Popular Culture Review 29.1 (Spring 2018) - Page 14

The amount and variety of cultural products dedicated to the story of Christopher McCandless is nothing short of remarkable: from a highly imaginative biography (Into the Wild, 1996) to a major motion picture by one of Hollywood reputed bad boys, Sean Penn (Into the Wild, 2007), from a documentary (The Call of the Wild, 2007) to a book of posthumous photographs (Back to the Wild, 2011), from a personal memoir (The Wild Truth, 2014) to another documentary (Return to the Wild, 2014), Christopher McCandless’ tragic and somewhat superfluous demise seems to be able to generate all types of narratives, as long as they include the word “wild” in the title. All that appears to be missing is a scholarly analysis of the phenomenon, which has only been considered so far from the very reductive critical perspective of post-colonial studies, as in Lisa Korteweg and Jan Oakley’s essay, “Eco-Heroes Out of Place and Relations: Decolonizing the Narratives of Into the Wild and Grizzly Man Through Land Education,” that merges two very different types of narratives, a documentary and a film, and bypasses their obvious differences in term of content and intent in order to promote the ideological concerns of post-colonial theory. The persistence in our collective imagination of what amounts to be in the end little more than yet another morbid tabloid-style news, that of the body of a young man found starved to death in an abandoned bus on an Alaskan trail, is however worth our attention, for it reveals a strange, extreme cultural paradox: if, on the one hand, the success of the diverse accounts of this particular event – the voluntary and ultimately deadly exile of a young man from society – clearly reveals a general, collectively acknowledged and shared rejection of our consumerist culture, it also stands as a perfect example of how the same consumerist culture has appropriated this very rejection in order to transform it into yet another product ready for consumption. Examining the different phases of the fictionalization process which has turned 14