Don MacRaild is Pro-Vice Chancellor for Research and Knowledge Exchange. A historian by training, Don has written or edited a dozen books, including most recently The English Diaspora in North America (2016), Ribbon Societies in 19th Century Ireland and its Diaspora (2018) and (as co-editor) British and Irish Diasporas (2018). History students might know him best for co-authoring Studying History, a primer for the study of the subject which has run through four editions since 1996. He has held chairs in New Zealand, Northern Ireland and England and has won major grants from AHRC, ESRC and Leverhulme (twice). He is currently completing a co-authored book on the Irish famine which emerged from the latest Leverhulme-funded project. Don was for many years a member of the AHRC Peer Review College and the Irish Research Council International Inner Board for PhD scholarship distributions and has advised funding councils in Australia, the US, Canada and South Africa. Don was twice a visiting fellow at the Australian National University (2010-11, 2016).
Karen McNally is Senior Lecturer in Film and Television Studies at London Metropolitan University, and an interdisciplinary scholar in American film and television and US history and culture. Her edited volume American Television in the Trump Era will be publishing with Wayne State University Press in 2021. Karen has particular interest and expertise in the representation of American culture and identity in classical Hollywood film and contemporary American television, as well as the cultural significance of stardom. She has contributed to BBC and Channel 4 television and radio documentaries and been interviewed nationally and internationally for a variety of newspapers and magazines. Karen’s monograph, The Stardom Film: Creating the Hollywood Fairy Tale, publishes with Columbia University Press in December 2020. She is also the author of When Frankie Went to Hollywood: Frank Sinatra and American Male Identity (2008 – shortlisted for the British Association of American Studies Prize), the co-editor of The Legacy of Mad Men: Cultural History, Intermediality and American Television (2019), and the editor of Billy Wilder, Movie-Maker: Critical Essays on the Films (2011).
Panel 1: The Politics of Reality TV during a Reality TV Presidency
Chair: Mike Chopra-Gant, London Metropolitan University
Mike Chopra-Gant is a senior lecturer in media, culture and communication. He is the author of three books on film and television history and teaches media, film and television, and photojournalism. He is currently working on a book about domestic photography and gender.
Dragged by the Sissy: Trump Parody on RuPaul’s Drag Race
Stephane Azarian, University of Roehampton
Reality television sheds light on entertaining personalities and propels them to fame, seemingly without any substantial rationale. Sometimes, these personalities make use of the toolbox provided by the television experience and create a lifestyle company à la Bethenny Frankel, a family empire to the likes of the Kardashians, or even become President of the United States. But aside from being amusing and a potential business platform, reality television is also a useful barometer of change as it offers a stage to scrutinise marginalised lived experiences.
Queer television series such as RuPaul’s Drag Race (Logo/VH1, 2009-present) acquiescently speak to the systemic issues that are associated with being queer in the United States, through the depiction of contestants experiencing the need to resist heteronormativity, calling to disrupt and deconstruct the notions of gender for political purposes or expressing the brutal realities surviving life as a trans person entail in a socio-political climate that threatens non-normative identities.
This project explores the mediated performances and discourses of a specific set of drag queens as exemplars of what makes drag a political instrument of satire and disruption. It offers an intriguing study of the show’s take on Donald Trump as a barometer of public LGBTQ+ opinions of his presidency. Through this research, I aim at developing popular understandings of Trump’s impact on queer socio-political and cultural experiences, as well as the role his era has had in politicising RuPaul’s Drag Race.
Stephane Azarian is a doctoral researcher and lecturer within the department of Media, Culture and Language at the University of Roehampton, in London. He is working under the direction of Professor Anita Biressi and co-supervision of Professor Caroline Bainbridge on interrogating the experiences of family and kinship within the LGBTQ+ community in twenty-first century reality television. His experience as a language teacher and his cultural studies training merged with a wider focus on queer studies. This was realised in subsequent projects, including launching a queer online media platform named Queering Channels, creating and writing a series of LGBTQ+ focused articles for the university journal, and advocating for LGBTQ+ equality together with Stonewall UK.
Protesting Trump’s Act: Dragging Women Into It
Rachel Meltzer, John F. Kennedy Institute, The Free University, Berlin
My paper titled Protesting Trump’s Act: Dragging Women into it examines why in 2016, a conservative president was elected into office while simultaneously, a Drag Performance reality TV show. now in its 11th season on VH1 has become entrenched in mainstream culture. An analysis of Trump: The Rusical, a musical from RuPaul's Drag Race (March 2019) is a piece of protest performance art which makes a strong and inclusive political statement against the Trump administration. An overall feminist message of the musical echoes past and present social activism linking dialogue and song lyrics to feminist protest movements.
I argue that the performative aspect of drag, as well as the body and gender expression, are inherently political. My thesis is framed by the work of Gender Theorists Jill Dolan and Judith Butler and is further complimented by prominent works from Queer Theorists, Judith Jack Halberstam and José Esteban Muñoz. This paper draws upon media theory and analyses the political landscape of Trump’s rise to power in order to assess how gender and sexuality have become both a means of oppression and a transformative tool of empowerment. Intersectionality is of importance in this paper and is central to my argument in my analysis of policies put in place by the Trump administration which typically favour white-heteronormative Americans.
A short historiography of drag performance is provided to contextualise the evolution of drag from its early art forms to popular culture and one which can now be widely consumed in a number of ways and by various online and offline, and to ever changing audiences. Drag queens have paved a bridge between the arts, political spheres, humour and popular culture, providing vulnerable communities access to a more inclusive society and will no doubt continue to do so long as their material is made accessible for future audiences.
Rachel Meltzer is currently undertaking a Master of North American Studies as part of the John F. Kennedy Institute at The Free University Berlin. She works with the Culture and History department and has a particular interest in Queer Studies and will be expanding her research into Queer Histories and Economies. Rachel is a trained High School History and Society and Culture teacher who found her passion for education in the classroom. Some of her most valued experiences and practices involve engaging students in ethical debates and investigative workshops. Her most recent research has been in preparation for a paper on American Imperialism and consumer culture in the Post War period in West Berlin. When she is not gardening, she puts herself to work consolidating and organizing her archive findings as well as collecting and designing primary data sets to make resources accessible for teachers and students alike.
“It’s me against the world, as usual”: #MeToo and Exploring the self-victimisation of power in the Trump era and MTV’s The Challenge: Final Reckoning
Laura Langlade, University of Roehampton
MTV’s The Challenge (1998-Present) has evolved into a popular reality series which tests each player’s athleticism and political savvy, making it one of the longest-standing reality shows on US television. Voting reinforces the democratic process, castmates vote on members to compete within an elimination. Looking specifically at the 32nd season (July-Dec 2018), this paper will examine how the power dynamics within the house informed the narrative of The Challenge: Final Reckoning. Through this analysis I will develop the argument that this narrative is reactionary to current politics in the Trump era. Significantly this season featured the success of ‘the lavender ladies’, an alliance consisting of three women and one queer man. This was a deviation from the typical outcome, where the majority of power is held by straight white men. Instead, ‘the lavender ladies’ defied expectations and won.
