Fathers of the Nation: White Masculinities and Fatherhood in Contemporary U.S.-American Television Series (2001-2015)

Sandra Becker, University of Groningen

Fathers of the Nation: White Masculinities and Fatherhood in Contemporary U.S.-American Television Series (2001-2015)

Supervisors: Prof. Dr. Michael Stewart Foley (Université Grenoble Alpes), Dr. Dan Hassler-Forest (Utrecht University), and Dr. Tim Jelfs (University of Groningen)

2015-2019

From Founding Fathers to Homeland Security and Daddy Trump – U.S. political discourses have a long tradition of relying on the rhetoric of family and family values. Early-2000s’ Quality TV drama series – the ‘pre-eminent narrative medium of our time’ (Dean J. DeFino) – have likewise been dominated by portrayals of families and their white patriarchs, whether they be serial killers (Dexter), meth-cooking teachers (Breaking Bad), firefighters (Rescue Me), zombie apocalypse survivors (The Walking Dead), Sixties sexuality researchers (Masters of Sex), or callboys (Hung).

Drawing upon Raymond Williams’ concept of the ‘structure of feeling,’ I argue in my dissertation project that these series operate and reflect on a similar affectively experienced cultural zeitgeist in the United States – which is at once characteristic of this troubled period marked by the gendered twin crises of 9/11 and the Great Recession, but also forms part of a continuing, cyclic nostalgic desire in times of change and uncertainty.

I hence read my corpus of series often labeled as ‘Quality TV’ or ‘Complex TV’ and the portrayal of their male lead protagonists against the backdrop of earlier moments of rupture and settlements in the history of the United States (and the Western world) and their manifestations in media discourses and cultural representations. This British Cultural Studies-based approach to history allows for reflecting upon and dismantling the well-established crisis discourses that surround both the medium television in the digital age and white masculinity in the twentieth and early twenty-first century.