Abstract: This paper applies the theory of “parafictional persona” to Judd Apatow’s This Is the End (2012), positioning its ensemble cast as a key example of an increasingly common occurrence: actors and performers playing themselves in fictional media. It surveys the history of personalization in comedy media to chart how the practice of performers appearing in character while using their own real name coincides with the rise of social media technology and the new media ecology. By analyzing This Is the End and its cast of comedian-performers, I demonstrate how the interplay of real and fictional in parafictional media texts cause such texts to appear more recognizably a part of the real world of the audience. I also demonstrate how the same parafictional interplay can be intentionally subverted and exploited by savvy performers for comedic or narrative effect.
I’m very happy to report that my refereed article on parafictional persona, comedian comedy and This Is the End has just been published in the Popular Culture Studies Journal. It’s an open-access journal, so you can go and read it right now.
This piece grew out of an idle thought I had while watching the film, which I initially posted as a Letterboxd review in 2013 (currently sitting at three likes 🥳). Six years later, I saw that the PCSJ was calling for submissions for an undergraduate/postgraduate showcase special issue, so I decided to expand that nugget of an idea into a journal article. It’s been quite a journey.
While researching this piece for the PCSJ I fell into a bit of a parafictional persona rabbit-hole and realised how common the practice of comedian-performers using their real name in fictional contexts has become. I also noticed how many of my favourite comedy shows (The Larry Sanders Show, Seinfeld, Curb Your Enthusiasm) are fundamentally built on the exploitation of parafictional personas. Two weeks ago I submitted a proposal to study parafictional persona in film, television, podcasting and web media as a PhD.
If I’m accepted, will this be the first case of a Letterboxd review being adapted into a PhD?