Society for Linguistic Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
There are a surprising number of comics books produced in Taiwan which not only represent the daily life of white collar workers, but in which characters appear who clearly represent the artist creating the comic. These characters, some of the best known of which are the ones created by designers Wan Wan and Mark, often begin as a self-representation on designers’ personal blogs or as free-to-download stickers for messaging services before they become the protagonists in narrative comics, as well as logo characters reproduced on a wide assortment of products. The comics are critical of corporate logic (like Scott Adams’ Dilbert) while simultaneously promoting the values of hard work, entrepreneurship, and the continual reanimation of one’s “inner child,” sometimes through the citation of self-help discourse, but more through techniques of composition and visual style. The comics encourage multiple identifications with both characters and artists, and the transmedia platforms allow fans not only to keep the cartoon characters co-present in their daily lives, but also to use them as vehicles for self-expression. I argue that these licensed characters, with their combination of autobiographical aura and Everyman genericness, absorb “creativity” into a new model of the ideal neoliberal subject, and encourage fans to inhabit that subject by reframing all labor as animation.