Polar Bear in 'Fortitude'. Affective Aesthetics and Politics of Climate Change


  • Helen Mäntymäki University of Jyväskylä




polar bear, global warming, affect, crime fiction, Fortitude


In the first season of TV Eco Noir crime series Fortitude (2015) the polar bear appears as a sticky object that embodies an ambiguous affective charge as an icon of global warming. This article discusses the ways in which the polar bear evokes viewer affect in the series through two discourses. The first one relates to violence, essentially present in crime narratives, and how the human and nonhuman animal are positioned in relation to global warming, violence and each other. It lifts up questions of place and belonging in a local and global context and detects how the polar bear is constructed in terms of stranger danger and victimization in relation to human animals and the threat of global warming.  The second one targets the ways in which the polar bear is rendered sticky as the object of the human gaze and how this process of human animals looking at artistic bear photos both constructs and deconstructs the subject-object relation, hierarchy and agency. Methodologically, the article draws on “close looking” and the main theoretical starting points are ecocriticism and affect theory. The article argues that the representation of the polar bear contributes in essential ways to the socially and environmentally critical emphasis essential in contemporary crime narratives including Fortitude:  the distracting and emotionally charged representation of the polar bear evokes ambiguous affective responses in viewers. Thus, as the article further argues, a representation of this kind is capable of—and liable to— inducing a higher consciousness of the present environmental crisis than a more straight-forward, less affectively charged representation.


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biography

Helen Mäntymäki, University of Jyväskylä

Helen Mäntymäki is a Senior Lecturer in English Studies at the University of Jyväskylä, Finland, where she teaches literary and cultural studies. Her main research interests are gender, violence, ecology and trauma in fiction. She has published widely on crime fiction and is a contributing editor of Transnational Crime Fiction: Mobility, Borders and Detection (2020).