Bus tours versus active audiences

Tv tours were originally developed as a niche activity, this kind of tourism has become an important attraction, complete with specialty souvenirs, city maps and travel guides

says Stijn Reijnders in his article: ‘Places of the imagination: an ethnography of the TV detective tour.’


TV- and movie tours become more and more popular. In New York alone there are a lot of different tours as for instance: a Gossip Girl, Sex and the City, Sopranos, and a New York TV and Movie sites tour. While seeing all those TV- and movie tours it is almost as if there isn’t a sight in New York that is not been filmed for a television series or a movie. Are these tours a disneyfication of New York? The term disneyfication refers to a development whereby everything is presented as an attraction park. The whole city becomes an attraction park and it is all about consuming.

Because of this growing popularity we want to point out the relation between the popular TV and movie tours and the notions of lieux d’imagination and the public sphere in this blog. What is it that makes these tours so immensely popular and what are the alternatives to the typical buss tours?

To explain this popularity, Reijnders uses the concept of lieux d’imagination, a concept that was introduced by Pierre Nora in the mid 1980s. Lieux d’imagination (places of imagination), is building on the concept of lieux de memoir (places of memory). Lieux d’imagination focuses more on the active role of locations and local objects in the experience of media pilgrimages (which is how Sneijders calls these trips to visit film locations for example) and on the effects of media pilgrimages on the material organization of these locations.

Lieux d’imagination and lieux de memoir can be seen as physical points of reference. But why do people need physical points of reference for their imagination? According to Nora, modern western society is characterized by an obsession with the past. With the loosening of traditional social bonds, individuals and social groups are desperately in search of the roots of a shared identity. This has brought about a rich culture of memoralization. Lieux de memoire have an important role in this, as places, which can function as symbolic moorings in a turbulent world. This can be a real place, like a battlefield, but also certain songs or celebrations.

An alternative explanation can be found in the work of the cultural anthropologist John Caughey. According to Caughey, people live in two distinct worlds. On the one hand, they find themselves in the ‘real’ world, an empirically measurable reality, defined by time and place. On the other hand, there is a world of imagination, an interconnected complex of fantasies, daydreams and stories.

Once this distinction between the two worlds is made, this line is crossed all the time when it comes to film tourism, for example when it comes to act out scenes from the TV series on location. The audience can use certain attributes; sit in a chair for example. This re-enacting of fictional events in a real-life setting is also known as ‘ostension’.

So TV tourism has focussed on physical points of reference by creating TV and movie tours. The popularity of TV series becomes even clearer when we combine the notion of the lieux d’imagination with the public sphere model. The public sphere model described by David Croteau and William Hoynes is a democratic model in which not only the markets produce media, but the public does too in equal measure. Open media system and ownership of the media are broad, diversified and accessible by the public. A public sphere is equal, social and diverse because the public gets a big say in what’s made. This is because the dedication to places that play a part in cultural objects goes further than organized tours by companies. The fans play a really big part in dedicating certain places to events from a movie or a tv-show as the following examples will show.

The first example is in Cardiff wales, and it’s a memorial to the character of Ianto Jones from the TV-series Torchwood (2006-2011) (a spin off series from Doctor Who). Ianto Jones died in the third series of Torchwood in 2009. Being such a beloved character (he’s not even the main character) there was a big fan reaction to his death. A way of expressing the feelings towards his death, the fans put notes and artwork at the place where in the series was the door to the main base of Torchwood. The door exists in real life, but it leads to nothing interesting like an underground base. Still, fans completely covered the place in notes, poems and other things. The interesting thing is that it didn’t go away, and the door is still covered in fanmade material. This place was such an important spot to fans that even the management of the area the memorial was in, put an ‘official’ plaque there, remembering the fictional character of Ianto Jones. This shows that the fan reaction can transform an ordinary location into an extension of a TV-series and therefore producing a very interesting bit of media.

Another example is a spot next to the St. Bartholomew hospital in London. In the TV-series Sherlock, the titular character apparently kills himself by jumping off the hospital, in plain sight of his best friend, John Watson. This has caused such a shock in the fandom that fans massed to this spot, and plastered the nearby phone booth in messages. Here, fans re-enacted the death of Sherlock Holmes by lying in the exact spot the detective was in, sometimes even with fake blood and in costume. By enacting the spot, the fans activate it as something different than an ordinary piece of pavement but rather a place of ritual and remembrance. Also it is interesting to note that there has been no ‘official’ influence at the place. It’s all from the fans. Maybe this place can even be described as a milieux de memoire. A nonofficial space, it is not really an official sight yet. It is a process of something that is still in the making, something that is much more personal.

sherlock  sherlock1

In the case of the New York Film and TV tours, no democracy is used, whereas fans of the Sherlock series have an active audience that helps creating places, even memorials for characters. We find that the active audience is way more interesting than the bus tours that seem to be so popular nowadays. The active audiences bring a whole new dimension to the way television programs and movies are received.


