Redekop Prize Winner (2021)

Redekop prize winner (2021)

The committee charged with selecting the winner of this year’s Redekop Prize for the best essay in volume 51 (2021) of the Canadian Review of American Studies have decided to give the award to Mason Wales, a PhD candidate in Cinema and Media Studies at York University in Toronto, for her essay, “’We Couldn’t Do That Even if We Wanted To’: Family and Natality in Veep and House of Cards (US)” (CRAS 51.3). Wales’ essay appeared in a special issue on New Perspectives on New Television, edited by Daniel Adleman, and the committee were particularly impressed by its careful attention to differences in genre and tone and by the originality of its complex and illuminating comparative approach. Drawing on and pressuring the influential work of Martin Shuster, Wales uses several effective analytical strategies to explore the idea that “new television” consistently offers the family as a solution to collapsing social bonds under contemporary neo-liberal conditions. By detailing the differences between British and American versions of the same shows (The Thick of It and Veep;and the American and British versions of House of Cards), Wales demonstrates some of the specific ways in which “the aesthetics of the family are used to make claims on normative authority that mask the means and ends of neo-liberal politics.” While the British political dramas frequently draw on familial metaphors to symbolize national tensions, the “weight put on the family’s normative authority” in the equivalent American shows, Wales argues, exposes the “core pathological potential of the family itself.” In addition to incest and other forms of intra-familial violence, the American shows Wales analyzes feature a pointed fascination with natality, and the committee were impressed by her essay’s judicious use of work in the field of feminist, reproductive theory to inform an account of the “non-teleological understanding of pregnancy” on display in Veep and House of Cards (US). As Wales’ essay persuasively demonstrates, American new television participates in, and helps us to scrutinize, the ways in which “the biopolitical control of pregnant people’s bodies” has become central to contemporary structures of inequality.

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