The Wire (HBO, 2002–8) enjoys a well-deserved critical reputation as an example of complex television. This chapter seeks to supplement and complicate this view, by highlighting and investigating elements of clarity, redundancy and simplicity in the programme’s aesthetic design. First, Erlend Lavik’s suggestion that The Wire exhibits minimal narrative redundancy is challenged, via a close analysis of first-season episode ‘The Buys’. It is argued that The Wire uses narrative redundancy, and that this does not qualify the series’ complexity but in fact enables it. The chapter’s broader argument is that The Wire’s particular aesthetic distinction is to offer a complex representation of its narrative world, and to do so with a style characterised by clarity and straightforwardness. The chapter makes a case for the interrelated aesthetic and ethical virtues of what it terms ‘clear-sightedness’. This mode of representation, however, can be seen to harbour epistemological assumptions that have been subject to critique, and the main example of such critiques that the chapter engages with is that offered by Colin MacCabe in relation to the ‘classic realist text’. The Wire’s end-of-season montages are critically examined as moments where the programme’s delivery of ‘epistemological gratifications’ (Bramall and Pitcher) risks undermining the virtues of its overall way of seeing. However, the chapter concludes by arguing that the programme as a whole successfully avoids succumbing to the overcertainty that is the risk of its clear-sighted mode of presentation.
This collection appraises an eclectic selection of programmes, exploring and weighing their particular achievements and their contribution to the television landscape. It does so via a simultaneous engagement with the concepts of complexity and simplicity. This book considers how complexity, which is currently attracting much interest in TV studies, impacts upon the practice of critical and evaluative interpretation. It engages reflectively and critically with a range of recent work on televisual complexity, expands existing conceptions of complex TV and directs attention to neglected sources and types of complexity. It also reassesses simplicity, a relatively neglected category in TV criticism, as a helpful criterion for evaluation. It seeks out and reappraises the importance of simple qualities to particular TV works, and explores how simplicity might be revalued as a potentially positive and valuable aesthetic feature. Finally, the book illuminates the creative achievements that arise from balancing simplicity with complexity. The contributors to this collection come from diverse areas of TV studies, bringing with them myriad interests, expertise and perspectives. All chapters undertake close analysis of selected moments in television, considering a wide range of stylistic elements including mise-en-scène, spatial organisation and composition, scripting, costuming, characterisation, performance, lighting and sound design, colour and patterning. The range of television works addressed is similarly broad, covering UK and US drama, comedy-drama, sitcom, animation, science fiction, adaptation and advertisement. Programmes comprise The Handmaid’s Tale, House of Cards, Father Ted, Rick and Morty, Killing Eve, The Wire, Veep, Doctor Who, Vanity Fair and The Long Wait.
This conclusion offers an examination of the most contemporary manifestations of enthusiasm, and the confusions they entail. Accompanying the recent rise of populist movements in Western democracies has been the analogous aura of fascism. This chapter explores what happened to the subterranean political effect of fascism once unleashed – the “excitation” of fascism as it carries through the genealogy of this political from, even in its exhausted condition. The result of this analysis is a tracing of the affective boundary between fascism and democratic politics, one that distinguishes excitation from enthusiasm. This chapter shows both how understanding the affective logics raised through fascism might be necessary for preserving democratic forms of life, as well as the risks posed in mixing these forms of politics together. Special attention is paid here to democratic resistances to fascism. My conclusion uncovers a mechanism for identifying the affective boundary that lies between fascism and democracy, and the costs of confusing fascist excitation and democratic enthusiasm.
The conclusion ties together the three parts of the book and reflects on the souvenir. It poses a challenge to previous scholarship that has downplayed the souvenir as an object that creates inauthentic and manufactured feeling divorced from the means of production, eliding its female-driven origins. It is argued that the souvenir only became popular and monetised in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries because women had created a market for small, inexpensive objects which recalled their travels. Men merely magnified and marketed a practice that elite women travellers of the second half of the eighteenth century had created. By viewing the souvenir through a gendered lens, we see how women of the past challenged and subverted gender norms in the pursuit of their own subjectivity.
This chapter draws together the strands of the argument across the volume and makes the case for thinking of Moscow’s activity in terms of Grand Strategy rather than ad hoc or opportunistic and short-term moves. It frames the wider international context of globalisation and the “global village” discussion in international security, noting that if the US, NATO, China, and other states have adopted a more global horizon, so has Moscow. The chapter argues further that seeing Russian activity in strategic terms is essential for shaping effective policies for deterrence, defence, and, where possible, dialogue. It will serve to clarify both Moscow’s shifting mental maps (and red lines) in the post-Cold War period and now the era of Great Power Competition.
