The TV Detective (SoSe 2017) – study questions and responses


*if you don’t want to answer online: please put a printed version in my mailbox (KGIV, ground floor)

Please answer one of the following questions (600 words):

  1. In the series The Fall , we learn much more about the personality of the killer, but also about the characters of the victims, than is usual in other crime series or fiction. What effect does this larger aspect of audience knowledge have on how you watch the series?
  2. In class, we discussed the various reactions to the character of Stella Gibson. Some lauded her as a feminist supersleuth, while this claim was dismissed by others, calling the series misogynist. What were the arguments?
  3. Stella Gibson is not the first or only strong detective character on televison. Can you think of other series that represent strong or feminist female leads?









Please Watch at least Season 1, Episode 1

-What is the connection between the police procedural and its realism claim? What does it have to do with the female detectives in the 21st century?

-What could you say about the representations of different ‘femininities’ or ‘masculinities’ in Happy Valley? How does the series differ from the ones that are marked as ‘the police procedural’ that McElroy mentions throughout the article?

Here, you will find two kinds of questions for our work in the Proseminar:

*study questions and *response questions.

*study questions: They are put here every week, and are merely here to help you structure your assigned reading for the week. You don’t have to post on them.

*response questions: There are three deadlines for responses throughout the semester. One week before this deadline, I will put up three response questions that are pertaining to what we did so far in the course. If you want to answer, *chose one of those options and post your response on this site (as a ‘reply‘) (600 words) by the deadline given on your course schedule. If you wish to not post your response online, please hand in a printed version during class. PLEASE DO NOT SEND ME EMAIL ATTACHMENTS.

if your post doesn’t appear immediately after posting, don’t panic. I have to approve it first before it goes live.

Study Questions for Session 4: Sherlock and the heroic

Assigned Episodes: 2/3, 3/1

  • What makes a hero? In your own definition?
  • What kinds of heroism are discussed in the text by Marinaro and Thomas, and which ones do Watson and Sherlock stand for, respectively?
  • can you think of scenes which heroise Sherlock? Watson?


1. Detective Fiction: What can you say about the history of crime fiction? Which role did the detective play in crime fiction? What were the most common types of detectives that we discussed, and what are their characteristics

2. Television Analysis: Why is it important to look not just at the story and plot level of a television (or film) text? What can we learn and be able to say about the effect of movies by looking for the “visual text”? Which features are most important in your view?

3. Sherlock: The BBC series which started in 2010 and was created by Moffat and Gatiss was an instant hit. What do you think were the reasons for this updating of such an old, iconic detective story being so successful? Why did people want to see this kind of Sherlock Holmes?


Study Questions for session 5: the transmedia fanbase / text by Petersen

  • what does ‘mediatized talk’ mean?
  • what are the three different kinds of talk that Petersen identifies?
  • what function doe the tumblr conversations have for the Sherlock fans?
  • How much influence, do you think, do fans have on the production of TV show today?

46 thoughts on “The TV Detective (SoSe 2017) – study questions and responses

  1. Question 1: Detective Fiction

    Until recently, the conventional idea of the development of crime fiction was that it originated with Edgar Allen Poe’s short story “The Murder in the Rue Morgue” in 1841 (anteceded and influenced by William Godwin’s Caleb Williams). Wilkie Collins’ novel The Moonstone (1868) was considered to be the first detective novel, a genre that became very popular through Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories. In this traditional narrative, the inter-war British “Golden Age” novels (dominated by Agatha Christie) and the American private-eye fiction are mostly seen as the end of the development and later works only as extensions of those two traditions.
    According to Priestman (3), however, this history overlooks some of the influences that earlier 19th-century crime writing, like the sensation novels, had on Poe and others and at the same time, research on crime fiction without detectives, for example the “Newgate Novels” (1830s/40s), is neglected.
    Since the figure of the detective plays such a central role in the history of crime fiction, it is warranted to take a closer look at its traditions and characteristics. The tradition of the charismatic detective began with Poe’s Dupin and through Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, “detective fiction became for the first time an indubitably popular and repeatable format” (Priestman 4).
    Interestingly, today there is no one fixed image of a detective. Rather, they can be men or women, extremely smart, like Holmes and Dupin, or everymen, spies or private detectives. They can work alone or with a sidekick, although recently, the detective has been increasingly surrounded by a team of experts that help them solve their cases, exemplified in police procedurals like CSI. Additionally, in the last half-century, there was also a shift away from the image of the detective as an outstanding amateur towards a more “realistic” representation of a detective who is part of a police force. One thing that the detectives have in common, however, is that they personify some of the moral conventions and traditions of a society, similarly to a villain or a crime that reflect the anxieties of a society at a given time.
    As mentioned above, during the years between the world wars, the traditions of British and American detective fiction developed in different directions. The stereotypical British model was the eccentric and genteel amateur. These stories used to mostly take place in upper-middle class society and the crime was a metaphorical threat to the social order. Following the role-model of Sherlock Holmes, the detective was often highly intellectual and solved crimes through deductions from behind their desk. In contrast, the detective most often associated with the American tradition was the hardboiled private-eye. Following the model of Dashiell Hammett’s Sam Spade, the hardboiled detective was much more physical than the British type, and often searched for their own justice, even if they had to break some rules to do so. American detective novels also evoked a feeling of realism and grittiness one didn’t encounter in British detective fiction and the detectives were seen as outsiders that explore the darker corners of society.
    But, especially in recent years, this stereotype of the British gentleman detective and the American hardboiled private eye has sometimes been broken intentionally. Patrick Neate’s detective Tommy Akthar is British and lives in London while embodying some stereotypes that are inherently seen as American. He is a private detective, who is crude, an alcoholic and smoking. While these aspects seem to suggest that Spade is taken as Akhtar’s prototype, the novel is written in an ironic way that makes fun of exactly the stereotypes it imitates.
    These recent developments in detective fiction could be an indication that not only are the traditional stereotypes not universal, but also that these trends are not as set in stone as they might have been some decades ago.

    Works Cited:

    Priestman, Martin. “Introduction: crime fiction and detective fiction.” The Cambridge Companion to Crime Fiction,
    edited by Martin Priestman, Cambridge UP, 2003, pp. 1-6.

  2. Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg i. Br.
    The Detective in British Television Series
    Anna-Mareike Bergmann

    Response 1 – Question 2 (Television Analysis)

    When looking at some kind of ‘text’, in this case television or film, there are many more factors to take into consideration than just the story and plot. Textual analysis is the key. According to Glen Creeber’s text ‘Analysing Television – Issues and Methods in Textual Analysis’, textual analysis is basically “the means by which all texts […] are interpreted” (Creeber 2006: 26). By ‘texts’ not only written documents are meant but also fashion, photography, painting, plays, films, television, and so on. It is almost completely based on critical interpretation and “attempts to uncover [a text’s] potential meaning through detailed close readings” (ibid.). This “educated ‘guess work’” is therefore highly subjective which leads to a great debate about whether a text’s ‘real’ meaning lies within the text itself or whether it can be derived through the audiences interpretation. Their reading is culturally specific and, “[a]s society and the individuals within [them] change, […] the meanings of the texts change also” (Selby 1995: 30).
    Nowadays textual analysis is rather complex and includes numerous different methods. One example is semiotics, another is narratology which “attempts to unravel the means by which narratives are constructed, attempting to locate exactly what it is that turns a flow of words and images into a story” (Creeber 2006: 26). For example, it can reveal how a complex, multilayered TV drama can still be reduced to a surprisingly straightforward narrative structure. Closely related to this is genre theory which aims to understand and categorise the fundamental characteristics of textual groups. All of the above are tied up with various forms of ideological analysis. This method “focuses on the way that the text produces and perpetuates a distorted perception of the world; it prescribes and constructs reality in such a way that it maintains the structural inequalities of a capitalist society” (ibid. 32). Psychoanalytical theory can be useful in “unravelling the possible means by which desire and pleasure are unconsciously activated by audiences” (ibid.). More commonly used is content analysis. These many (and more) different forms of textual analysis available to a TV critic, make it essential that one distinguishes the form employed from the beginning and also states why this particular form is chosen. Regardless of the approach chosen, one must always be aware that all methods have benefits and deficits. The approach chosen then has a great impact on what the audience “gets out” of a text. Looking for the ‘visual text’ enables the viewer to “read between the lines”, not only in the literal sense of what is said by the characters on screen. One can make oneself aware of the methods that are actually being used by the creators of a text (visual literacy). These include various camera movements, framing, ways of editing, camera angles, and many more. They serve to influence the viewer’s perception – what one sees and what one feels about what is seen. Without these means a film or other motion picture would be very simple and rather boring. They represent cultural codes, also non-verbal ones. By addressing various senses at the same time (multimodality) a film or similar, requires the viewers concentration and attention and can therefore capture them completely and make them feel as if they had actually been part of the plot, i.e. take them to a different world.
    Personally, I find sound one of the most fascinating features used in film making. I feel like it makes me so much more emotional when watching a film and I have found myself linking films to music very much. When I hear a song that has been part of a movies soundtrack it immediately reminds me of that film. One of the best examples is probably the song “Inner Smile” which has been part of the movie “Bend it like Beckham” or goosebumps I get whenever the Harry Potter intro is played, even though it might just be on someone’s phone.

    (653 words)

    Creeber, Glen. Tele-Visions. An Introduction to Studying Television. British Film Institue, 2006. Print.
    Selby, Keith and Ron Cowdery. How to Study Television. MacMillan Press, 1995. Print.

