OVER*Flow: What’s in a Frame? Paratexts, Performance, and Joaquin Phoenix in Joker
Justin Rawlins / University of tulsa


Joaquin Phoenix as Joker
Joaquin Phoenix Stars as the Joker in Warner Brother’s Box Office Hit

Joaquin Phoenix’s turn as unemployed clown/aspiring comedian-turned-murderer in Joker (Todd Phillips, 2019) has been widely lauded as an awards season frontrunner and has just become the highest-grossing R-rated film of all time. Despite its polarized reception, the film’s champions and detractors both frequently agree that Phoenix’s performance is Joker’s most notable—in some cases, its only redeeming—feature.[ (( Some critics at the Venice Film Festival began applauding it before the credits rolled. Other critics have labeled it a plotless amalgamation of GIFs “stuffed with phony philosophy,” conveying “a rare, numbing emptiness.” Zacharek, Stephanie. “Joke Wants to Be a Movie About the Emptiness of Our Culture. Instead, It’s a Prime Example of It.” Review of Joker, directed by Todd Phillips. Time, 31 August 2019, https://time.com/5666055/venice-joker-review-joaquin-phoenix-not-funny/. Accessed 21 October 2019; Brody, Richard. “’Joker’ is a viewing experience of rare, numbing emptiness.” Review of Joker, directed by Todd Phillips. New Yorker, 3 October 2019, https://www.newyorker.com/culture/the-front-row/joker-is-a-viewing-experience-of-rare-numbing-emptiness. Accessed 21 October 2019.))] This shared sensibility among otherwise divergent readings points to a latent understanding of screen performance that is mobilized, but not interrogated, in the language used to describe his portrayal of Arthur Fleck/Joker. What can we glean from such consensus? What can it tell us about Phoenix’s acting, and about our understanding of screen performance writ large? By way of an answer, I offer potential lessons we can glean from probing cultural productions related to—but outside of—the film. In these texts, I suggest, we can see Phoenix’s turn in Joker framed to both emphasize his substantial weight loss and conflate it with great acting. Consciously or unconsciously, I follow, these same discourses entangle Phoenix’s received performance with long-entrenched popular cultural understandings of “Method” acting connecting his perceived work in Joker to his other screen labor, to other Jokers, and to the exclusive club of “Method” practitioners.

Despite concerns about audiences’ premature reactions to Joker, the fact is that audience experiences of motion pictures have long been preceded and thus framed by texts emanating from studios, critics, viewers, and other constituencies. These “paratexts”[ ((Gray, Jonathan. Show Sold Separately. New York University Press, 2010, 25.))]—texts that prepare us for other texts—constitute crucial parts of the interpretive landscape within which we make sense of cinema. By approaching Phoenix’s performance through the paratexts that shape popular reception, we become attuned to the various ways audiences are primed to ascribe disproportionate value to physical transformation as a barometer for exceptional acting. Examining a range of paratexts that include the film’s two trailers and its many reviews, an overwhelming emphasis on Phoenix’s emaciated body comes into focus, as does its correlation with prevailing understandings of so-called “Method” acting.


Joker lifts his arms as he dances
Fig. 1. Gun in hand, Arthur lifts his arms as his dances in Joker’s teaser trailer. Like many other moments in Joker’s two trailers and the film itself, the camera lingers on Fleck’s exposed torso and showcases the “strange concavities” made possible by Joaquin Phoenix’s reported 52 pound weight loss. This, and other language about the actor’s “transformation” for the part, have been fixtures in the paratexts orbiting the film.

Joker’s April 3, 2019 teaser trailer—likely audiences’ first exposure to Joker footage—insists on such focus early and often. Ten seconds in, the camera follows the hunched lead, Arthur Fleck, whose slight frame, loose-fitting clothing, and sluggish gait intimate the character’s diminished physical, mental, and social state. Two shots of the topless Phoenix soon follow, revealing his gauntness. The effect is heightened when, for the third time in forty seconds, Arthur’s exposed torso appears. Fleck’s voiceover, “Is it just me, or is it getting crazier out there?” accompanies the camera’s slow, foreboding approach toward Phoenix’s bare back. Bones push the skin to its breaking point as Arthur strains to stretch his leather clown shoes, producing a sound of twisting flesh that could just as easily be emanating from the man’s body. A later image of him dancing with arms stretched over his head (Fig. 1) again accentuates his skeletal physique, while glimpses of action (primarily running) juxtapose his earlier sluggishness with a flailing freneticism that—though fully clothed—nevertheless showcases the awkward angularity of Fleck’s frame.


