Archives and Manuscripts Blog 5, Midsommar And Ethics in the Archive

Ari Aster’s film Midsommar was released to an abundance of praise for its bold take on folk horror. What was left out of this discussion was how Midsommar exposed the true horror of ethical misconduct among academics. Within the film five graduate students(four in anthropology, one in psychology) travel to one of the group’s hometown in Sweden to witness and participate in a Midsommar festival. Besides the native graduate student, only one of the graduate students, Josh, do any actual research before their trip. This ends up being partly responsible for three of these graduate students’s deaths, though only one is killed in retribution for an inability to respect archival materials. Josh arguably shows the most understanding of the culture of the Harga, but when he asks to take photos of a holy book of the town and is rebuked he sneaks out that night into the building where the books are produced and stored. Upon beginning to take photos he is promptly hit upon the head and killed. While this could come across as just a violation of the town’s rules, in the context of the film Josh is pursuing writing a thesis about this and other Midsommar celebrations with a particular focus on the Harga. Midsommar has since become notorious for its portrayal of a terribly unpleasant romantic relationship but the secondary conflicts in the movie are based entirely around academic conflicts; Josh also has an issue with a character, Christian, who attempts to steal his work and there is pointed dialogue regarding academic collaboration and access to source material. While in our last class when discussing ethical issues in the archives Midsommar came to mind for these specific conflicts. While folk horror and romantic turmoil stand out, it is the only film in recent memory that mentions jstor and tackles these issues.

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