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.
To consider how James Baldwin resisted racialized notions of sexuality in his
first novel, Go Tell It on the Mountain, I employ a number of black feminist
critics—including Saidiya Hartman, Patricia Williams, Hortense Spillers, and Patricia
Hill Collins—to analyze three under-studied minor characters: Deborah, Esther,
and Richard. Those three characters are best understood as figures of
heterosexual nonconformity who articulate sophisticated and important critiques of rape
and marriage in America at the turn of the twentieth century. Baldwin thus
wrote subversive theories of race and sexuality into the margins of the novel, making its
style inextricable from its politics. Baldwin’s use of marginal voices was a deft and
intentional artistic choice that was emancipatory for his characters and that remains
enduringly relevant to American sexual politics. In this particularly polarizing
transition from the Obama era to the Donald J. Trump presidency, I revisit Baldwin’s
ability to subtly translate political ideas across fault lines like race, nationality, and
I was asleep before. That’s how we let it happen … Now I’m awake.
June Osborne (Offred) 1
This book’s writing began well before DonaldJ. Trump was a serious contender for the Republican Party’s nomination. His campaign, victory, and presidency will have stopped a number of academic projects in their tracks, wholly de-railing others. The notion of ‘President Trump’ certainly posed challenges for this monograph but, ultimately, the election of America’s forty-fifth president served only to reinforce its central arguments. Not for the first time
This book is an interpretive history of transatlantic security from the
negotiation of the North Atlantic Treaty in 1948–1949 to the turbulence created
by President Trump, British departure from the European Union (Brexit) and the
COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. The book concludes with analyses of possible futures
for the West and observes “the most disruptive force of all has been the
American presidency of Donald J. Trump. Trump refused to accept virtually all
the political and strategic assumptions on which transatlantic political,
economic, financial, and security relations have been based for 70 years. And,
given the transatlantic alliance’s heavy reliance on American leadership and
involvement, Trump’s lack of commitment has placed huge question marks over the
“I alone can fix it.”
DonaldJ. Trump, accepting Republican nomination for President of the United States 1
The second major 2016 shock for transatlantic relations came in the United States with the Republican nomination and then electoral victory of Donald Trump – someone who had selfidentified as both a Democrat and Republican over the years and donated money to candidates of both parties. Trump raised concerns throughout the campaign as someone who played on the fears of Americans concerning both terrorism and their own financial well
The New York Times Editorial Board, ‘Mr. Trump's Applause Lies’, The New York Times , 24 November (2015). Cf. Paul K. Jones, ‘Demagogic Populism and US Culture Industries: A Long Tradition’, Australasian Journal of American Studies 35, no. 1 (2016).
Brian L. Ott, ‘The Age of Twitter: DonaldJ. Trump and the Politics of Debasement’, Critical Studies in Media Communication 34, no. 1 (2017); Ramona Kreis, ‘The “Tweet Politics
As President I wanted to share with Russia … which I have the right to do, facts pertaining to terrorism and airline safety … plus I want Russia to greatly step up their fight against ISIS & terrorism.” 1
DonaldJ. Trump, after sharing highly classified intelligence with the Russian Foreign Minister and Moscow’s Ambassador to the United States
How can we see Islamist terror and Russian aggression as companion threats to the West when terrorists target Russia as well as the United States and its allies? Isn’t this why President Trump has argued for
White House (2017a), ‘Statement
by President DonaldJ. Trump on signing the “Countering
America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act”’,
White House, 2 August, www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/statement-president-donald-j-trump-signing-countering-americas-adversaries-sanctions-act/ .
White House (2017b), ‘Statement
by President DonaldJ. Trump on the signing of H.R. 3364’, White
House, 2 August, www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/statement-president-donald-j-trump
, Barack Obama, and DonaldJ. Trump. Indeed, Trump’s reign – like his predecessors’ – has been facilitated, sculpted, and resisted through the medium of America’s television screens. From farsighted imaginings in The Simpsons , via repeated firings on The Apprentice , to reportedly watching up to eight hours of television per day in the White House, Trump’s presidency and the conditions that have underpinned it are tied intimately to America’s relationship with the screen. 2 Arguably, however, it was ever thus. Under Bush, Obama, and Trump, superb television shows
perhaps even dividing the United Kingdom between those bits that like being in Europe and those that don’t.
Finally, the most disruptive force of all has been the American presidency of DonaldJ. Trump. Trump refused to accept virtually all the political and strategic assumptions on which transatlantic political, economic, financial, and security relations have been based for 70 years. And, given the transatlantic alliance’s heavy reliance on American leadership and involvement, Trump’s lack of commitment has placed huge question marks over the West’s future.