    1. RESPONSE QUESTIONS FOR DEADLINE MAY 16: 1. Detective Fiction
      The history of crime fiction began with the gradual disappearance of the barriers between ‘high’ and ‘low’ literature. In the 1960s the analysis of crime texts was more and more seen as worthy. The tradition of some ‘rules’ which were established up to the late 1980s, emphasized not only the figure of the detective but also the author’s fair handling of clues. At a later date, the genre of crime fiction itself arose and it became essential to consider the gender, race, and class implications of its various transformations. In that time the impact of film and television played a growing role of contemporary culture. All began in 1841 when the first detective story was written by Edgar Allan Poe whose form was later found in the first great detective novel The Moonstone written by Wilkie Collins. Arthur Conan Doyle’s creation of Sherlock Holmes was one of the most important steps in the history because only with that the form became really popular. During the inter-war ‘Golden Age’ the transformation of the new form from short story to novel was achieved. In the same time a new form also developed in the USA but this was consciously the complete opposite to the English one. Many crimes were written in the eighteenth century but without leaving textual space for the figure of the detective. Some critics searched the origins of the British detective in Collin’s The Moonstone. The first English detective hero called Sergeant Cuff was found there. But not only works like The Moonstone or the Sherlock Holmes series were important for the development, also the police detective ‘Waters’ helped to generate the public identification of the detective policeman. It is really important to know that police fiction has developed differently in the US and the UK, especially the detectives are presented completely differently. Details about that will be presented later in the text but now I would like to say something about the golden age of crime fiction which took place between the two world wars. The term itself has been criticised because the stories always represent types of social and personal unease which is obviously contradicting to it. Although there was a quite big variety in this period, it was still possibly to identify a set of shared practices. Elements like multiple suspects or the central mechanism as the clue puzzle but also murder as the central crime became the norm. The setting of a more or less secluded country house is an English tradition, American crime fiction was set elsewhere. The stories have also similarities on a social level: lower classes, professional criminals and master-villains played minor roles, also politics in general were more or less ignored. The victim itself often was an important and wealthy person. The detection was like the writing style rational and not active or intuitional, the detective was usually a man who often was an amateur. It was also very common that he had a friend or relative. The identification of the criminal was normally at the end of the story. The most outstanding feature of the clue-puzzle were the multiple suspects and the rational analysis of the evidence. These standard features meshed with an unusual feature of the clue-puzzle form: the challenge faced by the reader also to identify the murderer. Concerning the form it is important to say that the basic late nineteenth-century mystery was the short story, without a complex case. Over the years, the cases became more and more complex, so the books were novels. But that does not mean that the short stories died in that time, most of the writers in the golden age produced not only novels but also still short stories. However, the novel was the classic form of the clue-puzzle. Also the audience changed with that development: short stories were normally designed for men, novels on the other side also for women. Also in general, females became more in more important in literature. Agatha Christie was a crucial figure in that time: but although many of her novels were highly operatically elaborate, some American commentators were not convinced at all. In America female writers like Christie have been overlooked. British commentators, on the other side, disregarded the strength of the American clue-puzzles. But it was in Britain where the clue-puzzle had its richest development and it is also important to mention that not everybody followed Christie and her cases which were often described as meaningless riddles. The development of crime fiction was also influenced in the golden age by the search for human colour in the crime novel, by the creation of an anti-heroic detective, by the inverted story, by the focus on the neurotic fantasies of a murder and much more. At some point in time, the detective seemed a racially patronising fiction, as fits a thoroughly colonial clue-puzzle. As you can see the detective story had a clear structure but also variations and it was highly popular in Britain and America. The classic clue-puzzle was a major literary formation. The reasons for the popularity were and still are highly discussed: Some for example think that the rise of crime fiction is connected with the decline of religion at the end of the Victorian era. But opinions vary very much. All in all you can say that the golden age clue puzzle is a highly complex form combining both consolation and anxiety.
      The detectives themselves are presented quite differently in America and Britain. Whereas the typical American detective is good-looking like Sam Spade, the British one is mostly alcoholic and therefore not really attractive, an example here is Tommy Akthar. Both stereotypical detectives smoke but for the American one it is an aspect of coolness and for the British one it is more destroying, so the negative aspects overweigh. Both are often private detectives. Also the women are presented in two different ways: the female client of Sam Spade is shown as a classic, pretty woman. The female client of Tommy Akthar, on the other side, has a more sexual appearance. It is important to say that here, Sam Spade is taken as a prototype writing the story of Akthar.
      Another characteristic of British texts is that another person informs the reader about the story like it is also done in Sherlock Holmes. Also the gentleman C. Auguste Dupin is described from a person who knows him and therefore not from the outside.
      All in all you can say that there a quite a few differences between the prototypical American and British detectives. Maybe you can explain this with the fact that the two had also quite different histories, they developed in a different way.

    2. Response question 1: Detective fiction
      “The crime story has some claim to have driven the main structural transformations of narrative for (at least) the last half-century” (Priestman 2006: 6).
      ‘Crime fiction’ – a word which seemed mutually exclusive for a long time. It was until the 1980s that the study of form focused on ‘detective’ and ‘mystery’ fiction. With Julian Symon’s Bloody Murder, the term ‘Crime novel’ got into interest. However, the invention of ‘detective stories’ was already done by Poe in 1841. He acknowledged some debt to the structure as well as content of Godwin’s novel Caleb Williams from 1794 and Poe himself pioneered the form in his short stories in the 1860s. The first detective novel, Collins’ The Moonstone, was published in 1868 and the first story which was entirely structured round the ingenious deductions of a charismatic detective was Poe’s Murders in Rue Morgue. But it was until Doyle created Sherlock Holmes that detective fiction became popular. During the interwar period – the Golden Age – elements that were randomly present in earlier crime fiction suddenly became a norm. Murder became essential as the central crime, the setting of crime got enclosed, the story itself got socially enclosed, the victim would often be someone of importance and wealth who is a person of little emotive value and the detection became rather rational than active or intuitional. As the detection strongly focused on circumstantial evidence, the writing style matched this rationality by being decidedly plain. While the basic nineteenth-century mystery was the short story, the newer books were novels, often written in the form of clue-puzzles. The classic clue puzzle with its clear structure and variations became a major literary formation and intensely popular in Britain and America. Nevertheless, British and American detectives differed in some characteristics. Whereas the prototypical British detective, as for example Tommy Akthar (2002), appears as a more or less destroyed guy with the tendency of drinking alcohol, smoking and portraying female clients in a sexual way, the American detective, as for example Sam Spade (1930), relates to a cool and good-looking guy who is surrounded by classical and pretty women. Clue-puzzles, showing a tendency towards intellect and observation rather than heroic action, and the marked limitation of strong masculinity led to a 75 percent female audience and moreover, the new shape of form was increasingly written by women. It was in 1930 that Christie created the woman investigator Miss Marple in Murder at the Vicarage because of the significantly feminized detective model with its emphasis on the women private eye. Later, in the 1970s feminist revival, the use of lady detectives in crime fiction experienced an notable increase. However, lady detectives were not the only untypical detectives appearing in addition to the mainly white male detectives. The emergences of black detective heroes, police detectives or spies were other dramatic developments which sprung out of the unlikely soil of the white-male-centred private-eye form. With Cox’s Roger Sheringham in The Layton Court Mystery (1925) an anti-heroic detective emerged. The growing interest in psychology led to writing a story about a murder, rather than the detection of a murder. Moreover, the development from simple puzzle to deep play had different functions: ‘Ludic functions’ including riddle, tale and play; ‘Wish-fulfilment functions’ which can involve identification with murderer, detective and even victim; ‘Tension Reduction function’ which deal with displacement of anxiety and ‘Orienting Function’ which deal with social myths or ideologies. Having different functions, as well as developing in structure, the transformation of crime fiction and detective stories, which was highly influenced by film and television, has been going a long path until today.
      (603 words)

    3. ..indeed, sound and music, long neglected since most people who study TV and Film don’t come from a music background, have become more and more important in recent years in connection with emotionality.

  3. Response Question for May 16
    1. Detective Fiction

    Any attempt to describe ‘crime fiction’ and its history will depend on a relatively narrow definition of the genre or be doomed to begin with Cain and Abel. After all, crime has been examined in (religious and) literary texts for more than two thousand years. Some of the most prominent examples are Sophokles’ Oedipus the King and, a bit “more recently, Shakespeare’s Hamlet” (Bradford 1). However, most students would shy away from calling Shakespeare an “author of crime fiction” unless they wanted a conservative literary scholar to suffer a stroke. In fact, it is a part of the genre’s history that crime fiction was considered a “guilty pleasure” and not taken seriously as a form of literature until around 1960 (cf. Priestman 1).
    Since suggesting a certain proximity to pulp fiction is certainly not enough to give readers a precise idea of the crime genre, it seems necessary to take a closer look at its roots and beginnings. The examples given in the first paragraph make clear that a plot compelled by the commission of a crime will not suffice as a distinctive feature. Instead, what readers expect from a crime novel is a focus on the tension between what is known about a crime and the procedure by which the facts surrounding the crime are exposed (cf. Todorov 48). Therefore, crime novels in their properly evolved form usually feature a ‘detective element’ (, which sets them apart from the sometimes-authentic life stories of anti-heroes and anti-heroines popular in the 18th century, e.g. Moll Flanders (Defoe) and various accounts of the biography of Jonathan Wild).
    In its archetypical form, the crime fiction discussed here can be described as ‘detective fiction’ or a “mystery of whodunnit” (Priestman 2). Edgar Allen Poe (‘The Murders in the Rue Morgue’, 1841) and Wilkie Collins (The Moonstone, 1868) are often named as possible founders of the genre. C. Auguste Dupin, the hero of three of Poe’s short stories that deal with the grotesque, was an important inspiration for Arthur Conan Doyle’s figure “Sherlock Holmes”, a ‘gentleman detective’ with an almost poetic way of thinking, whose adventures are told by a sidekick. However, Moonstone is considered the first great ‘detective novel’. It revolves around a crime (the theft of a diamond), establishes a country-house scenery inhabited by privileged or at least bourgeoise characters, and involves an (intelligent) police detective. These characteristics would later be reproduced on a regular basis in (British) crime fiction. It is important to note, though, that the crime is finally solved by a character belonging to the same circle of privilege as the multiple suspects, a gentleman whose “pursuit of a solution the reader is invited” to follow (Bradford 14). Thus, Collins’ novel, too, prefigures the kind of detective figure about to become a principal element in the ‘golden age’ of crime fiction. Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes series then became the role model for a “repeatable genre format” (Priestman 4).
    The ‘golden age’ of crime fiction, a term that usually refers to the time between World War I and II, is closely connected to several – mostly British – writers, most notably Agatha Christie. A lot (but not all) crime novels from this tradition begin with a murder, share the clue puzzle as their central element, and are based on the practice of ‘fair play’: The reader gets the same clues as the detective and is challenged to keep up with him/her. The underlying puritanism, and the extreme dominance of rationality and plot development lead to a tone of sobriety, a lack of interest in social context, and a tendency towards two-dimensional characters (cf. Knight 78/79). The detective figure, still heavily influenced by the works of Poe, Collins and Doyle, is worth a second look, though: Relying on circumstantial evidence (from the domestic sphere) and not prone to sex and violence, the characters in question seem relatively feminine.
    The American counter project that followed the British ‘golden age’ is known as ‘hard boiled’ or ‘private eye’ fiction. Its best-known authors, Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler, rose to fame in the 1930s. Raymond Chandler dismissed the ‘golden age’ “as artificial” (Knight 82). However, it is not necessarily a more realistic plot that sets most ‘hard boiled’ fiction apart from its British predecessor. As a matter of fact, the most significant changes involve the detective figure and the setting: Hard-drinking, street-smart outsiders and fist-fighting misfits (, often private detectives who turn out to be surprisingly moralistic,) take the reader all the way from high-society penthouses to shabby harbor-pubs. The best description of the genre and its central figure is maybe given by a ‘hard boiled’ detective himself: When accused of being a “dirty motherfucker”, Gravedigger Jones says: “Better to be dirty than dumb.” (Himes 174). A reference to Chester Himes also seems to be an appropriate way to bring a brief overview of ‘crime fiction’ to a close. After all, his work has helped to pave the way for using the ‘private eye’ as a lens to focus on minority issues.

