American television was about to be revolutionised by the advent of video on demand in 2007, when Netflix, having delivered over one billion DVDs, introduced streaming. This book explores the role that fictional television has played in the world politics of the US in the twenty-first century. It focuses on the second golden age of television, which has coincided with the presidencies of George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald J. Trump. The book is structured in three parts. Part I considers what is at stake in rethinking the act of watching television as a political and academic enterprise. Part II considers fictional television shows dealing explicitly with the subject matter of formal politics. It explores discourses of realpolitik in House of Cards and Game of Thrones, arguing that the shows reinforce dominant assumptions that power and strategy inevitably trump ethical considerations. It also analyses constructions of counterterrorism in Homeland, The West Wing, and 24, exploring the ways in which dominant narratives have been contested and reinforced since the onset of the War on Terror. Part III considers television shows dealing only implicitly with political themes, exploring three shows that make profound interventions into the political underpinnings of American life: The Wire, The Walking Dead and Breaking Bad. Finally, the book explores the legacies of The Sopranos and Mad Men, as well as the theme of resistance in The Handmaid's Tale.
This book interrogates the interplay of cultural and political aspects of contemporary Hollywood movies. Using ‘security’ films dealing with public order and disorder (Part I), romantic comedies and other movies presenting intimate relationalities (Part II), socially engaged films offering overtly critical messages (Part III), and analysis of Hollywood’s global reach and impact (Part IV), it articulates and illustrates an original cultural politics approach to film. The book employs an expanded conception of ‘the political’ to enquire into power relations in public, private, and policy arenas in order to advance a new framework and methodology for cultural politics. It demonstrates how movies both reflect and produce political myths that largely uphold the status quo as they shape our dreams, identities, and selves.
Dance has always been a method of self- expression for human beings. This book examines the political power of dance and especially its transgressive potential. Focusing on readings of dance pioneers Isadora Duncan and Martha Graham, Gumboots dancers in the gold mines of South Africa, the One Billion Rising movement using dance to protest against gendered violence, dabkeh in Palestine and dance as protest against human rights abuse in Israel, the Sun Dance within the Native American Crow tribe, the book focuses on the political power of dance and moments in which dance transgresses politics articulated in words. Thus the book seeks ways in which reading political dance as interruption unsettles conceptions of politics and dance.
What does a man do, Walter? A man provides. When you have children, you will always have family. They will always be your priority, your responsibility. And a man, a man provides. And he does it even when he’s not appreciated, or respected, or even loved. He simply bears up and he does it. Because he’s a man.
Gus Frings 1
Say my name.
Walter White a.k.a. Heisenberg 2
This chapter turns from the unlikely potential for apocalyptic disaster to consider, instead, the predictable and the banal: the political nature of everyday
The problem in America is that we don’t apologise, and we don’t
learn. The protests against the Iraq War worldwide were enormous.
I don’t think Americans got a sense of the protest or the damage
in Iraq at all. The protests were not that big a story in the USA. The
American press report on every story from an American viewpoint.
It is what comes naturally to them. It’s not done out of malice; they
don’t know any better.1
In his introduction to an episode of the PBS programme Open
Mind, recorded in January 1992, host Richard Heffner
ponder the fate of Jon Snow, who had apparently met his demise in a cold betrayal. Even before it was back on US screens, Game of Thrones ’ return was a cultural and political event, with commentators discussing the show and using it as a way to understand America’s contemporary world politics. Most pertinently to the moment, The Daily Show ’s Trevor Noah asked who would win ‘the game of who wants to be president’?
One month previously, the US House of Cards had ended its fourth season in dramatic fashion. Viewers, seemingly unanimously, concurred that the season
I argued in Chapter 2 that social interaction is multivalent, such that musical interaction is often simultaneously also economic interaction, political interaction and has many other dimensions besides. Much of what has followed has unpacked and supported this claim. In this chapter, I return to it one final time by considering music's political dimensions.
I begin by considering the political potential which Adorno identifies in avant-garde art music and revisiting, from a political perspective, his critique of popular music. Adorno's views
Documenting the political: some issues
Here, I attempt to explore some of the more important dimensions of documentary as a
range of forms for, among other things, political investigation and political portrayal,
forms which generate a variety of ways of knowing and feeling. Although I examine the
manner in which documentary necessarily grounds itself in images of the physical world
(the subject of the previous chapter), my primary concern is with the kinds of propositional discourses about politics (implied or explicit) that specific
1 Beyond political modernism
2 The key political modernist auteur: Jean-Luc Godard with
Eddie Constantine and Anna Karina on the set of Alphaville (1965)
n an important article written in 1972, Peter Wollen set forth
the stakes of a counter-cinema that could be opposed to what he
referred to as orthodox cinema (Wollen 1985). He proceeded to
map the ‘seven deadly sins’ of orthodox cinema in order to oppose
them directly to the ‘seven cardinal virtues’ of counter-cinema. The
opposition declared here was one that, in time, became known as
the discourse of