Politics of fictional characters
Do fictional characters have moral obligations? I am not talking about them as extensions of their creators, even if that is interesting too. I am talking about themselves – as individuals.
In a transmedia world fictional characters enter into new relations, they become part of other contexts, they do new things. Those things affects other things, other people, other processes. Since fictional characters mean so much for so many people, their deeds can not be seen as separat from things ‘real’ people do. Today my home town’s morning newspaper, Göteborgsposten, published an article on murky political processes concerning the establishment of a cultural centre based on the popular childrens’ books character, Alfons Åberg. In the article politicians, civil servants, business men as well as the author of the books become entangled in network of undocumented decisions, nepotism, secrecy – i.e. The Gothenburg Spirit (Göteborgsandan).
But is really Alfons himself innocent? Is it not so, that he is trying to occupy a cultural heritage protected building by the gate of the city garden, Trädgårdsföreningen? Is it not so that he demands services, and financial resources, from the tax payers of Gothenburg?
In order to expand his transmedial network of things (books, films, toys) he is no longer only working inside the homes of children and their parents, or at public libraries, or at public playgrounds, now he is trying to use the strong political-business-administration network in Gothenburg to create a semi-private space where his stories can continue. This development is today ubiquitous, but isn’t there a difference when this expansion of the story world is not made by way of Lego, Happy Meal, or Barbie, but by way of a publically owned old building in a public city garden? Critics will of course fear a commodification of public spaces, while supporters will be happy for a new creative space for children.
My fear, and fascination, concerns what happens when yet another fictional character enters into the public space. This apparantly harmless character, but with a strong grip on many children, and thereby on their parents, will do new things at this new place. Even if the whole thing of course is about branding a writer’s work, the character also live a life separate from his creator’s. He is something for the children who know him. As for every fictional character his future lays in the hands of the children. But with this Alfons Åberg Centre, the toys by which children are playing Alfons stories will have to compete with the objects within the Centre. The former consumer-product-industry-artist relationship is now consumer-politician-industry-artist-product relationship.
The politicians and the private financiers are thereby helping Alfons in changing the identity of childrens’ toys. It may be for the better, but they will change. The question therfore is: why does Alfons want to do this? And, who will defend the toys right, against Alfons and the city of Gothenburg?
To be continued…