Martial Arts Television Series as Medium and Text

While Chinese cinema and post-cinematic film have played a pivotal role in the global success story of the martial arts genre and its significance for popular culture, martial arts television series seem to constitute a rather local phenomenon and, despite their social significance, remain relatively underrepresented in global academic discourse. Far from acting along a simple binary of the local and the global, however, Chinese martial arts television series constitute a complex glocal phenomenon in their textual strategies, format structure, and media dispositions. Aiming for a closer understanding of this format of martial arts culture and a more differentiated approach to its negotiation of these parameters, this paper undertakes a reading of the 2007 serial Huo Yuanjia (Fearless – A Chinese Hero) across three dimensions: 1) its relative (cultural) locality in an age of global hypermedia circulation of martial arts; 2) its integration into the logic and aesthetics of 21st century global media culture; 3) its relation to specific Chinese aesthetic and narrative concepts. It will be argued that Huo Yuanjia, in a multi-layered and dynamic interaction with the local and the global, employs textual strategies to construct a cultural essentialism and perpetuates a self-image of cultural localism, while at the same time operating under the dispositions of an increasingly borderless media world and connecting to a global popular consciousness and hypertextual network. It is in this interplay of global media culture and local text production that the serial finds the self in the other and the other in the self.

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