Posted: August 12th, 2013
Major Textual Analysis Project
The Almighty Johnsons is a New Zealand TV Series that airs in Australia’s TV3. The show pursues the life of a student named Axl Johnson who, on the day of his 21st birthday, discovers that his family members are reincarnated Norse gods of old. However, his family members do not have full powers until Axl has been reincarnated as Odin. To ensure that their family survives, Odin has to locate the whereabouts of the reincarnation of Odin’s wife, Frigg. Matters are further complicated by the fact that they are not the only Gods in Exile, in New Zealand. The first episode of the whole series is one of interest. It portrays the life of a young man who has been ushered in into the world of responsibility. Axl, at the age of 21, is given the burden of a god whose power can sustain those of his family members (Griffin and Lang). This can be assumed as the typical life experience of everyone who becomes of age. For some, like Axl, responsibility is thrust upon them when they become adults. Some readily accept the challenges with excitement not knowing what lies ahead. Others deny the fact that they have become of age and refuse to take responsibility. Though Axl is skeptical at first, he accepts his role as the reincarnate of the Norse go Odin. The question is how real life experiences of young adults have been portrayed in the series. In this sense, the question of how similar the Norse myth is to it portrayal in the Almighty Johnsons and are there any similarities between the modern culture and ancient Nordic cultures for the myth to appeal to both.
The various ways in which the screen text was produced and circulated can be viewed in various ways. The series has been produced within a social context that is defined by television. South Pacific pictures, is a television production company that made use of the popularity of television to produce the screen text, Almighty Johnsons. Television seems to be attracting more people every day. Television is mostly watched by young people who are attracted to genres such as have been presented by Almighty Johnson (Hammond and Mazdon 21). One of the things that have increased television popularity is the fact that as the society grows, jobs are becoming less available. It is commonplace to find graduates with no jobs and therefore, they are drawn to watching television on a regular basis. Perhaps the production is aimed at this group of young men and women to take initiative and map out the course of their futures. Institutional context in this regard refers to the social context within which the screen text has been produced. In this case, television has played an important role in delivering the intended meaning.
The discursive context refers to the conversations that take place in society and how these conversations shape thought in society and the world. Television has been considered one of the most crucial aspects of society. It then follows that whatever airs in the television, people are going to discuss (Fisherkeller 56). The Almighty Johnsons is thought of as being humorous. This assessment tells a lot the social context within which the screen text was produced. It seems to suggest that people do not want to take life seriously. The humorous concept it seems has been used to encourage audiences to embrace the concept of gods in the modern world. Rumors to cancel the show, for example, were not taken lightly with people on twitter asserting that the show had to continue into the third season. This just goes to show the importance that has been attached with the continuation of the show by the fan base.
The central idea behind the plot is the interaction of gods in modern society. The plot also revolves around Axl Johnson’s quest to marry the goddess Frigg so that his family members’ powers can be fully realized. If this does not happen, then disaster befalls the family and they will not survive. This representation is more of the daily challenges that young men and women go through every day such as dealing with siblings, love, disappointment and how one fits into the world. What role are they supposed to play? The Almighty Johnsons, as much as it is geared toward achieving humorous effects, it also provides people with an engaging dramatic experience. The dramas of life include concepts such as love, rivalry, conflict among other difficulties that are characteristic of everyday life.
The screen text also takes the audience to a world of fantasy that is all about gods and their destiny. The fantasy is plays into the minds of youth and people in general who have the desire to achieve greatness yet they never know where to begin. Axl has provided is a classic example of current youth who hope to be enlightened about the path they are supposed to take. Since this does not happen in real life, the audiences live through the character of Axl Johnson and others in their quest to find their purpose in the world. The fantasy genre has also been influenced by other programs on television.
There seems to be a frantic about the fantasy genre today. It has become the norm that one may find motion pictures and television series having zombies, vampires, super powered individuals among other fantasy traits (Hammond and Mazdon 39). The appeal of fantasy is that, for the period one is watching these fantasy programs, one is made to believe that there is a slight chance that such things take place. It is accurate to conclude that the Almighty Johnsons provide a multi faceted approach where it provides the audience with aspects of drama, humor and fantasy as a marketing strategy. It has taken advantage of the appeal that fantasy and science fiction has on television audiences to sell its concept.