As will be examined below, in the final edit they were framed as bullies, while the men who usually dominated the game appeared helpless. Under Trump the US has increasingly defined what it means to be American through whiteness, Christianity, wealth and heterosexuality. At the same time, Trump has cajoled his base supporters into feeling persecuted for those same traits. During the time that Final Reckoning aired, Trump nominated Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. Later that year (2018) Kavanaugh and Dr Christine Blasey Ford testified on Capitol Hill regarding his alleged sexual misconduct. This event was framed by the president, and other conservative figureheads as attacks on conservatism. This purported victimisation has been thematic throughout Trump’s presidency, where events are manipulated to make the powerful appear irreproachable. This has been reflected in The Challenge throughout Trump’s presidency, by creating a version of the game where women appear to succeed while the ultimate narrative supports the insidious notion that men are powerless against the strongholds of forced diversity. My analysis will demonstrate how The Challenge act as a microcosm of the current cultural and political climate.
Laura Langlade is a PhD researcher at the Department of Media, Culture and Language at the University of Roehampton. Laura’s research focuses on reality television and gender politics, with a specific focus on MTV’s The Challenge (1998-present) and its treatment of gender during the Trump Administration.
Panel 2: Women, #Metoo and Contesting The Patriarchy under Trump
Chair: Professor Marguerite Chabrol, Université Paris 8
Marguerite Chabrol is a Professor of Film Studies at Université Paris 8 in France. Her research tackles intermediality in film, more specifically the relations between theatre and film in classical Hollywood cinema. She studied the transfers of straight plays between Broadway and Hollywood in De Broadway à Hollywood (CNRS Editions, 2016), and followed that investigation in Katharine Hepburn. Paradoxes de la comédienne (PUR, 2019). She is currently interested in the musical and recently published a French critical edition of Jane Feuer, co-edited with Laurent Guido (Mythologies du film musical, Presses du Réel, 2016). She also co-edited with Pierre-Olivier Toulza, Star Turns in Hollywood Musicals (Presses du Réel, 2017).
“The New Normal”: The Handmaid’s Tale and Cosplay Activism in Trump’s America
Jen Atkins, Florida State University
After Trump’s election, Margaret Atwood’s speculative fiction, The Handmaid’s Tale, skyrocketed once again on bestseller lists. Though previously in production, streaming service Hulu adapted the novel as a TV show, premiering it to online acclaim in April 2017. Hulu’s audiences quickly denoted parallels between pseudo-theocratic, ultra-conservative, heteropatriarchal (and fictional) Gilead and the United States’ current political climate, especially in connection to severely limited reproductive rights, fake news, the rise of militarisation, and attacks on LGBTQIA rights, prompting star Elisabeth Moss to share that she could “barely see the line” between television and reality. Many viewers felt similarly. In response to women’s issues in particular, groups – not only in the US, but globally – utilised the central Handmaid’s Tale image (crimson robe, white “wing” bonnet) as costume, then occupied streets and courthouses to protest silently. WIRED dubbed the garb “the Viral Protest Uniform of 2019” while online lifestyle/culture mag Quartzy named it the “ultimate symbol of women’s rights.”
But the activists’ presence is as meaningful as their look. Drawing on the same embodied choreographies as Hulu, cosplay activists employ a bowed head, a slow steady gait, and equidistant spacing in linear rows (seated or standing) to evoke the harrowing, brutal restrictions Gilead’s women face – what ideologically fervent aunts call Gilead’s “new normal.” Mirroring their fictional handmaid counterparts, activists’ physicality generates a doubleness: as they perform submissiveness and literally fall into line, they also craft solidarity via resistance. Both reality and fiction hint at a coming revolution, which may be why, in the #MeToo and Time’s Up era, the emancipatory potential of cosplay choreographies stepped in popular culture are also a “new normal” that seek to disrupt the patriarchal, misogynist paradigms modelled by Trump and his administration and instead offer feminist fan activism as popular bodily tactics that promote creative, inclusive political action.
Jen Atkins earned the Jules & Frances Landry Award for outstanding achievement in the field of southern studies for her book, New Orleans Carnival Balls. She co-edited the two-volume Perspectives on American Dance, co-chairs the national Popular Culture Association conference dance area, and teaches dance history at Florida State University. Her research focuses on gender, race, and class in social dance practices – often in her hometown of New Orleans or in American popular culture – as well as how to enliven dance history through innovative pedagogical approaches.
Fosse/Verdon and the #MeToo Moment
Steven Cohan, Syracuse University
The limited series Fosse/Verdon pivots between two genres. On one hand, it can be viewed as a backstager focusing primarily on the Broadway milieu of the two protagonists, Bob Fosse (Sam Rockwell) and Gwen Verdon (Michelle Williams); on the other hand, it is just as viewable as a melodramatic biopic portraying their complex and progressively dysfunctional relationship. The series is ambitious about who comprises its intended audience, too.
While addressing a theatrically literate viewer able to recognise the many passing allusions to details about the Great White Way and its people, Fosse/Verdon also aims for the more general television viewer who has probably seen Cabaret but is unfamiliar with the assortment of Broadway players who populate the series. While the rich, non-linear texture implies a former viewer, the time frame of the series seems meant for a latter one: Fosse/Verdon builds episodes around the musicals that a television audience of a certain age would be most familiar with – Fosse’s films and the stage hits Sweet Charity, Pippin, and Chicago – so it consequently forgoes giving much due to the shows from the 1950s that established Verdon as a major “triple-threat” star whose name alone could insure a show’s profitable run, while Fosse was more slowly earning his reputation as a choreographer of note and striving to take on the director’s hat. This omission, I argue, complicates the #MeToo context for the series, which both the promotion in the trades and reviews emphasised. For that matter, inclusion of Fosse’s and Verdon’s early Hollywood careers would have provided more of a ballast to their later careers in the late 1950s and afterward through recognition of their comparable talents as dancers and instructors while also showing their persistence as they fought to become known for their special talents.
In sum, although the series’ title indicated it was treating each person equally, emphasis is on Fosse at Verdon’s expense.
Steven Cohan is Dean’s Distinguished Professor Emeritus in English at Syracuse University and a past president of the Society for Cinema and Media Studies. He has taught and lectured on multiple aspects of classical Hollywood. His books include Screening the Male: Exploring Masculinities in Hollywood Cinema (1993), Masked Men: Masculinity and the Movies in the Fifties (1997), Incongruous Entertainment: Camp, Cultural Value, and the MGM Musical (2005), CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (2008), The Sound of Musicals (2010), Hollywood by Hollywood: The Backstudio Picture and the Mystique of Making Movies (2018), and Hollywood Musicals: Routledge Film Guide Book (2019). In addition to his essays in numerous collections, his work has appeared in Screen, Camera Obscura, Celebrity Studies, and Cinema Journal.
