The Anne Frank Video Diary

© 2020 Anne Frank Stichting, photography Ray van der Bas.

Many of us in Europe are now in our second or third weeks of self-isolation. The internet being the internet, some commentators on Twitter have started to compare their experiences in quarantine to those of Holocaust refugee Anne Frank, who spent just over two years (25 months) hiding with her family in a small annex in Amsterdam. How, they ask, did she survive all this time shut up indoors, without even the internet to keep her entertained?

One response to this rhetorical question is that she wrote. The published version of Anne Frank’s experiences, The Diary of a Young Girl (In Dutch: Het Achterhuis [The Annex]), is an international bestseller, and the house she hid in is now a popular museum and heritage centre. In 2019 the Anne Frank House saw over 1.3 million visitors, and it has been the 3rd most visited Dutch museum for years. Another, grimmer answer to the question is that she didn’t survive at all: Anne Frank died in Auschwitz in 1945.

Anne Frank’s experiences in the annex are obviously very far removed from our current situation. But the Anne Frank House’s newest production is certainly interestingly timed as a result. The Anne Frank Video Diary is a 15-episode YouTube series, and follows the last five months of Frank’s time in the annex. The spoken language is Dutch (the same language Frank used in her diary), but there are subtitles German, English, Portuguese, and Spanish.

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‘Hugely thought-provoking and enlightening’: review of Gothic Remixed on Sublime Horror

The first review for Gothic Remixed is out on the culture blog Sublime Horror, and I am very excited! In his review Daniel Pietersen suggests that we ‘live in a time of remixes […where] everything seems unpleasantly familiar’. He then explores how Gothic Remixed intervenes in these discussions, highlighting the book’s key arguments and concluding: Gothic … Read more

Penny Dreadful: City of Angels and the ‘opposite’ of Gothic

There’s a new Penny Dreadful series on the horizon! A departure from the original 2014–2016 series in terms of setting and tone (and casting with one or two exceptions), City of Angels will take place in 1930s Los Angeles. Despite our reservations about the ending of Penny Dreadful season 3, many of us working in horror and the gothic have been excited about this new sequel series for months. And last week the first teaser trailer dropped:

The YouTube trailer page describes City of Angels as a ‘spiritual descendant of the original Penny Dreadful story set in Victorian-era London’. And all in all it feels very Penny Dreadful. Strong female protagonist a la Vanessa Ives? Meet Natalie Dormer’s character Magda, this time literally a demon (not just possessed by one). On-the-nose metaphors about humanity’s ‘inner monsters’? Check: in the teaser Magda explains how ‘all mankind needs to become the monster he truly is, is being told he can’. Visually spectacular supernatural period drama? The sets are lush and colourful, despite the weird sepia filter that’s been thrown over the whole show. Magda gets not one, not two, but six fabulous costume changes in the teaser, two with hats that I need immediately. I’m also excited to see a few Penny Dreadful actors back in new roles—in particular Rory Kinnear, whose performances I found some of the most moving in the original series.

More of this please.

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Now in Open Access: ‘Frankenfiction: monstrous adaptations and gothic histories in twenty-first-century remix culture’

Gothic Remixed sold out in the UK on the morning of its official publication. You can still order (and still use my 35% discount code GLR MP8), but will likely have to wait a while before your copy arrives!

While you wait for the book arrive back in stock (or at your local library), you might be pleased to know that the PhD thesis the book is based on has just gone Open Access. ‘Frankenfiction: monstrous adaptations and gothic histories in twenty-first-century remix culture’ is free to download from Cardiff University’s online research portal, ORCA. The thesis was supervised by Professor Ann Heilmann, and examined by Professor Catherine Spooner and Professor Anthony Mandal.

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Gothic Remixed Now Available!

I’m thrilled to announce the official publication of Gothic Remixed: Monster Mashups and Frankenfictions in 21st-Century Culture!

This book explores the boundaries and connections between contemporary remix and related modes, including adaptation, parody, the Gothic, Romanticism, and postmodernism. In it, I argue that popular remix creations are the ‘monsters’ of our age, lurking at the limits of responsible consumption and acceptable appropriation. Taking a multimedia approach, case studies range from novels like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and The Extraordinary Adventures of the Athena Club series, to television programmes such as Penny Dreadful, to popular visual artworks like Kevin J. Weir’s Flux Machine GIFs.

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Gothic Remixed: Coming 31 October 2019

It’s official! Gothic Remixed: Monster Mashups and Frankenfictions in 21st-Century Culture is now with Bloomsbury Academic’s production team, and will be coming to a bookshop near you in October. The book is already available to preorder at this link.

If you’re teaching or researching the Gothic, adaptation studies, or popular media, please do consider requesting Gothic Remixed for your library! Alternately, if you have deep pockets you can spring for a hardback edition of your very own (currently retailing at £76.50 on the Bloomsbury website). A paperback edition will hopefully follow shortly.

