Heroisme | Heroism

Volume 20 Juni 2020

Redaktører | Issue editors

Tem Frank Andersen, Aalborg Universitet
Jørgen Riber Christensen, Aalborg Universitet
Dr Craig smith, Canterbury Christ Church University

Heroisme | Heroism

With the general theme of Heroism, this issue of Academic Quarter presents articles that each addresses this concept, ancient and contemporary. The first, introductory article discusses different aspects of heroes and heroism and it offers a survey of approaches to this subject. The approaches of the article are all from a cultural, theoretical perspective. The issue is then organised under three headings. The first section The heroic aesthetics of popular culture includes articles about films: “Fans feeling a disturbance in the Force. Star Wars and the power of paratexts”, “Superheroes or Group of Heroes? The Avengers as Multiple Protagonist Superhero Cinema” and “Self-Sacrifice and the Transformation of the Hero”. The latter article includes a discussion of comics, and the following articles “What is so super about motion comics”, “Precarious Lines Heroism and hyper-capability 90s Nightwing comics” are about hero-related comics. These articles are to be followed by two articles about games, “Faderen som helt i computerspil” (“The Father as hero in computer games”) and “’What you Remember is the Illusion’: The Deluded Hero, New Mythology, and Nostalgia in Final Fantasy VII”. One article with its own section is about Marketing. This article “Heroes of Nordic Masculinity in Consumer Culture Mythology” analyses gender in marketing communication. The final section has the heading Ideology and discourse. It contains an article with a philosophical angle, “Heltens teleologiske potentiale – om nytænkning og mønsterbrud med helten som drivkraft” (The teleological potential of the hero – on innovation and breaks of patterns with the hero as the driving force), and two with historical content, “Representation of Everyday Heroes in German Post-war Newsreels “ and “Agnes Slott-Møller og heroisk nostalgi” (The heroic nostalgia of Agnes Slott-Møller). The final article of the issue, “System-Warriors – om Sundhedsvæsenets helte i patientperspektiv” (System-Warriors – about the heroes of the health care system from the patients’ perspective) presents a discourse analysis of heroism in the Danish health care system.

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We don’t need another hero, do we?
Researching heroism from a cultural perspective
Tem Frank Andersen & Jørgen Riber Christensen

Keywords : heroism, mythological hero, superheroes, reflexive heroism, besieged heroism

This article addresses different aspects of heroes and heroism and it offers an introductory analysis of approaches to heroism, which may be relevant for the articles in this issue of Academic Quarter. These approaches are all from a culturally theoretical perspective. They encompass a discussion of an ontological need for heroes. The sections of the article are also about mythological heroism, the hero’s quest as a narrative principle, heroes as historical agents and modern heroism. The latter is also of a reflexive and critical nature and under the heading of “the besieged hero”, it includes a discussion of the problematic figure of the superhero as found in blockbuster movies.

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DOI : https://doi.org/10.5278/ojs.academicquarter.vi20.5845

Populærkultur & æstetik |

Popular culture & aesthetics

Fans feeling a disturbance in the Force.
Star Wars and the power of paratexts
Claus Toft-Nielsen

Keywords : Star Wars, paratexts, gender, fandom, franchise, merchandise

Ever since Disney acquired Lucasfilm in 2012, the Star Wars franchise has been widely praised for its updated take on and inclusion of diversity (extending in particular to women), having moved away from its image as purely a boys’ club to include everyone. While this may seem true at first glance if we regard the blockbuster films of the Star Wars franchise, such a sentiment proves to be more problematic when we consider the merchandise accompanying the films. This article starts by reading the gender diversity of the Star Wars franchise as “plastic representation” (Warner 2017), branching out to include Star Wars merchandise as paratexts (Genette 1997, Gray 2010, Scott, 2017). Reading Star Wars toys, action figures and play sets as culturally significant objects and markers of fan identity (Geraghtly 2014), I argue that these paratexts serve to bolster gendered franchising and to work as “fanagagement” (Hills 2010) to promote certain types of fan engagement in Star Wars, while at the same time policing others.

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DOI : https://doi.org/10.5278/ojs.academicquarter.vi20.5846

Superheroes or Group of Heroes?
The Avengers as Multiple Protagonist Superhero Cinema
Christoffer Bagger

Keywords : The Avengers, superheroes, multiple protagonist cinema,film analysis, Marvel

Heroes have often been thought of as singular individuals standing apart from the rest of the world, and the current superheroes are no exception. Even though their comic book counterparts exist in complex social networks of supporting characters and related colorful heroes, cinematic adaptations often “kowtow” to single-hero worship (Burke 2008, 101), isolating the hero from a larger narrative world and networks of characters. This changed with the success The Avengers in. This film and series which it was a part of – The Marvel Cinematic Universe - quickly became a trendsetter within the larger media landscape. In this article, I present a close formal analysis of The Avengers and contextualize it within the larger narrative of the cinematic universe. I argue that the film belongs to the genre of multiple protagonist cinema, yet in a form that straddles the line between the two usual variations of that form of cinema. Multiple protagonist cinema is usually either a form often reserved for non-mainstream, experimental narratives in one extreme or it is just a slight variation on pre-existing mainstream Hollywood formulas in the other extreme. The Avengers finds middle ground between these extremes, and manages to do so with special consideration to the superhero genre.