– Anouk, Laurie, Sascha, Sjoerd


Cultural Imperialism on a smaller Scale: Dracula and Romania

Cultural Imperialism is described by Dal Yong Jin in his text A Critical Analysis of Cultural Imperialism (2011) as a cultural extension of power or authority over others with a view to domination, resulting from economic and technological gaps. In the text, he especially challenges the way in which the west is supposed to dominate the east culturally. To go against the cultural imperialism, he points out several developments such as the stronger local cultural industries, which make transnational regions more important than global ones (f.i. Bollywood, but also see The Daily Show which we talked about earlier), the arisal of pheripheral markets that have become independent of western dominance (f.i. South American telenovas) and active audiences that can show their resistance and have a different interpretation (f.i. fans of the series Firefly). In this short essay, we would like to point out that this might definitely be true in some cases, but that even within Europe the notion of ‘cultural dominance’ can take a whole other form on a smaller scale.

In his analysis of the commodification of the literary and cinematic figure of Count Dracula called The Dracula Dilemma: Tourism, Identity and the State in Romania (2012) Dracula specialist Duncan Light sketches the development of Dracula Tourism in Transylvania, Romania. As a starting point he considers the very well known novel Dracula (1847) by the English Bram Stoker. According to Light this novel is one of the best known but least read novels in contemporary western society. Throughout his research, this Dracula will be known as the ‘western’ Dracula, that is imposed upon the image of Romania as a country of superstition and backwardness. The identity of Romania derived in total from the representation of this literary figure.

At the same time, the Romanian state had its own ‘Dracula’ it rather wanted to be associated with. The cruel Vlad Tepeş, also known as Vlad the Impaler, wore the name Dracula as associated with the order of dragons and in the beginning did not have any bad connotations whatsoever. At first, confusion surrounded the Dracula’s. In the socialist era, the novel had been forbidden and little Romanians knew about this figure that the west associated them with. All efforts of the Romanian government to change the image of the west upon Romania, was in vain. The question remains whether the character of Count Dracula was modeled on Vlad the Impaler, but for this there is no clear evidence. Within the cultural discourse they are however considered the same.

The largest reason why the Romanian government wanted to get rid of the association with Count Dracula, was because of its last and most cruel socialist dictator Caecescu. By building a large palace in the heart of the city and not taking care of anything or anyone but himself, he got known to ‘suck the blood out of his own people quite literally’. He therefore unofficially got nicknamed ‘Dracula’. Untill this day, the association between Romania and Count Dracula is merely allowed and not commodified by the Romanian government. Tourists that visit Romania are therefore often disappointed as they want to see the country of Dracula, but get another one than they wished for.

This ‘dilemma’ of the Romanian state (not wanting economic gain ‘on expanse of history’) is part of a larger issue that you can see between south-eastern and western Europe. The parts in the southern east of Europe, often also referred to as the Balkans, are seen as backward, superstitious and immature. From Maria Tudorova until Andrew Hammond there has been a lot of research about the image western Europeans have about the southern east.

If we would consider Jin’s text, we can indeed see that his three arguments return here. The development of local industries has merely undermined the Romanian government. Local initiatives cater for western Dracula tourists anyway, merely allowed by the Romanian government. This is also a rising of the peripheral market, but then merely to cater for western tourists. The active audience Jin mentions can also be retrieved the west. In order to remain able to project their image of Bram Stoker’s Dracula and to view this country as backward, superstitious and, in short, Balkan.

In that case, it looks a bit like the American overtake of Manga as described in the text Did Manga Conquer America? (2014) by Casey Brienza. In this text, she describes the way Manga used to be seen as a cultural flow that offered Japan a way to have soft power over America. After the Second World War Japan aimed for a global production of cultural power to revitalize the national economy. She offers three different modes of production for Manga in America and finally concludes that Manga did not ‘conquer’ America, it is more likely to say America ‘conquered’ Manga and therefore Japanese soft power is not present whatsoever. The same could be said for the images of both Draculas in Romania. Bram Stoker’s Dracula, so frequently represented in literature and film, has not declined in popularity. On the contrary, it urged local Romanians to cater for the Dracula tourists.

As a side note we would briefly like to address the status of Sibiu as European Capital of Culture in 2007. Sibiu is situated at the eastern side of Romania and therefore gained European power to conduct soft power. On the website it states that

[t]o be named as Cultural Capital of Europe represents an unparalleled opportunity to assert the city’s identity on the European cultural map, as well as generating important media and tourism interest.