Nasty Older Women and a Golden Boy: How Gendered Tropes in Jane the Virgin Aim to Destabilize the American Heteropatriarchy
Lucinda Rasmussen, University of Alberta
My paper examines midlife/ageing women depicted on Jane the Virgin (2014–2019), a series Emily Nussbaum describes as “a joyful manifesto” that “puts immigrants, including undocumented workers, at the center of the story” (172; 174–75), and which is thus, at its core, a response to the Trump presidency. My paper is tied to a book project I am currently developing in which, in addition to Jane the Virgin, I also examine other television series (Ozark, Sons of Anarchy, Weeds, Breaking Bad, Murphy Brown [reboot], and Game of Thrones).
Each of these series relies on a trope whereby a middle-aged/ageing white woman is presented as the foil to a young, white male who is portrayed as a cultural ideal. I would begin by identifying how this trope is manifested in such programs, while also situating my analysis within discussions about the misogyny that the Trump presidency perpetuates. By doing so, I show that the western patriarchy’s vilification of the ageing white woman is vital to its ideological survival. Jane the Virgin radically unsettles the white male protagonist as a cultural ideal, and with its portrayal of autonomous Venezuelan-American female characters at midlife and beyond, it also resists the racism that the Trump presidency perpetuates. However, the program’s representation of ageing women who present as white, among them River Fields (Brooke Shields), Marlene Donaldson (Melanie Mayron), and Magda (Pricilla Barnes), is also complex, as these characters are the ones who emerge as most flawed, particularly the latter, who is Czech.
My paper asks what these secondary characters’ roles in the text might signify, and whether or not Jane the Virgin reifies ageism and midlife ageism directed toward white women by the patriarchy itself, an important topic to discuss against the backdrop of the Trump presidency under which the silencing of women takes many forms.
Lucinda Rasmussen lives and works on Treaty Six Territory in western Canada where she is an associate lecturer at the University of Alberta. She has published scholarly essays about representations of ageing cultural icons Bridget Jones and Farrah Fawcett respectively. Her essay "Tracking the Relationships between Postfeminism, Representations of Ageing Women, and the Rise of Popular Misogyny as Portrayed in FX’s Sons of Anarchy" (2008-‐2014) is forthcoming in the scholarly collection Antiheroines of Contemporary Literary Media: Saints, Sinners, and Survivors, edited by Melanie Haas and Nicola Pierce. In addition, Lucinda has a forthcoming essay titled "Situating Accountability for Canada’s Missing and Murdered Women with ‘White’ Boys" in Elle Maia Tailfeathers’ A Red Girl’s Reasoning, as well as an essay on Paula Gunn Allen’s work to document the life of Pocahontas, the latter essay of which is currently under review.
Panel 3: Digital and Audio-Visual Messaging and Meaning
Chair: Professor Jennifer Harding, London Metropolitan University
Jenny Harding is Professor of Media and Culture at London Metropolitan University. She has published work on emotions, gender, sexuality and subjectivity. She has also been involved in a number of oral history research projects, exploring and representing the lived experience of marginalised people (refugees, young care leavers, older working-class people). She co-edited Emotions: A Cultural Studies Reader and is author of Sex Acts: Practices of Femininity and Masculinity.
Twitter’s Publics and Counterpublics of the Trumpian Bargain
Marissa Salas, University of Central Florida
The confluence of Trump’s use of the fractured publics and the media has affected America’s cultural landscape. Creating a place for mostly whites that have felt marginalised in America to be freed from the greater societal burdens. At the same time traditional media has failed to maintain its gatekeeping functions and has lost their hold on the publics to social media such as Twitter. Twitter has become a place of arbitration of what is considered, the “dominant culture”. In the last decade, Twitter is the place where America has found its public discourse (Jackson, 2019).
In the archaic model of the traditional media, the publics was limited to a few voices that were in response to traditional media’s official broadcast. Twitter and other social media outlets opened up the voices to the multitudes that not only included the historically marginalised but also bots, fake news, and many others on the fringe. Trump took advantage of this fractured landscape to plainly speak to those “other” marginalised people about a post-post-racial rhetoric that removes their obligations and restraints. The “other” marginalised people have entered into a Trumpian bargain which has come to a halt because of the bleak realities of Covid-19. Now the Trumpian bargain has failed them as they flounder for the truth in the flourishing counterpublics on Twitter. These “other” marginalised people would have to acknowledge the realities the Trumpian bargain ignores. To accept the truth of the virus and how it’s transmitted, especially found in mass media outlets, would require societal obligations and restraints that they thought they escaped with the Trumpian bargain.
Marissa Salas is a Digital Media PhD student at University of Central Florida. Her background is in leveraging social science research and GIS analyst skills to advance social justice causes for many NGO’s and government agencies. Her current scholarly interests and work includes queer and digital cultures, ethics, and social justice. Her published data research work is found in Dr Petra Doan's chapters in Queerying Planning (2011), Dang & Fraser (2004) Same-sex Couple Households in the United States: A Report from the 2000 Census.
The Digital Means of a Publics Formation: An Ethnographic Study of #MAGA2020
Natalia Kovalyova, University of Texas, Austin
This paper starts with an obvious fact: although the success of Donald Trump’s election campaign of 2016 is attributed to his exploitation of how television works, Twitter has remained his own preferred channel of communication while in office. Although a rare news report skips Trump, the traditional media/executive branch relationships has long been transformed by cancelled briefings, revoked access, and plain verbal assault of journalists and the public – whether amused to death (Postman) or seduced to feel good about feeling bad about politics (Hart) – is hailed via presidential tweets. In fact, Trump’s supporters not only follow his tweets but also form their own groups, such as #MAGA or #MAGA2020. What kind of affects, attitudes, modes of interaction constitute those public(s)? What do they attend and respond to? How do these mediated cultural forms align with a political cause? What discursive resources are leveraged and activated to bolster the identity of a Trump supporter? What vision(s) of the other side and of a collective life is circulating on the platform?
To answer these questions, the paper will present the results of digital ethnography of #MAGA2020. The data were collected from the hashtag once a week during six months from February through July 2020 capturing one hour of tweets at any one time.
Theoretically, it expands the roster of most established “figures” of the media studies such as audiences, voters, people, crowds, masses, the electorate, and several others – and demonstrates the means by which contemporary digital counterpublics sustain themselves as a politically relevant force. Practically, it offers insight into the political worldmaking mediated by the social media (Twitter in this case).
Natalia Kovalyova (PhD, UT Austin) is a communication scholar studying the relationships between discourse and power in a variety of contexts from classroom to political campaigns. Her most recent research focuses on the enduring practices of control over public memory, group identities, and knowledge making. Her work has appeared in the European Journal of Communication, Information & Culture, New Media and Society, Critical Studies in Media Communication, Russian Journal of Communication, and other venues.
Sounds Like Money? Stock Music, Television, and Donald Trump
Júlia Durand, NOVA University, Lisbon and Toby Huelin, University of Leeds
The word “music” features regularly in news pieces and other media content centred on Donald Trump: since the early days of his presidential run, a number of singers and bands have spoken out against the use of their music in his campaign, from the Rolling Stones and Rihanna to, more recently, Linkin Park. But the presence of another type of music in Trump’s media appearances has gone by largely unnoticed and unmentioned, despite its significant role in the audiovisual portrayal of the president: library music tracks. Also known as “stock” or “production” music, library music is composed specifically to be synchronised with film, video and other media, and later categorised in catalogues which are searched by video editors and other clients. Given it is mainly used in productions with a low music budget, such as television news, documentaries, advertisements and online videos, it is precisely these tracks which are overwhelmingly used as “background music” in the audiovisual coverage of Trump – be it the news segment of a major television channel or the videos of an amateur YouTuber.
