For a Series so Concerned with Leaning into the Horror, The Handmaid’s Tale Utterly Fails to Address Race

Whenever the TV series or the new sequel to Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale are mentioned, the same question arises: do we really want to know what happens after Offred (pre-Gilead name June) steps “into the darkness within; or else the light”? This is June’s infamous last line, which finds its way into the first series with meticulous fidelity before the HBO adaptation continues her timeline. Until Atwood released The Testaments in 2019, critics have been asking whether the HBO adaptation ought to have done this – yet the original novel did play with such boundaries, giving readers glimpses of past lives and future conclusions about those lives in the academic conference provided in the “Historical Notes.” What makes Handmaid so appropriate for this golden age of television is that the political premise finds its place just as comfortably in the Trump era as it did under Reagan. Continue reading

Reconstructing the American Gothic in The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina

In the first episode of the Netflix series The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (2018–, henceforth CAoS), the title character’s Aunt Hilda declares, misty-eyed, that she is so proud of the young woman her nearly 16-year-old niece has become. Sabrina’s more cutting, rigid, and severe Aunt Zelda corrects her – “of the young witch you are becoming.” Zelda’s emphasis on the process of becoming, of the continual metamorphosis of young supernatural adulthood, speaks to the ways in which the series blurs boundaries, questions hierarchies, and constantly confounds binaries of identity. CAoS transforms the pathological, masculinist, and puritanical anxieties of the traditional American Gothic into a more fluid and shifting investigation of adolescence, femininity, and the uncanny. Continue reading

Review: ‘It Is True, We Shall Be Monsters’: New Perspectives in Science-Fiction, Horror, and the Monstrous On-Screen

De Montfort University

With 2018 marking the bicentenary of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein – often cited as the first science-fiction novel – the Cinema and Television History (CATH) Research Centre’s seventh annual postgraduate conference at De Montfort University was particularly timely. Indeed, the genres of horror and science-fiction have enjoyed recent critical and commercial successes, such as Black Mirror (2011-), Stranger Things (2016-), and The Shape of Water (2017). Continue reading

Review: HOTCUS Postgraduate Conference, ‘Patriot or Protester?: Changing Ideas of Americanism during the Vietnam Era’

The concepts of patriotism and Americanism continue to constitute central facets of American national identity and thus remain important notions within the American political milieu. For example, on 1 September 2016, just eight days before this panel discussed the concept of Americanism during the Vietnam era, The Guardian reported on prospective president Donald Trump’s plans for American schoolchildren to be taught greater respect for patriotic values. In light of the recent election result, this is even more prescient. Continue reading

Review: HOTCUS Postgraduate Conference, ‘Crossing Boundaries: Challenging American Norms During the 1950s and 1960s’

In the second of our review series for the HOTCUS Postgraduate Conference, ‘Winning Minds and Hearts: Constructing National Identity in US History’, Natasha Neary reviews a panel featuring Simon Buck (Northumbria University) and Elizabeth Smith (Liverpool Hope University). Continue reading

Primaries as Sports and Spectacle: Sports Metaphors in Twenty-First Century Presidential Primary Debates

‘The Brawl Begins’, an article about the 2016 primaries in The Economist provides the most overt manifestation of how a discourse of sports has permeated contemporary political reporting. Describing elections as a “jaw-dropping spectacle” or referring to the Iowa caucuses as the “opening round” in a political boxing match, a prime example of horse-race journalism, is particularly prevalent in presidential primary elections. Continue reading

Book Review: Masculinity in Contemporary Quality Television: The Cultural Politics of Media and Popular Culture by Michael Mario Albrecht

Albrecht first assesses FX sitcom The League as a ‘bromance,’ and a show that ‘offers a hyperbolic version of contemporary masculinity,’ that suggests the concept is ‘an overdetermined term with multiple iterations and complexities, rather than… a simplistic essentialist version of singular maleness’ (42). He provocatively uses the language of ‘safe space’ to suggest how the virtual space of a fantasy football league is utilised to act out unacceptable performances of masculinity, safe from misinterpretation and consequences (46). Continue reading

HOTCUS ‘Teaching America’ Introduction

When the idea was initially pitched during a committee meeting that the Historians of the Twentieth Century United States (HOTCUS) could produce a series for U.S Studies Online outlining how the history of the United States was being taught at universities the hope was to showcase both the breath and… Continue reading

Book Review: American History through Hollywood Film: From the Revolution to the 1960s by Melvyn Stokes

As a scholar of film and television rather than history, I have often been uncomfortable with the ways in which moving images are treated by historians, as either uncomplicated windows into the past or a means to demonstrate the historical ignorance of Hollywood filmmakers. Continue reading