In another text Sibiu is considered very un-Romanian (un-Balkan), as it is clean, offers great sights and its people are Euro-optimists. One might wonder, the writer of the Wall Street article suggests, whether this is not the real Romania whereas the chaotic city of Bucharest and the poor villages in the Carpathian mountains are not. As it was known as ‘Hermannstadt’ for being in Saxon hands in the 11th century, it still has a Saxon (western) view upon it. The American writer takes a critical attitude against the notion of European Capital of Culture:

[f]or anyone unfamiliar with the European “Cultural Capital” designation, it’s one of those quaint bureaucratic honorifics for which Brussels is famous. Each year, the EU Council of Ministers chooses one or two cities to showcase its history as a way of parading Europe’s cultural diversity. Competition among the cities is keen, and the Council appears careful not to play favorites.

So even in the so said ‘integration’ of Romania in 2007, the feel of Europes’ most eastern nation should coincide with western European ideas.

For a more detailed report of the status of ‘European Cultural Capital’ we would refer you to this report: http://mpra.ub.uni-muenchen.de/22532/1/MPRA_paper_22532.pdf

Anouk, Sascha, Sjoerd, Laurie

The Creative Industries as an Instrument of Soft Power

A Japanese political framework in Western countries?


About one week ago, on Saturday the 4th of October, the first TomoFair took place in Nijmegen. TomoFair is the biggest indoor Japanese market of the Netherlands (more than 2500m2) and has a lot of stands, workshops, lectures, demonstration and a lot of emphasis on cosplay, merchandise and Japanese food (www.tomofair.nl). The fair was well-visited and this popularity of Japanese Culture shows an interest in the East Asian culture by western people that’s still expanding.

This influence of East Asian elements in the Western culture has increased in the past few years. The circulation of texts on a global scale is something that we see more and more as an result of globalisation. This circulation has multiple consequences in different areas. The urge to make a text global is most of the time based on an economic drive; it’s a way of making money. Making your movie, book or other form of art go global makes that you create a bigger market to sell it. The social aspect of globalisation mostly has to do with social aspects of outsourcing labour. When the products, or certain parts of products, are being produced in another country, it’s called transnational production. There’s a motion where certain types of work stay in western countries and more hard labour is outsourced to third world countries.

In this blog we want to emphasize on the political area. We have this political framework that shapes the creative industries and influences the texts being created. But at the same time, these texts can put our thoughts and the way we see things in another perspective. How can the creative industries be an instrument of soft power and as a result: how can they influence the political framework?

Soft power is a form of power which isn’t written in the law or authorities like the police. Soft power is about culture, about exercising power on a global scale by exploring your values, and one country allows another culture to enter the country and people get in contact with values from another culture. Especially pop culture seems a way to influence a lot of people nowadays.

When a country is starting to lose his part in the global economy (and the political world), creativity and knowledge become more important to give the status of the country a boost. The creative industries become important for a countries place in the world economy. But on the other hand, this idea of ranking countries and the notion of the nation is starting to lose its meaning. Boundaries get blurred and this has a lot of consequences when it comes to texts going global for example. This interaction between concepts on a suprastate-level (for example the European Union) and the substate-level (more local identities) has now been given the new term ‘glocalization’.

In the text ‘East Asian Pop Culture’, from the book Genre in Asian Film and Television: New Approaches, Chua Beng Huat is talking about how different regions in the world have different dynamics when it comes to how the industries are organized. Chua Beng Huat has written more about this subject, for example in his own book Structure, Audience and Soft Power in East Asian Pop Culture. He writes about the creative industries of East Asian and how they develop regarding to globalisation. He focuses on the Japanese government and how they make plans and come up with strategies for the growth of their nation (HUAT: 125 – 126):

  1. The government’s ‘New Growth Strategy’ and ‘Industrial Structure Vision 2010’ expect that Japan’s cultural industries, such as design, animation, fashion and movies will become a strategic sector that drives nation’s future economic growth.
  2. Under the single, long-term concept of ‘Cool Japan’, the Creative Industries Promotion Office will promote these cultural industries in cooperation with the private sector by facilitating their overseas expansion and human resource development.
  3. More specifically, as a section within METI dedication to measures to promote cultural industries, the Creative Industries Promotion Office will work with related ministries and Japanese/foreign private organizations to plan and implement inter-ministerial measures, such as helping these industries cultivate overseas markets, disseminating relevant information in Japan and abroad by hosting domestic and international events, and developing creative human resources through collaboration with universities and human resource matching programs.