Departing from academic research that has explored the importance of music in the depiction of political events (Deaville 2006) and in other non-fiction productions (Mera 2009), this paper will discuss the following questions: how is Trump represented in library music catalogues, and what does this reveal about popular perceptions of him? What music tracks are used in televisual and online content about Trump, and how do they compare to the musical scoring of other presidents? Taking library music as a vital element in the construction of audiovisual meaning, we will explore which musical strategies are deployed to paint a favourable picture of Trump as president, and which, on the contrary, are used to depict his mandate and its political upheavals in an unfavourable light.
Júlia Durand is a musicology PhD student at the NOVA University of Lisbon, Portugal. She is a member of the Center of Sociology and Musical Aesthetics (CESEM) and takes part in the research activities of its Group for Studies in Sociology of Music (SociMus) and Group for Advanced Studies in Music and Cyberculture (CysMus). In addition to several papers on music and audiovisuals presented at international conferences such as Music and the Moving Image, her research has been published as chapters in edited volumes and in the journals Music, Sound and the Moving Image and Revista Portuguesa de Musicologia. Her PhD is funded with an FCT grant (SFRH/BD/132254/2017), and it focuses on the production and use of library music in online videos.
Toby Huelin is a PhD researcher at the University of Leeds, UK. His thesis investigates library music and its use in contemporary television production. Toby has presented at international conferences including Music and the Moving Image and Hidden Figures of Screen Music and Sound, and is currently working on a chapter on Australian screen music for a forthcoming edited collection. Alongside his research, Toby is active as a media composer: his work is regularly broadcast on primetime television and is distributed worldwide by major labels including Universal and BMG. Toby holds a First Class degree in Music from the University of Oxford and a Masters in Composition with Distinction from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. His research is funded by the AHRC through the White Rose College of the Arts & Humanities (WRoCAH).
Tweets, Conspiracies, Moral Panics and Masks of Freedom
Carmen Celestini, University of Waterloo, Ontario
Throughout the pandemic Trump and administration have been the conduit to providing false information and conspiracy theories regarding Covid19. In daily media events, Twitter, and press conferences President Trump has conveyed theories regarding potential healthcare approaches, treatment, racialised accusations, attacks on his own medical representatives, and spread false narratives such as the Plandemic video and the press conference with Stella Immanuel. Supporters of Trump, who believe in the Deep State and QAnon, helped to promote the notion that Covid was developed from 5G technology. Between calls for a restart of the American economy and the reopening of churches, Trump created a scenario where the pandemic itself was a political mechanism used by the Democratic Party to destroy America and his re-election. The pandemic morphed from being a viral infection to a moral panic. The many divides in America became much larger as masks, shut downs of communities and states, and covid testing became symbolic of racism, socio-economic divide, attacks on freedom, and religious freedom.
A moral panic is a scare about a threat of supposed threat from “deviants” who are blamed for the attacking or menacing a society’s culture, way of life, and central values. When this moral concern is felt by a segment of society and is disproportionate to the threat or harm, (attack on freedoms in this instance), it is what these categories of harm represent that creates the fear or sense of threat. Most importantly for this analysis, the role of media is incredibly important in the spreading of moral panics. Through Twitter and social media, of Trump supporters, the President himself, and non-mainstream media, a moral panic eclipsed the global pandemic, with significant violence, a greater cleavage in the societal and political divide in America, and a nation spiralling into out of control infections and deaths from Covid19. This presentation will analyse and trace the creation of a moral panic which became the focal point of a battle not against a virus, but representative of the moral divide in a country.
Dr Carmen Celestini is a recent graduate of the University of Waterloo, whose research is predominately in the field of religion and social theory, with a focus on improvisational conspiracy, the overlapping belief systems of apocalyptic Christian thought and conspiracy theories, and the impact of these beliefs on the American political system.
In her doctoral work, the focus was on the John Birch Society of the 1950s and ’60s and how their form of improvisational conspiracism is linked to contemporary right-wing mobilisation. She also has an interest in religion and pop culture, specifically within subversive or marginalised religious movements.
Panel 4: Narrative, Genre and Cultural Critique in Television Fiction
Chair: Dr Oliver Gruner, University of Portsmouth
Oliver Gruner is a Senior Lecturer in Visual Culture at the University of Portsmouth. His research explores historical representation in visual media, screenwriting and the portrayal of the 1960s in the United States. He is the author of Screening the Sixties: Hollywood Cinema and the Politics of Memory (Palgrave Macmillan, 2016) and co-editor (with Peter Krämer) of Grease Is the Word: Exploring a Cultural Phenomenon (Anthem Press, 2019). His work has been published in the Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, Rethinking History and The Poster as well as various edited collections.
Postmodern Patriarchy and the “Trumpocalypse” in American Horror Story (2018)
Charlotte Gough, Manchester Metropolitan University
This paper will present, through American Gothic discourse, how the eighth instalment of seasonal anthology series American Horror Story, Apocalypse, critically articulates the United States’ retroactive return to conservative, ‘Angry White Male’ politics of the 1980s and 1990s. As Faludi posits, the cultural "incarnation of postmodern patriarchy" (2019) has defined the presidency – and indeed the nation as a whole – since Trump’s 2016 victory.
The premise of Apocalypse is the Trump administration (literally) bringing about the end of the world, with a devastating missile attack, and the ascension of toxic masculinity in the form of an all-powerful Anti-Christ. This hyperbolic representation of Trump’s apocalyptic rhetoric, I shall argue, directly recalls the ‘Satanic Panic’ of the 1980s and 1990s; a phenomenon of widespread, premillennial hysteria surrounding the occult and cult activity. This was proliferated by the Christian right and patriarchal populist ideologies used to justify racial and gendered scapegoating and ‘masculinity-in-crisis’ narratives. Such Reagan-era rhetoric continues to be echoed by President Trump through his Strongman self-image, and encapsulates the broader political turn towards anti-intellectualism and conspiracy-thinking, most notably reflected in the QAnon and Pizzagate theories which the President endorsed.
Furthermore, Apocalypse – in the first multi-season crossover of the AHS universe – stages a gendered battleground with the return of the benevolent matriarch witches of Coven (2013), representing a subversive vision of feminist uprising for the #MeToo era. I will also examine how the Satanic and Satanism is negotiated in this season to reflect the current socio-political resonance of such iconography in terms of identity politics in the United States. Indeed, Lucien Greaves, leader of The Satanic Temple, observed a distinct spike in membership "within hours of Trump being declared president", conceptualising modern Satanism in an activism context as standing against the "theocratic agenda" of the Republican administration and its "undermining of liberal democracy [and civil rights]".
