Great post, Chovonne! I think this is a great case study to match Meredith’s introduction to the concept of #BlackTwitter and black digital space. I think the really interesting thread is the idea that these space are layered on top of existing space— so, listening to The Read with headphones in may be a way to transform spaces that are not hospitable to black bodies.
Apologies for the tardy reply but I just saw this. Your comment really resonated with me. The Ood remind me of the theoretical insights of Adilufu Nama’s _Black Space: Imagining Race in Science Fiction Film _. He sees the structured absence of blackness as a signature feature of the genre (10). But he maintains that while, for the most part, “black characters are absent from SF cinema, … their omission does not eliminate blackness as a source of anxiety. Churning just below the narrative surface of many SF films, blackness is symbolically present (11). The Ood are not phenotypically black but they rendered so through their close metaphorical association with slavery.
Ellen, thanks. But I think Barthes’ work-text distinction offers us the answer. Sure, a student who has only read a review hasn’t read the *work*, but for them the review is the *text*. Part of this stems, though, from my own interest in analyzing textuality, which is to understand what work texts do in society. Thus, my interest is in what version(s) of the text are picked up by popular culture and audiences, an interest which ultimately doesn’t mind too much whether the audience is reading it “wrong”, “incorrectly,” and/or insufficiently. Take Twilight, for instance, or The Hobbit, both of which mean a variety of things to popular culture, and serve certain roles and purposes, many of which stem from trailers and hype by large number of “audiences” who aren’t watching the films or reading the books, nor will they ever do so. It could be easy to write those readings off as “wrong,” but if thousands or millions of people are creating meanings about those films based on those paratexts, then the text for a great many people is entirely paratextually-generated. The work itself will often enjoy special treatment and a special place at the top of a value hierarchy, but only for some viewers.
Hi Ellen, Thanks for this great post! I get the impression that Díaz is working with not one, but two, primary texts with Oscar Wao. As he explains it:
“The footnotes are there for a number of reasons; primarily, to create a double narrative. The footnotes, which are in the lower frequencies, challenge the main text, which is the higher narrative. The footnotes are like the voice of the jester, contesting the proclamations of the king.”
Given this, would you agree that the annotations on Rap Genius—while they certainly lead the reader on a centrifugal pathway away from the primary text—seem to function in a more traditional paratextual capacity than the actual footnotes that comprise the book’s alternate narrative?
Thanks for this intriguing post, Angelina! Reading this, I was reminded of James Van Der Beek’s recent role on the unfortunately named Don’t Trust the B–- in Apartment 23. Appearing as a fictionalized version of himself, Van Der Beek gives a tongue-in-cheek performance that is constructed around a similar form of nostalgic 90s intertextuality. Much like the Daria trailer, Van Der Beek’s performance is fun because viewers are invited to peel back layers of meaning by examining and reevaluating their initial understanding of, and experiences with, the original text (Dawson’s Creek).
Also, in reference to Ellen’s comment, I agree that people seem quite interested in short, easily digested, “snippets of cultural pleasure.” Yet, while long-form reading may be diminishing, it is interesting to note how the average running times for feature films seems to have ballooned (Wolf of Wall Street: 180 minutes, American Hustle: 138 minutes, The Dark Knight Rises: 165 minutes, etc.). Could it be that these two-hour plus running times serve as a a new marker of medium specificity in a world where such distinctions are breaking down more each day?
Interesting cultural reversal that’s being highlighted in the posts this week. The paratext comes into being before the text is created—if it ever will be. Could it be that in this age of sensory overload people are more interested in short snippets of cultural pleasure, just as long-form reading is diminishing? Yet Angelina suggests that nostalgic pleasure in this fake paratext is spawning desire (and demand?) for the missing longer text—exactly how an ad is supposed to work! In Jonathan’s example, the paratext doesn’t function well as an ad—he’s had enough with the snippet of the non-existent text. For Angelina the creative fake trailer perhaps inspires more artistic creativity, not necessarily a desire to make more money which is the motivation of real trailers.
I wonder in what sense these fake trailers can be understood as simulacra of simulacra: not only has the referent disappeared, it never even existed.
Love your work, Jonathan, but like Johannes, I’d urge a bit more refining of categories here. It’s great that you’re pushing us to reconfigure what we mean by “text,” and provocatively suggesting that text and paratext are one. But can we argue, for example, that students who read only the reviews know the literary text? Yes, those short takes constitute THEIR textual knowledge, but don’t we have to distinguish varieties of our overarching term “text” in these cases? (I like that you at least call it ‘a’ text at the end.) But after all, your own careful reading of Genette revealed the “Orientalist spectacle” that you might not know about through internet summaries or reviews—that primary text is necessary. Even if we hate paratexts like the C Me Dance trailer, don’t we need someone to do the work of analyzing the whole messy text to be accurate about what’s going on there? Yes, the trailer “creates a text that has meaning for [you],” but can this be conflated with the movie text? You, as a poaching reader, say “basta” after viewing the trailer; great example of how readers in fact create texts. But we still need a term for the species of text that is the movie—that for you is a text not actualized, a potentiality.
I agree that some paratexts are not really paratexts, so linked are they to the primary text. I’ve argued this about Junot Diaz’s footnotes in The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, despite their position at the bottom of the page. Here I would agree, as you say, the paratext has lost its function as a paratext but now this has occurred because of substitution—it was enough for you. But trailers, although strongly linked rhetorically and on multiple levels to films, are still separate, albeit interlinked entities.
So let’s work on some subcategories of the term “text”to analyze our way around this minefield, while still keeping your point about the overlapping textuality in your actualization of this trailer text. “Anterior text” or “pre-text” are iffy because chronological distinctions are being effaced in both consumption and production. “Primary” perhaps? You could argue that primary and secondary are reversed here for you as a viewer. Let’s find some terms that help us to distinguish levels of textual interaction, rather than the increasingly amorphous word “text.”
Taylor, while perhaps my comment here is less about paratexts than about parody, following your comment that “I am troubled by how easily images of race, class, and gender diversity can become the unintended, but nevertheless salient targets of ridicule in a parody such as this,” I thought of another funny but troubling trailer parody “for every Oscar winning movie ever” (if we add disability and sexuality to the list of targets of ridicule): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rbhrz1-4hN4
Thanks Johannes. I love the idea of seeing how much a trailer can carry (more than an elephant, dare I ask?). And what they can’t carry. This all makes me think too of the wonderful Onion News Network piece about the planned adaptation of the Iron Man trailer into a full, feature-length film
Great post, Johannes! I was struck by how much our examples and analyses complemented each other, and my post will link back to yours and reinforce your point about the multiple intertextualities within the fake trailer genre.
Can we talk about the fake trailer genre yet?