Astrid M. Fellner
One Day at a Time (2017-19)
Creators: Gloria Calderon Kellett and Mike Royce
For decades, Latinx LGBTQ+ people have hardly been represented in North American popular culture. And when they were depicted on screen, they were grossly misrepresented. For the last 13 years, the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) has conducted an annual ”Where We Are On TV” study that tracks the progression of LGBTQ+ representation on the small screen. As can be concluded, while the overall number of queer characters has increased, they remain mostly white and male, and mostly cisgender. In recent years, however, Latinx LGBTQ+ characters have increasingly gained more visibility on TV. Netflix’s One Day at a Time (2017-2019) features queer Latinx characters, and the show can be seen as a forum for feminism, queer, and Latinx activism. The characters in this sitcom not only help push the boundaries of acceptance of marginalized groups in film and television, but also contribute to the cultural politics of television.
Prof. Dr. Astrid M. Fellner is Chair of North American Literary and Cultural Studies at Saarland University. She is Vice-President of the German Association for Cultural Studies (KWG). Her main research areas are Latinx Studies, Border Studies, Gender/Queer Studies, and Popular Culture.
Better Call Saul (2015 - )
Creators: Vince Gilligan, Peter Gould
Following in the footsteps of modern television classic Breaking Bad (2008-2013) could be seen as both a blessing and a curse. For although the prequel spin-off Better Call Saul (2015- ) might benefit from the enormous popularity of its predecessor starting out with a much wider potential audience, fans might be skeptical about major deviations from the atmosphere set by the AMC-original. And although Better Call Saul explores similar themes such as moral ambiguity, the value of family, the psychological transformation of the protagonist as he descends into the criminal milieu of Albuquerque, the story of con man lawyer Jimmy McGill / Saul Goodman does differ from the story of Walter White in terms of its tone, pacing, and narration. The introduction will try to show how the series manages to stand on its own while at the same time playing with the viewers’ sense of familiarity with the world and aesthetics of Breaking Bad.
Raphael Morschett studied English, American, and Anglophone Studies as well as Philosophy at Saarland University. He is a PhD candidate in the DFG-funded Research Training Group »European Dream-Cultures« and works on a project that explores the phenomenology of dream experience in the films of David Lynch.
Fargo (2014 - )
Creator: Noah Hawley
Fargo is a crime drama anthology series with four seasons so far, the latest of which started to air in the U.S. end of September 2020. The first season premiered in 2014 on FX and was loosely based on the 1996 film Fargo directed by the Coen Brothers. Joel and Ethan Coen act as executive producers for the series along with Noah Hawley who is also the lead writer for all seasons. Typically for an anthology series, each season narrates a concluded story, set in a different time and location. Each season features a different cast of characters, although there are some characters who show up in several seasons which allows for interconnections between the different seasons. Although season 2-4 are not directly based on the movie Fargo, they convey intertextual/interfilmic references to several Coen Brothers movies. Among other aspects, my presentation will investigate these interconnections between movies and series, look at the genre ”crime drama” and try to find explanations why this is one of the most popular genres. Moreover, I will consider possible functions of the black humor which is an essential feature of the series.
Bärbel Schlimbach, M.A., is a PhD candidate in North American Literary and Cultural Studies at Saarland University / Germany. Her PhD-Project utilizes theoretical approaches from Critical Regional Studies, Post-Western Studies, Gender Studies and Border Studies to analyze literatures and films from the Post-Western genre to investigate their innovative potential with respect to identity constructions, imaginary Wests as well as constructions of national narratives. She is the co-editor of (Pop-)Cultures on the Move: Transnational Identifications and Cultural Exchange between East and West (2019).
True Detective (2014 - )
Creator: Nic Pizzolatto
The first season of HBO’s crime mystery True Detective, written by Nic Pizzolatto and starring Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson, follows a pair of Louisiana State detectives who hunt a serial killer over a period of 17 years. The fictional story about corruption, child trafficking, sexual abuse, and occult practices evokes other filmic engagements with provincial horror and noir mysteries, some of which are at least partly inspired by real crimes, such as the British triology Red Riding (2009) (loosely based on the so-called ”Yorkshire Ripper” killings), La Isla Míníma (Marshland) (2014) by Alberto Rodríguez Librero and its German adaptation Freies Land (2019). Like these works, True Detective excels at exploring home as unheimlich and presents a fascinating contemporary treatment of the uncanny. It captures the lushness of the Southern swamps as well as the moral decay of local leaders and the quiet complicity of ordinary citizens, leaving viewers to detect the horror that can lurk in the home and in the beauty of the open landscape.