Charlotte Gough is a PhD candidate at Manchester Metropolitan University funded by the NWCDTP. Her research examines ‘Satanic Panic’ and masculine crises in American Gothic film and television. She has previously been published in The Irish Journal of Gothic and Horror Studies and Fantastika Journal.
Taking The Good Fight to Trump: Impeachment and the 25th Amendment as Narrative Devices
Reece Goodall, University of Warwick
Even prior to his election, the presidency of Donald Trump has always had the prospect of impeachment and his removal hanging over it. Speculation over impeachment eventually led to reality when, in December 2019, Trump became the third US President in history to be impeached. Although the US news media focused on numerous potential impeachable actions and scandals, of which alleged Russian collusion and Ukrainian foreign election interference are the most significant, there has been little analysis of how impeachment and the 25th Amendment have featured in the world that helped cement Trump’s popularity – that of popular TV entertainment.
Thus, this paper will analyse the threat of presidential removal by the 25th Amendment or impeachment in four Trump-era TV dramas dealing with the presidency and presidential politics: Designated Survivor (2016-2019), The Good Fight (2017-), Homeland (2011-) and Madam Secretary (2014-2019). We will discuss how these tools, whether used by these shows as a means to deal with an unsuitable president or as an endorsement of the strength of American values and the US Constitution, is always coded through an anti-Trump lens. Through normalising the idea of removal and providing contemporary rationale for its necessity, these dramas effectively worked to lay the groundwork for Trump’s seemingly inevitable impeachment. As Trump is inherently a media figure, we will consider how mobilising popular media against him and his presidency became a viable tool in furthering a media narrative focused on the need to remove him from office.
Reece Goodall is a PhD student at the University of Warwick, currently working on an analysis of contemporary French horror cinema. His research interests include French and US horror, and the interplay between popular media, news and politics. He has an article in Horror Studies, which analyses the relationship between authoritarianism, the Trump presidency and contemporary US horror cinema.
Teaching Demons and Eating Nazis: Morality in Trump-Era Fantasy Comedy
Greg Frame, Bangor University and Hannah Andrews, Edge Hill University
Donald Trump’s personality is arguably symptomatic of the values of the contemporary era. His aggressive individualism, narcissism and selfishness were no impediment to securing the presidency, which suggests the normalisation, indeed, valorisation, of these characteristics in the context of the neoliberalisation of Western societies. The apparent lack of consequences for Trump’s own misdeeds, particularly his financial and political corruption, has led to questions about the ‘death of shame’ in politics and society. If, as Trump has demonstrated, immorality, dishonesty and avarice go unpunished, what is the point of being good?
Taking advantage of the potential of critically marginalised genres like fantasy and comedy to engage in radical social critique, The Good Place (NBC, 2016-20) and Santa Clarita Diet (Netflix, 2017-19) ask profound questions about what constitutes ‘goodness’ in society, and how one negotiates an increasingly complex terrain of ethical choices in almost every aspect of human life under globalised patriarchal capitalism. Both series feature sympathetic, albeit flawed, characters in fantastical scenarios: seeking to avoid eternal damnation through good deeds in The Good Place, and sating a hunger for human flesh by consuming only the assuredly reprehensible Santa Clarita Diet. They critique the pursuit of instant gratification that characterises the neoliberal ideal, examine how globalisation has created an environment where even ‘good’ behaviour can have unintended negative consequences, and ask whether it is acceptable to do ‘bad’ things in order to achieve ‘good’ outcomes.
Using fantastical premises and a comedic register, these shows manufacture extreme situations in which moral dilemmas may be tested, providing a putatively safe fictional space for radical critique. This paper explores how genre, representation and narrative work together to construct a provocative but contained arena for ethical experimentalism. Ultimately, we argue, these shows offer primers on what constitutes ‘being good’ in the neoliberal Trump era.
Gregory Frame is Lecturer in Film Studies at Bangor University. His research focuses on issues of politics and representation in American audiovisual culture. He has published on these topics in Journal of American Studies, Journal of Popular Film and Television, Film & History and New Review of Film and Television Studies. He is the author of The American President in Film and Television: Myth, Politics and Representation, which analyses portrayals of fictional US politicians in broader social and political contexts. He is currently working on research which explores how American film and television represent the nation after the 2008 financial crisis.
Hannah Andrews is Senior Lecturer in Media, Film and Television at Edge Hill University. She teaches and researches film and television fiction. Her book Television and British Cinema analyses intermedial and industrial relations between film and television in the UK. Her second monograph, Broadcasting Biography, explores biographical drama as a television genre and will be published in 2021. Her work has been published in Screen, Journal of Popular Television, and Critical Studies in Television, among others. She recently began a project on cross-media caricature, which examines a range of moving image texts from children’s comedy sketch shows to RuPaul’s Drag Race.
James Poniewozik, The Most Objectionable Program: How TV Divided and Conquered America
Moderator: Dr Karen McNally, London Metropolitan University
James Poniewozik is the author of Audience of One: Donald Trump, Television, and the Fracturing of America (2019) and has been the chief television critic for the New York Times since 2015. He was previously the television and media critic for Time magazine and a media columnist for Salon. He lives in Brooklyn.
Panel 5: Twitter, Celebrity And Political Media Strategies
Chair: Dr Andrew Moran, London Metropolitan University
Andrew Moran is an Associate Professor of International Relations and Politics, and Head of Politics and International Relations, at London Metropolitan University, and a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. His teaching specialisms are International Relations, Security Studies, and the foreign policy, history and politics of the United States of America. He has contributed to scholarly journals such as Presidential Studies Quarterly, White House Studies, Political Studies, Party Politics, The Amicus Journal, and Democratization, and has appeared on BBC News 24, Sky News, CNN, The Voice of Russia Radio and Bloomberg TV. He is also co-author of the text book International Security Studies.
Making America Great Again, One Tweet at a Time: The Rhetoric of Trump on Twitter
Rafał Kuś, Jagiellonian University, Kraków
This paper is an attempt to analyse the rhetorical strategies employed by Donald J Trump on Twitter. The Republican, whose ascent to power was one of the most surprising developments in recent American history, has relied on online channels of communication from the very beginning of his political career. It might be even argued that the 45th President, never an orthodox communicator, found his perfect means of reaching the US Society in Twitter, the microblogging social networking service.
The characteristics of Twitter messages, restricted to 280 characters (as of 2020), allow for efficient use of Trump’s trademark slogan rhetoric and its wide propagation. Donald J Trump used to “tweet” often even before entering politics; in the White House it is his primary instrument of contact with the American people, bypassing the more established media channels. While there is certainly no shortage of scholarly scrutiny of Trump’s Twitter endeavors, research initiatives using the instruments of rhetorical analysis might shed some new light on the 45th President’s online communications – and political fortunes. The research was conducted primarily with the use of the method of quantitative content analysis. Obtained results point out to the Republican as an unconventional political player, employing the possibilities offered by new media in an original yet effective manner.
