celie and Shug— and threaten “patriarchal control over women’s bodies” (Hite, 1983:226) and minds. This collaboration is symptomatic of the novel’s ‘quilting’ narrative, achieved via the collaborative epistolary of Nettie and Celie. The story is the synthesis of many voices —not just one— Walker is merely the ‘medium’ (262). This is a firm rejection of the patriarchal view of the author as godlike, single source of all information and meaning (Abbandonato, 1991:1108).

bell hooks, for example, cxritcises The Color Purple for its emphasis on gender issues over racial ones believing that the focus on sexual oppression damages the racial agenda of the slave narrative tradition it is clearly drawing from (1990, in Selzer, 1991). Considering how pervasive inter-racial issues are in the novel, this criticism may be damning on a racial front, but it serves as an affirmation of the critique of patriarchy. This is not to say, however, that there are no detractions from the critique. Harris found little to applaud in the novel at all, likening it to a compendium of “political IOUs” (1984:160), but while the novel does address a lot of salient and controversial issues, they do not serve to weaken the gender critique, in fact, as Berlant (1988) points out, in some instances the racial issues serve to enhance/reinforce the gender issues, such as the lynching/rape parallel. Harris, however, damns the gender critique along with the racial one. Firstly, she criticises the use of a male narrative model to critique a male system,

“Celie will break her bonds and take symbolic vengeance on those who will attempt to hurt her… as other heroes triumph over the forces that attempt to destroy them in their youth… The fabulist/fairy-tale mold [sic] of the novel is ultimately incongruous with… its message…” (1984:159-60).

While it is clear to see the typical hero story in Celie’s, rather than condemning the use of a male form for the transmission of a feminist message, it can be understood as another subversion – a male form used inside the female form or indeed as a fusion of the two.

Secondly, Harris argues that ‘between the lines’ the novel affirms that Celie’s (and by extension all women’s) “… patience and long-suffering… passivity… silence in the face of, if not actual allegiance to, cruelty… secrecy concerning violence and violation…” (Harris, 1984:160) will lead to a happy ending, essentially reiterating the demand for female silence inherent in patriarchy. Harris argues that Sofia is “beaten, imprisoned and nearly driven insane precisely because of her strength” (1984:157), which effectively conveys the message ‘woe betide women who stand up for themselves’; Sofia may be alive and reunited with her family by the novels’ close, but she is far worn down. Harris believes this inaction destroys the critique from the inside out, but what action could Celie have successfully taken until she had support and somewhere to go? When these criteria are met, she does act. Harris is also critical of the African sections of the book. However, they actually serve to highlight women’s inequalities across cultures, for example being denied education. Furthermore, that Nettie reaches the same conclusions in Africa— about things such as God— as Celie does in America also reinforces Walker’s critique.

Inversely, does The Color Purple go too far the other way in portraying a totally matriarchal society? After all, there is only one example of a ‘good’ (and unchanged) man who exists under the new regime, Sofia’s brother-in-law Jack. As Harris points out, “…all the bad guys are dead or converted to womanist philosophy.” Really, though, that is the point: the only way for the oppressed to be happy is to eradicate all the oppressors or convert them. Moreover, by presenting a fairy-tale element to the final Edenic (Hite, 1983) utopia where everyone is happy Walker emphasises the difference between the patriarchal status quo and her new vision, thus enhancing the critique.

From the beginning of the story where patriarchy’s pervasive, quotidian oppression of both women and of men is shown to keep everyone by-and-large miserable, to the ending with a re-envisioned, redefined world in which the characters are happy, The Color Purple successfully critiques patriarchy and shows how language can be as equally the instrument of freedom as it has been the instrument of captivity.

© Geo. S. Willis

To cite this post in Harvard style:

Willis, G. S. (2011) Patriarchy in ‘The Color Purple’ – Critiquing the Critique, The Third Word. Available from:


Abbandonato, L. (1991) “A View From ‘Elsewhere’”: Subversive Sexuality and the Rewriting of the Heroine in The Color Purple, PMLA, Vol. 160, NO. 5 (October 1991), pp. 1106-1115. Available from: Accessed 19th January 2011.

