Welcome to the second interview in this series, where we’re checking in with the contributors to Pop Culture Matters: Proceedings of the 39th Conference of the Northeast Popular Culture Association.
This third interview is with Cheryl A. Hunter, a writer and an adjunct professor at UMASS Lowell and SNHU. Her article is titled: “Heroes and the Role of Heredity in the Shaping of Identity”.
How did you find yourself studying pop culture?
I became interested in pop culture while I was studying for my Bachelor’s degree at the University of New Hampshire at Manchester. I went back to school to complete a degree and changed my major to Humanities after being introduced to ancient Greek and Roman culture by a professor. At the time, the Lord of the Rings movies and the Harry Potter novels and movies were very popular, and I decided to base my Master’s thesis on both. This led to a book titled The Myths and Archetypes in the Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter, and I have been writing about mythology, Philosophy, and popular culture since.
How did the idea for this essay manifest?
I had looked at heredity as a small part of other papers, and I wanted to explore the connection between heroes and their family. Tolkien had elaborate family stress on his characters and stressed the importance of heredity in his novels. In Harry Potter, J.K. Rowling also emphasized that Harry was taking up his parent’s fight. Then Wonder Woman came out, and it seemed a good time to further explore heredity in some of the most popular hero stories. Heroes are individuals who must forger their own reputation, but they are also helped and sometimes hindered by those who came before them. I wanted to look at how the individual hero overcomes his or her heritage and becomes a hero in his or her own right. The hero’s choices are the foundation of the hero’s journey, and I was interested in how heredity affects those choices.
How would you explain the article’s contribution to pop culture studies (or other relevant fields) and its main point(s)?
I think my essay highlights the need to examine one’s choices and see how our past and our family influences those choices. Each individual is trying to forge his or her unique identity, and whether it is conscious or not, we are all influenced by those who came before us.
How did you find yourself presenting at NEPCA?
I first presented at the NEPCA conference in 2014 after presenting in 2007 and 2012 at the National PCA conference. At the time, I was researching Ethics and moral choice, and I was looking at the ethical dilemmas of heroes in popular books and films.
What additional work (if any) have you done on this subject matter?
I have been expanding on the topic and hope to include it in a larger work in the future. I am also using some of the research in my classes. I think it is important for students to examine their lives by looking at and reflecting on the choices their favorite heroes make.
What current projects or research are you pursuing?
Currently in my academic writing, I am looking at the Ethics of Artificial Intelligence. This is an important topic because everyday technology advances closer to the birth of Artificial Intelligence. From personal assistants such as Amazon’s Alexa to self-driving cars to robots that can teach children and present the news, artificial intelligence is working into everyone’s life. What will happen if one day one of these machines becomes sentient? Will we grant these beings rights?
I am also writing and publishing a series of fiction stories that I have written. The first book in the series was published in November 2018, and the second book should be published this summer. I am currently working on the third book in the series. The story incorporates elements of the hero’s journey and is the story of Arianna, a young woman who discovers she is not quite human and the mythology that she teaches is not entirely fiction. As she struggles with her new identity and discovers her special talent, she also discovers her family’s secret. Now, she must accept that her life is changed, forever.
Check out other interviews with authors in this book: