Men with stakes

Masculinity and the gothic in US television

Author: Julia M. Wright

Men with Stakes examines the ways in which the gothic mode is deployed specifically to call into question televisual realism and, with it, conventional depictions of masculinity, especially in relation to agency, power, and legitimated forms of knowledge (science in particular). In this context, it discusses in some depth seven series from the last two decades: American Gothic (CBS, 1995-1996), Millennium (Fox, 1996-1999), Angel (WB, 1999-2004), Carnivàle (HBO, 2003, 2005), Point Pleasant (Fox, 2005-2006), Supernatural (WB, 2005-2006; CW, 2006- ), and American Horror Story (FX, 2011- ). Instead of considering gothic television in terms of its adaptation of gothic literary precedents (another significant thread in gothic film and television studies), this study considers these series in light of gothic studies’ conclusions about the mode itself—from Edmund Burke’s idea of obscurity to the organization of the gothic around different gender questions, and from its allusiveness and challenge to verisimilitude to its emphasis on simulation and fakery.

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‘For fans and scholars of the series like Supernatural… the book is a delightful exploration into one aspect of what makes these series so resonant.'
Bridget Kies, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television
January 2018

‘Men with Stakes is not always about masculinity per se. Chapter four deals with American Gothic television's subversion of Enlightenment concepts such as science and progress and its postmodern blurring of the line between the 'world of signs'—including the televisual medium—and the 'world of the “real”' (p. 124). However, as Wright indicates, many of these dynamics can be understood in gendered terms; she makes an especially fascinating contention that the first season of American Horror Story (2011– present) represents the film and television industry 'as a conventional [patriarchal] gothic villain' (p. 150). Hence, even when Men with Stakes apparently strays from its theme, Wright is in fact adding weight to her central argument that Gothic TV's 'interrogation of masculinity is intertwined with larger examinations of social institutions, cultural assumptions, and established forms of knowledge' (p. 5).'
Eve Bennett, Universite´ Sorbonne Nouvelle, France
Critical Studies in Television: The International Journal of Television Studies

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