Recent Comments

Jonathan Gray

I must admit to being at first deeply disappointed by the character. What I saw immediately was a very tired stereotype of an East Asian male: small and physically weak, effeminate, without sex appeal, coded as a geek, and there for comic relief. Given how parochial American TV often is, it seemed a shame that one of its few non-American characters was going to be a William Hung caracature, in other words.

I’m still conflicted by the character. On one hand, he’s easily one of the more likeable figures, and this likeability reduces his “foreignness,” Otherness, and even turns his “geekdom” into something of a strength. In a storyworld where genetic superiority and being a hero seems otherwise limited to Americans, he’s an important exception, especially since all signs point to him leading this Justice League of America and Japan. On the other hand, it’s a sad sign of the poor state of television’s faith in its audience’s ability to embrace foreign characters that the two Japanese characters need to be the comic relief (or that, for instance, for all their similar fleshing out after-the-fact, Lost’s Sayid and Jin need to be introduced as an Iraqi torturer and a Korean gangster respectively).

Avi—I haven’t seen the show, so could you explain what you mean by Fey’s character serving to forestall critical conversation? It seems like Fey’s character, as an insider, would be very well placed to represent a critical voice on the industry logics as represented by Baldwin’s character; who would know better how corporate ownership shapes our media than someone working within that system? So, while the character doesn’t represent external/public influence on media, it doesn’t preclude the articulation of these kinds of critiques, and may make them more persuasive because of the character’s ethos (but it doesn’t mean that this will actually happen, just that it could). It does seem likely that being represented as an ‘over-educated feminist’ may undermine her character’s ethos, at least for certain segments of the audience.

Avi Santo

Great clip and comment, Jason! Building on both your comment and Kathleen’s response, it also seems to me that not only does 30 Rock open up multiple vectors for product pitching, ranging from the blatant to the cynical/ironic, but it also closes down critical conversation about these strategies by constructing the nay-saying voice in the series — Tina Fey’s — as both an industry insider (let the industry take care of these problems without external supervision), and a fumbling “over-educated feminist” (to quote Baldwin) whose critical edge is either used in service of industry logics or is undermined by her own bumblings.

Avi Santo

Great clip and conversation starter, Henry!

I agree that Hiro’s gleeful embrace of this comic book device is rewarding to oft maligned fans, it seems to me that this is largely put forward within the series as A) a marketing strategy for promoting the Heroes commercial intertext as a pleasurable blurring of mediated and lived experiences and B) re-aligns the brand with a particular authorial voice even as it encourages fan engagement with the intertext. In the same way that Morrison’s authorship was key to reviving the Animal Man brand, the 9th Wonders reference calls attention to the roles played by the show’s producers (Dennis Hammer, Bryan Fuller) in setting up a mystery for fans to solve.

I much prefer Alan Moore’s take on the Supreme comic book (itself a rip off of the Superman brand) that investigates the ways that the superhero brand is constantly being rewritten to negotiate shifting cultural and institutional anxieties over the commodification of heroism. In that run, Supreme’s return to earth is interrupted by a visit to the Supremeverse, where he encounters previous incarnations of himself and realizes that his own “history” is merely a tweaking of the formula to meet changing social norms and industry constructions of the superhero audience. Now, if Hiro could recognize the way his identity is socially constructed, I’d be all over that.

I noticed future Hiro has a slight resemblance to Neal Stephenson’s lead in ‘Snow Crash.’ He too is named Hiro (last name - Protagonist). His avatar in the Metaverse wears a black leather kimono - the western equivalent? Black leather duster. Hiro Protagonist also, in the real world, carries a katana and wakizashi, which you can just spot on Heroes’ future Hiro. He’s not just an amalgam of past Western archetypes; he’s got pieces of near-future science fiction all over him.

Kathleen Fitzpatrick

This reminds me quite a lot of something that was being said in one of the panels on feminism and contemporary television at Flow: that watching ironically gives “elite” viewers a kind of permission to enjoy texts of which they’d ordinarily be quite critical. Here, our knowingness about the corporate machinations behind product placement allows us to find humor in what turns out not to be an ironic commentary on product placement at all, but instead product placement itself. So can our ironic distance from the scene of advertising really protect us, or does it in fact open us to the corporate ideologies that the network is so blatantly (but humorously!) promoting?

Kathleen Fitzpatrick

I was interested in the same moment that Jason notes, and particularly in the ways that future-Hiro, by becoming a superhero, has come to conform to western ideals of masculinity, not only replacing his nerdy glasses with a soul patch, but also losing his geeky, hyper self-presentation and leaving in its place an Eastwood-like laconicness. Is it in the nature of superheroes that they must become western tough guys?

Jason Mittell

I definitely agree that Hiro feels like a truly original TV character. But I had a feeling of loss & disappointment in the “flash-foward” moment when he returns from the future to warn Peter - in his future “Hero” persona, he (will have?) lost his otaku charm, his sense of wonder, and even his Japanese-ness. It was almost posited as Hiro must shed what makes him unique to become a Hero…