Beginning with a macabre performance of a scene from King Lear in Deadwood, this chapter focusses on the Shakespearean dramaturgy of this TV drama. The overarching claim is that David Milch rethinks the Western genre by tapping into Shakespeare’s trope of the world as stage. Al Swearengen’s monologues with the head of a dead Sioux chief as well as the way he conceives of his balcony as his private stage, are read in conjunction with the theatricalization of power in Hamlet. The dramatic tension between legitimate and rogue power at issue in Al’s claim to sovereignty also brings the genre of comedy into play. Characters and the role they play in the dramatic action in Measure for Measure and As You Like It are crossmapped with the set of characters that perform their parts on the thoroughfare of this camp town. The topsy-turvy world of comedy is further revisited in the enmeshment of parallel storylines in Deadwood. Oscillating between the various players and those who orchestrate the drama, this serial mode of narration draws into focus that there is no one unequivocal centre, putting into question the omnipotence of Al’s visual regime. At the same time, Shakespeare is shown once again to write the prototypical American myth, the Western frontier.
The reading offered in the final chapter is not predicated on any explicit citation of Shakespeare in The Americans. Instead, it conceives of cold war politics in Washington D.C. in the 1980s in terms of Shakespeare’s carnevalesque comedies of transgression. On the one hand, the fact that cross-dressed Viola and the Fool find themselves shuttling between the court of Orsino and Olivia in Twelfth Night is used to theorize the position of the disguised Russian agents, playing their part of subterfuge in the struggle between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. On the other hand, the confusion A Midsummer Night’s Dream performs by making use of a magic love juice is used to think through the enchantment ideology works by transforming the vision of those whose eyes (and minds) it infects. The spy work the Jennings undertake is read in terms of a carnevalesque play with identities, taking place in a heterotopic space that transforms the ordinary city into a dreamlike stage. As in the comedies, this means that while their performance of Americanness invariably moves toward a moment of disenchantment, waking from this dream draws into focus the conundrum of closure in serial drama, which by definition is open-ended.
This book is a detailed study of the transnational and transmedia stardom/celebrity of Charlotte Gainsbourg. Gainsbourg is one of the most interesting and important actresses working in cinema today, both in her native France and abroad. Her film career, spanning five decades, has seen her work with many significant French and international directors, as well as forging a remarkable collaboration with international auteur Lars von Trier. Her status as musician, style icon, muse to fashion designer Nicolas Ghesquière and the daughter of Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg has cemented her celebrity both in France and internationally. Gainsbourg’s transnational and transmedia stardom, predicated in part on her bilingualism and bicultural background, makes her a fascinating case study in contemporary stardom and celebrity in a global context. The book has two main aims: to provide a comprehensive account of Gainsbourg’s career, to chart its trajectory and pathways, to describe her star persona and to introduce readers to a range of her films as well as extra-filmic material on the actress, singer and style icon; and to position Gainsbourg in contemporary film history. It combines textual analysis of performance, costume, space, characterisation and narrative with archival research and extra-cinematic materials to interrogate the construction of Gainsbourg’s persona.
A series of first female presidents from Commander in Chief to House of Cards
This is the first of two chapters focussed on the representation of the first female president in TV drama. It begins with a reading of House of Cards and Claire Hale Underwood’s rise to power through the lens of Macbeth. In a second step, it offers a typology of queenship in Shakespeare’s plays, with the Princess in Love’s Labour’s Lost as a representative of the comedies on one end, Queen Margaret as a representative of the history plays in the center, and villainesses from the tragedies, such as Tamar in Titus Andronicus on the other end. The point of connection is that in Shakespeare’s plays as in TV drama a mixture of cultural fascination and anxiety regarding female sovereignty is put on display. In a final step, this chapter offers an overview of the first wave of women to gain access to the Oval Office on screen – Caroline Reynolds in Prison Break, Mackenzie Allen in Commander in Chief, Allison Taylor in 24 and Elaine Barrish in Political Animals. Elizabeth McCord in the final season of Mme Secretary is shown to offer yet a further variation on the female politician’s struggle for acknowledgement in face of severe opposition from her peers.
Chapter 4 considers the way Gainsbourg continues to work in French and transnational contexts and how the recurring motifs of her star persona manifest themselves in three films: Julie Bertuccelli’s Australian-set drama The Tree (2010), Olivier Nakache and Éric Toledano’s French blockbuster Samba (2014) and her Hollywood debut in Independence Day: Resurgence (Roland Emmerich, 2016). This chapter argues that part of what makes Gainsbourg such a fascinating case study is her ability to shift between different genres, languages and filming locations. Her ability to do so is due, in part, to her bilingual background and transnational star persona while at the same time her film choices reinforce her status as a transnational and cosmopolitan celebrity. This radical and constant shifting gives an unhomely aspect to Gainsbourg’s persona which is explored with reference to Freud’s concept of the unheimlich.
Chapter 1 covers the first phase of Gainsbourg’s stardom and examines her status as fille de, as well as her early film roles in France and the United Kingdom. This chapter examines how Gainsbourg’s persona developed filmically through her strong early performances, and extra-filmically through her appearance in magazines, on television and through her singing career. This phase is vital for understanding how Gainsbourg’s association with her parents in the popular and critical press helped to construct, and become an ongoing element in, her star persona. This period of Gainsbourg’s film career demonstrates an early foray into transnational productions, an ability to make films in French and English and an interconnection between her film roles and her famous family. This early phase also established Gainsbourg as a figure of both ‘troubled girlhood’ and androgyny, which would follow her into adult life. The films discussed include Claude Miller’s L’Effrontée (1986) and La Petite voleuse (1988), Serge Gainsbourg’s Charlotte for Ever (1986), Andrew Birkin’s The Cement Garden (1993) and Franco Zeffirelli’s Jane Eyre (1993).
The introduction begins by drawing attention to the ubiquitous presence of Shakespeare in contemporary TV drama and then turns to an engagement with the critical scholarship regarding his adaptation and appropriation in new media. It addresses the fact that what is unique about this study is that the TV shows to be discussed offer a revisitation and rereading of his plays that transform these into something different without making any claim to fidelity. At the same time, two different aspects regarding this transhistorical and transmedial dialogue are drawn into focus. On the one hand, contemporary TV drama cites and resignifies Shakespeare. On the other hand, a critical reading, having noticed this exchange, or rather discovered a line of connection between the two, can profit from it. The critical concept proposed for this hermeneutic process is crossmapping. The overarching claim is that despite the historical distance and the difference in dramatic format, Shakespeare’s aesthetic formalisation of intense passions are still a barometer for what can be shaped, thought and performed today, not least of all because we are again thinking, writing and living in a period of interim.
The (dys)functional relationship of Gainsbourg and von Trier
Chapter 3 looks at the next phase in Gainsbourg’s career: her collaboration with Lars von Trier in Antichrist (2009), Melancholia (2011) and Nymphomaniac Volumes I & II (2013). This chapters considers this cycle in terms of both controversy and identity. It investigates both the media construction of their artistic relationship (through interviews, articles and press coverage) as well as how this relationship manifests itself on-screen in the roles themselves. This chapter argues that von Trier exploits three key aspects of Gainsbourg’s star person – her cosmopolitan femininity and transnational style, her predilection for provocation and her self-proclaimed masochism – and concludes that Gainsbourg’s masochism and willingness to be exploited sits uneasily with von Trier’s alleged sadism, constituting a dysfunctional relationship that is at the same time productive.