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Dislocating William and Rau: The Wild Man in Virtual Worlds

Online Working Papers in Communication Research, 2- Locations and Locutions: Constituting Identity in Language and Place. AUT University, 2005.

Dislocating William and Rau: The Wild Man in Virtual Worlds




In February 2003, the University of Auckland English department’s home page was headed by a curious image: a cropped and horizontally flipped low resolution reproduction of Martin Droeshout’s notorious engraving of William Shakespeare for the 1623 folio of his plays. The right side of his face (the left in the original) is marked by a Māori moko (facial tattoo). I will return to this image later. In June 2003, a portrait of Rau, the main character of the video game The Mark of Kri™ accompanied an interview with Jay Beard of Sony America’s San Diego Studios at Like Shakespeare’s, half of his face is covered with what would in New Zealand be seen a Māori moko. Beard describes Rau’s world as “one of barbaric disorder” and the portrait has the inscription “Rau is this bad-ass. He really is.” The images point to different contexts of appropriation (and counterappropriation) within “virtual worlds” where the internet brings into close proximity instances taking place at great distances and following different trajectories. Alongside a meanwhile widely acceptable fashion of tattooing in many western countries, the wild man (and sometimes woman) is increasingly making a reappearance in the most advanced media systems.


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