Date of Award

December 2023

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Tami Williams

Committee Members

Stuart Moulthrop, Michael Z. Newman, Arthur Herbig


Film, Nicolas Winding Refn, Polymediation, Streaming Video, Transdiscursivity, Video Games


This dissertation traces Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn’s development from creator and curator to author as content within an evolving media ecology driven by capitalist ideology. A close critical study of Refn’s career from 1996 to 2019 offers insight into contemporary techniques of creating, collecting, and curating media texts, as well as the phenomenon of presenting oneself as content via discursive branding. Given that Refn’s career coincided with the emergence of the World Wide Web and the rise of digital platforms, he thus emblematizes what it means to be a creator working within an increasingly interconnected media ecology. Refn initially established himself as a traditional auteur as defined by scholars such as Peter Wollen. During this time, he took the first steps toward developing his mediated persona, which consists mainly of discourse fragments generated by critics, scholars, fans, and Refn himself. Eventually, however, Refn emerged as a transmedia auteur whose works span various media and platforms while still retaining his signature stylistic and narratological tendencies. Around the same time, Refn gained a reputation as a collector and fan curator through projects such as the coffee table book The Act of Seeing and the branded streaming platform, both of which position him as a cultural intermediary who shapes the tastes of others. Eventually Refn’s likeness was used by game developer Hideo Kojima in the video game Death Stranding, which demonstrates how a creator’s brand can be appropriated and used ludically by other creators in their own works. Refn’s brand becomes a significant text, as he uses it to discursively reject corporate cinema and celebrate regional exploitation cinema even as he frequently replicates aspects of corporate cinema in his own films. Drawing on the theories of polymediation and transdiscursivity, the analysis considers how late-stage capitalism shapes Refn’s career trajectory, which points toward potentially new forms of commodification and exploitation as authors become yet another form of branded content.