Artistic Prelude to What I’ve been working on…

I remember very clearly, one of the first times I played Wizards Unite. The highly-anticipated (at least highly anticipated for Potter fans) Harry Potter mobile phone game to be released by Niantic, a videogame design firm I knew from Pokemon Go (which I have never played) and Ingress (which I have.) Part of Niantic’s claim-to-fame is their ability to produce games that overlay gameplay onto google maps: to engage with the “game world,” you literally walk to locations in the “real world” and interact with game elements that are geo-tagged to be located there.


A few days into playing the game, I visited the National Gallery of Art for an exhibit on renaissance paintings. As I wandered into a different wing of photorealistic oil paintings, my attention had waned, and so I turned on the game to see if any Harry Potter creatures were geo-tagged to the museum. Several were.

I then began to surreptitiously play the game while in the sparsely populated area. I would look at a painting of the seaside while the game loaded, then battle an Erkling (a spindly, thin goblin creature.) Erkling defeated and map reloading, I turned my attention to a still life with water shimmering through a translucent glass vase, and then looked at my phone to rescue a Mooncalf (a short, stubby, blue-furred, llama-like creature with overly large eyes) from its shackled chain. I glanced up to see to portrait woman lounged on a settee with a book. I could almost smell the light dust of forgotten past and the pine oil pressed into the glowing wood of the table where her book rested. A howler harassed two goblins. I wandered by an oversized landscape painting, which was taller than me and yet so finely detailed. I could hear the ducks as they cause small splashes as they skitted across the distant lake. I could hear to munching and soft grunting of the moose in the foreground as they grazed on the forest greens.
Alternating between the flat yet layered experience of the game with its limited pixels and yet fluid movement, and the static but deeply rich and real oil paintings caused my brain to kick into a higher gear. While one would think that playing a game would distract me from the paintings, playing the game immersed me in them more. By stimulating my brain’s flow and triggering my imagination, the game opened my mind to receive and mentally create more stimuli than were present in reality.
If playing the game increased my brain activity to such an extent that static, artistic depictions felt, sounded, and even smelled more real, then what exactly is being communicated by that game, and what augmented realities are finding their way into my mind without my being aware of it?

In the coming days, I’ll publish “Wizards Dis-United: How the Harry Potter Mobile Game Augments Reality to Strengthen White Supremacy.” A colleague, Michelle Ledder, and I are premiering it as a presentation at the Chestnut Hill College Harry Potter Academic Conference this Friday, October 16, 2020.

Resources for talks given at Otakon Vegas, part 1

“Disappearing Women: Tracing Women’s Roles from Yaoi to Reverse Harem and Beyond”

1: “You only have two hands”

  •  Women who try to balance personal/familial life and professional ambition. The story is made up of their struggles and failures, sometimes they come out balanced, sometimes not.
  • Japanese Examples: Kaichou wa Maid-sama, Hana Yori Dango; Kimi Wa Petto; Gokusen. (Honorable Mentions: Pride, Anego, the Wallflower.)
  • USian examples: Iron Lady, Zero Dark Thirty, The Devil Wears Prada; Mona Lisa Smile; Dream Girls; Frozen. (Honorable Mentions: Twilight, Sherlock)
  • Thematic trends: Women have to chose either proffessional life or personal/familial life. We also see the emergence of the need of concealment of “feminine” or “familial” side of a woman in the professional sphere. There is also the smaller trend that women must be workaholics in order to be present (possibly succeed) in the professional sphere.

2: Feminine Body, Masculine Mask (building from ideas presented in Fanon’s “Peau noire, masques blancs” from 1952)

  • Cross-dressing and gender-bending stories
  • Japanese: Ouran High School, Hana Kimi (from manga to j drama to dramas throughout asia, then j-drama reboot a few years later with the same props.) Also from other regions but internationally popular: Taiwan’s 1/2 Prince, Korea’s Cafe Prince, to lesser success mainland China’s My Bratty Princess
  • Western Examples: Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, Queen Christina (1933, satisfies the Bechdel Test,) Disney’s Mulan
  • Conclusions communicated through these stories: To qualify for the possibility of success, women have to suppress part of themselves. It isn’t a way to succeed, it’s a way to get a chance to succeed.

3: Absent Women: Gender Displacement

  • The rise of Yaoi and Slash in Japan and USA
  • They arrived at the same time: Yaoi grew from male homosexual love stories written for a women’s target audience in the late 1970s and published in doujinshi (Kaze to Ki no Uta, often attributed to being the first yaoi, was published as a manga in 1976.) The first slash between Kirk and Spock appeared Star Trek fanzines in 1970s.
  • Yaoi: seme and uke as masculine and feminine
  • Slash: Even without sex scenes, we still see the main pairing as feminine and masculine. Protagonist is more often the bottom, as is the POV when applicable. USian slash is a little less gender dichotomous than Japanese yaoi.
  • Yaoi is on the decline in USian markets, but slash is on the rise, especially with the growth, strengthening, and gaining of recognition and credence of the fan fiction medium.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What does it mean for our societies when the ideal woman is a man?
  2. Is forsaking our femininity the only way to succeed in the professional sphere? In what ways is our femininity an advantage in the business world?
  3. Is yaoi/slash pure escape from a misogynistic world? Why do we read it?
  4. Name a famous woman who has both successful home and professional life. (The only ones I came up with before the talk were Meryl Streep and possibility Angelina Jolie. Although, my listing Ms. Jolie may be more indicative of how ignorant I am of her life.) The groups came up with Ms. Streep as well. Still, only one name?
  5. Self-fulfilling prophecy?
    • Stories sometimes tell us how we wish things would be, but also tell us how things are. Are the telling and retelling of these negative stories disempowering women? Making them unable to envision a better world? Is it adding to the strength of the glass ceiling by saying “you cannot do this, no one has done it, even this awesome character” ?
    • If these stories are cautionary tales, do they make the women who consume them too cautious? Are women unable to take the necessary risks for success (especially in USian culture where we reward risk taking behavior)  after be informed by these stories?