These are ideas of how Japan wants to spread their culture, and the TomoFair is one example that shows that Western cultures are getting more and more interested in East Asian cultures. Fairs like this, and also pop culture for example, are in this form a way of soft power contributing to spreading your culture and your values. The first point shows that they use the creative industries to contribute to the economic growth of the country. These points also show that they want to propagate a certain image of their country: ‘Cool Japan’, and they use a translocal way of working to provide this. In the end, they want to use the creative industries for a lot things to provide their country, like inter-ministerial measures and cultivate overseas markets.

The creative industries are a valid instrument when it comes to giving your country an economical boost and it’s also a useable instrument when it comes to soft power. By using elements of the creative industries a country can propagate certain values in another country or culture and by doing this, Japan also tries to have some political influence in the Western culture. For a lot of people, the first contact with another country or culture (in this case Japan), isn’t by really being in that country, but through different kinds of media, forms of art and elements of the creative industries. At first sight, the Japanese values doesn’t really seem to have any direct effect on our political framework. But this contact with other countries relates in adapting your values and your view on the world. The image we have of Japan is very selective and westernized. It also contributes to spreading a certain image of your country, which leads to the creation of myths and maybe imagined communities. But that’s (maybe) for another blog.

The Dutch Daily Show – Why a Popular Format Does Not Equal Universal Success

When you turn the TV on this weekend and sit down with a cup of coffee to watch a good show, there is a big chance that someone else on the other side of the world is watching the exact same show, but a version that is specific to their country and culture. Some time ago, we posted blogs about how shows are adapted to local cultures, so a show that might be on TV all over the world is never the exact same show. That practice of adaptation is also a huge global trade, according to Jean K. Chalaby, author of the article The making of an entertainment revolution: How the TV format trade became a global industry (2011). There are now companies solely dedicated to creating a TV format that can travel all over the world. In this post we are going to take a closer look at what elements of a TV format can be suited to an international audience, but also (and perhaps more interesting) what elements are more difficult to fit to an audience with a different culture. As a case study, we are going to look at the American news satire show The Daily Show and the Dutch adaptation of it.

What Chalaby talks about is that formats are made specifically to be bought abroad. This comes down to the bare elements, the skeleton of the format, as it were. First of all, the format must have a distinctive narrative dimension. This is achieved by a few different factors. The first and most important one is the engine. The engine is the most basic outline of what happens in the show. For example in a quiz show the engine would be: ‘the contestant gets picked from the audience and if he answers the questions right he wins and gets money and if he gets the questions wrong he loses and goes home with nothing’. Similar to the engine are the storylines, dramatic arcs and trigger moments. These are all devices to create an attachment to the story and to stimulate the suspense in the format.

Again, all these elements, like the engine, the storylines and the trigger moments of the format are designed to be universal. The tension when someone is close to either winning or losing a million dollars is something that is not only one country or one culture can feel. This is also why certain genres of television work so well for international audiences. Chalaby mentions some of these; reality tv, game shows and certain television drama’s. However it is interesting to look beyond those very obvious transnational formats and focus on a format that is way more flexible when it is being put into a different cultural context.

That’s why we are using The Daily Show as a case study: because it complicates the notion of the transnational format and it shows a more indirect practice of transnational TV. The Daily Show is a satire of the news and political situation in America. It shows clips of the current news and critiques it, often because the news reporting that they’re showing is biased, wrong, or in some other way good to make fun of. Often this news is about the political situation in America, also because the news reporting in America is not objective and often has a political bias. The show also consists of commentary on other events through comedians who pretend to be reporters on the scene. Furthermore a special guest appears on the show. The range of guests is pretty wide from authors to political figures and often a non-American guest appears on the show. The Daily Show is immensely popular and is sometimes seen not only as a source for comedy, but also as an effective news show.

Above: Daily Show host Jon Stewart in the studio.

Because of this popularity the show has inspired a few other news satire shows around the world. This is not direct adaptation because the shows model themselves in terms of style after the Daily Show but are not official adaptations. These conceptual adaptations have the same set up as the Daily Show with one host offering a comedic spin on the current news events.
However an actual local spin-off of the Daily Show did happen once in the Netherlands in 2011. Comedian Jan Jaap van der Wal hosted the show, which was called The Daily Show: Nederlandse Editie. The content of the show, the visual graphic style and the kind of jokes were very similar to the American version and to further underline the point that the Dutch version was intended to be exactly the same as the American version, Jon Stewart, host of the American version, was a guest on the first episode. So to summarize: The Dutch edition of the Daily Show was trying to be a carbon copy of the American version only commenting on Dutch news and Dutch politics.

Above: Daily Show host Jon Stewart with Dutch Daily Show host Jan Jaap van der Wal in the Daily Show studio.