    Works Cited:
    Bradford, Richard. Crime Fiction: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press, 2015.
    Himes, Chester. Cotton Comes to Harlem. Penguin Classics, 2011.
    Knight, Stephen. “The golden age.” The Cambridge Companion to Crime Fiction, edited by Martin Priestman, Cambridge University Press, 2003, pp. 77-94.
    Todorow, Tzvetan. The Poetics of Prose, Blackwell 1977, pp. 43-52 (“The Typology of Detective Fiction.”)
    Priestman, Martin. “Introduction: crime fiction and detective fiction.” The Cambridge Companion to Crime Fiction, edited by Martin Priestman, Cambridge University Press, 2003, pp. 1-6.

  4. Response on Q3:

    There are many reasons why the Sherlock series became such a huge hit and why millions of people all around the world watched every episode of it.
    To start off, Arthur Conan Doyle’s “Sherlock Holmes“ is a classic, it’s well known and therefore has an universal appeal, which could explain the initial interest in the series.
    Additionally, the 21st century interpretation of the detective story, compared to the original Victorian age setting, gives a modern feel to the show and makes it more relatable to the audience.
    This also permits the implementation of visual effects, such as showing text messages on the screen, which helps to illustrate deductive processes and gives the viewer more insight in the circumstances and actions.
    Continuing, the series has excellent storylines, which include plots as well as an overreaching plot.
    The stories are intriguing, they have twists and turns and it’s never clear what’s going to happen next, which animates the viewers to be active and to try to solve the cases themselves or at least to try and reconstruct some of Sherlocks conclusions, which is enough of a challenge already.
    Furthermore, the show has a lot of depth, combining crime, mystery, comedy as well as drama, which makes it interesting to watch.
    Another possible factor for the success of the series is the way in which the show is set up and published.
    There are 4 seasons, but only very few episodes, 3 to be exact, in everyone of them, and together with the fact that those 4 seasons are spread out over 7 years gives a kind of rare and special feel to every episode and it also boosts the anticipation of the audience.
    On top of that, with a duration of about one and a half hours, the individual episodes are twice as long as regular episodes of other tv shows, which is very unusual, but creates a movie-like feeling while watching ‚Sherlock’.
    Lastly, another main reason for why this show has been so successful is the cast.
    Benedict Cumberbatch as the eccentric, extraordinarily intelligent but socially incompetent protagonist, Sherlock Holmes, and Martin Freeman, who portrays his more rational and reliable partner Dr. John Watson.
    The two actors have good chemistry on screen and represent their characters as well as their partnership and relationship extremely well.
    It is also interesting to see how the characters develop throughout the show, Watson for instance, who started off being annoyed by every one of Holmes’ quirks, becomes more and more tolerant concerning his actions. His deduction skills improved as well, though certainly not nearly enough to match Sherlock’s standards, however, that is not why John is important for the Show and Sherlock anyways.
    The two characters complement each other in terms of their behavior as well as in the parts they play in solving cases and the occasional one-liners from both of them add some humor along the way.
    In conclusion, the show is modern and therefore relatable, even though Sherlock Holmes is a classic. It animates the viewer to be active throughout the episode and the depth and variety of the series in combination with the main actors as well as their co-stars, BBC’s Sherlock Holmes is different to other crime shows, which makes it all the more special.

  5. Seminar: The Detective in British TV Series
    Response 1
    Michael Sapel

    3. Sherlock: The BBC series which started in 2010 and was created by Moffat and Gatiss was an instant hit. What do you think were the reasons for this updating of such an old, iconic detective story being so successful? Why did people want to see this kind of Sherlock Holmes?

    I guess the majority hasn’t read any book by Sir Conan Arthur Doyle, but still everyone has heard about the famous Sherlock Holmes and has a certain perception of him in his head. For me, before I started watching the BBC series, Sherlock Holmes was an old fashioned, 20th century, prototype detective, who ran around with a long, brown coat, hat, pipe and a magnifier glass in his hands. I haven’t had this picture of Sherlock, because I lacked of phantasy, but because he was portrayed like that nearly everywhere. Whenever someone had to look like a detective he wore a coat and the ‘Sherlock Holmes hat’, even Mikey Mouse. And when you walk through the Baker Street station in London, there are thousands of such counterfeits on the walls. The BBC series, doesn’t use any of those clichés in its series. Okay, the new Sherlock is still a crime solving mastermind, however he has nothing of the old fashioned gentleman detective. Sometimes he seems to have a psychotic obsession in solving his cases and his unconventional methods make you shake your head in wonder, but that is what makes him interesting. Because the old Sherlock was so successful, it became a prototype to many other detectives. He seemed to be omnipresent and reused whenever a detective was needed, that’s what made him boring and washed out. The BBC series however, is something new: it doesn’t take place in the shabby, dark London of the 20th century, but the modern, present day metropole with all its well-known places. You see all the popular buildings everyone knows of London, you walk with Watson beneath the skyscrapers of the banks at Liverpool station and ride with Sherlock, well, not on the tube, but with a terribly British cab. Plus, also the cases are more contemporary and in my opinion, more interesting. They are not single murder cases, where you know after ten minutes, that they are either by the wife or the gardener, but more complex, twisting ones. You always have the impression, that they are part of a greater plot and not finished with the end of the episode, even if they are solved. Another aspect are the cinematic effects, which are used in the new BBC version. The viewer can read the texts Sherlock or Watson are receiving and knows instantly what’s going on. Plus, quite often it is inserted what Sherlock is seeing, when he’s observing a person or a body. This is very helpful since Benedict Cumberbatch is quite a fast speaker. However, it’s not only helpful, it also makes the viewer part of the detective team. You know everything they know and you can follow them step by step, while drawing your own conclusions. That’s nothing new for a detective series, but the way it is done in Sherlock is extraordinary. One can see how the different pieces of the puzzle come together and still, sometimes Sherlock surprises you with a totally different solution and when you look back at the episode you think to yourself: “Yeah right, the hints were given, but I still didn’t see that coming!” Another reason why the series is that successful might be, that you can easier relate to the present-day Sherlock Holmes. He also uses mobile phones and the internet to solve crimes, it seems much closer, than the old movies.

    In my opinion all this adds up to a new, more contemporary Sherlock Holmes to whom the viewers can relate and by whom they can be impressed. However, he is still strangely familiar and inherits the characteristics one would expect from the one and only British detective.

  6. Question 2: Television Analysis

    Films and television series are very complex text forms. This is due to the fact, that such formats most obviously include spoken text forms but also visual and at times even written text forms. In order to move beyond simply watching such formats for entertainment and to be able to analyze TV series or films, one must be aware of the different text forms that play together when telling a story on screen. This response will show, just how important it is to combine the story and plot level with the so-called visual and maybe even written text. To do so, the following paragraph will highlight the two features of visual text, that I find most important, and will also state, which effect they each may have on the viewer. The second paragraph will demonstrate the importance of looking at both the plot level, as well as the visual text. Finally, there will be a conclusion.
    There are many different features of visual text that could be looked at but due to the limited length of this response, I will only be able to outline the two features that I personally find most important when looking at films and TV series. Firstly, there is the aspect of clothing, that is sometimes not quite obvious but once one pays attention to such detail, it will become clear, that through clothing of certain characters the audience is able to identify, assess and maybe even predict a character and his behavior. Such assumptions about the characters based on costumes are most of the time not conscious and are connected to connotations that the viewers already have. The second feature I find very important in films is the sound, which can be further divided into diegetic and non-diegetic sounds. While diegetic sounds are the ones whose source is within the films world, non-diegetic sounds have a source outside of the films world. Examples of diegetic sounds are the voices of characters, sound of objects within the story or music that has its source in the story’s space. Regardless of whether the source of the sounds is in the frame or not, such sounds are considered diegetic. Some examples for non-diegetic sounds are sound effect that are added for a dramatic effect, a narrator’s commentary or even music. Generally, all sounds that are neither shown nor implied within the story are to be considered non-diegetic. Both varieties of sounds are very important for films in general, as they can characterize the roles, set the mood and
    Watching a TV show or a film always means following along with a plot. But as shown above, not only the actual plot plays a major role in a film or series but also the so- called visual text. There are many different reasons why it is important to take the visual text and all its different aspects into account when looking more closely at, or even analyzing, such a film or TV show. As outlined above, a certain way of dressing a character enables the viewer to assume and assess something about each character. Since there is not much possibilities to portray inner monologue on screen it can somewhat be replaced by a voice that narrates off screen or even music that emphasizes the characters actual mood. Furthermore, the mood of specific scenes can be underlined or highlighted through the use of specific music or other sounds. Generally, clothing, musical and other sound choices influence the perception of the characters and the plot.
    Over the last decades formats such as film and television series have experienced an increase in interest. The intriguing story lines of such formats draw many viewers in front of the screens. While both formats can be seen as mere entertainment, as shown above, there is much more to them than what spontaneously meets the eye. This response has shown how aspects of visual text, namely clothing and sounds, and the obvious spoken text play together to tell the full story of a film or TV show. All in all, the spoken words in films or TV shows are not everything that carries meaning.