Joker's shirtlessness showcases bodily transformation
Fig. 2. Arthur’s shirtlessness continues in the film’s final trailer to showcase Phoenix’s skeletal transformation for the role, a recurring aesthetic of Joker and key facet of Phoenix’s paratextual performance.

The film’s August 28, 2019 final trailer sustains this emphasis, rehashing the shoe-stretching scene from a different angle while retaining its fixation on Phoenix’s wrenching and the audible sound of groaning flesh. Arthur stares into the kitchen sink as his protruding ribs catch the grim fluorescent light (Fig. 2). Soon after, his angular, sunken face reacts to the perceived treachery of late-night host Murray Franklin. Later still, another shirtless Fleck looks up from a hunched position, arms spread wide as if to call further attention to his wasted physique (Fig. 3). As with the first trailer, the final trailer (released on the verge of the film’s triumphant debut at the Venice Film Festival) paired the stark visualizations of Phoenix’s physical transformation with action shots that, even though clothed, further emphasized the centrality of his skeletal state to the character’s motion and psychology.


Joker looks up from unnatural pose in final trailer
Fig. 3. In Joker’s final (second) trailer, Fleck/Phoenix looks up from a pose reminiscent of other similarly unnatural postures that figured prominently in the film and its paratexts. Paratexts suggested that these frequent moments underscored the extremity of both the character’s interiority and the actor’s performance style.

From select screenings in Venice and Toronto to its wide release, critical discourse surrounding Joker has devoted outsized attention to Phoenix’s weight loss, connected it to Fleck’s trauma and mental illness, and suggested it is indicative of the actor’s extraordinary performance style. Allusions to sacrifice, transformation, immersion, mutation, embodiment, commitment, and other superlatives even underwrite otherwise negative assessments of Joker, with Phoenix described as “a virtuosic actor destroying his body” to hold together a film with otherwise fatal shortcomings.[ (( Walsh, Kate. “Controversy aside, ‘Joker’ is all setup, no punchline.” Review of Joker, directed by Todd Phillips. Chicago Tribune, 2 October 2019, https://www.chicagotribune.com/entertainment/sns-tns-bc-joker-movie-review-20191002-story.html. Accessed 21 October 2019; Coyle, Jake. “Funny how? In ‘Joker’ a villain turns ‘70s anti-hero.” Review of Joker, directed by Todd Phillips. Associated Press, 2 October 2019, https://apnews.com/f7cd3e5c71e24a6c9a0f71d7db11a9f8. Accessed 21 October 2019; Burr, Ty. “’Joker’: The dark villain rises.” Review of Joker, directed by Todd Phillips. Boston Globe, 2 October 2019. https://www.bostonglobe.com/arts/movies/2019/10/02/joker-the-dark-villain-rises/Dc4KhfL0KvBv6cpke7vnIO/story.html. Accessed 21 October 2019.))] Such consistently exceptionalizing discourse has, perhaps unsurprisingly, led to widespread speculation about Phoenix’s award-worthiness distilled in the declaration that “you might as well start engraving his name on the Oscar right now.”[ (( Hammond, Pete. “Joaquin Phoenix Kills It In Dark, Timely DC Origin Movie That Is No Laughing Matter.” Review of Joker, directed by Todd Phillips. Deadline, 31 August 2019, https://deadline.com/video/joker-review-joaquin-phoenix-robert-de-niro-dc-comics-venice-film-festival/. Accessed 21 October 2019.))]

Approaching Joker paratextually allows us to not only draw out these themes but also situate them within a broader constellation of discourses outside of the film itself. In the case of Joaquin Phoenix and Joker, the above-mentioned superlatives about his acting exist alongside other paratexts painting him as enigmatic, difficult, and idiosyncratic. Mercurial behavior, an on-set meltdown, and the sense of overall intensity surrounding the performer and his ascribed acting style collectively link Phoenix’s specific turn as Fleck/Joker to the actor’s earlier performances and his overall star image, as well as those of others explicitly and implicitly identified as “Method” practitioners. References to Heath Ledger and Jared Leto are expected given the character they all portrayed: the Clown Prince of Crime. These comparisons are also particularly loaded with popularly-received notions of “Method” acting. Ledger’s hyper-intensive absorption in his version of the character, which prompted rampant speculation that Method acting may have killed him, bears resemblance to Phoenix’s comparatively muted ferocity, while Leto’s transformation has become the subject of popular derision, an example of Method acting’s supposed excesses and self-importance that have been lampooned for decades.

