Author-as-Franchise-Product: Edgar Rice Burroughs Inc. and Tarzan as Historical Branded Entertainment

Author-as-Franchise-Product: Edgar Rice Burroughs Inc. and Tarzan as Historical Branded Entertainment

Matthew Freeman (University of Nottingham, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-5187-4.ch052
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Abstract

This chapter explores the historical relationship between the branded media entertainment of Tarzan and the rise of consumer culture in the 1920s and 1930s. It argues that the transmedia licensing of this property across pulp magazines, comics, and radio reflected the growing embrace of brand-franchise logics throughout the business landscape of America at that time. The author offers the metaphor of ‘stepping stones' to understand the brand linkages between these different media products in which consumption of one product led to the consumption of another. More importantly, the author analyses the function of Tarzan creator Edgar Rice Burroughs and his company, suggesting that his visibility as franchise-author played a crucial role in constructing these brand linkages between media products. Contextualised as part of the very different cultural landscape of 1920s and 1930s consumer culture, the author demonstrates how an authorial name operated commercially as much as a corporatised component of the branded entertainment products of Tarzan as the Tarzan character himself.
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Background

Despite the historicised focus of this chapter, considering the role of branding in – and as part of – entertainment might typically lead us to a fairly small amount of academic literature produced during the last decade. Such work encompasses perspectives on marketing, promotion, media production, franchising, transmedia, and indeed branding itself. The very notion of entertainment as branding is embodied in Henry Jenkins’ conception of transmedia, for instance. Consider the media texts emerging from The Matrix film (1999), which Jenkins selects as the exemplar to define transmedia storytelling. This example consists of three films, a collection of shorts called The Animatrix, a comic book series, and a videogame titled Enter the Matrix, all of which contained storyline elements that interwove across the different media texts. In ‘Final Flight of the Osiris,’ one of The Animatrix shorts, for instance, a protagonist called Jue sacrifices herself in order to send a message to the crew of the Nebuchadnezzar, an event that is referred to in The Matrix Reloaded (2003). In that film, Morpheus and Trinity are rescued by Niobe in the middle of a high-speed freeway chase – a daring rescue that players of the videogame had encountered as a specific mission (Jenkins, 2006, pp. 104-106). As Jenkins elaborates here:

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