Bestseller and blockbuster culture includes new ways of producing, distributing and experiencing media. Bestseller and blockbuster productions encompass production values in which a new type of pragmatic cooperation with external partners takes place. Films and television series are produced as platform productions for different media (cinema, television, mobile media) in combination with merchandise, franchising and destination tourism. To an increasing degree, books are published as e-books, thus contributing to changes in the culture of reading. Various agents and platforms contribute to new distributive modes of bestseller and blockbuster productions: publishers, bookshops, libraries, the DVD-market, online television channels and international cooperation agents.
The phenomenon of bestseller and blockbuster culture is the subject of investigation in this volume of Academic Quarter.
Rasmus Grøn The Bestseller List and its (Dis)contents. The construction of ’the bestseller’.
‘Bestseller’ is a pivotal and highly influential concept in the current literary market, where a title’s presence on a bestseller list also serves to reinforce the title’s bestseller status. In spite hereof, there is a lack of exact knowledge of bestselling patterns on the Danish book market, as well as a conceptual vagueness regarding the distinction between ‘the best and the rest’: how to define a bestseller and differentiate it from the remaining titles on the market? These two issues are addressed in the following article. Firstly, a Top 40 list of the bestselling fiction books from Danish book stores in the period of 2008-11 is presented, and its contents are analysed in terms of genre, nationality, and thematic qualities. Hereafter, the bestselling list serves as a point of departure for a discussion of the divergent and contingent criteria underlying possible definitions of bestsellers and their inclusion on bestseller lists, thereby developing a more facetted picture of the bestseller concept. Lastly, Robert Escarpit’s temporal distinction between fastsellers, steadysellers and bestsellers is related to the article’s empirical data in order to discuss a widespread assumption of the volatility of the bestseller.
Stig Hjarvard and Rasmus Helles Digital Books on the Point of Take-off? The Ebook in Denmark Anno 2013 .
In this article we consider the present state of the ebook’s diffusion. On the empirical basis of a national survey among Danes in 2013, we consider the volume, usage patterns, and demographics of ebook reading compared to paper book reading. Informed by diffusion theory and mediatization theory, the article concludes that the reading of ebooks is about to reach a “critical mass;” this development has not least been stimulated by factors outside the traditional stakeholders of the book (national publishers and bookstores). Ebook reading is becoming part of a converging digital culture in which global media companies like Amazon, Apple, and Google play a key role for the standards and emerging infrastructure. In addition, Danish public libraries have played an important role for the diffusion of ebooks. The ebook usage patterns reflect influences from the presence of both Anglo-American media companies and national libraries.
Nete Nørgaard Kristensen and Unni From Blockbusters as Vehicles for Cultural Debate in Cultural Journalism.
Taking our point of departure in ‘the cultural intermediary’ as theoretical concept (Bourdieu, 1984; Maguire and Matthews, 2012) and in the coverage of blockbuster movies on Danish cultural pages from 1960 to 2012, this article analyses the changing role of the cultural journalist and the changing cultural approach in cultural journalism since the mid-20th century. The analysis shows that the negotiation and definition of the blockbuster as cultural phenomenon has changed; whereas it was originally, critically, interpreted as a sign of cultural imperialism, Americanisation, or artistic decline, it is increasingly viewed as a global, omnipresent cultural and industrial phenomenon with its own aesthetic, narrative, and cultural logic. In this manner, the coverage exemplifies that the blockbuster has been and continues to be negotiated as a (relevant) object of cultural journalism; that cultural journalism at different times provides different reflective spaces for popular culture; and that contemporary cultural journalism continues to be critical and contemplative at the same time as it provides cultural service and infotainment. Consequently, the analysis also illustrates how the role of journalists as cultural intermediaries has changed historically.
Bent Sørensen Fieldwork. Paul Auster as a Popular Postmodern Fiction Writer.