Paratextually speaking, the “Method” acting attributed (explicitly and implicitly) to Phoenix, Leto, Ledger, and others is not inherent in the film performances themselves but instead emerges out of the interpretive landscapes that surround motion pictures and help us make sense of them. Over the course of decades, such circumstances have given rise to a prevailing understanding of “Method” acting adjacent to—but in other ways very different from—the actual techniques and philosophies of Method and Modern performance.[ (( Baron, Cynthia. Modern Acting: The Lost Chapter of American Film and Theatre. Palgrave Macmillan, 2016.))] This Method-adjacent discourse—what I call Methodness—entangles Joaquin Phoenix’s sacrificial weight loss and his intensity, absorption, and inscrutability with the long-entrenched popular reception of Method acting that selectively confers award-worthy prestige. This provokes many additional questions concerning (among other things) how paratexts animate inclusive and exclusive hierarchies of performance, how they inform our priorities in historicizing performance, and what we consciously or unconsciously perpetuate when we continue to traffic in such shared language.



Image Credits:

  1. Joaquin Phoenix Stars as the Joker in Warner Brother’s Box Office Hit
  2. Figure 1 (author’s screen grab)
  3. Figure 2 (author’s screen grab)
  4. Figure 3 (author’s screen grab)


References:




Winning Over La La Land: Prestige and Promotional Media Labor
Jesse Balzer / Indiana University

Clio Awards

Winners at the Clio Awards

For many critics, contemporary movie trailers have lost their voice. Following the deaths of prominent voice actors Don La Fontaine and Hal Davis in 2008 and 2014, respectively, many covering the film and media industries used their deaths to bemoan the “lost art” of the modern movie trailer. Even Lake Bell’s In a World… (2013), which tells the story of a female voice actor trying to break into a field dominated by men, seems similarly nostalgic for an old-fashioned movie trailer business.

Yet, unlike the somewhat anachronistic world of In a World…, the promotional media para-industries have largely moved away from all caps pronouncements of “IN A WORLD…” or “THIS SUMMER…” Like much of film and media marketing history, stylistic trends like this one remain incredibly difficult to periodize with any certainty, given a tendency, replicated too often, to treat promotional material as subordinate, in-between, and/or ephemeral. [ (( For more, see: Paul Grainge, ed., Ephemeral Media: Transitory Screen Culture from Television to YouTube (London: British Film Institute, 2011).))] Thankfully, this trend is changing with recent scholarly, and archival, attention. [ (( For example, see: Patrick Vondereau, Bo Florin, and Nico de Klerk, eds., Films That Sell: Moving Pictures and Advertising (London: British Film Institute, 2017). Additionally, Fred Greene, Keith Johnston, and Ed Vollans have produced fantastic work on film trailers through their Watching the Trailer project.))]

Promotional media discourse, in its trade journals and rituals, treat stylistic change, like the loss of the trailer voice over, as evolutionary: in the seemingly inexorable march of progress, advertising techniques throw off anything which could hold it back from becoming ever more successful, sophisticated, supple, and artistic. So, while popular opinion may occasionally pine for the return of familiar, hand-holding Voice of God narrators in movie trailers, the promotional media para-industries have largely left this technique behind as a hackneyed device of a bygone era.

These industry-sponsored discussions and evaluations of promotional media have been vastly undertheorized in popular and scholarly analyses of the subject. [ (( Though Paul Grainge and Catherine Johnson devote some time to the subject of promotional media award shows in their excellent book, Promotional Screen Industries (New York: Routledge, 2015), this is not their primary focus.))] Award shows, such as the annual Clio Entertainment Awards, promote the value of promotional media, augur future developments in the field, canonize key promotional (para-) texts and laborers, and establish the promotional viability and best practices of new commercial media platforms. The Clio Entertainment Awards provide structure for the labor of promotional media as the field keeps pace with broader technological and cultural shifts. As a key prize-granting institution, the Clio Entertainment’s authorize, to a significant degree, what is considered to be valuable promotional media work. [ (( James F. English’s The Economy of Prestige: Prizes, Awards, and the Circulation of Cultural Value (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2005) remains one of the few scholarly explorations of prize-granting institutions like the Clio Entertainment Awards and the cultural capital they yield.))]