  7. Respone 1 – Question 2:
    In this day and age movies, video clips and other kinds of visual media are indispensable. There is an incredible amount where we can choose from depending on our mood and preferences. Whereas action movies bring forward the feeling of tenseness in our body, sad movies evoke tearfulness and love stories in turn produce warmth and comfortability within us. We usually do not think about why movies can impact us to such an extent. If we however look at movies in a more analytical way, we realize that there are so many different features which are responsible for these various emotional states. As we usually only recognize these features indirectly while watching a movie, it is even more interesting to deliberately have a closer look at them.
    First, we obviously have the mise-en-scéne, all the things that can be seen on the screen. This includes the setting, the props, the code of dress and all the different codes of non-verbal communication. These elements contribute to the establishment of a certain atmosphere. If the Sherlock Holmes films would take place in Hawaii or if Sherlock Holmes himself would wear a sports dress instead of his black parka we would perceive the films a lot differently.
    Secondly, the technical codes are of huge importance. This comprises for example the camerawork, the lightning, sound and music, colors and editing (usually post-production). These codes try to make the mise-en-scéne more realistic and lively. The viewer can be put in various positions, the focus can be switched and the atmosphere manipulated. They can conjure up a certain feeling or reinforce the already existing one.
    Out of these various features used within films I find the category camerawork very important, especially the size and angle of a shot. Having a variety of filming positions will make the movie ultimately more interesting and fun to watch. The size of the shot for example may give the viewer the feeling of being distant from the action or it may evoke the feeling of intimacy or even identification with a character. The angle of a shot may induce a feeling of power over the action, it may create equality between the viewer and the action or it may produce a sense of inferiority. It is incredible how such small elements can cause so many different emotions within the viewer. Next to the camerawork I would suggest the lighting codes as an important feature as well. Both – camerawork and lighting – have been inevitable since the film/movie/video – period started. Light adds to the mood and style of a scene. It can for example produce the feeling of optimism, mystery, healthiness and harshness. Furthermore, light can add to the establishment of a realistic effect, conveying a feeling of everydayness and normality.
    Concluding we can say that all these elements and codes are necessary to mediate and define a visual reality for the viewer and bring forward a certain message. They make up the largest part of the entertaining aspect – without them films would be quite boring – and they determine our perception and evoke emotions within us. All visual texts are furthermore influenced by cultures, values, ideologies and world views in and through with they are consumed. The above-mentioned features are an issue of this as well, as they help to convey a certain cultural information. Watching films, it is important to keep this cultural aspect in mind in order to put the story in a meaningful context and to understand it correctly.
    Yet, we cannot forget, that no visual text evokes the same meanings for all viewers. Individuals develop different readings and interpretations while they interact with the medium. Usually the overall meaning stays the same but depending on experiences, the mood, the environment, etc. everyone will take it in a little differently.
    As I have never really dealt with the various features used in visual media it was very interesting for me to get an insight into this area. I will definitely be more conscious and aware of them while watching movies in the future.
    Creeber, Glen. Tele-Visions. An Introduction to Studying Television. British Film Institue, 2006. Print.
    Selby, Keith and Ron Cowdery. How to Study Television. MacMillan Press, 1995. Print.

  8. The Detective in British Television Series
    Summer term 2017
    Nora Pausch
    Response 1 – Question 3 Sherlock:
    “The BBC series which started in 2010 and was created by Moffat and Gatiss was an
    instant hit. What do you think were the reasons for this updating of such an old, iconic
    detective story being so successful? Why did people want to see this kind of Sherlock Holmes?”
    By changing the setting into a modern day London, the producers directly created a closeness to the location, and therefore plot and the characters they are presenting, by showing people something they already know. Also the characters being modern people, using the same media and technical equipment as we know and use, makes them more relatable from the beginning on. But not only do these modern technologies and methods find use within the story but also play a big role in the production and the whole developmental process of the series. Because of the load of possibilities these new technologies offer in filming and editing, the producers were able to create a whole new level of graphic language, which makes it easier to give the audience some kind of guidance and access right into the middle of the story. Bringing the old Sherlock Holmes stories to the modern age, and seeing them through a technicalised lens might also be reasonable regarding our current debates about freedom, privacy and secrecy, which then can be discussed in the context of our modern society dealing with the crime story. As for many of us the multimedia modern age culture is still often a mystery, it is one often discussed field of interest nowadays which also gets a lot of media attention, brought up by those real life crime conspiracy stories as the one of Julian Assange or Edward Snowden. This prominent issue woven into some crime riddles as well as mirroring the mysteriousness in Sherlock’s virtuous mind games present the onlooker with an image of even more of a riddle which is to be solved. The audience sometimes even gets the impression of Sherlock being like a huge data base not unlike a computer hard drive, with the same rapidity in problem solving like a chess computer. Yes Holmes is portrayed as this genius, smart, witty, socially incompetent man but as we see him through the eyes of John Watson, who is telling the story, he is also a friend, who cares for the people close to him. What is quite visible in the BBC Series is the development of Holmes especially the development he undergoes through Watson.
    As the Sherlock in the new BBC adaption is not that perfect hero, but rather a, obviously hyper intelligent, but still struggling human with certain flaws, the audience gets closer to him as a person and does not only get the view of Sherlock Holmes as only the famous detective. I think why this series functions that well is also because of the central relationship between Sherlock and Watson. They both are somehow heroes, but still are only presented as maybe “hero-material” who need to be shaped into heroes. As Watson being the reliable, honest middleclass man, we trust him on his opinion of Holmes as not being completely crazy. He illustrates also the weak and soft parts that Holmes also possesses, but never shows to anyone else than Watson. It nearly seems as if Watson represents the missing piece and moral instance that Sherlock needs to be the actual hero he could be. So to put that into words: they only function as heroes together. So even though the stories might be old, Sherlock and Watson still function as taking characters, might be because friendship always seems to be an issue, might be because we find ourselves seeing in them the fears and fantasies of the present day. But I think a lot of us are watching the series that mesmerized because it is a product of our age in which we live and seems to know its secrets, too. And why we look up to Sherlock that much might because he is the one who brings order into that chaos of our modern age.

  9. Anna-Mareike Bergmann (4130421)
    13th June, 2017

    Response 2 – Question 1 (Mediatisation)

    In her text on communication between fans of the TV series ‘Sherlock’ on the social media network tumblr, Line Nybro Petersen makes it very clear that the process of mediatisation has become essential to how our media is. The term refers to the reciprocal shaping of talk (so to say the content of media) between the media and its users (Petersen 2014: 89). Media and its users affect each other and both have the power to induce some kind of change in the other. In Petersen’s words, “[m]ediatization captures a non-linear process of transformation that must be understood in relation to a specific medium and a specific social sphere” (ibid. 88). Therefore, it “should be viewed as a modernization process on par with globalization, urbanization and individualization, whereby the media, in a similar way, contribute to both disembedding social relations from existing contexts and re-embedding them in new social contexts” (ibid. 89). The preceding quote nicely illustrates, by the comparisons to other well-known processes like globalization, how much power lies within mediatisation. Key to this process is social interaction. The example used by Petersen is the fandom of BBC’s Sherlock on the micro-blogging website tumblr. Fans of the series can use the platform to communicate with other fans, exchange thoughts on the latest episodes and so on. While at some point Sherlock is believed to be dead by other characters but is known to be alive by the viewer, numerous conspiracy theories and arguments on the reasons for this, how he had done it, his whereabouts etc. have been come up with on tumblr. Some of these have been adopted into the series and have become reality of the media. This is a very good example of how some event displayed in media, in this case Sherlock’s death, has caused a reaction on the viewer’s side which has then again be considered and became part of the series. Something similar happened when fans of the series complained about the missing moustache of Sherlock’s companion Dr. John Watson. This shows how “[f]ans actively take ownership of the media technologies and platforms they engage in and thus contribute to a ‘bottom-up, consumer driven process’” (ibid. 91) and how a so-called ‘participatory culture’ has established itself and has become essential part of how media works nowadays. For producers this has become an immensely important tool in finding out what works for their audiences and what not, so that they can adapt their products and thereby maximize the chances of those products being successful. Though the phenomenon of mediatisation is likely to be identified with television series only there are many more occurrences in our society. For example when you listen to the radio you will find that very often listeners are invited to vote on what song should be played next. Some radio stations can even be contacted via messenger services like WhatsApp which gives the consumer some kind of closeness and makes it appear much easier to get in touch and let the station know what wishes or suggestions their listeners might have. What, in a way, works similarly are the reader’s letters which can often be found in newspapers and magazines. They allow editors a glimpse into their reader’s minds and how their product is perceived and valued by their aim group. Over a longer period of time mediatisation, therefore, allows producers to be able to grasp much better if their aim group is changing and what needs to be done in order not to lose users.