Magdalena Pfalzgraf is a research assistant at the chair of North American Literary and Cultural Studies and teaches at the research division New English Literatures and Cultures (NELK) at Goethe University, Frankfurt. Her PhD focused on mobility in contemporary Zimbabwean literatures in English. She has published and given talks on African city writing, on rural-urban migration in Zimbabwean and in Ghanaian literature, whiteness in Zimbabwean literature. Further teaching and research interest include Southern African literatures in English, transculturality, postcolonial studies.
Modern Family (2009-2020)
Creators: Christopher Lloyd & Steven Levitan
In der Sitcom Modern Family werden drei Haushalte einer Familie im Stil eines Mockumentary mit der Kamera begleitet. In den einzelnen Folgen der Serie werden Handlungsstränge unterschiedlicher Familienmitglieder bzw. Haushalte mit gleichen, ähnlichen oder zusammenhängenden Problemen miteinander verwoben. Durch die Lösung der/s Handlungsknoten(s) am Ende der jeweiligen Folge eröffnet sich dem Zuschauer eine Moral, die den handelnden Figuren selbst jedoch oft verborgen bleibt. Die zirkuläre Dramaturgie der Serie ist ebenso typisch für das Format der Sitcom wie ihre stereotypisierte Figurenzeichnung. Jedoch brechen die Figuren immer wieder aus den ihnen zugeschriebenen Rollen aus und oszillieren situationsbedingt zwischen entgegengesetzten Polen (z.B. Macho/Softie, emotional/rational oder kindlich/erwachsen). Für den Rückfall in ihre Stereotype, der den Status Quo wiederherstellt und ein Dazulernen verhindert, ist eben die epistemologische Differenz verantwortlich, durch die den Figuren die übergeordnete Moral der einzelnen Episoden verborgen bleibt. Wird dieser Umstand aus der privilegierten Perspektive des Zuschauers auf das Gesamtgeschehen reflektiert, eröffnet sich eine Ebene der Metakommunikation, die die Serienmacher in ihre Sitcom eingewoben haben und die als eine Art Handbuch über Kommunikation, Eigen- und Fremdwahrnehmung verstanden werden kann.
Isis Luxenburger hat sich während ihres Studiums der Translationswissenschaft, Französischen Kulturwissenschaft und Interkulturellen Kommunikation sowie Englisch an der Universität des Saarlandes vornehmlich mit Forschungsthemen an der Schnittstelle zwischen Kultur-, Sprach- und Film-/Medienwissenschaft beschäftigt. Nach ihrer Masterarbeit über Dimensionen des Kulturkontakts in einem saarländischen Dokumentarfilm über die Völklinger Hütte arbeitet sie aktuell an ihrem interdisziplinären Dissertationsprojekt zur Vermittlung von Industriekultur in Industriefilmen über die Schwerindustrie der kanadischen Provinz Quebec und der Großregion.
Creator: Hart Hanson
”It was the kind of science that I had not seen on television before,” says executive producer Barry Josephson, looking back at the inception of Bones. Based on a mixture of the biography and fictional stories of forensic anthropologist and bestselling author Kathy Reichs, Bones is a show that focuses on the life and work of Dr. Temperance Brennan (Emily Deschanel), aka Bones, and her relationship with FBI Special Agent Seeley Booth (David Boreanaz). As the two become crime-solving partners, the show uses the backdrop of criminal cases in order to advance characterization and explore interpersonal dynamics between these two protagonists and an ever-evolving group of colleagues-friends at the medico-legal lab of the Jeffersonian Institution and the FBI. By doing so, the show achieves and largely maintains a remarkable balance between its focus on the character development, a spotlight on the forensic science, and the driving force of humor. Apart from bringing romantic comedy and the science of forensic anthropology to the screen, however, the show also investigates some of the central aspects of American cultural mindset, setting up its characters in a way that allows it to meditate on topics such as individualism, patriotism, history, (in)equality, etc. This talk will provide a general introduction to the show and unpack some of the main themes in relation to its narrative and to the broader context of American culture.
Dr. Svetlana Seibel is a research assistant at the Chair of North American Literary and Cultural Studies at Saarland University. She studied North American Literary and Cultural Studies, British Literary and Cultural Studies, and Classical Archaeology at Saarland University. She completed her PhD on the topic of Indigenous popular culture as a member of the International Research Training Group ”Diversity: Mediating Difference in Transcultural Spaces.”