Engaging with comedy as social conscience in Terry Pratchett’s “Discworld”
This project sits within the field of popular culture, exploring the ways in which people read Terry Pratchett’s Discworld. The primary research objective was to ascertain whether political values encoded within the comedic text would be understood by its readers. An iterative mixed methods approach was used to gauge audience engagement. Of the potential audiences, there was an audience segment who rejected the text on generic (fantasy) grounds. Of those with a greater investment of time, in dramatic production, this led to resentment and a refusal to impute any significance to the text. Audiences of the productions who invested less time rejected the fantasy genre but accepted the significance of the text as they experienced it. Subsequent on-line research on the more engaged fan audience showed different levels of engagement. Among fans, there was a minority who enjoyed the text but rejected any real world significance. More often the fans described their Discworld favourites in terms that reflected a connection with their own lived experience. Specific themes emerged which were discussed in relation to the text: The accessibility of the comic protagonists is discussed in relation to models of masculinity in late modernity. Vimes was admired by all demographic groups, often as an aspirational figure, with 64% nominating him as a favourite. Transtextual relationships with the gothic articulate a female voice within the Discworld and shows how fans relate their own mortality to the Discworld character Death. The theme of personal social responsibility recurs in the Discworld and is discussed in relation to the macro level politics of terrorism and conflict. Discworld fans tended to be socially and politically active, the majority of the fan respondents felt that key socio-political themes were evident in the Discworld diegesis.