This article examines some aspects of the phenomenon of popular fiction, using the terminology proposed by Pierre Bourdieu in his works on distinction and cultural production, including ‘position taking,’ ‘field,’ and ‘capital(s).’ After the theoretical groundwork is laid, the second half of the article analyzes specifically the case of popular postmodern author Paul Auster, with regards to the role of genre and dual readership/reading protocol inscribed in his fictions, the mechanisms of gatekeeping, consecration and position taking involved in the production of his place in the field of popular fiction (cf. Ken Gelder’s Popular Fiction: The Logics and Practices of a Literary Field, 2004), and the distinct American and European/Scandinavian markets for his books.
Birgit Eriksson Pure and Public, Popular and Personal - and the Inclusiveness of Borgen as a Public Service Blockbuster.
In the article I reexamine the traditional aesthetical and political critiques of popular culture and reevaluate the social and communicative potential of bestselling cultural artifacts such as highly popular television series.
First, I sketch the alleged aesthetic and social problems of popular culture as described in the critical tradition originating in Kant and radicalized by Theodor Adorno regarding the cultural industry, and by Jürgen Habermas regarding the public sphere.
Second, I draw attention to the blind spots of this critical tradition: the distinctions of the pure aesthetic and the exclusions of the public sphere. I argue that the ideals of a pure aesthetic and a public sphere neglect issues that are crucial to the type of commonality at stake in popular cultural artifacts: personal issues, social conflicts, and what is pleasurable to the senses or has to do with emotions.
Third, I exemplify my argument by drawing on the case of the television series Borgen, produced by the public service broadcaster DR (the Danish Broadcasting Corporation) in 2010-13. I examine how Borgen’s combination of themes, discourses, and domains includes the viewers in ways that point towards a more pragmatic and inclusive understanding not only of bestselling popular culture but also of aesthetics and the public sphere.
Brian Russell Graham Frye and the Opposition between Popular Literature and Bestsellers.
Northrop Frye’s view of “bestseller” literature forms the focus of this article. The legacy of postmodernism entailed the demise of the division between high and low cultural products. However, this did not solve the problem concerning the value of a given work. Frye offers a different model. While Frye defends popular literature proper, he has general reservations about commercial bestsellers, and his choice of concepts represents an interesting contribution to the current discussion.
Kerstin Bergman Genre-Hybridization – a Key to Hyper-Bestsellers? The use and function of different fiction genres in The Da Vinci Code and The Millennium Trilogy.
The majority of the novels that during the first decade of the 2000s became hyper-bestsellers share one thing in common: They tend to be genre-hybrids, mixing several different, often popular, fiction genres. This is true for Harry Potter, The Da Vinci Code, Twilight , and a number of other hyper-bestseller phenomena of recent years. The thesis of this article is that genre-hybridity is a fundamental feature that contributes to a novel’s success by causing it to attract a larger and more diverse audience, and in so doing makes it stand out from most “regular” bestsellers. In this article, the concept of the hyper-bestseller is introduced and outlined, followed by a comparative analysis of the use of different fiction genres and sub-genres in two of the most successful hyper-bestsellers of recent times, both of which exhibit strong links with the crime fiction tradition: Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code and Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. The two novels are found to share many genre-related features, in particular, their dynamic detective duos, feminist agendas, anti-authoritarian attitudes, political criticism, exoticism, and religious elements. A majority of the shared genre conventions are also found to enable a strong sense of reader identification with the detective characters.
Maria Nilson From The Flame and the Flower to Fifty Shades of Grey. Sex, Power and Desire in the Romance Novel.
E.L. James’s Fifty Shades trilogy has become a huge success and sold millions of copies. The novels’ mix of romance and erotica has been described as something new. Reading these books mainly as romance, Nilson focuses on how James uses well known and established romance traits from, for example, the so-called “bodice-ripper” novel and chick lit, in order to create a hybrid. These traits are visible in both how James describes her protagonists and in how the relationship between them is portrayed. Nilson argues that the Fifty Shades trilogy is, rather than a new kind of romance, a compilation of well-established traits.
Anker Gemzøe The Family Saga as a Bestseller Strategy.
In the post-millennial years, Danish literature has witnessed a veritable wave of biographically based, regionally rooted family sagas. One important factor of this surge is a reaction against a polarization in the Danish literature of the 1990s between, on one hand, a minimalist, experimental short-story prose, critically acclaimed, but marginalized by the reading public, and on the other hand, widely read biographies and autobiographies of publicly known figures, mostly written by journalists.