Dr Kuś is a graduate of Law and Journalism and Social Communication at the Jagiellonian University. He has been professionally affiliated with Wyższa Szkoła Biznesu – National Louis University in Nowy Sącz (2006-2008, 2010-2012), Małopolska Vocational College (2009-2010), Jagiellonian University (since 2010), and Pontifical University of John Paul II (since 2011). Since October 2011, he has worked at the Institute of American Studies and Polish Diaspora of the Jagiellonian University. He has lectured at the universities of Catania (Italy), Ljubljana (Slovenia), Utica (USA), Santiago de Compostela (Spain) and Plovdiv (Bulgaria). Since January 2017, he has worked as a lecturer at the Jagiellonian University School of Rhetoric. He speaks fluent English (Certificate of Proficiency in English, 2006) and French. Dr. Kuś has worked as a language editor for Zeszyty Prasoznawcze since 2012.
Breaking the Rules of Political Communication: Trump’s Successes and Miscalculations
Susan J Douglas, University of Michigan
This paper will analyse the extent to which Donald Trump and the news media, especially the broadcast and cable news channels, in 2016 each drew from various precedents in campaigning and campaign coverage, yet also departed from precedent and violated many of the basic rules of campaign messaging and reporting. The paper will analyse how Trump’s use of Twitter, a perfect match for his rhetorical style, brought in new ways of circumventing yet engaging the news media. By assiduously following and reporting on his Tweets, the news media let Trump set the agenda in terms of substance, journalistic practice and rhetoric, compelling the media to recalibrate their coverage to fit the novelty of the platform and the candidate.
Because the tone and content of his Tweets were often highly controversial (and ratings bait), television news in particular provided him with an entirely new level of free media by reporting nearly all of his Tweets. But Tweets also fit into several established news routines – the use of headlines and snappy pull quotes, increasingly shorter soundbites given to political candidates, and cable news’ reliance on the chyron. This paper will examine how and why Trump’s tweets worked during the campaign and his presidency, but also brought him relentlessly negative coverage, and will consider how television and especially cable news has or has not changed as a result.
Susan Douglas is the Catherine Neafie Kellogg Professor of Communication and Media at The University of Michigan. She is author of In Our Prime: How Older Women are Reinventing the Road Ahead (March 2020), Celebrity: A History of Fame (with Andrea McDonnell, 2019), The Rise of Enlightened Sexism: How Pop Culture Took Us From Girl Power to Girls Gone Wild (2010); The Mommy Myth: The Idealization of Motherhood and How it Undermines Women (with Meredith Michaels, 2004); Listening In: Radio and the American Imagination (1999), Where The Girls Are: Growing Up Female with the Mass Media (1994) and Inventing American Broadcasting, 1899-1922 (1987).
Panel 6: Journalism, the News Media and Representing Trump
Chair: Wendy Sloane, London Metropolitan University
Associate Professor in Journalism Wendy Sloane has been a journalist since 1988. She started her career as a reporter-researcher for Time Magazine, based in New York and then Vienna. She then spent seven years in the former Soviet Union, where she helped found Moscow Magazine – breaking the story about HIV in Russia – before covering the coup that led to the Soviet collapse for The Associated Press. She eventually wrote for several Western newspapers in Moscow, covering the war in Chechnya, the Russian prison system and the first wave of post-Soviet homelessness for the Christian Science Monitor before starting to write for others. She moved to London in 1996, working on the foreign desk of the Daily Telegraph and doing a documentary about polygamy in Utah for Channel 4 before becoming an editor for several women’s magazines and then going freelance. She now teaches full-time but still writes regularly for a variety of publications, including the British Journalism Review, the Sunday Times and the London Economic.
Doing Trump’s Dirty Work? How Fighting Trump Veils Problems of Journalistic Power
Robert E Gutsche Jr., Lancaster University
Since the 2016 US presidential campaign cycle and President Donald Trump’s “war” on the press, fighting “the enemy of the people,” he has rallied journalists together in a fight against his antics, language, policies, and maybe even his beliefs (or what he says his beliefs are). The battle for press legitimacy and authority at the center of a media “war against Trump,” as it were, may be a needed fight, particularly when the rhetoric from the White House is rooted in racist and misogynistic.
This paper, however, questions to what degree the gathering together in a fight against Trump only makes it harder to get meaningful reform to journalism and long-standing ideological influences of daily news that normalises and maintains systems of oppression. Indeed, the militarisation of police across the US since 9/11 has been triumphed by the press in striking visuals of American superiority imbued by local police accepting new, flashy weapons. International conflict led by the US has been celebrated in the visuals and cable commentary on the lead-up to previous military action. Daily reporting in the US conforms to capitalistic mentalities of meritocracy, the stock market, and Western economic dominance. News coverage of sports and entertainment spread narratives of white excellence and black deviance embedded in these aspects of popular culture. Journalistic obsession with Trump, this paper argues, further distances citizens from critique of the institutionalised racism and oppressive nature of journalism that is inherent in its institutionalisation.
This paper is not interested in a normative battering of the press in its fight against Trump, but rather wishes to raise concern about its unavoidable consequences of further ignoring the role of journalism in social indoctrination that also gave rise to Trump’s reign, thereby undermining audience trust in media and creating gaps for mis- and dis-information.
Robert E Gutsche, Jr. is a scholar in the field of Journalism Studies where he applies critical cultural theory to investigate issues of power in journalism. As a journalist, his work appeared in The Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, the Guardian, and various other regional and local news outlets in the US. As an educator, he has led digital innovation related to multimedia journalism, including through the use of virtual reality and other immersive media in storytelling and research. He is the author of several books, including Media Control: News as an Institution of Power and Social Control (Bloomsbury, 2017), and the editor of Trump, Journalism, and Democracy (Routledge, 2018/2019).
Reality TV “Gets Real”: CNN and the 2016 Election Campaign
Liane Tanguay, University of Houston-Victoria
I propose to discuss US televisual coverage of the 2016 election campaign as a market-driven media spectacle representing a qualitative transformation in the political economy of mass media. A necessary condition of Trump’s victory in the election was, I argue, a “neoliberalized mediascape” that under the pressures of financialisation and managerialism was ill equipped to confront the overt racism, misogyny and nativism of the Trump campaign, reconfiguring it instead within the logic of “post-truth” and reality TV. Focusing mainly on CNN, as a network that has traditionally prided itself on its journalistic integrity and that presents itself as “liberal” in its orientation, I will theorise the conditions of the “neoliberalized mediascape,” including reality TV and the “outrage industry,” the normalisation of overtly racist and sexist discourse and the perennial danger of fascism that Walter Benjamin identified with mass media in 1936. I will also assess CNN’s current election coverage leading up to November 2020 to determine what lessons, if any, have been learned.
Liane Tanguay is an Associate Professor of English at the University of Houston-Victoria, where she teaches Literary Theory, Cultural Studies, Cinema, and Critical Studies in Race, Class, and Gender. She is the author of Hijacking History: American Culture and the War on Terror (McGill-Queen's University Press, 2013) as well as several articles and book chapters examining the interface between neoliberalism, media, popular culture, and American politics.
