Welcome to Night Vale (Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor, 2012–) is a neo-radio drama podcast that uses specific aesthetic techniques in program formatting, vocal performance, and a descriptive absence as queer gestures leading to the creation of an unanchored acousmêtric lead character, Cecil Palmer, played by Cecil Baldwin. This article explores the show’s use of radical ambiguity through a remediated aesthetic and “noise” to set a queer uncanny scene. The use of queer vocal markers, a masked sonic color line, and racialized casting practices all contribute to the creation of an unseen/undescribed character that is open to audience interpretation. Combined with the creative production team’s assertion that all audience visualizations of the character are to be considered equally canonical, Welcome to Night Vale has created not only an acousmêtric character, but one that is a multiform as well. Though there is a long history of undescribed characters in sound studies and audience use of reverse ekphrasis to visualize characters is not new, the combination creates the opportunity for audiences to create infinite canonical variations of the same character—an innovative sound structure.
Queering the Unseen Character: Remediation and Radical Ambiguity in Welcome to Night Vale
Tanya D. Zuk, PhD, is a lecturer at Georgia State University in moving image studies. Her research focuses on canonical collaborative authorship in alternative queer new media like podcasts, web series, and video games. She focuses on audience contributions to media texts and fan labor. She is the co-chair of the Gender & Sexuality Caucus of the Radio Preservation Taskforce. Her interest in sound studies is in podcasts, queer sound, and fan commentary. Her recent work includes co-editing an interdisciplinary anthology, Our Blessed Rebel Queen: Essays on Carrie Fisher and Princess Leia. Additional work can be found in In Media Res, Transformative Works and Cultures, and the Journal of Religion and Popular Culture.
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Tanya D. Zuk; Queering the Unseen Character: Remediation and Radical Ambiguity in Welcome to Night Vale. Resonance 1 June 2022; 3 (2): 163–176. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/res.2022.3.2.163
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