    (586 words)

    Petersen, Line Nybro. “Sherlock Fans Talk: Mediatized Talk On Tumblr.” Northern Lights, Vol. 12, 2014, pp. 87-104.

    1. I like the way you sum up the power of mediatisation as a force that transforms social life and especially the dynamics of recption-production processes you point. I think one aspect should also be part of defining the term ‘mediatisation’: the fact that it points to the transformation of practices that were previously not medatised into similar practices that are now using and being afforded by electronic media (thus Petersen’s use of the word ‘talk’).

  10. Response 2 – Question 2 (paper version will be handed in in class)

    In the last years a lot of comics and graphic novels have been made into Hollywood blockbusters. Several example from different comic universes from Marvel or DC comics can be found. Some of the movies are Spider-Man, Batman, Wonder Woman, Iron Man, Captain America and others. A huge fan base developed with these action movies and also created a wider turnover of the comics. There is also the other way around: Series have been turned into comics, which carried on the story after the TV series was finished. A huge fan base made it possible to create and successfully sell these comics. Some example would be TV series like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel or Firefly. With the introduction of a related comic new possibilities appear. Often the story becomes more fantastic and less realistic. In comics it is possible to exaggerate situations in an easier way as the laws of physics and aesthetics are abrogated. As mentioned before comics are often a conclusion to a story. It is possible to move on with the story line without expensive actors and expenses on series or movie making.
    With Luther – the comic – there is another aspect noticeable. Luther – the series – is not finished yet and further seasons are planned and comics are created parallel to the series. In this document it will be investigated which aesthetic features in the series make it possible to create a similar comic version. This attempt to explain will use the first episode of season one of BBC’s Luther.
    As mentioned with the examples before graphic novels and comics are often about heroes. The opening chase scene described by Helen Piper in Emergent Voices II: Luther, Scott and Bailey and Line of Duty shows only parts of the protagonist following the bad guy. Several heroes are introduced like that to make them appear more powerful and mysterious. An example would be Batman, where the viewer can observe how the bad guys are knocked out one after another before you can see the hero himself. It is the same in Luther: The bad guy runs and turns around nervously while the hero walks with heavy steps behind him without a hurry in full control of the situation. This is one aesthetic aspect of Luther that makes his character possible to be created as a comic version.
    There are visual narratives in comics and graphic novels, using both words and pictures to tell stories, as David Carrier describes in his book The Aesthetics of Comics. TV series often start in the way of showing a cut that describes the place the scene is set in. The first episode of Luther starts with a visual scene that creates a dark mood where evil things could happen. It shows via a low angle a dark mysterious company. This way of presenting an evil place is kind of comic-ly. The visualization of places in Luther is another aesthetic aspect that makes it possible to create a Luther comic version.
    As mentioned in the introduction comics often change the level of realism. In Luther the protagonist who is a police officer decides often by his gut feeling and his own sense of righteousness. In the first episodes he lets a child murder die instead of helping him. In reality it is more likely that a police officer would capture the bad guy to have him trialed. The change from our reality to a Luther based righteousness can be seen as a further aesthetic aspect that makes Luther a TV series that is close to the aesthetics of a comic or a graphic novel.

  11. Response Paper 2: Question 2

    Idris Elba himself said in an interview with USA TODAY: “In concept, we straddle between detective and superhero.”
    But when one reads articles about Luther, it becomes clear that it is not only Elba, who likens the show to a MARVEL or DC-style comic book or superhero movie. Apart from the repeated comparison of the protagonist John Luther with Batman (USA TODAY calls him “London’s own Batman” ), multiple media outlets refer to Luther’s striking visuals when comparing the series with comic books.
    One of the main arguments that is brought up in the comparison of Luther with a graphic novel, is the portrayal of the city of London, since, as Connor Davey puts it: “in true comic book fashion, the city becomes a character in itself, helped by a strong visual style.”
    Going along with the Luther-as-Batman analogy, Luther’s London is described as kind of Gotham, a dystopic, post-apocalyptic city. The London shown in the show, especially in the second season, is dark and grim, and its representation as a gritty, foggy and in the second season “, nearly uninhabitable […] soulless, anonymous” place, seems to be an aesthetic choice that underlines the “comic-book-noir” feeling that is evoked by the show.
    One of the first clues for the viewer that Luther’s similarities with comic books are not coincidental but intentional, is the intro to the show. Instead of Sherlock-like flashes of the protagonists and London, Luther’s intro is much more stylized. Images of the city, shadows of Luther and images of objects related to crime almost bleed into each other, with the colors yellow, black and especially red dominant. This highly abstract and striking concept gives the viewer a first idea of what to expect, visually and thematically, from the show. It is interesting to note that a very similar style of images and color theme is used in the graphic novel released by the BBC.
    In general, the choice of colors and lighting plays an important role in Luther. The color red, so prominent in the intro and the graphic novel, is picked up again in Luther’s ever-present tie, the blood that seems to be everywhere, and, interestingly, in the hair-color of the women Luther interacts with closely (Alice Morgan in season one to three, Jenny Jones in season three and Emma Lane in season four).
    Another aesthetic aspect of importance is the lighting and contrast between light and dark. Towards the end of the second season, Luther, who can only be made out as a dark, shadowy figure, walks towards the camera and the sunlight creates a flare on the camera. Similar camera shots can be found throughout the series and create stark contrasts between light and dark. This is for example mirrored in the visual contrast between Alice and Luther. The glaring contrast can also be seen in the BBC graphic novel, in which faces drawn in black and white stand out on the mostly red background.
    This observation leads to another aesthetic similarity with a comic book. Starting in the first scene of the first season, close-ups, even extreme-close-ups of eyes and other body parts, are often utilized. As one can observe in the BBC graphic novel, single panels are filled with a whole face, therefore mirroring Luther’s camera style. Furthermore, slow-motion shots of Luther walking through London can be seen, for example, multiple times in season four. These shots evoke an almost-painting like quality, which could be taken straight from the pages of a comic book.
    In conclusion, starting with the second season, Luther’s relation to graphic novels become more obvious. While it has never claimed to be a realistic depiction of a London detective, the crimes, villains and the visual choices become more over-the-top or, as we discussed in class, “camp”, thereby moving farther away from the traditional detective genre and towards the superhero and comic book genre.

    Works cited:

    Davey, Connor. “Luther Is the BBC’s Own Superhero Show, and It Works.” TvOverMind, 6 March 2015, Accessed 16 June 2017.

    Rafferty, Terrence. “The Detective Who Gazes Into The Abyss.” The New York Times, 28 Sept. 2011, Accessed 16 June 2017.

    Truitt, Brian. “In ‘Luther,’ Idris Elba is a coat-clad superhero.” USA TODAY, 2 Sept. 2013, Accessed 16 June 2017.

    Zoller Seitz, Matt. “Seitz: Luther Is Smart Enough to Just Let Idris Elba Be Idris Elba.” Vulture, 3 Sept. 2013, Accessed 16 June 2017.

  12. Response 2 – Question 3

    Detective fiction – a genre which has been incredibly successful since its invention in the 19th century by Edgar Allen Poe. Often juxtaposed to high culture these demarcations have been progressively dissolved since the 1960s. Doyle’s creation of the Sherlock Holmes series established a popular and since then often repeated and adapted detective genre format for the first time. Detective fiction is not only manufactured into novels but also into TV series and film. British TV series like ‚Sherlock‘ or ‚Luther‘ were adjusted to needs of a large audience and succeeded. Something all kinds of detective fiction have in common is – naturally- some sort of crime, preferably murder. Especially the portrayal of evil is subject to historical change; nowadays terrorists or nihilistic villains are regularly used as an antagonist. But what makes the modern detective then? Even though ‚Sherlock‘ and ‚Luther‘ attract slightly different audiences – ‚Luther‘ is very much Americanized while ‚Sherlock‘ plays with many elements of British tradition – the protagonists share some resembling characteristics which might be the essence of „the modern detective“. Both are exceptionally intelligent – they outsmart their opponents as well as their colleagues; John Luther relies on both his psychological profiling abilities and his gut feeling whereas Sherlock is equipped with an outstanding logical intelligence. The protagonists often show signs of mental disorders; John Luther fails to control his temper and aggression while Sherlock is often considered emotionless or crazy and refers to himself as a ‚high-functioning sociopath‘ several times. These elements of intellectual superiority and human inadequacies isolate the protagonists from their social environment and make them loners. Still the main character often has a few persons of reference which they are very much dependent on and risk their lives for. The detectives are traditionally depicted heroic, even if it doesn’t agree with their self-perception. Luther and Sherlock mostly wear the same outfit, a dark coat, which reminds of a uniform. Their willingness to sacrifice themselves and their capacity to save the day might seem heroic, but the traditional concept of the ‚flawless hero‘ is very much challenged in modern detective fiction. Luther and Sherlock are both courageous but impersonate the concept of an anti-hero nevertheless. Luther’s methods – including self-justice and brutality – are often questionable, Sherlock on the other hand shows a lack of interest in the individual and solves cases solely to prove his intellectual superiority. Apart from the main protagonists, in the case of ‚Luther‘ John and in the case of ‚Sherlock‘ Holmes and Watson, no character is safe. The detectives sometimes fail to prevent catastrophes or to save loved ones. Their professional and private life mingle and the antagonists and criminals often threaten the main character personally. The cases the detectives take are not only there to be solved but sometimes lead to a personal feud. Luther loses his divorced wife and colleague Justin Ripley that way, Sherlock fails to prevent the death of Watson’s wife Ma. This often leads to an emotional crisis which changes the personality of the protagonist for a certain amount of time. The concept of the „modern detective“ moves away from the tradition of the unpersonalized detectives in series or movies in which solving the crime has priority. They represent an outstandingly intelligent but also very much flawed and therefore complex human being.

    * I hope it’s okay that I compared Sherlock and Luther a bit- For me, personally, it made very much sense in order to define what the “modern detective” represents.

