Monday, 13 January 2014

Primary Research

I first began considering primary research for my extended essay by writing a survey. I was initially interested in the notion of consumerism, and how aware the consumer is of the ideological and political messages found in post 9/11 Superhero Movies. I wanted to get a sense how sympathetic the passive viewer is towards arguably unhinged and flawed characters such as Batman, who some argue uses his wealth to target street level criminals, instead of the elites who share his economic status and at times are the cause of oppression and crime among the less wealthy. I started with simple ease in questions such as:

'Would you say that you are an avid film viewer?'

'Which one quality do you believe makes for the most enjoyable viewing experience?'

Although these results probably would not relevant in my essay, I felt they had their place as they were starting to engage the participant. The questions I felt could be relevant were along the lines of:

Choose one of the two character descriptions below that would most fit your preference of a hero:

Uncompromising and decisive.

Tolerant and sympathetic.

Do you think that a superhero should?

Takes matters into his/her own hands.

Abide by and help enforce the law.

Here I am asking again how passively the viewer receives these ideology enforcing characters. Do people generally take a more conservative understanding, hoping to see caped crusaders beat up relentless unsympathetic villains, or do they like more ambiguous narratives where the hero and villain have a challenging moral dynamic? Not only are these questions more relevant, but the multiple choice aspect breaks up the process with the hopes of keeping people engaged.

Although I created this survey, on reflection I felt that quantitative data didn't really suit the tone of my essay. My essay mainly considers narrative, and the intentions of the writers and directors cited, and I couldn't foresee a chapter on movie goer's habits. Reflecting at this stage after finishing my essay, perhaps I could have attempted to shoehorn some data in when speaking about left and right-wing storytelling, but at the time I was swaying more towards the idea of qualitative data perhaps from writers.

I did attend Thought Bubble comic book convention in Leeds, where I attempted to network with writers and illustrators, hand out business cards and discuss my dissertation. I struck up a conversation with oil painter and creator of The Jaded Enemy James E. Snelling, who told me he might be able to put me through to a lecturer who discusses politics in popular narratives. I left James with a card, but unfortunately didn't hear back from him. Although I could of probably searched online for his email and dropped him a reminder, I came to a doubting sense that I had nothing interesting to ask. This happened also with Twitter. Although I had added comic book writers with the intention of engaging in informative exchanges, I always went back to this pessimistic idea that I didn't have anything I wanted to find out. I could have taken the 'Do you have an opinion on Superheroes enforcing political agenda?' route, but it seemed too broad and I couldn't really think of a way to narrow done the discussion point.

The main problem was that my subject has been heavily discussed, and it seemed that I was never short of great secondary sources. I still feel that in the end I made some interesting parallels of my own, but it would have made the essay feel more progressive if it had included some original thoughts and reflections from those in the industry. If I were to approach this project again, I would definitely try pin down a unique point or observation, and try and get some relevant quotes from primary sources.

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