“I've been having these weird thoughts lately...”
Conspiratorial hermeneutics and reflexive depictions of fan practices in the Kingdom Hearts franchise
Keywords:Kingdom Hearts, Cosplay, Transmedia Storytelling, Fan Studies, Otaku, Media Mix
This paper draws on the theory of mastermind narration developed by M.J. Clarke in the context of prestige television dramas with highly complex non-linear narratives and inconsistent characters (Clarke, 2012) to offer a reading of the Kingdom Hearts (Square Enix, 2002-) franchise in light of postmodern practices of textual consumption characteristic of current fandoms, such as those explored by Henry Jenkins (2006) and Matt Hills (2002), but also addressing Japanese theorist Hiroki Azuma’s (2009) work around the notion of the Otaku. I argue that the series’ significant deviation from Disney’s traditional approach to narrative (Wasko 2001) indicates a desire for the corporation to explore radical new forms of textual production and to negotiate emerging fan consumption practices within the safe environment of a controlled and licensed text. Just as cultural theorists like Clarke and Anne Allison (2006) argue that a textual product can often contain traces that reflect its wider conditions of production, I propose that the Kingdom Hearts franchise can be read allegorically as an extended experiment by Disney into new forms of collaborative storytelling.
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