The thing the Dutch Daily Show had that was nowhere to be found in the American version? Low ratings. The ratings for the Dutch Daily Show were so low that after its pilot season of twelve episodes it was discontinued. Unlike its American counterpart, the Dutch Daily Show could not get a big audience and so secure ratings that would allow it to continue.

This seems strange, considering that formats that get broadcasted in other countries are usually bought because these formats are popular and are expected to be just as popular abroad. To think about why the Dutch Daily Show failed, we have to look back at the several elements of a format that were mentioned in the beginning of this post.

The most important and most universal part of a format is the engine, according to Chalaby. The engine, in the case of the Daily Show seems to be the comedic commentary on news and the political situation, but if this is the case, why did this not work in the Netherlands? A possible reason for this could be because the engine for the Daily Show is much more specific than just making jokes about the news. The problem is that the Daily Show format means a very specific kind of show with a very specific kind of humor and set up. It might even be so that it only works with American news and American politics, and maybe it could even be said that the Daily Show can only work properly with Jon Stewart as host. The point is: the format of the Daily Show is very specifically bound to a set of elements that are very difficult to adapt because these elements are not that universal. The engine of the Daily Show is not just talking about the news, because that is seen in TV shows all over the world.

The failure of the Dutch Daily Show does not mean that satire of the news and satire of politics are not popular genres in the Netherlands. Two good examples of this are the shows Koefnoen and the clips of Luckytv that are a part of the Dutch talkshow De Wereld Draait Door. In this show and these clips, Dutch politicians get mocked, popular media and celebrities are being made fun of and so they provide the same thing as the Daily Show: a funny take on the news and the media. So why didn’t the Daily Show work as a Dutch edition even though it has the same kind of content as other popular shows in the Netherlands? Unfortunately, there are no clear statements about this specific case study, so it comes down to speculation. Earlier it was noted that the Daily Show is much more than just making jokes about the news, it has a certain feeling and a certain kind of humor that perhaps only works with American news. Maybe Dutch news just was not the right material for the Daily Show context. It’s possible that because the Dutch version stuck too much to the American aesthetic that Dutch news did not fit in with that. This shows that the Daily Show is a format that is much more suitable to the American culture than to the Dutch culture but that doesn’t mean that satire is not a universal thing in international TV.

In conclusion, this shows that some formats have certain elements that are globally universal. In this case it was the format of the Daily Show  with the element of news and political satire. It also shows that these formats can still be too bound to a certain culture or other elements that are difficult to adapt to a different culture. This is why, although a format works in a different country, it does not always work in other countries because the format’s engine might seem very universal and easy to adapt, there might be more elements of the format that are less likely to do well in a different culture.
Personally, I think the Daily Show  is an exclusively American show. The journalism and politics in the USA are perfect material to comment on in such a way as Jon Stewart and the Daily Show do. To adapt it in the Netherlands where the news is much less biased and where the politics are much less interesting, that would not work at all, and I don’t think we need it. Every culture needs a different way to use satire to reflect on current events and it’s useless if a country is just going to copy the way another country does it. The multitude of satire, each fitted to a different culture is something that has to exist.

Realms narrated

Following the examples discussed in the weeks before, we would like to stress the concept of transmedia aesthetics in two of the already used case studies. Transmedia aesthetics is concerned with the telling of a story or the exploring of a certain realm across several media. Every medium has its specific qualities and things it does best. The first case study we will discuss here, is The Bridge, the Swedish/Danish police series that is adapted by two other border-regions and made into three different series. The creation of a realm is furthermore established by making several ‘behind-the-scene’ videos, accessible via YouTube.
In the case of the World Cup in Brazil, there is something entirely different at stake. While the sports is being praised in the Western Sports Media, there are also critical narratives that try to prove a differet view. Can Brazil handle the organization of such a large event? Why does the government not take FIFA money that is common to accept in such cases while the cities in Brazil suffer under severe crime and drug rates? Should FIFA and the rest of the world take a learning from this?

In Beyond the Brick: Narrativizing LEGO in the Digital Age Aaron Smith helps us understand the growing, convergence and outsourcing of LEGO throughout the last decades. The possibilities of LEGO in creative, imaginative and play potentiality are unlimited and hereby offering a larger level of both drilability and spreadability. Where the earlier suggested series of The Bridge might not be so spreadable (inviting to take and share paratexts) it is very dirable (potentitial to descend into the core and parse through its nuances). By recreating the series in different environments, we get different views upon the same story. The stories get furthermore interconnected and meaning passes from one to the other.