Global Media Narratives, Donald Trump and the Promise of Nationalism
Nelson Okorie, Pan-Atlantic University, Lagos
In his speech during the 73rd session of the General Assembly, President Donald Trump presented the rhetoric of globalism vs. nationalism. This study examined global media coverage on the controversial issues affecting President Donald Trump’s promise of nationalism. Furthermore, this study evaluated the Global media framing of President Donald Trump’s perspectives on nationalism (October 2018- May, 2020) on the YouTube webcast channels of: Aljazeera, Cable Network News (CNN), and British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).
This study adopted content analysis as a research design, 30 news videos were systematically sampled and analysed using a validated coding sheet. For this study, data was analysed using descriptive and inferential statistics. The findings indicated that these global media outlets were critical in their news framing on inactions of policy-makers on building Trump’s immigration policies as well as border management issues in the United States. Furthermore, the results indicated that there is a growing tendency that the feud between President Donald Trump and the European Union will be heightened on migration policies. In addition, media reports suggested that the “American First” approach can only be productive when it supports tenets of global citizenship. It is recommended that the United States work hand-in-hand with other nations to promote migration policies that support global citizenship.
Nelson Okorie is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Media and Communication, Pan Atlantic University. Okorie has more than twelve (12) years teaching experience at the higher institution level. In addition, Okorie is a member of professional and academic organisations, such as Certified Marketing Communication Institute of Nigeria (CMCIN), African Council for Communication Education (ACCE), South African Communication (SACOMM), International Communication Association (ICA), United Nations Conference on Trade & Development (UNCTAD) Virtual Institute, Switzerland. Okorie’s research area focuses on media and migration issues in Africa and Europe
Panel 7: Understanding Trump through Hyperreality, Disinformation and Home Shopping
Chair: Professor Sunny Singh, London Metropolitan University
Sunny Singh is the Professor of Creative Writing and Inclusion in the Arts at the London Metropolitan University. She is the author of three critically acclaimed novels: Nani’s Book of Suicides, was praised as a "first novel of rare scope and power" and its Spanish translation won the inaugural Mar de Letras prize; With Krishna’s Eyes (2006) which was commended for its "profound insight" and described as "memorable”; and Hotel Arcadia (2015) described as “powerful and absorbing” and “elegantly plotted, psychologically subtle, and almost unbearably exciting.” Her first non-fiction book, Single in the City: The Independent Woman’s Handbook (2001), is a first-of-its-kind exploration of single women in contemporary India. Her latest non-fiction book, published by the British Film Institute, is a study of the Indian superstar Amitabh Bachchan (2017). Her essays, short stories, and columns are published worldwide in key journals, anthologies and media outlets. She is the founder of the Jhalak Prize for Book of the Year by a Writer of Colour, the Jhalak Children’s & YA Prize and the Jhalak Art Residency. In her various roles, Singh is a champion for inclusion across all aspects of society, advocating an intersectional, decolonising approach to building radical global solidarities. She is currently finalising a monograph on Indian cinema as well as a collection of short stories examining aspects of armed conflict over the past century.
Trump, Dismediation, and the Cognitive Immune System
Barry Mauer, University of Central Florida
Trump portrays immigrants as subhuman enemies, urges his followers to commit violence against them, and engages in denial about it. His denial efforts include attacks on the media for reporting his actual words. But media outlets carry Trump’s attacks on them. As famously uttered by CBS chairman Les Moonves the Trump “circus. . . may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS.”
Though mainstream media outlets rarely invent fake news, they launder and market it as real news to avoid being accused of “liberal bias,” which does nothing to stop the accusations. Mainstream media outlets routinely spread misinformation, disinformation, and even dismediation (discrediting their own enterprise). Dismediation, Maria Bustillos explains, is a form of propaganda that “seeks to undermine the medium by which it travels, like a computer virus that bricks the whole machine.” Dismediation occurs when media outlets carry Trump’s attacks on their own institutions. The rise of an anti-intellectual, rage-driven right wing led by Trump is the culmination of efforts by right-wing organisations coinciding with failures in journalism.
Pathological beliefs build and sustain Trump’s base and these beliefs are established and maintained through a flood of propaganda. A pathological belief is likely to be false, to produce unnecessary harm, and to be held incorrigibly in the face of overwhelming evidence. Individuals and organisations have cognitive immune systems, and these systems are either resilient or compromised. Many studies approach propaganda and disinformation using an epidemiological approach. Also appropriate is disease pathology, in particular the “seed and soil” theory of cancer proposed by Stephen Paget to explain why cancer does not metastasise centrifugally in nearby tissue. Cognitive immune systems consist of both internal (cognitive) and external (physical) barriers. Once pathological beliefs take hold, they hijack cognitive immune systems to defend themselves against corrective healthy beliefs.
Barry Jason Mauer teaches in the Texts and Technology PhD program at the University of Central Florida and is associate professor in the English Department. His published work focuses on developing new research practices in the arts and humanities and on delusion and denial in political discourse.
Is Trump a Fascist or is He the Parody of Fascism?
Alan N Shapiro, University of the Arts, Bremen
Since the beginning of his term in office, liberal media like CNN and the New York Times have repeatedly returned to the hopeful assertion that Trump is about to “pivot,” about to stop dividing America with racism and hatred and instead become a “unifier” – that he is on the verge of becoming “presidential.” Another standard discourse about Trump is the claim that he is a fascist. But is Trump a fascist or is he a “wannabe” fascist? He is obviously the latter, but many commentators apparently do not regard it as important to keep that difference in mind. They frequently draw analogies between Trump and the 1930s Nazism of Hitler and fascism of Mussolini. Noam Chomsky is an admirable exception to this tendency. He accurately views Trump as a “sociopathic megalomaniac” who is “flailing about wildly.” Chomsky points out that fascism was an ideological system of strongly held beliefs, whereas Trump believes in nothing. Hitler and Mussolini built totalitarian states which controlled big business, whereas Trump is the puppet of super-rich financial interests. Both the idea that Trump must eventually be reined in by the historical weight of democratic presidential norms and the idea that he is Hitler redux fail to take into account that the media in general have cut us off from real access to historical events. Everything that I know about the Holocaust, the Second World War, and the Vietnam War comes from Hollywood films about those events which I have seen.
Trump is a product of this culture of postmodern “anything goes” images and rhetoric. He lies all the time and his supporters believe it. His charismatic speech has become more powerful than the democratic and scientific systems of true and false. There is a reality of historical and political events, but this “real” is contained within a superset of hyper-reality, simulation, and science fiction. Trump’s brutal acts kill real people, but those deeds must be understood within a larger and essentially “fictional” or narrative framework. The values of the West – whether freedom or fascism – have by now degenerated into an ironic and carnivalesque parody of themselves. We live inside the grand “society of the spectacle” of ubiquitous Reality TV.