  13. Response 2, Question 2:
    „Although it’s naturalistic, it’s very heightened. It is a comic-book. We do push the boundaries. I love that about the show. It’s one of the things that makes it stand out.“ This statement by Warren Brown, who plays Luther’s partner Ripley, picks up very nicely what I would have said about the show. It is an entertaining and tension-filled crime show with some exaggerated parts which I however find mostly amusing. Many critics and reviews, like USA Today, call John Luther “London’s own Dark Knight”. It is far from super serious and down-to earth and like Elba himself puts it: “If it’s on, you’ll end up watching, because you’ll see some bizarre shit you haven’t seen before.“ The show lies in between a detective and a superhero story which is one reason why it’s often linked with Batman. Both protagonists master the criminals in their city largely on their own account, establishing their own rules and forms of justice. Going further along with this Batman analogy, Luther’s London is often referred to as a Gotham-like city, dark, gray and foggy which stresses, just like in Batman, the corruption and crimes further. The choice of presenting London as a gloomy, dirty and eroding rather than showing the typical framing places for the city understates the “comic-book-noir” aesthetic mentioned by Matt Zoller Seitz in his Vulture article. He perceives John “figuratively and literally [as] a dark knight, trudging the wet streets of a comic-book-noir London with his hands in his pockets.” This comic-book touch is pushed even further when the graphic novel adaptations appeared. As graphic novel stories often deal with heroes and villains – take again Batman – it is soon obvious that Luther’s character can easily be turned into a comic one. Already in the first scene of season 1, episode 1 you see Luther, the black-skinned and powerful hero chasing the smaller, bad white criminal. He follows him with big secure steps, straight-forward without a hurry and fully sure of being able to control the situation. Given that graphic novels are all about visualization using words, picture, colors and lighting to bring forward the narrative, such meaningful pictures are wisely used in this specific novel. The narrative is constructed by means of relying on imaginary and painting the scenes as a scenarist would instruct the camera to. Using a reasonable amount of dialogues enables the reader an insight into his characters, which are further unpacked by visualizing significant actions and behaviors. As already mentioned the image of London is portrayed very visually in the series as well which makes the realization of the “real” setting into a comic one not very complicated and rather convenient.
    The usage of the colors red, yellow and black plays another key role in Luther. These colors already dominate the introduction of the series and prevail in the comic version. Especially red and black seem to have a special connection to the content of the series – as Luther seems to be constantly confronted with dark, grotty and bloody crimes. Earlier I mentioned that many pictures in the graphic novel are depicted like the camera position in the filmic series. For example, the usage of many close-ups of faces, eyes and body parts in the very first scene of season 1, episode 1 are easy to transfer into a graphic story and are very expressive and effective in bringing forward the meaning and atmosphere of the situation.
    Having the idea of graphic novels in my mind now it really does make sense to say the series Luther is not so far away from this genre and can easily be transformed into one. The similarities to Batman, the reappearance of unrealistic and over-the-top scenes, the visual representation of the setting and the characters and the usage of lightning and colors contribute to that in large part.
    Seitz Zoller, Matt. Seitz: Luther Is Smart Enough to Just Let Idris Elba Be Idris Elba.” Vulture, September 2013, Accessed 14 June 2017.
    Davey, Connor. “Luther Is the BBC’s Own Superhero Show, and It Works.” Tvovermind, March 2015, Accessed 14 June 2017.
    Nicholson, Rebecca. „Luther is back with more comic-book gore and fantastical crimes.“ Theguardian, June 2013, Accessed 14 June 2017.


    The BBC series ‘Luther’ have been made into a comic which is a very unlikely direction because normally it is the other way around. Now the question is which aesthetic features of the show made it so close to the medial form of the comic genre?
    ‘Luther’ uses the full range of cinematographic features like several camera angles, different distances of framing and a variety of editing techniques. These different features effect the perception of the viewer, they create emotions and feelings of love, anger or fear for example. In addition to that, cinematography determines the perspective. The viewer feels connected or closely linked to a certain determined person also because of how they are shown. Then, cinematography obviously entertains people. A certain scene can be shown a lot more excited just because of different cinematographic features. The BBC series benefits from every effect those features have and therefore it is easy or obvious that a comic and the choice of different panels have the same effects and can lead to great entertainment und success.
    The first aesthetic feature to be presented is the representation of the city of London throughout the whole series. First of all the city is presented in a very dark and also dangerous way, especially in the second season. Particularly at night the colours used are very gloomy and glim. The choice of colours create a dull ambience and a mysterious atmosphere. It can be compared to Gotham, the city in which ‘Batman’ takes place. Not only because of the colours and the atmosphere but also because of the anonymous presentation of both cities. The scenes could be filmed everywhere, there are few specific characteristics that can identify the cities themselves. Therefore the representation of London is completely different than in ‘Sherlock’. Here, stereotypes of the city overweigh, the capital of England is presented with all its characteristics.
    Next, it is very important to look at several specific scenes to understand the close relation between the BBC series and the comic. All in all many shots are really like the panels in a comic, concerning the distance of framing, the camera height and angle, the colours etc.
    The scene on the bridge in the first episode of the first season works like many other scenes in ‘Luther’ with an immense number of close-ups and extreme close-ups not only of the face but also of different body parts. These distances of framing are the best way to show emotions and feelings of the people clearly. Therefore the use of these two features are very likely in comics. Like this, the reader can really see what the figures are feeling in that moment and there is no danger of an ambivalent interpretation of the current situation.
    Another scene which is very comic-like is the one towards the end of season two. There, Luther walks towards the camera. The extreme long shot shows Luther like a hero which is another similarity to ‘Batman’ or comics in general. They often show a hero and a villain fighting against one another. The hero often risks his life and safes everybody in the end. The BBC series shows a similar story in which Luther plays the hero but often also an anti-hero. In this scene the contrast between light and darkness is very strong. The sun is the bright element in this scene and Luther as a black detective with a dark side brings in the darkness.
    All in all you can see that the BBC series is a quite perfect model for a comic. Not only because of the cinematographic features, but also on a content level. The aesthetic features in the BBC series are very closely linked to those of a comic, especially of Marvel’s ‘Batman’.

  15. Response 2 – Question 2 (Aesthetic features of Luther)
    Luther – A show in the mold of a comic book adaptation rather than a realistic TV show about a police detective? When watching the TV series Luther, we somehow get the feeling of being transferred into a superhero show. Luther as the central hero of this piece resembles a comic-strip hero. His volatile temperament distinguishes him from other TV detectives. Acting just, but not in a form that the law would uphold, Luther is very much the hero of the show but albeit somewhat of an antihero. What follows from this is that he is the one who tackles the city’s criminals almost single-handed without thinking about the rules. The fact that Luther is virtually isolated from any significant others is the first feature which makes the show so close to the medial form of the comic genre. Furthermore, his gestures when resolving a crime are similar to those of a comic-strip hero: “A half frown when smiling, an ironic raised eyebrow just before losing […] control, a simple adjustment to the expected intonation of a well-worn phrase, the clenching of hands to suggest repressed emotion” (Piper 2015: 127). By playing with expectations in using those gestures, Luther fits into the row of the graphic heroes. However, it is not just his gestures which awake the feeling of being transferred into the medial form of the comic genre. His appearance in general is similar to the appearances of comic heroes. He wears a dark coat flowing behind him in every episode. The symbolism could not be clearer: Luther’s coat is somehow more of a cape. Moreover, “the depiction of [a] criminal act […] is also highly graphic and full of lurid, bloody detail” (Piper 2015: 128). “Such extended and graphic representations of the crime in action are rare in television detective fiction” (Piper 2015: 128) and rather refer to a graphic novel series. Relating to the crimes in Luther, it is also striking that Luther resolves one crime after the other. The fact that crimes do not overlap is typical for comic heroes but certainly not for police detectives. Another point which makes the show so close to the comic genre is that the villains sometimes appear kind of ludicrous and over-the-top. “The killers that Luther stalks are not motivated to murder in order to avenge loan sharks or drug peddlers, to conceal guilty secrets or escape tortuous personal constraints […], they are sadistic, obsessive, sinister and need a detective willing to play ‘mind hunter’” (Piper 2015: 128). And not to forget, there is Luther’s longest running ‘villain’: Alice. She is the one who manages to seduce Luther and becomes a lure of evil. Her seductive charm and the chemistry between her and Luther can be compared to the relationship between Catwoman and Batman. Entering the show as a murderer, Alice helps Luther out of tough situations in the course of the series. She symbolizes Luther’s own ‘devil side’. At last, the way London is represented throughout the series can be seen as a feature that pushes Luther so close to the medial form of the comic genre. London is the playground of all corruption and crimes in Luther. However, it is most often presented as an ambivalent background and there are no narrative references to actual locations. Furthermore, “ostensibly cinematic in its mode of representation is the topography, which makes heavy use of narratively gratuitous skyline shots to conjure up a panoramic vista of the metropolis” (Piper 2015: 128). As it is known for graphic novels, the city stands for a metropolis of dramatic extremes. All in all, it became clear that “Luther preserves a […] mythological dimension of heroism” (Piper 2015: 127) and leans towards being a comic book adaption or superhero show. Luther still is a detective show and its central character is a significant sleuth, but he may also be London’s Batman of real life.

