Beasts from the East: Fantasies of Eastern Europeanness in Brexit-era BBC Drama

Havas, Julia, Martonfi, Anna and Gergely, Gabor (2021) Beasts from the East: Fantasies of Eastern Europeanness in Brexit-era BBC Drama. VIEW Journal of European Television History and Culture . ISSN 2213-0969

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Beasts from the East: Fantasies of Eastern Europeanness in Brexit-era BBC Drama
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Abstract

This article examines enduring racist-nationalist imaginings of the Eastern European other in British television fictions, demonstrated via Brexit-era BBC prestige dramas broadcast on UK television before international release via Netflix. We begin our discussion by briefly flagging up some of the key issues in the BBC1 miniseries The Salisbury Poisonings (2020), itself not our main object of study. This detour even before we begin our analysis proper is justified by the transparency of The Salisbury Poisonings’ nationalistic rhetoric, which conjures up with no subtlety the toxic-beastly menace of Eastern Europe. We will then move on to three case studies, each focused on a drama series celebrated in critical and scholarly responses as progressive/joyous fictional representations of minoritized and/or marginalized bodies, to demonstrate the presence of the same imaginings of the Eastern European foreign other in our selected programmes, and to highlight how such dehumanizing representations can nestle within ostensibly empowering and positive discourses of identity. That is to say, the key claim we make is not that UK imaginings of the Eastern European other are newly xenophobic, nor do we pretend to draw attention to negative portrayals of Eastern Europeans in UK popular culture for the first time. Rather, we make the important point that ostensibly progressive fictional representations accommodate racist-xenophobic discourses of Eastern Europeanness, which remain unnoticed – or at least unremarked upon in celebratory critical responses – despite the obvious reproduction of age-old narratives of Eastern European savagery, barbarism and pathological threat in the Brexit era. The article is informed by a growing body of interdisciplinary scholarship on racialized European imaginings of Europe’s margins, which it proposes to enrich with a theoretically and historically informed close reading of key examples of the BBC’s internationally distributed prestige television drama output.

Keywords:Television, Eastern Europe, BBC, Prestige drama, Xeno-racism, Brexit
Subjects:P Mass Communications and Documentation > P301 Television studies
Divisions:College of Arts > Lincoln School of Film & Media > Lincoln School of Film & Media (Film)
ID Code:45060
Deposited On:28 Jun 2021 10:56

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