Alan N Shapiro is a thinker and essayist known for his work in media theory, transdisciplinary and future design, French postmodern philosophy, and science fiction studies. He has published the books Star Trek: Technologies of Disappearance (2004), The Technological Herbarium (2010), Software of the Future (2014), and Transdisciplinary Design (2017). He has recently been visiting professor of design at the Folkwang University of the Arts, and currently teaches media theory at the University of the Arts, Bremen and “future design research” at the University of Applied Sciences and Arts, Lucerne. Since 2011, Shapiro has been keynote speaker at 20 academic or business conferences and art festivals, most recently at the July 2020 European Union presidency conference “Media in the Digital Society.”
The Politics of Status Elevation: Donald J Trump’s Home Shopping Governance
Vinzenz Hediger, Goethe Univesity, Frankfurt
In the last few months, US president Donald J Trump has repeatedly scandalised observers by applying the presentational modes of home shopping television to his public pronouncements on the pandemic or in the context of the pandemic. Examples range from Trump using the corona briefings to promote products in which he owns shares to inviting bed gear teleshopping tycoon Mike Lindell (aka “The Pillow Guy”) to endorse Trump’s leadership during one of the briefings in the Rose Garden and Trump and his daughter Ivanka promoting Goya products, a Latino staple, from the Resolute Desk in the Oval office and via social media to counter calls for a boycott after Goya CEO Robert Unanue followed Lindell’s model and offered another ringing endorsement of Trump’s COVID leadership from the Rose Garden.
This contribution argues that one of the revelatory aspects of the pandemic is that it throws Trump’s reliance on the home shopping template into high relief. The pandemic helps us understand that Trump’s home shopping mode of address is not, as his critics suggest, another in a long series of tasteless aberrations and breaches of protocol, but an intrinsic element of his television personality and his governance. The contribution will focus on the close ties between the extended Trump family and QVC, the world’s leading teleshopping network with annual sales of USD 11 billion, 70% of which come from the USA, where the audience is 90% white middle class and female. Building on David Gudelunas’ argument that teleshopping is a “media ritual of status elevation”, the contribution will argue that teleshopping is the TV format that most strongly resonates with Trump’s political brand which, rather than about opportunity for all, is about status elevation for an in-group of the already safe and secure.
Vinzenz Hediger (email@example.com) is a professor of cinema studies at Goethe Universität Frankfurt, Germany, where he directs the Graduate Research Training Program “Configuations of film”. He is a Principal Investigator in the Research Center “Normative Orders”, a co-founder of NECS – European Network of Cinema and Media Studies and a member of the Mainz Academy of Sciences and Literature.
Panel 8: Curating the Black Lives Matter Video Essay Playlist and Q&A
Chair: Professor Sharon Monteith, Nottingham Trent University
Sharon Monteith is Distinguished Professor of American Literature and Cultural History at Nottingham Trent University. Her most recent book is SNCC’s Stories: The African American Freedom Movement in the Civil Rights South (2020). She focuses on race and rights in her interdisciplinary research and contributions to community projects. In the context of this panel, publications include the Media volume of The Encyclopedia of Southern Culture (co-edited with Allison Graham); American Cuture in the 1960s; The Transatlantic Sixties; Film Histories; and Gender and the Civil Rights Movement (with Peter Ling). Her current project focuses on civil rights from the Reconstruction era to Black Lives Matter.
Curating the Black Lives Matter Video Essay Playlist – Will DiGravio, Kevin B Lee and Cydnii Wilde
In the months since the murder of George Floyd by police officers in Minneapolis, thousands have taken to the streets to protest police brutality and white supremacy. Quarantined in our homes under the threat of COVID-19, the whole world has watched as the United States reckons with its history of systemic violence perpetrated against Black persons. Many have compared the events of 2020 to 1968, but perhaps the key difference is the myriad ways in which the world is now watching: cell phone videos, live streams, GIFs, TV broadcasts, and more. Video essays can also play an important role in analysing systemic racism and police brutality, critically examining their representations in film and media, serving as a medium for Black visions and voices to be seen and heard in alliance with the expressions of all other people of color.
As we sat and watched the steady stream of videos being shared and uploaded to social media, we began curating a range of videos under the banner, “Black Lives Matter Video Essay Playlist.” The list features more than 100 videos categorised into five distinct sections. Works on the list transcend time, and, like the activist movements of today, invite the viewer to understand not just what is happening now, but the years of violent oppression that have led to this moment. Our panel contextualises and reflects on how this historical moment has produced exciting new forms of media criticism, which this list endeavours to document. We will also reflect on curation as a form of activism, and what it is like to gather and crowdsource materials as events transpire. Finally, our panel reckons with how the playlist challenges preconceptions of what constitutes a “video essay,” and what this list means for the burgeoning field of academic videographic film and media criticism. The panel will also feature a screening of five videos from the playlist.
Cydnii Wilde Harris is a film scholar and video essayist, whose work largely concerns the representations of marginalised communities. She is particularly concerned with the depictions of BIPOC women and femmes in film and television. Cydnii received her MA in Cinema Studies from the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), and her BA in English from Spelman College. Her work has been presented at the Southern regional conference for the Popular Culture/American Culture Association, the Uppsala International Short Film Festival, the Squeaky Wheel Arts and Media Center, The Film House, Open City Documentary Festival, Camden International Film Festival, among others.
Kevin B Lee is a filmmaker, media artist, and critic. He has produced over 360 video essays exploring film and media. His award-winning Transformers: The Premake introduced the “desktop documentary” format, was named one of the best documentaries of 2014 by Sight & Sound and screened in many festivals including Berlin Critics Week, Rotterdam International Film Festival and Viennale International Film Festival. Through Bottled Songs, his collaborative project with Chloé Galibert-Laîné, he was awarded the 2018 Sundance Institute Art of Nonfiction Grant, the 2018 European Media Artist Platform Residency, and the 2019 Eurimages Lab Project Award at Karlovy Vary International Film Festival. He was 2017 Artist in Residence of the Harun Farocki Institut in Berlin. In 2019 he produced “Learning Farocki”, a series of video essays on Harun Farocki, commissioned by the Goethe Institut. He was Founding Editor and Chief Video Essayist at Fandor from 2011-2016, supervising producer at Roger Ebert Presents At the Movies, and has written for The New York Times, Sight & Sound, Slate and Indiewire. He is Professor of Crossmedia Publishing at Merz Akademie, Stuttgart, where he is co-director of the Masters Program in Research in Art, Design and Media.
Will DiGravio is a writer, video essayist, and podcaster. His current work is centered on the history and theory of videographic film and media criticism, or “video essays.” He hosts The Video Essay Podcast, which features in-depth interviews with leading practitioners of the form. The podcast was named the best new Film & Moving Image Studies Podcast of 2019 by Film Studies for Free (edited by Catherine Grant). He also writes a weekly newsletter, Notes on Videographic Criticism. He has produced a number of video essays, including The Barber Approves, which was named one of the best video essays of 2019 in the annual Sight & Sound poll. He is currently an assistant editor for Screenworks, the peer-reviewed journal of film and media practice research. Since 2018, his film essays and reviews have appeared regularly at One Perfect Shot (aka Film School Rejects). In 2020, he earned an MPhil in the Centre for Film and Screen at the University of Cambridge, where he studied as a Keasbey Scholar. He earned a BA from Middlebury College in 2019.