The cultural context of the screen text is based on a modern life that has been integrated with the cultural context of the Norse gods. While Axl Johnson and his brothers lead a normal life in the world, they have to abide by the rules of Norse gods. For example, as a rule, Norse female gods and male gods do not get along as a rule. This is an ancient archetype of gender relations where men and women are considered different in terms of the roles they play in society. Women have always been seen as the inferior sex, and in this regard, they have withstood the worst of male brutality. This relationship between the Norse deities is an example of women asserting their independence something that has been increasingly visible in the world today. This also gives evidence to the fact that even in ancient times, women have always fought for their independence and equality. The social context of the screen, despite the deity concept, portrays the problems that people face everyday. For example, the screen text reveals social truths such as divorce, betrayal, destiny among other social concepts.
The most important thing that comes out in this screen text is the fact the obvious us of intertextuality. This is where the creators of The Almighty Johnson’s have used a previous text in the past to come up with their own constructions. Intertextuality in this case has been the transference of the contents ancient Nordic poetry about Norse deity and applying the same concept in a modern context through the Almighty Johnsons (Allen 27). The assumption is that while the Nordic poetry is important, it may not appeal to the current society. In this case, the creators recreate a story about the Norse gods and goddesses by incorporating themes that are relevant to our current experiences.
In episode one of the first season of The Almighty Johnsons, Axl has been presented with the idea that he is the vessel of Odin, a Norse god in ancient Germanic mythology (Griffin and Lang). One crucial scene is when his brothers gather around in the forest to tell him who he is. He is reluctant to believe what his brothers are telling him. This may be because the idea of incarnation may be a farfetched idea. However, he is finally convinced, and he accepts the challenge. One of the reasons he agrees is to becoming Odin’s incarnate is the fact that he will be responsible for the continued survival of his brothers. What is clear is that it presents issues around accepting responsibility of avoiding it all together (chaos or order). Chaos will erupt if Odin does not accept his destiny and save his brothers. However, his acceptance of this responsibility where he has to find Frigg, he will be able to save his family.
Another significant issue is the fact that he has been given this responsibility at the age of 21 and right on his birthday. This is significant especially because culture dictates that a man or woman will get to the age in which he or she will have to take up some responsibility. In the past, this was also the practice. This practice has survived the many generations. When Axl takes the sword of Odin, he is struck by lightening and this marks his incarnation the beginning of his quest toward his destiny. People begin life when they have reached a certain mark in life. In western culture, this is always through education, where after attaining a degree, one embarks on a path chosen for them in pursuit of happiness. Either way, Axl journey is a replica of the structures inherent in society.
Mythology studies myth. Myth is usually a story that has significant implications to a particular culture. However, myth can be assigned a different attribute in which myth may refer to the way symbols have been ordered so that constructions appear natural. It is therefore essential to interrogate the relevance of myth in this society. The relevance of myth in the Almighty Johnsons is partly because of enhancing plot, but it also, myth has been used to enhance a certain message that is relevant to the society within which the screen text has been produced. The issue of myth here has been achieved by presenting symbols to give an understanding of the world within which we live. The myth of a defined destiny is revealed in the person of Axl Johnson, his brothers, and other gods and goddesses whose paths have chosen. The similarity between the ancient Norse myth and the myth as presented by the screen is obvious. All portray lives as being directed by a being higher that they can comprehend. This remains a part of western culture where people believe that order is brought by all being right in the world. If this order is tampered with, then chaos is inevitable.
There is a significant relationship between ancient mythologies. This can be explained by the fact that despite the use of an old mythological story from a dead civilization can still apply in the modern context. Further still, it is evident that the desire to pursue one’s destiny is a persistent archetype in the art that has survived to this day. If art is the portrayal of society, then The Almighty Johnsons has portrayed human beings as still desiring the divine intervention in life. The fantasy appeal of the screen text goes to show just this. It is also crucial to recognize the fact that screen text has been used to present the challenges that young people go through everyday such as the difficulties one faces in life such as dealing with siblings, the decision about one’s future among other issues. The Almighty Johnsons in this regard has been a useful tool in assessing the relevance of myth in life in now and in the past.
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