As far as transmedia aesthetics go, the different media for The Bridge lies in its crossing of nations, and therefore of geocultural markets (Hesmondhalgh, 2013). The definition goes, however ‘each media text offers unique narrative contributions to the whole franchise while standing on its own as a satisfying experience’. (Smith) While the setting and border are the same, the different borders in the Scandinavian, American and European series provide entirely different contexts.

At the same time, YouTube provides the context behind the scenes.

In this video Malmö and Copenhagen are considered a region; they are tied together very clearly. ‘The series has its own universe,’ the director argues, ‘which allows a good deal of creative freedom.’ It is obvious they have created their own reality and ask people to come along in this.

World Cup 2014

In the text From Broadcast Scarcity to Digital Plentitude (Hutchins and Rowe) the new age of sports commodity is explored. Sport is an important feature of national television and therefore of national identity. Brazil is known as a sports country for all of us.

‘Show the world we are one’

The promotional video of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil shows a football country; a country where the sports is more than that, it is a way of living. The singers in the clip are proud of their country: ‘Show the world where you are from, show the world that we are one,’ they repeat over and over. Brazil is depicted as a wealthy country that will be happy to welcome all the sports tourists.

Many Brazilians however, feel that the World Cup is bad for Brazil, the New York Times write. According to a survey, 61% of the Brazilians feels that the World Cup took away sources from schools, health care and other public services. Not only the doubt is whether it will be good for the country at all, Brazilians are also said to be concerned about what it does for their image in the rest of the world. There are three almost equally large groups that think it will either enhance or hurt their position or have no effect at all.

On CNN the despair in the ‘Cracklands’ is visible. The amount of people using crack is the highest in the world. Between 300 and 400 people come to street in São Paulo every night to smoke, not trying to hide it at all. The officials have tried to do something about it, but critics say that they are ‘focused on cleaning the streets’ instead of addressing the causes of the addiction and providing solutions. In other words, they want ‘clean’ the image for tourists instead of having to help the people stop using the drugs.

Brazilians feel there is a lot of potential in their country, but that they cannot put up with the developed countries as yet. The World Cup was not the direction they needed to go, some argue. For the preparation of this blog we asked two Brazilians, abroad during the time of the World Cup in 2014, personal acquaintances and friends and so maybe not a mirror of the whole society to comment on the Brazilian World Cup. Mateus Souza Santos, Brazil citizen but spending his Erasmus year in Budapest is not the biggest sports fan. (He says, jumping on and of his seat in a furthermore quiet café just next to the city center, when Brazilian’s favourite almost scores a goal). Later, he admits that ‘even for me it was quite exciting’, but:

[…] the shitload of money spend on stadiums, people who lived for 30 years around them and were dumped just because parking lots needed to be built. The Brazilian government declined FIFA to pay taxes because “they didn’t have to” – money that could have been spent on schools, hospitals, or to raise the wage of base education teachers. All foreigners went outside of Brazil probably without knowing this reality.  Lots of construction companies got richer than they should, lots of politicians got richer than they should, all for a good show. We use to say that Brazil is one of the countries with best international relationship around the globe, so what gets me very sad in this whole history is that maybe we could stop worrying too much about this relation and how much money we are spending with it and start to care more about our own people.

Marie-Laure Ryan, editor of the volume Narrative across Media: The Languages of Storytelling argues that a medium shapes the narration, a text and eventually the story. The story of the bridge is very clear-cut, has several dimensions and creates a broader realm by adapting the story for several geocultural markets. What, however, when we try to view the Brazilian world cup as a narrative? It has a passing of time and a way to tell it. It was a good show, but the sports industries and Brazilian tell a different story than for instance critical journalists from The Guardian or CNN.

We think that the narratives across media can be broader than just this. In the case of The Bridge it becomes very clear that even without changing media the stories can get intertwined and attach to each others meaning. There was a realm created, and within this realm there are several storylines explored. It is not necessary to watch all three series to know what is going on, to follow it and be able to appreciate it.

In case of the Brazilian World Cup, you can see that the people who have different interests in the event present the story in different ways. The song shows us a happy, united Brazil with good international relations, whereas journalism shows us how much problems there are in the country that need to be solved: ‘… maybe we could stop worrying too much about this relation and how much money we are spending with it and start to care more about our own people.’ In both cases we need different sources to get a good image of the whole. In every other medium we get information that belongs to the realm but you can not get anywhere else and we think that this is the power, but also the danger of a narrative that is shattered across different media.

Double game


‘In the allied sport industry, the most powerful medium for the past fifty years has been television, especially in its live form, leading to vast expansions in audiences and capital injections into sport derived from escalating broadcast rights (Boyle and Haynes 2000; Rowe 2004b).

