Headshot of Claire Gordon

English major’s research paper published in an academic journal

May 14, 2024
Author: Rachel Stern

Claire Gordon explores tarot card imagery in Black Mirror episodes

Claire Gordon says it’s “exciting and unbelievable” to have her undergraduate research paper published by the Queen City Writers, a journal of undergraduate writing and composing. 

Claire is completing a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in English. Her paper A Dark Reflection: The Devil Personified in “Striking Vipers,” “San Junipero,” and “Demon 79,” examines episodes of the TV series Black Mirror. She wrote the paper last fall as part of her Speculative Fiction class taught by English Professor Dr. Cynthea Masson.

“Sometimes I pinch myself. I’m graduating this spring and having my undergraduate research published is the cherry on top. Many hours of reading, writing, editing and watching the episodes have gone into this paper,” says Claire.  “It’s a very rewarding experience to have my work recognized.”

Her paper explores the visual relationship between Black Mirror episodes and images on the Rider Waite Smith tarot deck. She says the image of the characters Danny and Karl in the episode “Striking Vipers,” Yorkie and Kelly in the episode “San Junipero” and Nida and Gaab in the episode “Demon79” reminded her of the Devil card of the tarot deck.

Headshot of Claire Gordon.

Claire Gordon

“What grabbed my attention was that when these images that were similar to the Devil appeared in the episodes, the characters were acting out the esoteric meanings associated with the card: temptation, deceit, pleasure and indulgence,” she says. “I also saw a connection between the events that followed after the episode’s Devil moment and the two cards that follow the Devil card sequentially: the tower (when things fall apart) and the star (revelation, inspiration and repair).”

Claire says she chose the topic because TV shows like Black Mirror and the tarot cards reflect aspects of reality back to the viewer.

“I wanted to write about how we create meaning and culture through, often unspoken, social agreements. Reality being reflected back to us can help deepen our understanding of how we relate to ourselves and each other,” she says. “Black Mirror is a bizarrely disturbing series in that it plays back to us the world that we have created and actively participate in, as well as blatantly showing some troubling aspects of society that we, directly or indirectly, agree to uphold. It questions whether we have created something good.”

She says tarot cards are similar as they help people engage in the world around them. It prompts questions such as “How might this situation be affecting me in ways I cannot see?” 

Claire says her program helped foster a comprehensive reading ability, time management skills and attention to detail. It introduced her to folks with similar interests in the literary world.

“I’ve enjoyed engaging with my thoughtful peers. I hope to continue to have my creative writing and poetry published and would like to work towards becoming an editor,” she says.

She says during her undergraduate studies she’s had many supportive experiences at VIU and appreciates the attention and care the VIU professors show.

“Thank you to the English professors who critically examine the settler-colonial narrative and tradition. A very special thank you to Cynthea for her guidance throughout this process,” says Claire.

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