Open Philosophy (Dec 2021)

Television Series as Critical Theories: From Current Identitarianism to Levinas. American Crime, The Sinner, Sharp Objects, Unorthodox

  • Corcuff Philippe

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 5, no. 1
pp. 105 – 117


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Critical theory with emancipatory aims today to find a source of regeneration in ordinary cultures, and in particular, in TV series. Certain series can play a role in reinventing critical theories, drawing on the tradition of the Frankfurt School but shifting some of that School’s formulations through contact with current forms of interpretive sociology and pragmatic sociology. This requires a cross-border dialogue between the “language game” of TV series and the “knowledge game” of political theory, to use concepts inspired by Ludwig Wittgenstein. In this article, I will focus on four series: seasons 1 of American Crime (2015) and The Sinner (2017); Sharp Objects (2018); and Unorthodox (2020). The resources provided by these cultural works can help us formulate a critical decoding of important aspects of the current ideological context, in particular, the intersecting identitarian and ultra-conservative tendencies we find in France, Europe, the United States, and Brazil. These critical resources bear affinities to a political philosophy of the opening of being inspired by the ethical reflections of Emmanuel Levinas.