#PCAACA21 Virtual ‘Reality’ & Horror


Just about every year since…? 1995? 1996? I have headed off around Easter time to attend the Popular Culture Association National Conference — except last year it was cancelled and this year it was pushed back to June. Everything is off-kilter, eh?

It’s a great conference: fun and informative, covering a wide range of topics — and seeing people I usually only get to see once a year, like the fabulous Miss Wendy. So I’m giving a presentation today on the idea I pitched for last year’s conference and thinking about next year’s which I hope will be in person again.

Session number nine in the Horror area with pals Rebecca Stone Gordon (assuming her Mercury retrograde-addled tech gets worked out) and Antares Russell Leask (newly minted PhD, hurrah!) will talk about Hannibal, Disney, and Shirley Jackson’s Theo. May all go smoothly.

Here’s my abstract if you’re curious about the topic:


The death of the character Beverly Katz in the television series Hannibal set off howls of protest for a variety of reasons. Show runner Bryan Fuller faced criticism of ‘fridging’ as well as reducing diversity because the role was played by Korean-American actor/playwright/musician Hettienne Park. Purists pointed out that canonically, Katz played a part in the Red Dragon arc, which did not begin until the following series of the television programme. Fuller has made no bones about his re-imagining of the narratives originally created by Thomas Harris’ novels, fleshing out characters like Katz that were much less well-developed in the books. Elsewhere in the series he has gender-swapped characters and brought others back to life after fiery deaths. Katz’s death does fit in with the overall aesthetic choices of Hannibal, a sensual feast that utilises haptic visuality to create an audience experience beyond the merely visual and audio. As Laura Marks argues, ‘Haptic criticism keeps its surface rich and textured, so it can interact with things in unexpected ways’ (78). Katz’s ‘gotcha’ moments prove her analysis to be keen, leading her to Lecter’s truth despite her declaring him to be ‘the new Will Graham’ when he infiltrates the Behaviour Analysis Unit. Lecter pays homage to her skills in the display of her dismembered body. While the spectacle is primarily intended for the audience of one (Will Graham), it provides a glorious work of art that evokes the gallery as much as the laboratory, displayed pointedly in the observatory.

As Will Graham says, This is my design….