Examining lists of especially significant literary prizes and by way of a qualitative inquiry, the article claims that one determinant in the recent development of the Danish novel has been a biographically oriented bestseller strategy, aiming at a fusion of literary quality and a broad appeal to the readers. Based on recent bestseller theories the article defends the notion that certain genres or genre fields can be pertinent in the historical assessment of bestsellerism, and that a historically changing relation exists between popular bestsellers and ‘literary’ literature. Finally, the article advocates the idea of a ‘bestseller determinant’ in literary history and sociology – as a pull determinant complementing the push determinant in the theories of ‘deautomatization’ of Russian Formalism (Sklovskij, Tynjanov), New Criticism and other theories connected to Modernism.
Steen Christiansen Hyper Attention Blockbusters. Christopher Nolan’s Batman Trilogy.
In this article, I outline a theory of attention for 21st-century blockbusters, emphasizing the coevolution of attention in what N. Katherine Hayles has distinguished as deep and hyper attention. Furthermore, I elaborate on this theory with a discussion of kinetics as an embodied sensation integral to blockbuster, drawing examples from Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy.
Anders Lysne Tonally Teen? Issues of Audience Appeal in Contemporary Danish Youth Films.
This article investigates the trial and error of audience appeal in contemporary Danish youth films supported through the special children’s and youth film commissioner scheme of The Danish Film Institute. Employing the concept of tone to textual analysis, the article focuses on the two films Triple Dare (Christina Rosendahl, 2006) and Skyscraper (Rune Schjøtt, 2011), which serve as an interesting comparison for being, respectively, the most and the least commercially successful of the publicly funded youth films in the 2000s. With the analysis of these films, I aim to explicate how tonal complexity may affect audience involvement and complicate the fundamental issue of audience appeal.
Kim Toft Hansen Blockbuster Genres in Danish Independent Film.
Throughout the past decade, Danish independent cinema has grown from being amateur home productions to more self-aware production companies. What is fascinating about this development, though, is the fact that many of the indie filmmakers do not react against blockbuster marked dominance, but they respond by delving directly into specific international blockbuster genres and styles in the search for what appears to be is missing in Danish cinema. This works for some directors, principally, by directly reacting against the institutional and economic dominance of primarily The Danish Film Institute. Indirectly, the filmmakers seem to react against ‘what is allowed’ in a Danish film culture. Thus, they actually define themselves as being non-mainstream by focussing on international mainstream genres. By way of examples from the Danish indie scene and interviews with noteworthy indie filmmakers, this article draws attention to a still fairly anonymous trend in Danish film.
Anne Marit Waade and Pia Majbritt Jensen Nordic Noir Production Values. The Killing and The Bridge.
In this article, the authors argue that Nordic noir constitutes a set of production values utilised and conceptualised to make Danish television series attractive in the international market. The idea of production values is embedded in a media industrial context where market principles of target groups, sales, funding and marketing/branding are as important as aesthetic principles. The Killing and The Bridge are used to illustrate how features such as setting, climate, light and language serve strategic as well as aesthetic purposes in the production process. The authors conclude by relating the specific Nordic noir production values present in the two series to changing conditions in Danish television drama production, in particular the internationalisation of DR Drama Division.
Rune Eriksson Characters and Topical Diversity. A Trend in the Nonfiction Bestseller.
The purpose of this article is to contribute to our understanding of the difference between the bestseller and the non-bestseller in nonfiction. It is noticed that many bestsellers in nonfiction belongs to the sub-genre of creative nonfiction, but also that the topics in this kind of literature is largely ignored by the critics. Thus, the article tests how topics may work in creative nonfiction. Two Danish bestsellers belonging to the genre, Frank’s Mit smukke genom ( My Beautiful Genome), about genomics, and Buk-Swienty’s Slagtebænk Dybbøl ( ‘Slaughter-bench Dybbøl’), a history book, are chosen as cases and analysed using a slightly modified motif model by Johansen. The result is that in both books the main topic is treated from a double perspective, but also that six out of seven secondary topics, or motifs, are treated as well. It is concluded that also in a topical sense creative nonfiction may span traits from nonfiction and fiction, and that this may contribute to our understanding between the bestseller and the non-bestseller in nonfiction.
