One of the best things about the American Studies field is that popular songs, TV shows, movies – what many folks might see as simple diversions – don’t need to be treated apart from more traditional artifacts that merit scholarly analysis. In other words, they offer representations of America worth considering, dissecting, and debating.
And, thanks to entities like Hulu and Netflix, exploring media in depth has become quicker and easier – especially where television is concerned. Entire seasons of shows have been digitized and made readily available to the viewing public; it’s a golden age of access to representations of American life! And, of course, what better means of tapping into our cultural zeitgeist than through TV?
So, without further ado, a few shows you should watch if you’re in the wonderful field of American Studies – or simply aspire to be – along with a few clips to whet your appetites.
1. Deadwood – HBO – 2004 – 2006 (RIP)
I started watching Deadwood thanks to some recommendations by a few professors and colleagues. And the show doesn’t disappoint. Based on a post-Civil War South Dakota town, and featuring actual historical figures like Calamity Jane and Wyatt Earp, Deadwood provides what seems like a faithful representation of the lawless 19th century frontier. Authentic history notwithstanding, it’s an intense show, and that intensity starts right at the beginning. If you have a squeamish stomach or cringe when you hear coarse language, perhaps steer clear of this one. Bottom line: this is a hardcore western show. Watch it. It means business.