The Phasing Out of Story Mediums

“Jordan wore a black T-shirt with a drawing of a marijuana leaf in the center…He stood up straight and stamped a Timberland boot on the floor… ‘You think it’s some Orwellian shit?…Like that War of the Worlds radio broadcast back in the day that caused all that panic?'” (302)

“There’s a ‘witch slapping’ scene in Lagoon. Are there self-proclaimed holy men slapping the so-called witchcraft out of women? Yes. See for yourself at: youtube.com/watch?v=bfeGpcmfMBA.” (306)

When I saw Okorafor’s comment at the end of Lagoon (in which she gives further insight to some elements of the story), I immediately wondered how quickly the link would expire — or, even further, when YouTube itself would no longer exist and the link be wholly unusable. I paired this with a scene in the extra chapter at the end of the novel, which not only gives the story a specific era in terms of fashion (the marijuana leaf shirt and the Timberland boots) but also brings up a question of the inevitability of the phasing out of technology and whether stories will surpass this phasing. The character, Jordan, brings up the radio drama adaptation of H.G. Wells’ The War of The Worlds, which first premiered in 1938. While radio dramas have mostly gone out of style (largely due to the introduction of television), the tale of The War of the Worlds radio drama lives on. Jordan’s comparison of the “The President of Nigeria Saved by Witches and Warlocks” YouTube video to the infamous radio drama doesn’t seem to be accidental; Okorafor may be toying with the notion that, while the mediums these stories are presented on may eventually phase out, the stories themselves may survive.

Media and Perspective

That afternoon, the church was packed, thanks to the television, newspaper, and radio, though not so much the Internet.  According to the media, the water along all the beaches was “rising at an alarming rate!” and pushing into the lagoon.  Government buildings and independent businesses were all “closed until further notice!”  There had been an “excruciatingly loud racket tumbling off the ocean.”  Something was amiss, and everyone was getting ready for whatever would come next.  (58)

Throughout Lagoon, we are presented with a staggering multitude of perspectives and, on more than one occasion, multiple accounts of the same event.  In doing so, Okorafor very clearly provides readers with the idea that simply because two people witnessed the same occurrence does not mean that they will interpret that occurrence the same way; in fact, Lagoon almost seems to posit that it is impossible for one person to absorb something in the same way as another.  The presence of the media in the novel only complicates this.  In the passage above, it can be garnered from the three separate quotations that there are multiple outlets reporting on the events taking place in Lagos, and the fact that there are clashing reports–all engendering paranoia of some sort–demonstrates the way in which a different perspective on an event can work towards obscuring that event just as much as it could work toward elucidating it.  In spite of all the information the people of Lagos are being given, nothing is concrete- and as a result, they are not preparing for any danger in specific, only “whatever would come next”.

Change Many Can See

“‘The winds of change are blowing. We are change. You will see'” (Okorafor 112).

In Act I of Lagoon, one of the most prominent uses of visual and digital media is the video message that Ayodele spreads throughout Lagos. This particular scene presents readers with a modern take on invasion suggesting the interconnectivity that the internet provides for people now can potentially be both harmful and helpful. The inevitable change is coming, but one is ignorant to what that might mean. When Ayodele states “You will see,” she hints at the inevitability of it while also admitting that because of the technology the people have they can now all be witness to this change. Instead of the few that experience the androids’ message, for example in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick, in hopes of change, Okorafor allows many to hear Ayodele’s message which provides a broader spectrum of reaction. Richard Deckard may go back to his life like nothing ever happened, but Lagos will be forever changed by Ayodele whether for good or bad.

May the Force Be With You, O

“[The president] wished he were at his home in Abuja with a glass of cool Guinness, watching Star Wars on his high-definition wide-screen television. He loved Star Wars, especially the more recent installments. There was such honor in Star Wars. In another life, he’d have made a great Jedi knight.” – 84

The neat things about this paragraph is that it shows science fiction is an acknowledged and important part of Okorafor’s universe. That might seem like stating the obvious, but in my experience it’s pretty rare to have 21st century characters directly cite the flood other media available to us in their thinking. In much the same way the protagonist in a zombie movie might have never seen or heard of these “dead-walking things” before the Outbreak, Okorafor could have glossed over other frames of reference for aliens. Showing these shout-outs and references not only makes the characters more sympathetic, but reflects how culture influences our thinking. These frames of reference stack on top of one another as time goes on, until Star Wars and District 9 form a sort of mosaic that gives Lagoon more complexity and nuance by having a conversation with the works that inspired it.