Clio Awards Matinee
The Theatre at teh Ace Hotel in downtown Los Angeles hosts the Clio Awards

Formerly run under the auspices of The Hollywood Reporter, the Clio Entertainment Awards (née Key Art Awards) take place each year in Los Angeles. While untelevised, the Clios mimic televised award shows like the Oscars or Emmys, especially in their tendency to run over their allotted time and in their proclivity for insider humor. Much like previous ceremonies, the 2017 event was performed in a fairly ornate setting, the Theatre at the Ace Hotel (the former United Artists Building) in downtown Los Angeles; and featured a celebrity host (the now-disgraced Jeffrey Tambor). In this association with Hollywood as a space of glamor and creativity, the Clio Entertainment Awards seek to associate the work of trailer producers, editors and copywriters with directors, screenwriters, actors, and the other above-the-line creative talent honored at similar events like the Oscars. The Clios, then, function as one of the few sites where the generally unseen or otherwise taken-for-granted laborers in media promotion ascend, even if only for a moment, to the privileged status (and spaces) of media authorship.

Clio Awards Show
Inside the Theatre at the Ace Hotel for the Clio Awards

Since their inception as the Key Art Awards in 1972, the Clio Entertainment Awards have kept pace with the broader convergence and conglomeration of the media industries, shifting and growing categories to bestow prestige upon new media platforms and strategies. No longer focused exclusively on the film industry, the Clio Entertainment Awards instead cover promotional media in the broad categories of theatrical, home entertainment, television/streaming, and video games; and award prestigious Grand, Gold, Silver, and Bronze statues for the best trailers, posters, packaging, press kits, social media campaigns, and partnerships. In shifting or creating new award categories, the Clio Entertainment Awards help to catalyze the potential of new and cross-media promotion, setting standards of evaluation for work within this field; work which is valued, simultaneously, for its “effectiveness” (box office performance, impressions, reach, hits, likes) and its “creative excellence.” Trailer boutiques or agencies, as well as individual promotional media laborers, display these awards prominently in their offices, on their websites, and in resumes, attesting to the use-value of the Clios as symbolic capital, crucial to sustaining and acquiring new work within the field. [ (( See, for example, this news post from Trailer Park, one of this para-industries’ most prominent agencies.))]

LaLaLand ad Campaign
Example of the La La Land Integrated Campaign

The Integrated Campaign Award perhaps most transparently illustrates how the value of promotional media is calculated. Like many other entries in the category, Lionsgate’s Integrated Campaign for La La Land (2016), winner of a Clio Grand award in 2017, consists of a short video which proves (to a jury of peers working in the field) the scope, reach, and artistic merit of a promotional strategy carefully managed across time, space, and media platforms. Essentially a trailer for an entire marketing campaign, La La Land’s Integrated Campaign video chronicles the execution of a promotional campaign from beginning to end: from the rollout of early teaser trailers, to the use of social media, to the orchestration of pre-release publicity for stars Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling. Furthermore, it does so by describing the four “movements” of the marketing campaign, inspired, the video claims, “by classical symphony structure,” drawing comparisons in this instance between media promotion and the formal structure of a classical art form.

Curiously, a male narrator guides viewers (and, most importantly, judges) through these movements, illustrating the continuities between promotion and the film. For media para-industries which have almost entirely moved away from voice-over narration in trailers, for instance, it’s intriguing that these videos so often rely on the anachronistic Voice of God narration as a structuring device, ushering viewers through an entire campaign, all in order to argue for the successful maintenance of key marketing messages. Crucially, however, the video is also careful to put that campaign in its proper, hierarchical place as media labor: ultimately, as the narrator explains, the campaign is serving the needs, or following the lead, of a parent text, and the integrated campaign for La La Land is, ultimately, only excellent insofar as it draws upon and supports the film La La Land.

As a semi-public trade ritual, then, the Clio Entertainment Awards afford us the opportunity to other sides of promotional media: how evaluation by its award-granting institutions is endemic to how these para-industries function as media labor; how these evaluations are not straightforward calculations of economic value, but dense negotiations of economic and cultural or artistic value; and how, despite being temporarily assigned the prestigious label of authorship, promotional media labor remains part of para- or support industries, labor whose value can be understood, ultimately in service of parent films, shows, franchises, or properties. How we think about promotional media, particularly as para-industries of media labor, needs to take into account the role played by prize-granting institutions like the Clio Entertainment Awards in structuring what work is considerable valuable.

Image Credits:

1. Winners at the Clio Awards
2. The Theatre at teh Ace Hotel in downtown Los Angeles hosts the Clio Awards
3. Inside the Theatre at the Ace Hotel for the Clio Awards
4. Example of the La La Land Integrated Campaign (author’s screen grab)

Please feel free to comment.




TV Finales: Rethinking the Cliffhanger
Casey McCormick / McGill University


Lost in Space

Lost in Space, “The Reluctant Stowaway” (1965)

Tune in next week! To be continued. Next time on…

Anticipation is built into TV’s economic and formal structures. Keeping viewers invested in a storyworld goes hand in hand with maintaining ratings and enticing advertisers. Season finales are at the core of this ethos – they generate extra levels of hype, which usually translates into larger viewership. Furthermore, season finales produce the conditions for heightened anticipation during a show’s hiatus. With an increasingly competitive TV marketplace, gaps between episodes and seasons often involve a slow drip of paratextual information [ (( My work on paratexts here and elsewhere builds on Jonathan Gray’s Show Sold Separately: Promos, Spoilers, and other Media Paratexts. New York: NYU Press, 2010. ))] from producers and fans, such as teaser images, promos, interviews, trailers, and spoilers, all designed to optimize anticipation. In short, the economic imperatives of the TV industry dictate that season finales must thrive on the ability to perpetuate narrative interest – not satisfy it. [ (( Jason Mittell writes that “the [American TV] industry equates success with an infinite middle and relegates endings to failures” (321). Complex TV: The Poetics of Contemporary Television Storytelling. New York: NYU Press, 2015. I am indebted to this book’s chapter on series finales. ))]

AMC AMC promo for s06 finale

AMC promotion for the Season 6 finale of The Walking Dead

When I sat down to watch “Last Day on Earth,” The Walking Dead‘s sixth season finale, the day after its initial airing, I knew that it would end on a cliffhanger. I’d opened Facebook and Twitter and had seen no “RIP _____” posts, no crying emoji next to a character’s name, and no vague headlines with ominous photos. In this case, the lack of spoilers was the spoiler. So I was not at all surprised when Negan, the newly arrived villain, raised his barbed-wire baseball bat, and the camera switched to an unknown POV, then faded to black as the mystery victim suffered a brutal beating.

negan

The Walking Dead “Last Day on Earth” (2016)

Like many other season-ending cliffhangers in TV history, this episode spawned anger, frustration, and a whole lot of anticipation. Despite the fact that viewers overwhelmingly hated “Last Day on Earth,” anger has not prevented them from engaging in diverse methods of “forensic fandom.” Dozens of recaps, shot-by-shot visual analyses, and audio dissections of the scene, as well as websites compiling production information and videos analyzing promotional materials, are dedicated to answering one question: Who did Negan kill? By the time you read this article, we will all know the answer. But I’m not so much interested in the answer as I am in how this cliffhanger seemed to fail on the level of narrative but was so successful on the level of hype. “Last Day on Earth” demonstrates the significance of TV finales, particularly in a traditional (i.e. incremental) TV distribution model. [ (( In a simultaneous distribution model (like that of Netflix original series), finales take on different characteristics. ))]

As key sites of anticipation, finales are essential to how we structure our experiences of televisual storytelling. [ (( In Complex TV, Mittell reserves the term “finale” for what he considers a series’ “conclusion with a going-away party” (pg 322). I use “finale” in a more general sense, as I argue that season and series finales throughout history and across genres share similar narrative toolkits. ))] Even before the prevalence of complex serial TV, finales have stood apart from other episodes in a season; the expectation of higher ratings places pressure on shows to offer something special to their audiences. For sitcoms and procedural shows, that might mean a notable guest star, a big event like a wedding or graduation, or the departure of a main character. For serial dramas, it usually means a major confrontation between opposing forces and some kind of game-changing revelation. [ (( Greg Smith, “Caught between Cliffhanger and Closure: Potential Cancellation and the TV Season Ending” (paper presented at the Society for Cinema & Media Studies conference, 2011). ))] In some cases, that revelation leads to a cliffhanger, a dire moment that distills narrative momentum into a single question: Who…? How…? Why…?

