Zachary Hoskins

Zachary Hoskins is the author of Dance / Music / Sex / Romance, a song-by-song blog examining the music of Prince in chronological order. His essay, “Rude Boy: Prince as Black New Waver,” was published in 2020 in a special issue of Spectrum, A Journal on Black Men. He has presented and appeared on roundtables at the Prince #1plus1plus1is3 virtual symposium in March 2021, the #DM40GB30 virtual symposium in June 2020, and the University of Minnesota’s Prince from Minneapolis conference in April 2018. He holds an M.A. in Media Arts from the University of Arizona and B.A.’s in Film & Video Studies and Creative Writing & Literature from the University of Michigan.

Zach Hoskins

Just Your Average 320-Year-Old Rock Star Meets Jailbait Middle Eastern Princess Story:Prince’s Love Symbol album as Transmedia Narrative Text

Prince famously billed his Love Symbol album as a “fantasy rock soap opera” upon its initial release in 1992 (“is he serious? is he ever? is he ever not?” asked Village Voice critic Robert Christgau). But, while his neologism made for memorable advertising copy, it’s arguable that the project–which also spawned a comic book, a two-part TV special turned direct-to-video movie, and a live dramatization on the Act I tour–is better understood as an early example of what media scholar Henry Jenkins dubbed transmedia storytelling: “a process where integral elements of a fiction get dispersed systematically across multiple delivery channels for the purpose of creating a unified and coordinated entertainment experience.” By viewing the “Love Symbol Album” and its offshoots through the lens of transmedia storytelling–rather than the more traditional models of the concept album/rock opera, musical theatre, or narrative film–we can recontextualize the storyline’s infamous contradictions and discontinuities as features, rather than bugs: an interactive puzzle for fans to piece together across multiple forms of engagement, and one of the most explicit examples of Prince’s underrated penchant for world-building. Perhaps, 30 years later, this weird little “rock soap opera” was really our entrée into the Prince Extended Universe all along.