In the article ‘From broadcast to digital plentitude, the changing dynamics of the sport content economy,’ Brett Hutchins and David Rowe analyze and trace emerging zones of conflict as the transmission of popular sport content shifts from the historically dominant platform of broadcast television to the online environment of the Internet and World Wide Web. Hutchins and Rowe are mainly focusing on the way broadcast channels deal with the upcoming alternatives Internet has to offer in relation to sports. There is another aspect to the sports industry in relation to broadcasting channels that needs to be discussed. Channels that broadcast sport games want to show the highlights of the games, which are mainly looked upon from a positive view. However when looking at the world cup of 2014 in Brazil, there were a lot of negative sides as well. How is the world cup portrayed on broadcasting channels in comparison to the Internet?

While watching sports games on television the main focus is of course, sports. Which seems logical, but there is a lot of politics and other issues involved in sports as well. Broadcast channels discuss issues like which player can be seen as man of the match or which goal could be seen as the most beautiful or most creative. After the matches there are programs on television wherein people discuss the strategies and tactics that were used in a specific game. Did the coach make the right decisions or should he imply another strategy the next time? The strategy from the Dutch team for instance was heavenly discussed and highlighted in the media. Whereas they used to play 4-3-3, coach Louis van Gaal let the team play 5-3-2 against Spain in their first match. Watching the programs on television related to the world cup, no one focuses on another, more negative side of the world cup, which is highlighted on the Internet.

There have been a lot of discussions about whereas the world cup in Brazil is a good or a bad thing. On the one hand people argue that there is a lot of corruption in Brazil. The contrast between rich and poor is gigantic. The costs for organizing the world cup are huge. A lot of residents from Brazil protested because they say the money, which now was used for the world cup, should have gone to the welfare of the residents of Brazil. Moreover a lot of Brazilian families lost their homes because of the world cup. The Internet version of the Dutch newspaper AD, says that almost 30.000 families had to leave their homes to make place for the world cup of 2014 and the Olympics of 2016. The people were forced to leave and sometimes violence was used. On the other hand people argue that organizing the world cup is indeed a good thing, because it brings tourists into Brazil who bring money and thereby the economy will grow.

However the people from Brazil are also pictured in a more negative way. Mario Tama, a staff photographer for Getty Images, took the disturbing photo above in what the caption calls Rio de Janeiro’s “Cracolandia” (Read: “Crackland” or “Dope City”). In the photos he captured you see guys with weapons on every corner of the street. They are there to guard the city. With those photographs the city Rio de Janeiro is portrayed as a violent city.

The Internet is of course a way larger medium than the broadcasting channels. Though channels should be aware of the power that Internet has. Hutchins and Rowe argue that:

‘The picture that emerges here is one where selected sports organizations and media companies are changing their business practices to embrace the creative and superabundant distribution opportunities afforded by the Internet. By contrast, other organizations often possessing large, reliable television revenue streams are seeking to protect and maintain their accustomed high level of control over the production and distribution of footage on broadcast platforms.’

The channels can choose for themselves what they will show and what they will not show. By this they can create their own ‘reality’. With the rise of the Internet however, people can see more sides to the stories. Therefore the channels have to interact with the other story as well, otherwise people will eventually not trust them anymore, because they only show one side. Even though the world cup is a positive thing, in which nations can play against each other in a friendly way and where there is no sign of war related things, there should be some focus on the other side of the story as well.

Apart from the broadcasting channel and the Internet, there is another source, which can let us see two sides of the world cup.

‘Leading sportspeople exist as both athletes and brands in the contemporary media and advertising market, a situation well understood by many of their managers, with image rights already a recognized contractual agreement above and beyond the “standard form agreement” in the United Kingdom (Boyle and Haynes 2004, 74).

One of the soccer players from the world cup of 2014 is Mesut Özil from the German team. He is a player who branded himself very well. He, and his managers are very aware of the things happening around them. As argued above the world cup wasn’t only fun and games. There were a lot of people, especially Brazilian ones, who weren’t eager to the fact that the world cup was taking place in Brazil. Özil did a very noble but also clever thing were he branded himself as ‘the good guy’. Özil helped fund operations for eleven sick children in the World Cup host nation before the tournament and Germany’s successful World Cup campaign has inspired him to donate more money. After the German players won the world cup Özil confirmed; “Since the victory of the #WorldCup is not only due to eleven players but to our whole team, I will now raise the number to 23.”

So there are always different sides to every story. The photographs taken by photographer Mario Tama make it look like the people from Brazil are violent and they need to be controlled by armed people in order to make them follow the rules. However, a lot of people are not aware that residents of Brazil got kicked out of their homes because of the world cup. The Brazilian people are angry because they lost their homes. A lot of money is spend on building stadiums, whereas the residents of Brazil are living in poverty. Seeing those different sides portrayed by different kinds of media, makes it clear that media can create their own ‘reality’, and that the viewer should always be aware that maybe he hasn’t heard the whole story.