People Magazine Cover, 1980

Despite similarities in their patterns of hype, “Who did Negan kill?” is the inverse of “Who Shot JR?”

In “A House Divided,” Dallas’s famous season three cliffhanger, the question of “who shot JR?” gave audiences a mystery to solve; they could consider each character’s motivations and build a case based on narrative evidence. Meanwhile, the Negan cliffhanger does not leave us with a question that we can logically parse out – the apparent randomness of Negan’s brutality is, in fact, the point of the character, and one of the key themes of TWD. While even a literal “cliff-hanger” leaves some room for audiences to consider the strengths of a character in peril and the specificities of the situation in an attempt to calculate said character’s odds of survival, TWD gave us a cliffhanger with no narratively motivated mystery to ponder: it’s pure anticipation for the sake of anticipation.

The failure of this cliffhanger is compounded by other problems with TWD’s season six storytelling. Before the season began, viewers knew that Negan would arrive in the finale. Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s casting as the infamous villain was announced in November 2015, confirming the character’s debut as the telos of the season. Red herrings and circuitous plotting throughout the first 15 episodes resulted in frustration for many viewers, but the promise of Negan and his iconic baseball bat kept us on the hook. The fact that Negan’s arrival was common knowledge meant that, come finale time, the climactic scene contained no real “revelation” or new information to process. In addition, TWD is known for featuring significant deaths in its season (and mid-season) finales, so the cliffhanger betrayed the series’ established logic of storytelling flow. One reading of the final scene would be that when Negan turns his bat on the viewer, he is punishing audiences for their obsession with spoilery moments, perhaps suggesting that some modes of fandom miss the point. But as many viewers have noted, the effect of the scene was not the feeling of shock and excitement that Kirkman claims as the goal, but rather of anger and resentment: “fucking cliffhangers, man.”

#fuck

Cliffhangers can sometimes cause anger and resentment

The cliffhanger has an inconsistent reputation – on the one hand, it is considered a cheap trick and is historically tied to the economic motivations of serial storytelling, enticing consumers to buy more narrative. [ (( Jennifer Hayward, Consuming Pleasures: Active Audiences and Serial Fictions from Dickens to Soap Opera. Lexington: U P of Kentucky, 1997. ))] On the other hand, the cliffhanger is a signature element of many “quality” TV series, deploying seriality in the service of narrative complexity. Cliffhangers done right are excellent vehicles for active fandom; they encourage viewers to engage with storyworlds through discussion, debate, and close reading. But “Last Day on Earth” manufactures a “water cooler” topic that necessarily removes fans from the storyworld: the best evidence to build a case for any particular victim would have to come solely from the paratextual realm, based on an actor’s recent haircut, fan favoritism, or adaptation politics. As a lover of storytelling, I see this kind of cliffhanger as a narrative failure; but there’s no denying that it generated an intense response that has resonated through popular media and will likely be converted into financial gains for AMC.

So maybe calling “Last Day on Earth” a failure is unfair and inaccurate. TV experience has always been defined by the intermingling of textual and paratextual signifiers, and the feedback loop between producers and consumers is more transparent than ever thanks to social media. The response to this cliffhanger is indicative of how active fans transcend narrative boundaries, and how the process of production becomes part of the story. But it also reveals the continued pressure on cable and broadcast networks to sacrifice storytelling merit on the altar of ratings. [UPDATE: AMC just released a 3-minute “sneak peek” of the season seven premiere. With 2.5 million views in less than 48 hours, this crucial scene placed out of context once again prioritizes hype at the story’s expense.]

In Volume 23, Issue 3, I’ll discuss the unique circumstances of series finales and explain our love/hate relationship with narrative closure. Stay tuned!

Image Credits:

1. Lost in Space, “The Reluctant Stowaway” (1965)
2. AMC promotion for the Season 6 finale of The Walking Dead
3. The Walking Dead “Last Day on Earth” (2016)
4. Despite similarities in their patterns of hype, “Who did Negan kill?” is the inverse of “Who Shot JR?”
5. Author’s screen grab