Presentation Title

Keeping the Magic Secret: Magic, Sexuality, and National Identity in the BBC’s Merlin

Faculty Mentor

Professor Alison Perchuk

Start Date

18-11-2017 1:30 PM

End Date

18-11-2017 1:45 PM

Location

15-1828

Session

Humanities 2

Type of Presentation

Oral Talk

Subject Area

humanities_letters

Abstract

In 2007, British Parliament passed the Equality Act, officially outlawing discrimination based on sexual orientation. The passing of this law was surprising, given that only 17% of British citizens supported the gay rights movement at the time. This would change by 2013, when 77% of the public voted in favor of passing same-sex marriage laws in Britain. During this same period, the BBC aired the cult show Merlin, a retelling of Arthurian legend. By the show’s finale, Merlin averaged 1.44 million viewers per episode, with the most popular demographic being women between the ages of 14 – 22. The main plot involving the wizard Merlin (in this adaption a teenage boy) hiding his unique gift of magic for fear of prosecution, struck fans as a poignant commentary on the changing social opinion regarding gay rights. Through online fan communities and social media, Merlin fans began to use the show to discuss this changing political and social landscape. This paper will examine the relationship between magic and homosexuality on Merlin, how this relationship was exploited by fans as a means of political discourse, and explore the use of Arthurian legends as a vehicle for discussion among young British nationals.

Summary of research results to be presented

The conclusions of this research find that online fan communities have increasingly become instrumental in shaping the political opinions of young women. In addition, this research concludes that the role of Arthurian myths in British society have a significant impact on British national identity. By looking at these two conclusions in tandem, this paper draws an argument that there is a strong relationship between young British women and Arthurian legend that makes these myths influential in developing political views and culture, and that this influence is made stronger by the advent of internet communities.

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Nov 18th, 1:30 PM Nov 18th, 1:45 PM

Keeping the Magic Secret: Magic, Sexuality, and National Identity in the BBC’s Merlin

15-1828

In 2007, British Parliament passed the Equality Act, officially outlawing discrimination based on sexual orientation. The passing of this law was surprising, given that only 17% of British citizens supported the gay rights movement at the time. This would change by 2013, when 77% of the public voted in favor of passing same-sex marriage laws in Britain. During this same period, the BBC aired the cult show Merlin, a retelling of Arthurian legend. By the show’s finale, Merlin averaged 1.44 million viewers per episode, with the most popular demographic being women between the ages of 14 – 22. The main plot involving the wizard Merlin (in this adaption a teenage boy) hiding his unique gift of magic for fear of prosecution, struck fans as a poignant commentary on the changing social opinion regarding gay rights. Through online fan communities and social media, Merlin fans began to use the show to discuss this changing political and social landscape. This paper will examine the relationship between magic and homosexuality on Merlin, how this relationship was exploited by fans as a means of political discourse, and explore the use of Arthurian legends as a vehicle for discussion among young British nationals.