Berlant, L. (1988) Race, Gender and Nation in “The Color Purple”, Critical Inquiry, Vol. 4, No. 4, (Summer, 1988), pp. 831-859. Available from: Accessed 19th February 2011.

Harris, T. (1984) On The Color Purple, Stereotypes and Silence, Black American Literature Forum, Vol. 18, No. 4 (Winter, 1984), pp. 155-161. Available from: Accessed: 19th January 2011.

Hite, M. (1989) Romance,, Marginality, Matrilineage: Alice Walker’s “The Color Purple” and Zora Neale Hurston’s “Their Eyes Were Watching God”, NOVEL: A Forum on Fiction, Vol. 22, No. 3 (Spring 1989), pp. 257-273. Available from: Accessed 19th January 2011.

Selzer, L. (1995) Race and Domesticity in The Color Purple, African American Review, Vol. 29, No, 1 (Spring 1995), pp. 67-82. Available from: Accessed 19th January 2011.

Tucker, L. (1988) Alice Walker’s The Color Purple: Emergent Woman, Emergent Text, Black American Literature Forum, Vol. 22, No. 1, Black Women Writers Issue (Spring, 1988), pp. 81-95. Available from: Accessed 19th February 2011.

Whorf, B. L. (1956) Language, thought and reality, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press. Available from: Accessed 25th February 2011.

Having your cake and being forced to spit it out

So recently I’ve been having a small meltdown —I mean, carefully and calmly considering my future and the futures of my course mates and in fact everyone facing the threshold of graduation. Here’s how that’s going:


So with creative media I’m entering a highly competitive field, I knew that. Cut throat, rat-race, etc., but seriously the future’s looking pretty bleak if I actually want to get to use my brain for something not mind-numbing or that I actually enjoy. What does that feel like? This:



So I got to thinking, who’s to blame for this quandary? Is it me, for being born a creative type?



Is it the world for not providing enough places for people like me to earn a living that’s above the poverty line without having to sell my soul? Or is it somewhere in between?

Now, call me ungrateful, I absolutely love my university course and I don’t think I’d have come to university to do anything else that was on offer (if you ignore that brief time I considered nursing or psychology)… BUT the thought occurs: why are there so many courses like this one? Why are so many universities churning out graduates for saturated markets? There seems to be a breakdown in logic here. If there aren’t the jobs to go to, why are there so many people being trained for the aforementioned nonexistent jobs? Surely there are fields that actually require people to work them. The answer, of course, is money. Everything comes down to money.




Perhaps (probably) I’m just a little chewed up that the carrot of an exciting career after uni has been dangled in front of me for three years, but now that it gets close to crunch time I can see the path becoming a very narrow iron funnel, not a great expanse of open pasture. Though in fairness no one ever said it would be easy, but I can’t help wondering does it really have to be this hard?



I had to go for 'easy' because I assure you you don't wanna know what came up when I searched for 'hard'.



I’m getting way ahead of myself here though, I have to graduate first. Plenty of work between now and then. Except that to hit the ground running when you graduate you have to do a lot of career-minded legwork while you’re still stuck in the quagmire of uni-minded brain grind. To say that this puts a little pressure on an already stretched temperament would be an understatement.



So that’s where I’m at. Less the grey hair and, regrettably, less the espresso IV.

But it’s okay, everything will be fine.

And in the meantime? There’s always retail therapy.




Consequences of success and failure in Caryl Churhcill’s Top Girls

Thompson Burk (1996) argues that the women in Top Girls “face a world in which the consequences of success are almost as frightening as those of failure”. Evaluate.

Set in part against the backdrop of Britain’s launch into individualistic enterprise culture and in part against the span of history, Top Girls is described by Churchill as a feminist socialist play (Lupu, 2003) and succinctly portrays the impasse that women have faced throughout the centuries. Churchill, in Brechtian style (Rabascall, 2000), avoids providing easy answers and actively prevents audience/reader identification with the characters, forcing us to analyse what is being presented. In evaluating Juli Thompson Burk’s (1993) claim, this essay will offer context to the play with reference to the norms of patriarchal societies, it will go on to assess what constitutes success or failure for the women in question and the consequences therein and will subsequently conclude in the affirmative.