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“Does it Come with a Spear?” Commodity Activism, Plastic Representation, and Transmedia Story Strategies in Disney’s Star Wars: Forces of Destiny

Continuing on from my previous research on Star Wars (and other related activities), I’ve had an article published in a special issue of the open access journal Film Criticism. I write about the Forces of Destiny Star Wars series on YouTube, addressing the tensions between Disney’s presentation of this girl-focused arm of the Star Wars universe and its reception by fans and consumers. In particular, I look at the ‘Adventure figure’ line of toys marketed with the series, tracing its ‘plastic representation’ within the broader contexts of Star Wars transmedia, commodity activism, and paratextual erasure.

The article is open access and free to read—you can find it at this link. You can also read a short excerpt from the article below:

Few films are more iconic and widely recognized than Star Wars (1977).[1] Now an international franchise with a forty-year history and a multi-billion-dollar box office and merchandising legacy, Star Wars has become a global phenomenon. Amidst ever-intensifying waves of film and television content, transmedia tie-ins, and merchandising outreach, it has become common to speak of Star Wars as though it is a universal constant. Not only can it be found everywhere, the reasoning goes, it is also something that can be enjoyed together by people of diverse ages and backgrounds. As Rogue One (2016) reviewer Rohan Naahar writes for the Hindustan Times, “Star Wars is for everyone; every boy or girl who has ever looked up at the night sky and wondered if there are other worlds out there. It’s for every kid who has ever pretended to be a hero, saving the day, with his friends by his side. Star Wars belongs to us now.”[2] But what parts of the franchise are we talking about when we speak of Star Wars? And is it the franchise’s omnipresence that allows it to appeal to the kid—or the boy, as Naahar’s use of personal pronouns suggests—in everyone?

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Frankenfiction: The Book

This blog started in 2014 as a chronicle of my PhD research into Frankenfictions—books, films, television, and fine art that remix classic literature and historical documents in monstrous ways.

Now, four years on, I’m very excited to announce that I’ve just signed a contract with Bloomsbury Academic for my book Gothic Remixed: Monster Mashups and Frankenfictions in 21st-Century Culture. It should be out in hardback sometime in 2019, with a projected paperback release in 2021.

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American Gods: Visualising Christian Identity as Gothic in Contemporary America

This post was originally presented as a paper at the 2017 Gothic Bible Conference in Sheffield. It has been reproduced here with minor changes and corrections.

The hit television series American Gods (2017–present), created by Brian Fuller and Michael Green, and distributed by Starz and Amazon Prime, adapts Neil Gaiman’s 2001 novel of the same name. Both are fantastical narratives. In both the book and the television series, an agnostic named Shadow meets and begins working for an old man named Wednesday, who turns out to be more than he first seems (the Norse god Odin). With Wednesday, Shadow travels across America, stumbling into a war between old, immigrant gods and new, secular ones. All are personified in humanoid form—they are real people who feed on human belief. Without giving too much away, through his experiences Shadow eventually discovers the power of faith, and how it relates to his own identity as a mixed-race American.

WIRED Magazine suggested that Fuller and Green’s television reimagining of American Gods ‘gives “faithful adaptation” all-new meaning’. And the show does indeed manage to capture the wild, dark, and strangely reverent world of Gaiman’s novel. There are a few key differences that are especially interesting to examine in light of this conference, however. Specifically, where Gaiman’s novel is whimsical and fantastical, engaging primarily with pagan mythology and the heroic epic, as I will show, the television adaptation explicitly links itself both to contemporary visual Gothic, and to Christianity.

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What is Frankenfiction?

Image via Editorial Planeta

The remix, the mashup, and the reboot have come to dominate Western popular culture. These texts are the ‘monsters’ of our age—hybrid creations that lurk at the limits of responsible consumption and acceptable appropriation. Like monsters, mashups offer audiences the thrill of transgression in a safe and familiar format. And like other popular texts before them, they are often read by critics as a sign of the artistic and moral degeneration of contemporary culture.

With this context in mind, my research explores the boundaries and connections between contemporary remix culture and its Others (adaptation, parody, the Gothic, Romanticism, postmodernism). It often does so by examining remix culture’s most ‘monstrous’ and liminal texts: Frankenfictions, or commercial narratives that insert fantastical monsters into classic literature and popular historical contexts. In this definition, Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel Frankenstein serves as a touchstone, offering an ideal metaphor for appropriative creativity in the twenty-first century.

Frankenfiction includes direct appropriations of classic literature, like the bestselling Quirk Classics novels, but also literary-historical dramas like the Sky/Showtime TV series Penny Dreadful (2014–2016), the depiction of monsters through an historical aesthetic in Travis Louie’s photorealistic paintings, and much, much more. It is monstrous not only because of the fantastical monsters it contains, but because of its position on the boundary between remix and more established modes of appropriation. Too engaged with tradition for some, and not traditional enough for others, Frankenfiction is a bestselling genre that nevertheless remains peripheral to critical discussions of remix. 

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