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DOI : https://doi.org/10.5278/ojs.academicquarter.vi20.5847

Self-Sacrifice and the Transformation of the Hero
Dr Craig Smith

Keywords : heroism, self-sacrifice, sacrifice, superhero, journey

The literary notion of a hero is often steeped in great deeds, such as vanquishing the monster, completing Herculean tasks, or protecting the innocent from harm. The medium of the comic book also provides numerous tales of self-sacrifice that add weight to the legitimacy of a hero and their contribution to a particular society or cause. This article will consider certain themes within the self-sacrificing hero narrative in order to gain further insight into this phenomenon and will draw inspiration from Greek and Norse mythology as well as the Superhero genre within comics and film. Finally, this article will consider the cyclical nature of the hero’s journey and the importance of continual heroic rebirth in sustaining their legacy for new generations of comic book readers and film audiences. What does their sacrifice mean when the hero and even their universe is reborn at a later date?

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DOI : https://doi.org/10.5278/ojs.academicquarter.vi20.5848

What is so super about motion comics?
Exploring the potential of motion comics about comic book superheroes and heroes of popular culture
Tem Frank Andersen & Peter Vistisen

Keywords : Comic book superheroes, motion comics, animation,adaptation, transmedia storytelling

This article explores motion comics through theoretical review of relevant academic work and unique analysis of three sampled motion comic cases. The article intends to illuminate and answer the research question: What is the quality of superhero motion comics if we consider both the medium aesthetics and the opportunities which digital technology provide for a cultural practice exploring new or other ways to tell stories about superheroes and characters in popular culture. We explore this question through an analysis of a series of past and contemporary motion comic productions, pro duced both from professional media producers, as well as fan-made motion comic productions*.

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DOI : https://doi.org/10.5278/ojs.academicquarter.vi20.5849

Precarious Lines. Heroism and hyper-capability 90s Nightwing comics
Charlotte Johanne Fabricius

Keywords : superheroes, masculinity, able-bodiedness, comics, orientation

This article discusses the run of the comics series Nightwing (Dixon/McDaniel 1996-2009) with particular focus on how hegemonic masculinity and bodily capability are linked and tied to a normative concept of heroism. Through the visual style of the comics and the use of antagonists, the comics rehabilitate the excess and precarity of the hero, Nightwing, by contrasting him to more extreme forms of masculinity. Although the comics show Nightwing’s privilege and ability to be precarious and a source of anxiety and heightened visual tension, the subversive potentials remain unrealized. By relegating excessive, disabled, and working-class forms of masculinity to queered and villainized characters, the comics uphold a nuanced but ultimately normative heroic ideal.

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DOI : https://doi.org/10.5278/ojs.academicquarter.vi20.5850

Faderen som helt i computerspil
Thessa Jensen & Søren Hommel Østerlund

Keywords :Fatherhood, masculinity, videogames, inclusivity, identity

In the last few years, a new type of hero has emerged in computer games: the father, who has sole responsibility for a child. In this article, three action-adventure computer games are analyzed to explore how fatherhood extends the notion of masculinity and the concept of heroism. Interestingly, these computer games seem to soften and extend existing notion of masculinity. In addition, the games do not appear to create the kind of backlash as other attempts to create inclusive and representative characters in relation to different genders and sexualities.

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DOI : https://doi.org/10.5278/ojs.academicquarter.vi20.5851

“What you Remember is the Illusion”.
The Deluded Hero, New Mythology, and Nostalgia in Final Fantasy VII
David Stevenson

Keywords : video game, cultural studies, JRPG, narrative, genre

Typically, critical writing on the topic has emphasised the hero / protagonist figure as the primary vector of player agency. However, the hero(es) of Final Fantasy VII (Finaru Fantashii VII, 1998) exhibit psychological depth in which party characters confront their self-delusion. This is particularly apt with Cloud who experiences an introspective reckoning while comatose that prefigures the game’s denouement. Beyond the narrative function of self-discovery, this essay argues that this process exists to reconcile the player with the JRPG ‘world’, a pan-mythological territory often reliant on signs, symbols and archetypes as exposition of an intricate and alien place. Through close reading of FFVII’s aesthetic and gameplay design, I aim to demonstrate that the protagonist is the nexus of player discovery, psychological characterisation and ‘lore’, and the significance of this model in the reframing and reinvention of the past common to the JRPG genre.