  16. Although Line of Duty dwells deeper on the absurdities of the police bureaucratic system and on the subject of police corruption, the superficial series narrative are focused on common and actual events in British society that viewers tend to watch on the everyday news.
    Manel Jimenez-Morales sees innovations in the form of the Line of Duty as “good and evil – a characteristic feature of police series – lose their condition”. He argues that the viewers are taken in a round trip of suspicions all throughout the series. The work of the police is questioned and judged, highlighting the mistrust of the methods.
    According to Jimenez-Morales, the fiction is mostly about corruption and bureaucratic system, putting on stage characters that are hiding crimes to protect themselves. The audience is therefore confronted with allegiance and alignment. Although none of the main characters of the story are exempt from suspicious behavior, we, as viewers, find a way to “align” along some of them, to share their knowledge and somehow approve their decisions.
    Jimenez-Morales considers the presence of the figure of a spy in the police station as an innovating element in mystery narratives due to the post 9/11 context (here embodied in Fleming and Denton).
    The main enemy of the hero is not, for the first time, a person. In Line of Duty, Gates has for enormous opponent protagonist the bureaucratic structure itself. Instead of following the famous schema “good/evil” “cop/villain” the series innovates by depicting a police member fighting against the police itself, trying to escape from the bureaucracy. The author categorizes this challenge in four levels of difficulties: Executive, Legal, Economic and Factual. Therefore the main innovation in Line of Duty is this peculiar tendency to reveal the fragility of the police system.
    The author then quotes Michel Crozier’s four characteristics of the term “bureaucratic phenomenon”; the development of impersonal rules, the centralization of decisions, the isolation of strata and group pressure within strata, the development of parallel power relationships. However Jimenez-Morales goes on stating that there is another kind of bureaucracy depicted throughout the series, one that would represent the “Austerity policies and economic crisis”. Indeed, putting on screen these financial difficulties is an innovative element of crime fictions since it reveals the weakness of the police that becomes more vulnerable. Furthermore this aspect is definitely present in our days society, which adds a certain credibility to the story, placing it in the age of times, innovating.
    Finally, it is through face-to-face interrogations scenes that Line of Duty demonstrates innovations. Jimenez-Morales points out the way the officers who keep interrogating suspects during the series seem to have more to hide than the suspects themselves. They are able to (and they do) use professional technique or knowledge when it comes to hide their secrets.
    According to the author, by bringing up many elements of the bureaucratic narrative in order to increase the complex plot, Line of Duty changes the classic condition of the detective genre. It goes further by exploring and reflecting on our times and issues regarding procedures and investigations.
    The series is one of the first that highlights both economic cuts’ influence and climate of mistrust within the police institution.
    Pierre Maillard

  17. Response on Q1:

    1. ‘Luther’ is a very aestheticised TV show, and what aslo turned into a graphic novel series by the BBC. Which aesthetic features of the show made it so close to the medial form of the comic genre?

    In recent years, comic books and specifically super heroes gained a lot in popularity, wether it be in movies, in tv series or in merchandise.
    Luther, however, started as a TV crime series, but looking at the aesthetics of the show, it made perfect sense for it to also be turned into a graphic novel, even though it might not have been the intention of the producers at first.
    Since USA TODAY already referred to Luther as “London’s own Batman“, I’d like to start off by building on that comparison and by elaborating on some specific aspects.
    First, the most obvious comparison, is the similarity between Luther, the protagonist of the show, and Batman, who is often also called “the Dark Knight“, which, if you think about it, would also be a fitting Nickname or description for Luther. Like Batman, John Luther is tall and wears his trademark heavy coat and red tie, which represents his costume/uniform.
    He fights crime, most of the time on his own, which is typical for a superhero, and in doing so, he tends to break the law in order to do good, therefore acting like some sort of vigilante.
    The characters of the series in general are very distinctive, especially the contrast between Luther, who is this big, bold and impressive character with dark skin, and Alice, who looks petite, fragile and is pale with red hair, basically looking like the complete opposite, which can be depicted nicely in graphic novels.
    Continuing with the Batman comparisons, there are some striking parallels in the representation of the cities of London and Gotham. Both are metropolitan cities, very dark and foggy in general, which makes it perfect for a comic book, a lot of steel and concrete, with a high crime rate and corruption.
    On top of that, the enemies and killer in Luther are very over the top and gimmicky, one for example is wearing a mask, another one has a face tattoo and in another episode, there are psycho twins who literally roll the dice on who to kill, because they play a real-life video game.
    The show in general and the visuals are very dark and grungy, the crimes are gory and bloody, and as an article in „“The Guardian“ puts it, it “looks like the stuff out of nightmares“, which again fits the comic book style.
    Some other aspects which are similar to the comic genre are the intro in general, the heavy usage of specific colors, in this case predominantly black and red, and also certain camera angles, like the many close ups that are incorporated or the hero-shot that was used which showed Luther watching over the city with his coat floating in the wind.
    Warren Brown, who plays Ripley (by the way, he could be seen as Luther’s sidekick ‚Robin’), commented that “although it’s naturalistic, it’s very heightened. It is comic-book. We do push boundaries“, and Idris Elba, who plays Luther, stated that „you’ll see some bizarre shit you haven’t seen before“, both indicating that Luther is not intended to be unconventional rather than a realistic detective TV series
    Overall it’s gritty, over the top and has very distinctive elements, which makes it a perfect fit for a graphic novel.

    1. yes, good observations. I had the chance to read a couple of the pitching articles to an industry audience when Luther first launched, and to emulate a graphic novel style was in the mind of the producer – though I think, not necessarily the writert.

  18. “Mediatisation” is a term that came up in the text by Petersen about the Sherlock fan sites. Please explain what the term means and how it is connected with everyday cultural practices in the present.

    In the article Sherlock fan talk: mediatized talk on tumblr the author Line Nybro Petersen writes about how fans interact on fan sites like tumblr and how media shapes the way they communicate. Tumblr is one out of many internet blogs in which everyone is invited to comment, post and interact with like-minded people. Petersen states, that conversations one pages like these are different from face-to-face conversations and can follow its own rules. “Mediatisation captures”, according to Petersen, “a non-linear process of transformation that must be understood in relation to a specific medium tumblr, and a specific social sphere; Sherlock fandom” (Petersen, 88). Thus, mediatisation is about the interaction between the text and its affection on how it is discussed about it.

    However, Mediatisation is not limited to fan pages or the internet. As Hjavard (2013) states “should (it) be viewed as a modernisation process on par with the globalisation, urbanisation and individualisation.” Facebook, or broadcasting networks have gained the status of culture changing facilities, which have and still are changing our lives. “Mediatisation theory suggests that growing media authority and the integration of
    media into nearly all cultural practices evoke cultural change, yet the outcome of this is highly variable and dependent on the context in question.” (Hjavard, Petersen. 2013). The example of tumblr shows various ways, how this mediatisation manifests itself. The blogging site serves the purpose of fan interaction, here they can talk about but also through the text and the fans have created their own little universe with their own rules, jokes and ways of communication; they share a collective intelligence. The users can post in plain text, images or GIFs, which gives them a chance to choose their way they want to communicate with each other. Since everyone can comment, share and respond to a post, they might address a huge audience and making them extremely popular. Quite often posts and its responds only contain of images or gifs, containing not a single word. However, the users still gets the meaning of the posts and its reaction. This supports the assumption, that the participants share a common code. However, the references and hints must be in some way connected to the Sherlock context. For example if a user wanted to state his disapproval with a certain post, he might respond with a gif of Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggings, shaking his head while he is smoking pipe-weed. Even though this is taken from a movie about a totally different story it does fit in the context because Bilbo and Watson are played by the same actor. However, it wouldn’t be nearly as striking, if he had taken the scene from Gladiator where Commodus, played by Joaquin Pheonix, gives a thumbs down.
    You can deduce from this example two things: first, that images can be used effectively as vocabulary and one can, if they are placed in the correct context and environment, articulate punchlines and secondly, that fans not only talk about, but also through the text. This can be observed even in everyday conversations, if someone uses a famous quote, which doesn’t seem to fit in the context but is understood by the other person, because they share the same code. I remember a friend telling me that the security at a club in Berlin wouldn’t let him in and I responded: “One does not simply walk into Mordor.” It made sense to the both of us and I hope it does to you.

    (615 words)

    Petersen, Line Nybro. “Sherlock Fans Talk: Mediatized Talk On Tumblr.” Northern Lights, Vol. 12, 2014, pp. 87-104.

    Hjavard, Stig and Petersen, Line Nybro. “Mediatization and Cultural Change.” MedieKultur, Vol. 29, No. 54, 2013, pp. 1-7.

  19. Franziska von Stetten (3737722)
    June 20, 2017

    The TV Detective: Response 2, Question 3:

    John Luther is a TV detective figure that cannot be placed in a clear category, especially when looking at the two traditional prototypes of fictional detectives: the British eccentric amateur (with Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes as a prime example) and the „hardboiled“American private eye (Dashiel Hammett’s Sam Spade being a typical example).
    In the British TV series Luther, DCI John Luther frequently makes use of brilliant and somewhat unconventional – one could call them “eccentric” – methods to solve crimes or save a victim, for instance when he plays along with the roleplay of the twin Nickolas to prevent his blowing up the whole neighborhood (season 2, episode 4). He has a cunning mind and cracks several suspects by psychological tricks. However, despite his brilliance and his manipulative skills during interrogations, he does not share the cold-blooded, scientific intellectual traits of a Sherlock Holmes figure. John Luther is not an obvious representation of the British detective as tradition would portray him. He does, however, share some of the typical characteristics ascribed to detective figures (in both British and American tradition): having a rundown, chaotic home and a dysfunctional private life. Luther’s cheap and dirty lower-class flat cries as much of neglect as his marriage in the beginning of the series. He is principled and driven to create and maintain justice in a dark, corrupted world, which is also a trait he shares with the general figure of the detective.
    During many cases, however, Luther is fighting for his own definition of justice instead of pursuing the fulfillment of the law as the highest standard. This becomes evident when he helps Jenny cover up the killing of her attacker in season 2, but is already implied in the opening scene as he lets Henry Madsen fall to likely death once he has obtained sufficient information from him. Furthermore, John’s methods are not only unorthodox, but also quite rough at times. When he punches suspect Burgess in the face to attain DNA from his bleeding nose (season 1, episode 3), he shows the tough, “hardboiled” side of his character: he gets his hands dirty and is willing to cast certain ethics and morals aside for momentary success in his cases. John Luther’s tendency towards aggressive and occasionally anti-heroic behavior, as for instance his complicity with the brilliant, but dangerous and evil, physicist Alice Morgan, tend to ascribe him more characteristics in line with the American “hardboiled” definition of the detective.
    However, Luther’s work is characterized by another feature: his precinct-based work amidst his team which sets him apart from the private eye concept. In this respect Luther has a unique position among detective figures, as despite his role of chief inspector making him a central, isolated character, he nonetheless relies on and works with his team of officers and the police force as a backup on many occasions. Luther could not, for instance, take out the twin in season 2 on his own, had he not cooperated with the shooters surrounding and targeting the truck, in which the climactic scene is set. Investigations in the series are less the detective’s solo walks through the streets and alleys of London to find clues and solve the riddle, but rather a police team’s efforts to solve a crime, as coordinated and navigated by their head John Luther.
    Thus, Luther constitutes a new type of detective merging both aspects of the British and the American tradition and combining them with the setting of police fiction. Luther has the eccentric, brilliant traits, but he also incorporates the rough, slightly violent hardboiled detective, who is at times reckless with his own safety. Subplots that shed light on the institution of the police force give the series a slight taste of a police procedural, though not aiming at realism and authenticity, which this genre generally strives for.

