Wallanderland. Medieturisme og skandinavisk TV-krimi. Studier i krimi og kriminaljournalstik 3. By Anne Marit Waade, 2013. Paperback, 227 pp. ISBN 978-87-7112-077-6.
The Danish media theorist Anne Marit Waade explores in this timely study the phenomenon of media tourism, using tourism in the footsteps of Inspector Kurt Wallander as her example. The character of Wallander was invented in 1991 by the bestselling Swedish author Henning Mankell, one of the most successful authors of Nordic crime novels in recent decades, and further developed until 2009. The literary original has been translated and become successful in many countries including the UK, the US and Germany. The books were also adapted into several different TV series in Sweden (1994–2007, with Rolf Lassgård as Wallander, and 2004–2010, with Krister Henriksson) and in the UK (2008–2010, with Kenneth Branagh).
As a result of his popularity, Inspector Wallander made a big impact also on the region around the small town of Ystad in Scania, southern Sweden, where the stories are set. Many tourists now seek to find the reality behind the fiction. As Waade shows, this effect was not only desired by the local and regional authorities in supporting the TV productions, but was later also successfully exploited in the marketing, and indeed branding, of the town. Inspector Wallander thus joins a number of other fictional characters and media works that have been firmly connected to destination development, from Inspector Morse in Oxford to the characters of Arn in Skara and Lisbeth Salander in Stockholm, and from the Lord of the Rings in New Zealand to the Da Vinci Code and Harry Potter throughout the United Kingdom (Roesch 2009; Reijnders 2011; Linder 2013).
The issues discussed by Waade in Wallanderland, however, are of much wider significance than just a discussion of a particular example of media tourism in southern Sweden which has been attracting increasing academic attention (Hedling 2010; Sjöholm 2011). Indeed, there are several issues discussed in her study that are directly relevant to the field of contemporary archaeology. Here, I wish to discuss two of them briefly.
That landscapes are as much cultural as natural has long been understood. Media tourism is an interesting approach for understanding what landscape representations in fiction can tell us about cultural, and indeed social, realities. In the case of Wallander and Ystad, Waade distinguishes between three levels on which represented locations and landscapes are significant and meaningful in the crime stories and their mediations. First, they are part of the original storylines in Mankell’s books. Descriptions of particular locations can function as powerful metaphors, whether for the thinking or state of mind of Wallander or for social realities in Ystad, within which he operates. Secondly, in the films, landscapes are chosen as backdrops complementing, or indeed contrasting with, the action and dialogue while also firmly anchoring them in Ystad and southern Sweden.
Finally, as a result of the popularity of the books and films, the townscape of Ystad and the landscape around it have become assets in the regional economy, exploited in destination marketing of the area. There is thus much opportunity for archaeological exploration and ‘digging’ in specific landscape representations, whether they occur in the books, films or marketing strategies. Analysing the mediated landscapes of Inspector Wallander can reveal patterns that lie below the surface, not only in the books and films but also in and around the town of Ystad. Waade’s sharp analysis of her sources, and in particular the discussion of her interviews with relevant individuals in Ystad, give us a glimpse of how landscapes in books, films and in lived surroundings are all interconnected. The colour illustrations in the book are very helpful for the reader to understand these interconnections.
A second issue of considerable relevance to contemporary archaeologists concerns relations between fiction, reality and the imagination in specific places. For Waade, media fiction creates a transparent, “archaeological”, layer of the town of Ystad, augmenting its physical reality. Media tourists visit Ystad because they want to see the reality behind Inspector Wallander. As they walk through the town the visitors recognize many of the places they know from the books and films and relish their memories of consuming Wallander stories. These places are authentic in the sense that the literary and filmic stories about Inspector Wallander actually refer to them. However, this authenticity is different from that appreciated by the local population of Ystad, who, based on their lived experiences and their knowledge of local history, connect different stories to many of the same places. History and heritage, like film and media, create imaginary worlds that are connected to specific locations, rendering them into “places of the imagination”. According to Stijn Reijnders, a Dutch media scientist and cultural analyst, places of the imagination are material reference points “which for certain groups within society serve as material-symbolic references to a common imaginary world”, i.e. to something that “is not actually present” (Rejinders 2011: 14). The notion of places of the imagination therefore bridges the gap between fiction and reality by focusing on what is imagined to have taken place and what often has a material impact too, e.g. in the form of information boards or as a result of large numbers of people visiting specific locations.
Wallanderland, in sum, raises a number of very profound issues based on an understanding of the significance of fiction and media for the way we imagine places and landscapes. On the one hand, Wallander and his heritage in contemporary Ystad become an important aspect of what Waade calls cultural citizenship, creating a sense of local ownership and collective identity, ultimately contributing to social cohesion just like other kinds of local heritage. On the other hand, Wallander tourism is profoundly unsettling: is this the culmination of a potentially dangerous trend towards the fictionalization and commodification of reality? Or – and this may be worse – are phenomena like Wallander tourism only bringing out reality’s inherent own fictionality? In that case, what hope can we have of making an impact on that reality except by creating more fiction? These are issues for future studies to investigate. Contemporary archaeology and heritage studies will have an important role to play in these debates.
Hedling, O. 2010. “Murder, Mystery and Megabucks? Films and Filmmaking as Regional and Local Place Promotion in Southern Sweden.” In Regional Aesthetics: Locating Swedish Media. Mediehistoriskt Arkiv 15, edited by E. Hedling, O. Hedling and M. Jönsson, 263-290. Stockholm: National Library of Sweden.
Linder, J. 2013. “Fictionalized Cityscapes: Lisbeth Salander and the Heritage of Stockholm.” Making Cultural History: New Perspectives on Western Heritage, edited by A. Källén, 39–48. Lund: Nordic Academic Press.
Reijnders, S. 2011. Places of the Imagination: Media, Tourism, Fan Culture. Farnham, UK: Ashgate.
Roesch, S. 2009. The Experiences of Film Location Tourists. Bristol, UK: Channel View.
Sjöholm, C. 2011. Litterära Resor: Turism is spåren efter böcker, filmer och författare. Göteborg and Stockholm: Makadam.
Department of Cultural Sciences
Linnaeus University, Sweden