Professor Dana Renga (Chair and Professor of Italian & Co-Director, The Film Studies Program, Ohio State University)
This talk focuses on recent, popular Italian television. As noted in a recent Variety article, “The global rise of Italian TV series is now in full swing” thanks in great part to the international successes of programs such as Gomorrah. The Series, Suburra. Blood on Rome, The Young/New Pope, Zero Zero Zero, Devils, 1992/3/4, and Romanzo criminale. The Series. These programs appear on channels or streaming services that attest to their transnational appeal and growing fan-base: HBO, The Sundance Channel, Hulu, Netflix, Sky Atlantic, iTunes and Amazon Instant Video. Italy’s most popular, exported series feature alluring and attractive antiheroes, and offer fictionalized accounts of historical events or figures. In particular, series on Sky and Netflix Italia highlight the routine violence of daily life in the mafia, the police force, and politics.
Although content is frequently dark and violence common, Italian broadcasters have made an international name for themselves in presenting Italian tragedy in formats that are visually pleasurable and, for many across the globe, highly addictive. Building on work in American television studies, audience and reception theory, social network analysis, and masculinity studies, this presentation addresses how and why viewers are positioned to engage emotionally with – and root for – television antiheroes on small Italian screens. Indeed, in Italian television, gangsters and criminals are constructed to warrant viewer compassion in a much more straightforward manner than we have ever seen before onscreen in the Italian tradition. It’s fascinating that spectators enjoy re-experiencing Italy’s painful recent past and present in the safety and comfort of their own homes in visually pleasurable forms. Taken as a whole, this presentation investigates what recent Italian perpetrator television can teach us about television audiences, and our viewing habits and preferences
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