Margaret Mackey Finding the Next Book to Read in a Universe of Bestsellers, Blockbusters, and Spin-Offs.
Finding a good book to read is part of the challenge of becoming a successful reader. Bestseller lists offer shortcuts, and many readers take advantage of the power to select from a radically smaller pool of possibilities. This article explores aspects of the impact of bestsellers and their adaptations and spin-offs on people’s reading choices. It draws the examples of one children’s and one adult blockbuster title (Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Fifty Shades of Grey). Both these titles made their first appearance online, and, in each case, the printed novel is an early adaptation of the original text. Further adaptations, spin, publicity, and a variety of media tie-ins complicate the ways in which readers may approach these titles. Such proliferation also affects the potential strategies readers may acquire for selecting books, in ways that may be either helpful or restrictive.
Thessa Jensen and Peter Vistisen Tent-Poles of the Bestseller. How Cross-media Storytelling can spin off a Mainstream Bestseller.
This article proposes a framework for understanding and analysing how the passive audience of a media event turns into active stakeholders. The starting point is the cross-media content quadrant (Jensen and Vistisen, 2012), which shows how the producer’s control is distributed on social media platforms, while storytelling evolves around a tent-pole, for example, a bestseller or blockbuster. To further explain how the audience engages, a three-step rhetoric model largely based on Bitzer (1998) and Tolkien (1971) is developed and explained.
Claus Toft-Nielsen “It’s such a wonderful world to inhabit.” Spatiality, Worldness and the Fantasy Genre.
The fantasy genre has proven to be extremely durable in creating blockbuster successes spanning mutable media platforms, such as books, film, television series, tabletop, and especially massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs). Currently 85% of all MMORPGs are situated in clearly defined fantasy universes (Van Geel, 2012). In other worlds: The fantasy genre seems to lend itself perfectly to the creation and distribution of vast, game-centric worlds in a way no other genres can. Why is that? This article explores the close connection between the fantasy genre and computer games, arguing that the fantasy genre’s specific ‘mode of function’ is the utilization of space and spatiality thus creating specific kinds of spatial experiences for its users, be that readers, viewers, or gamers. Based on empirical data from focus group interviews with World of Warcraft-gamers, the article develops the concept of worldness as a means for opening up for an experiential, phenomenological understanding of player experience. I discuss how this way of framing a core quality of the fantasy genre (of world-building) functions across single media platforms and aims to grasp a specific fantasy experience of being in the world.
Constantine Verevis Blockbuster Remakes.
Like the term “blockbuster,” the phrase “blockbuster remake” can mean different things. Typically, blockbuster remake is an industrial term, one that refers to the production of large-scale movies adapted from previously filmed properties. In this definition, modest (cult) properties – such as, Planet of the Apes (1968, 2001), King Kong (1933, 1976, 2005), and War of the Worlds (1954, 2005) – are revived through massive production budgets as cultural juggernauts, with strong marketing campaigns and merchandising tie-ins. Less typical is a description that accounts for the way in which a blockbuster movie is itself remade: that is, a definition in which a blockbuster becomes the cornerstone for the entire architecture of a blockbuster cycle. This article explores the idea of a blockbuster remake, and blockbuster initiated cycle, in and through a case study of the prototype of all modern blockbusters: Steven Spielberg’s Jaws (1975). Specifically, the article interrogates the way in which “Bruce,” the great white shark of Jaws, initiated a rogue animal cycle consisting in the first instance of the Jaws franchise – Jaws 2 (1978), Jaws 3-D (1983) and Jaws 4: The Revenge (1987) – and also a series of replicas that included Grizzly (1976), Orca (1977), and Piranha (1978).
Lynge Agger Gemzøe Brødre vs. Brothers. The Transatlantic Remake as Cultural Adaptation .
