This study offers insights into the motif of monstrous corporality in a transmedia environment, through the vampire and zombie characters. Different narratives of corporeal transformation surround us constantly. On one hand, discourses of self-improvement in late modernity (Giddens 1991/2008) and ‘makeover culture’ (Johansson, 2006; 2012; Miller, 2008; Weber, 2009) demand a ‘creation of self’ through change and development, often in relation to physical appearance and bodily traits. On the other hand, numerous narratives of monstrosity and bodily change through destruction are also evident. This study takes on this double focus on corporality, against the backdrop of a late modern mediascape that has enabled people to imagine lives and possibilities different from their own through electronic mediation (Appadurai, 1996). As narratives now move between media platforms, new dimensions are brought to the imaginary, as different platforms interact differently with audiences.
The aim of the study is to examine monstrous corporality in popular culture both in relation to media texts and audience practices through analyzes of representation, consumption and performance. The study examines medial and corporeal transformation through: concrete bodily change (the monstrous body), shifts between media platforms (transmedia) as well as the transmission of affect between media material and viewer (embodied spectatorship). These dimensions are explored in four empirical chapters, which examine two television series (True Blood and The Walking Dead) through textual analyses, the promotion of these series, audience participation (in online fora) and also participatory practices (Live action role play and zombie walks) through focus group interviews.
The results indicate that the theme of monstrous corporeal change in TB and TWD reflects corporeal change in late modernity in several ways. Both transformations are focused on ‘before’ and ‘after’ and change of the monstrous body is connected to particular traits or parts of the body, which are also prominent in makeover culture narratives, such as skin, teeth and weight (appetite). The televisual narrative offers representations of bodily interiors and bodily harm that affect the viewers in a physical way, through an embodied spectatorship. The analyses of transmedia environments connected to the series indicate that the promotion of the programs use dimensions that emphasize the corporeal address, by bridging the gap between diegetic and actual reality. This is done through media environments (posters, websites and the like), and by introducing diegetic elements as actual, tangible objects in the actual reality of potential viewers. The analyses of posts on televisionwithoutpity.com show that participants use forum discussions as strategies to prolong and widen the media experience, and share it with others. Interviews with larpers and participants in zombie walks indicate that practices that stage the monstrous, also function as deepened embodied narrative experiences. Performances such as larps and zombie walks are interpreted as both conscious acts, and as strategies to handle unconscious performative (Butler, 1991/2006) dimensions of late modernity. Taken together, the zombie and vampire embody the pressures, risks and paradoxes connected to late modern makeover culture, and the mediated form they are presented through, tie them closer to those who engage in narratives about them.