Want to read the rest of the essay? Go here :):-

“Night Trick”


This is my first crack at writing New Media fiction / digital fiction / hypertext fiction / hyperlink fiction or whatever you choose to call it. I used to create it.


STANDF1RST Online – Geo’s Story

This is the link for an article I wrote for the third pilot edition of the new Bournemouth University newsmagazine, STANDF1RST Online. This went live yesterday and we’ve already had some fantastic responses from people.

Geo’s story.

Enjoy! :):-

Gender role critique in ‘Neuromancer’ [short version]

Set in a future that is arguably dystopian and not too far fetched, the representations of power, race and gender within William Gibson’s Neuromancer (1984) can be seen as a reflection on and critique of the state of those that were current at the time of writing. As LeBlanc (1997:2) points out, ‘cyberpunk, as a genre, it is not only about the near future— it is about our own time.’

Donna Haraway, whose Cyborg Manifesto (1991:2) posited that the ‘cyborg is a creature in a post-gender world’, also claimed that Neuromancer offers a radical critique of current gender roles. In arguing where Gibson is implicitly criticising, accepting or ambivalent in this respect, this essay will examine his representation of men and women and search for underlying bias in the characters’ descriptions and fates and their adherence or subversion of the gender roles assigned them.

Case is a traditional —if unwholesome— [anti-]hero that Gibson wants us to like. Someone who has paid harshly for a mistake, Case’s killing of three people in Chiba is glossed over as part of his downward spiral and not dwelt on. It is in relation to Molly, however, that differences emerge. In a reversal of traditional roles, Case is the passive, non-violent, controlled one, though he has to ‘will himself to passivity’ (p.72) to receive Molly’s simstim sensorium. Despite the contention that Molly is just a vehicle for him (Stockton, 1995), Gibson portrays the power and control as belonging to her.

The few named female characters include Molly, Linda Lee, 3Jane, Marlene, Michèle and (Flanagan, 2000) the Matrix itself. Women are depicted as sexual objects, from the ‘free’ Linda Lee and Molly to the ‘forced’ wives of the sarariman, who are required to wear sackcloth and sport artificial bruises (p.154) and the meat puppets who endure sexual (ab)use, though technology can cancel-out their conscious awareness of it.  Molly’s recollections of her ordeals are possibly a reminder that no matter how they try to fix it, actions such as these always leave a mark somewhere.

Conversely, the reader is meant to like Molly. She is portrayed as good, strong and independent. She is not a sexual trophy for Case, she is his bodyguard. This is a major contravention of the protection and safety role that men traditionally occupied in relation to women. Molly is the one who initiates the first sexual encounter with Case and in another transgression of generally accepted gender roles, it is Molly who leaves Case at the end of the novel.

She would not have the ability to truly break away from the female stereotype, however, without her body’s enhancements. To become a street samurai, a ‘working girl’ (p.41) she first had to be another kind of working girl, a meat puppet, in order to be able to afford the expensive surgery (Cavallaro, 2000). Molly sacrifices and utilizes her body in order to attain the power and status generally afforded only to men. This kind of trade-off had been the norm for decades at the time Gibson was writing.

All of these factors seem to suggest that Molly is a strong new type of woman, however she can be perceived as a cautionary tale, i.e. be like her and become isolated. Therefore, although Gibson seems to be criticising women’s various sexual or abused roles and celebrating their liberation from them, he nonetheless includes a corollary.

Overall, Gibson seems to criticise current roles such as the militaristic macho man and the sexually abused woman and encourages subversion in liked characters, i.e. Molly and Case. However, subversive but unliked characters are punished and as Kamioka notes, even though Gibson ‘hates’ the status quo, ‘his balancing act accepts [it] … as inevitable and unchangeable.’ (Suvin 1991 in Kamioka, 1998:65).

© 2009 Geo S. Willis

Full version and references

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