Remaking Nordic television series and cinema has become a popular endeavor in the US. This article explores the remake as a category and sheds light on the specific choices that are deemed necessary to make something entirely Danish work in an American context. The article seeks to contribute to the understanding of a remake trend that, on the one hand, is inspired by all things Nordic, but on the other hand, actively engages in removing the Nordic feel from the remade productions. Using Susanne Bier’s Brødre (2004) and Jim Sheridan’s remake Brothers (2009) as cases and drawing on Danish and US war movie genre history, the article argues that the comparative analysis of original and remake can be used as a tool for contemporary cultural studies and shows that while stories travel, they might be stripped of humorous lightheartedness, local detail, and moral values in the process.
Gunhild Agger The Role of History in Bestseller and Blockbuster Culture.
History provides an infinite supply of dramatic events, stories, characters and conflicts. The article provides a brief overview of prevalent conceptions and ideas of history that can be applied to the wide-spread historical fictions of the bestseller and blockbuster culture. On the background of the current alliance between history and media, I propose a methodological distinction between three levels: 1) a historiographical level, concerned with overall considerations and reflections, 2) a user-orientated level focussing on the uses and functions of history, and 3) a genre-orientated level considering historical films and TV drama productions within a frame of genre traditions, including hybrids. The insights are applied analytically using the case of the Danish bestseller biography and blockbuster film Marie Krøyer.
Mirjam Gebauer When the Ocean Strikes Back. Frank Schätzing’s Eco-thriller The Swarm and the Pop-cultural Imagination of Global Environmental Disaster .
The disaster scenario is one of the predominant settings we find unfold in the pop-cultural imagination, namely in films and novels. In recent years, as increased awareness of environmental issues affect the agendas of public debate, we also see local and increasingly global environmental disasters depicted in fiction. The most outstanding example of this tendency in German literature is Frank Schätzing’s internationally bestselling eco-thriller The Swarm from 2004, published in English in 2006 and planned as a Hollywood production in 2015. In Schätzing’s book, a global environmental disaster is evolving caused by an intelligent life form of the deep sea striking back at mankind. This article aims at discussing in what ways The Swarm uses elements and patterns of the pop-cultural disaster imagination, specifically the disaster and science fiction movie of the 1990s. Furthermore, it investigates how the ‘alienness’ depicted in the book differs from representations in pop-cultural tradition, challenges the position of the human species in the order of nature, and questions the capacity of humankind to prevent self-extinction. In concluding, a parallel to contemporary cultural theory (Dominic Pettman) problematizing the concept of humanity is drawn.
Mikkel Fugl Eskjær The Climate Catastrophe as Blockbuster.
Modern disaster films constitute a specific cultural form that speaks to the anxieties of the “risk society.” This essay looks at how risks like climate change is presented and constructed in popular culture. It regards blockbuster representations as part of a wider discourse of “catastrophism” within the realm of public climate change communication. For that reason, the essay centers on the interplay between news media and entertainment. It argues that blockbuster disaster films represent an inversion of traditional risk and disaster news.
Anna Estera Mrozewicz Porous Borders. Crossing the Boundaries to ‘Eastern Europe’ in Scandinavian Crime Fiction.
In Scandinavian crime fiction, an implicit dynamics is noticeable between the adjacent worlds: Scandinavia and ‘Eastern Europe’. The author of the article approaches their relation using the two interrelated concepts of border and boundary (Casey, 2011). While borders are fixed and established by conventional agreements, boundaries are natural, perforated, and undermine the impenetrability of the border. Accordingly, two main strands are discernible within the representations of ‘Eastern Europe’ in Scandinavian crime fiction: a ‘border perspective’ and a ‘boundary perspective’. The first strand is rooted in the old world with pronounced national divisions, while the other anticipates a globalised world, involving a dynamic view of the relation between the neighbours across the Baltic. As the article attempts to demonstrate, border/boundary distinction can be fruitfully applied to the analysis of the Scandinavian discourse on ‘Eastern Europe’ with all its implications.
Jim Collins Fifty Shades of Seriality and E-Reader Games. Key Note Speech.
Jim Collins’ keynote lecture focuses on serial narrative and e-readers, their simultaneous developments and interconnections. He considers how both the bestseller and the blockbuster have been changed in fundamental ways because of the coupling of narrative format and digital device.