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DOI : https://doi.org/10.5278/ojs.academicquarter.vi20.5852


Heroes of Nordic Masculinity in Consumer Culture Mythology
Lars Pynt Andersen

Keywords : Gendered Heroism, Nordic Masculinity, Commercialisation of Heroism, Consumer Culture, Advertising

Consumer culture offers an increasingly important context for studying how heroism constructs important discursive positions and boundaries of the lifeworld of consumers. When heroism is used in advertising in order to connect brands with mythologies of national identity or the culturally ‘appropriate’ expression of ‘heroic masculinity’, it has real consequences for the choices afforded males of that culture (Avery 2012, Gentry and Harrison 2010; Molander et al 2019).

Recent trends in popular culture has highlighted ‘Nordicness’ as a theoretical perspective for understanding consumer culture (Østergaard et al 2014). The hero imagery and mythology in Nordic consumer culture seem to offer culturally specific masculine hero-mythologies: the stay-at-home father (on paternal leave), the nurturing-rebel-action hero, the ironic-anti-hero. Two very distinct examples of advertising are analysed and compared to unpack the Nordic Masculine Hero (and Anti-Hero).

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DOI : https://doi.org/10.5278/ojs.academicquarter.vi20.5853

Ideologi & diskurs | Ideology & discourse

(Re-)presentation of Everyday Heroes in German Post-war Newsreels (West-East)
Dr Sigrun Lehnert

Keywords : Newsreels, Germany, 1950s/1960s, Cold War, Memory

In the post-war period, life was challenging and required people to stand up for the community. In the two German states, however, different views of community were propagated by the media. In the 1950s and 1960s, film coverage of the cinema newsreels offered moving images for people who had no access to television. Reports underscored by music and commentary allowed political interpretations. In the GDR, persons and groups were honoured by the narrative of the newsreel Der Augenzeuge: for example, when students and administrative staff helped the farmers during harvest time. In this way, a< ‘heroic sense of community’ was transferred to all ‘labourers’ in the community. In the West German newsreels, heroes took action in traffic or at work in dicey situations. They are role models too, but they are not meant to instigate the communities’ imitation but serve education. The article aims to show the patterns and intentions of the filmic presentation of ‘normal people’ as heroes in Germany.

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DOI : https://doi.org/10.5278/ojs.academicquarter.vi20.5854

Agnes Slott-Møller og heroisk nostalgi
Jørgen Riber Christensen

Keywords : Agnes Slott-Møller, heroisme, nostalgi, kvindelige kunstnere, folkeviser

“Agnes Slott-Møller and Heroic Nostalgia” addresses this Danish symbolist artist’s production of medieval heroic subjects and their place and function in her contemporary political and ideological context. Her monumental oil paintings depict Danish medieval kings and heroes, and her extensive writings advocate the role of the heroic national leader as a necessity to shape history and to defend the independence of the national Danish state. In the article, her conception of the hero, king and poet, is compared with Thomas Carlyle’s ideas and with Georg Brandes’ aristocratic radicalism. The research question is whether her nostalgia for the Middle Ages, which includes numerous paintings with folk ballads motifs, is simply backward looking and escapist; but in the light of theories about nostalgia (Boym, Smith & Campbell) it is argued that her aesthetic form of nostalgia is radical and an expression of her political commitment as a woman artist to her contemporary world.

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DOI : https://doi.org/10.5278/ojs.academicquarter.vi20.5855

Heltens teleologiske potentiale.
Om nytænkning og mønsterbrud med helten som drivkraft
Anita Holm Riis

Keywords : pattern break, life change, hermeneutics, teleology, heroes

Heroes can be of many types, and they can have many functions. A common trait that they all share, however, is that they represent an ideal for their followers. Ideals can serve as a driving force in people’s lives and help foster individual development. The current article examines the teleological potential of heroes and its impact on individuals’ life goals. The perspective of the article is philosophical, focussing predominantly on Gadamer’s philosophical hermeneutics. From this perspective, the paper explores how heroes can impact their followers to make life-changing decisions. The article therefore includes an analysis of how heroes affect the interplay between their followers’ past and future. The questions of history and culture, including socialization and social heritage, also form an important part of the discussion.

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DOI : https://doi.org/10.5278/ojs.academicquarter.vi20.5856

’De største forhindringer ligger meget tit i os selv’.
En diskursanalytisk belysning af patientrepræsentantens rolle som filantropisk helt og fredelig systemkriger i sundhedsvæsenet
Lisbeth Kappelgaard

Keywords : #the heroic patient, #health communication, #the patient as partner, #discourse studies, #warranting voices

Since the 1950s, the number of hospitals in Denmark has fallen from approx. 150 to approx. 30 and the average number of days for hospitalized patients has been reduced from 20 to 4 days. At the same time, the number of medical specialties has increased. Thus, the patient’s contact with the healthcare system becomes both more volatile and more complex. To reduce the patient’s experience of complexity patient involvement has become an increasingly important political topic. With theoretical and methodological inspiration from discourse studies and studies of heroism, the article sheets light on how the articulated use of ‘warranting voices’, categorizations and interpretive repertoires construct a specific patient-behavior and -agency in ways which has significant situational and character wise similarities with the construction of heroes.

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DOI : https://doi.org/10.5278/ojs.academicquarter.vi20.5857