Chapter 3 demonstrates that souvenirs gave elite women a platform to perform cultural capital for which they were well received, often leading to the establishment of salons and similar settings in which men and women could mingle and discuss experiences to which only the elite were privy. It provides an in-depth analysis of how two women, Lady Anna Miller and Hester Piozzi, used their travel collections to establish successful salons that resembled the French aristocratic salons and Italian conversazioni. Travelling a decade apart, in 1771 and 1782, each of these women held an insecure social position, the former through social status and the latter through marital status. Each sought to exploit the prestige of having undertaken a tour of Italy to establish herself more firmly in society upon her return home.
This final chapter explores why madness could evoke so much social anxiety. Fears of perceived rising lunacy rates were used as proof of over-civilization and decline. As the nineteenth century progressed, cure rates seemed to plummet, and degeneration literature flourished. Fear that madness was hereditary led to gloomy predictions about the decline of the British race paralleling conversations about urban decay and criminal classes. This chapter places medical conversations into broader cultural contexts. Particular masculine anxieties were linked to fears of overwork and the emasculated neurasthenic, the criminalized degenerate, and the alcoholic madman. A final focus on the diagnosis of General Paralysis of the Insane demonstrates the social construction of medical thinking. GPI was one of the few mental diseases that could be seen in the brain after death, and it had a relatively clear and consistent set of symptoms. Despite this, GPI was often diagnosed through lifestyle as much as symptomology. The fact that GPI seemed to affect men more than women and led to almost inevitable death made it the embodiment of degenerationist fantasies that only increased as the century progressed. Insanity was a central point of argument in theories of decline.
This chapter explores themes of complexity and simplicity in relation to the animated television series Rick and Morty (Warner Bros Television, 2013–). The programme is considered as an example of the kind of narrative sophistication and intricacy that is the hallmark of a number of contemporary television animations, and which connects them to broader notions of complexity that have influenced key debates in television studies. The discussion moves on to reflect upon the particular ways in which fan audiences have responded imaginatively to Rick and Morty’s narrative complexity by using brief moments from the show to formulate their own extra-textual connections and meanings. The chapter concludes by returning to a moment from Rick and Morty to look again at features that, against a backdrop of elaborate plot speculation, may be considered simplistic but can equally be understood as complex expressions of creative choice, in turn providing rich opportunities for critical engagement.
The moment of petrification in Children of the Stones
Peter Hughes Jachimiak
This chapter provides an opportunity not only to take children’s television seriously on both artistic and cultural terms but also to gesture towards Children of the Stones’s significance in terms of TV’s art history. Undertaking an exploration of this TV series via the binary of sound/image, the moment in television, as far as this chapter is concerned, is the climax of the final episode, ‘Full Circle’: the point at which the villagers are, in a blindingly white flash of psychic energy, and amid a sonic swirl of discordant wails, turned into stone – that is, the moment of petrification. This chapter engages with sound/image binaries in ways that not only refuse to separate sound out from image but seek out the dynamic third space to be found in between them. In fact, Children of the Stones is more than an isolated moment, as the series is seen as part of a much wider sonic-visual space-time continuum, whereby this classic example of paranormal-fixated children’s cult television of the late-1970s allowed its young viewers to connect with a Neolithic past, and also to contemplate the far more nuanced relationship that the past, present and future hold between themselves. As an example of British Gothic televisuality, this series set itself apart from what had gone before, whilst the contemporary viewer’s ability to recognise the distinct aesthetic qualities of such televisuality means that Children of the Stones is forever embedded within our collective televisual memories.
Chapter 5 provides an in-depth analysis of Dorothy Richardson’s private study of the physical and natural world through observation, experiment and collection – that is, her science. The single daughter of an academic family who supported scholarly endeavour, over a period of forty years, from the ages of twelve to fifty-three, Dorothy conducted her own travelling surveys of Yorkshire, Lancashire, Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Oxford, Bath and London. This chapter shows how Dorothy adopted and adapted forms of scientific knowledge and methods from which women were usually excluded to inform her personal reflections on the travel environment, so forming a collection of observations and objects that lay somewhere between the curiosity, specimen and souvenir. It is argued that, by collecting specimens and noting down her observations during her travels, Dorothy formed a private space in which she could produce an understanding of science that was of her own making.