Anouk, Laurie, Sascha, Sjoerd

Political and Gender inequality in The Bridge

But America doesn’t only convert series from the UK. The series Broen (translated: The Bridge) is a cooperation between the Danish and the Swedish television industries, which has an Mexican/American counterpart.

From the first episode on, the police officer Sag Norén (in from Malmö is teamed up with the Copenhagen based Martin Rohde. Their case considers two half bodies, put together exactly on the border of the bridge between Denmark and Sweden. The legs belong to a Danish prostitute, deep-frozen and approximately 13 months old. The upper body is that of a Swedish politician. It becomes clear immediately that there is ideology at stake here.

This is confirmed when what is thought to be a bomb is placed in the car of one of the most merciless journalists of Sweden turns out to be merely a draw for attention. The point of all this, so the voice on the CD that Saga and Martin find says, that he needs to get heard. The ‘truth terrorist’ as he will be called later on, wants to address 5 problems in their joint society. When these get solved, their lives could be pretty good. ‘We have got interesting times ahead of us,’ he says in the end of the first episode.

In its Mexican/American counterpart the story remains quite the same. A Mexican prostitute and American judge are cut in half and put together as one on the (immense and well-protected) bridge between the border of America and Mexico. Sonya Cross and Marco Ruiz also have to work together, but the power play between these two characters is different from the start as the national background plays a big role. This is for instance clear when ‘one of the five problems’ the criminal mind wants to point out considers Mexicans in the United States.

Other differences concern language, style, characters and forming of the plot. As for language, it is interesting to see how Martin can make himself understood in Sweden, but that the cops he addresses at the same time laugh about his accent and have to listen very carefully. In The Bridge both characters speak English and Spanish fluently. Where the language is considered a kind of border in Scandinavia, this border is mostly enstrenghtened by economical and social differences in the southern part of America. In the small film Martin says that Malmö-Copenhagen is a region, in which there are committed crimes. People look the same, understand each other and have the same problems. This is very different from the US-Mexican differences.

Two large differences in the style of filming are the colours and the editing speed. The Scandinavian series is in gray, blue, contains overall darker colours and makes use of a very slow and steady filming. The tension is found in this unease, in the feeling of being too close on the skin of a character. In the American series however, the yellowish colour of the desert and the hysterical lights of the bigger and busier cities control the images. At the same time tension is made by fast cuts and dramatic tones. 

One specially hard barrier to take when adapting Bron/Broen, is the character of Saga Norén. Sonya Cross is a character as socially awkward and without empathy as Saga, but the differences are major. The Guardian writes in an article that Cross is an interesting character on her own, but in the shadows of Saga Norén she does not quite make it. Vicky Frost asks in the last lines of her article whether the empathy we do feel for Saga but cannot for Sonya might be something that is merely ‘lost in translation’, but as long as you won’t learn Swedish or Danish we are afraid you might not find out. 

In the article ‘What The Bridge tells us about Scandinavian social democracy – and why it’s not all good news’ Toby Young places the fames series in a broader social context. What do we expect of Scandinavia and how is represented here? Young writes that


            [j]udging from the backdrop to the crimes the detectives are investigating, Sweden and Denmark are beset by the same problems as Britain — poverty, drug addiction, homelessness, mental illness, etc. And when it comes to political extremism, they’re worse off than us if season two is anything to go by, with eco-terrorists constantly blowing things up and murdering people.


Whereas you would have thought the American-Mexican border is a perfect place to address social issues, the surprising part comes from the Scandinavian series. The program made it, according to Young, very clear that there was a price for the process to gender equality. With the Asperger’s syndrome Saga Norén acts exactly ‘like a man would in more traditional society’. She has, so to say, a ‘lack of feminine skills’. Martin at the same time has just undergone a vasectomy when we first meet him and takes a female role in the relation to his Swedish partner Saga (The Spectator).

In the same year as the American version of The Bridge, the French/English remake of the series called The Tunnel saw light. The tensions are more like the ones in the original series, because the differences between France and England are not as big as between America and Mexico.

What might be the most important difference between the series, as shortly mentioned in The Guardian as well, is everything concerned with the title object. The bridge has a different outlook, a way different significance for people living on both sides of it. That is why the remake can not be simply this, but there had to be alternations and that is why we find it too bad that the American version does not focus on the social issues, but more on the drama between the characters. There are so many of them.


Anouk, Laurie, Sjoerd & Sascha