  20. Response Question 2:

    Traditionally there are two very different archetypes of detective figures that are commonly associated with a certain respective country of origin. To specify, the gentleman detective is traditionally associated with Great Britain while the hard-boiled detective is usually placed in an American setting. Each archetype is the central figure of his or her storyline and is, as the name already states, a detective of some sort or works as private investigator. While they have these two aspects in common, they are, as mentioned above, very different in the sense that each relies on a different set of skills. While the gentleman detective mostly relies on mental strength and intelligence, the hard-boiled detective is depicted as physically strong and rugged and therefore mostly relies on those features. This however does not mean, that the hard-boiled detective does not have an eye for detail or is not able to connect the puzzle pieces of a crime; most of the time the opposite is true. Furthermore, the hard-boiled detective figure commonly has his or her demons that he or she battles while also solving crimes and working towards bringing justice to his or her world. The gentleman detective is exactly that; a gentleman.
    Luther, the main character of the TV series which is named after him, is not in any way the perfect detective but rather calls the viewers moral judgment into question. He does so through his unorthodox methods and strange way of handling his life. Generally, he is very intend on solving his cases and serving justice even though his methods might sometimes be questionable. Overall, it is difficult to assign him to one archetype specifically since he does not fit perfectly in neither category. As an instance, he is certainly quick on his feat in the sense that he quickly figures out what is going on around him. Additionally, he has a very good knowledge of and a good sense for people. This becomes apparent, when he immediately sees through Alice and her scheme simply based on her not yawning when he does. Because he is obviously highly intelligent, the people around him tend to not understand his methods, conclusions or thought processes. While all of these elements would certainly make him a gentleman detective, his character is far more complex. Even though he is highly intelligent and has an eye for detail, he evidently battles his own demons, for example when he is institutionalized in the very beginning of the first episode for letting a rapist fall down in a building or when he is confronted with the fact, that his wife has moved on from him. This might be due to the fact, that he get emotionally invested in his cases and is generally a very passionate character. Him using morally questionable methods and also getting invested in his cases, therefore fighting for his own justice, is also another element that makes him a hard-boiled detective figure.
    Generally, looking at Luther it is hard to actually place him with just one of the archetypes since he does not fit either set of characteristics perfectly but rather unifies the two traditional types within his character. He combines selected elements of the two archetype figures of the hard-boiled and gentleman detective while also adding new characteristics that make him unique and frankly, more relatable. By sometimes acting morally questionable in order to serve justice he appeals to the viewers wish for this exact thing. Luther as a character might be a new kind of archetype, that combines the traditional ones while also adding new personal characteristics that make a specific detective figure more unique.

  21. It didn’t take long after BBC’s Luther first aired until the character by the same name played by Idris Elba was interpreted as the modern super hero, even “the first Batman of color” by fans (Zoller Zeit 2013). But in addition to the main character and the psychotic villains resembling stereotypical characters from graphic novels like Marvel or DC, the series contains other features, mainly aesthetic, that make it close to the genre of graphic novels.
    One of these features is the way the setting, more specifically London, is portrayed. In graphic novels, the city is often not only a background but can play a significant role in defining the nature of the characters. This is a more typical feature in graphic novels than in movies or television series in general. Neil Cross, the creator of BBC’s Luther described London as “one of the series’ most important characters”.
    In Luther, London is depicted as a dark and dirty place using different means of coloring and lighting, resembling the style often referred to as comic-book-noir. It avoids, although only after the first season, representing the stereotypical landmarks of London and instead focuses on showing the grim and more real side of the city. The colors used in the city image of London are mainly cool colors, the dominant color being grey. This creates a similar atmosphere as in Sin City or even Batman’s Gotham just to name a few. The image of the city can even be interpreted to mirror the grim nature of Luther himself as well.
    In addition to the gloomy coloring of the setting, another very noticeable use of color can be seen in the show; the creation of a striking contrast to the greyness with hints of red. It is present all the way from the intro, where it creates a more comic-like effect with the blood spatter. Besides the coloring of the intro, the fact that it is animated obviously adds the graphic novel feeling to the series from the start. The color red is also brought up in the hair color of Alice, the protagonist’s nemesis. The hair adds to the strong contrast between Luther and Alice created by the other features of their appearances. This makes the two characters seem complete opposites at first glance but as the viewer sees past the appearances, Alice can be interpreted almost as Luther’s “evil” side. And this kind of parallelism between the main character and the villain, too, is very common in the genre of graphic novels.
    Another aspect that makes the series’ aesthetics similar to the genre of the graphic novel is the protagonist’s outfit. It is the same almost throughout the entire series, apart from a few exceptions, a longer grey tweed coat and a red tie. Here again the colors are creating a contrast and the whole outfit can be seen to resemble a traditional super hero’s costume.
    The comic-book feeling comes across from the camera work used in BBC’s Luther as well. The series is full of short, fast scenes with a lot of close-ups and even extreme close-ups. An example of this can be seen straight from the first episode of the show which portrays a chase scene. The scene shows a white male being chased by a dark intimidating character, Luther. The fast cuts and extreme close-ups are used in this scene in a manner that creates not only suspense but aesthetics similar to a comic book panel.
    On the surface BBC’s Luther is a detective series where the protagonist is a regular DCI without any superpowers. However, when examining the aesthetics of the show closer the viewer can see stereotypical features for graphic novels. All the features discussed above together with the nature of the characters and their interaction with each other make Luther resemble the genre of graphic novels surprisingly much.
    Seitz Zoller, Matt. “Seitz: Luther is Smart Enough to just let Idris Elba just be Idris Elba.” Vulture, 2103.

  22. Stella Gibson is not the first or only strong detective character on television. Can you think of other series that represent strong or feminist female leads?

    Indeed, the other strong and feminist female character that I can think of is Catherine Cawood in Happy Valley. As an important police officer (sergeant) retired from detective activities. She has a vivid and forged character due to her past and traumas within her family. Dealing with an uncommon household situation, she also puts all her efforts into her job, tending to do too much, more than what she’s meant to do. In my opinion, Catherine Cawood embodies the feminine strength throughout the whole series, as she constantly has to deal with men and confronts them every single day (colleagues or criminals). Her vision of masculinity is shaped by her experience of men:
    Her daughter killed herself after having being raped by a young man, Tommy Lee Royce. The huge trauma that she carries along her daily life is not insignificant regarding the opinion and the idea that she has about men.
    Her husband abandoned his responsibilities regarding the household and the education of their grandson, after the tragic events. She experiences disappointment and abandon, increasing her negative opinion about men and the idea that they are weak.
    The criminals she has to deal with are men almost all the time, while her interactions with other female characters are always represented through kindness, benevolence and goodwill (for example the young woman, police worker, who is killed in season one, Anne Gallagher who becomes a police worker as well in season two, her sister Clare, the two prostitutes, Miss Gallagher … This solidarity that she claims towards other women gives to the show this particular feminist narrative.
    Throughout the entirety of the series, Catherine fights against corrupt politics, she ends up taking advantage of her male superiors’ disregard to evolve through her investigations. It’s clear that otherwise nothing would be accomplished. Catherine’s envy for justice makes her sometimes break the low, but the reason why she has to consistently try to trick the system is obvious: It is because she is a woman and she is often shooed away by her male colleagues.

    In my opinion, what make Catherine Cawood a feminist figure are the following statements:

    Instead of the usual normalization of brutality against women on screen, Catherine almost makes fun of this ridiculous notion by acknowledging how again and always women blame themselves when treated like they’re less-than-human before being thrown away.
    For the most part, Catherine does whatever she wants within reason, including sleeping with her ex-husband, Richard! She may know that it is wrong, but she continues their affair because they never stopped loving each other. She doesn’t have to explain herself and that makes her mistress of her acts. She has her natural sexual needs so she sees him when she feels like it, period. Like almost every male lead ever, Catherine sleeps with who she wants because she wants to.
    Dwelling on the subject of the acting, Sarah Lancashire (alias Catherine Cawood) is very expressive and she transcribes multiples emotions on screen. She is often about to break down, but holds the blow. The audience can feel her emotions and can identify to her. She is demonstrative of her anger, sadness, joy or tiredness. Catherine Cawood feels like a real person; the series dwells on her personality and abilities rather than on her hairstyle. The fact that she is middle-aged also increases her credibility. Her wisdom is believable because we feel that this woman has been through a lot, comparing to a young and attractive detective. Catherine could easily be anyone’s friend, sister, wife, mother, or grandmother.

    All in all, the character of Catherine Cawood is a powerful female character. She embodies the heroin who praises for justice rather than vengeance, peace rather than chaos and for equality of genders.

    Pierre Maillard

  23. Last Response Question
    2. In class, we discussed the various reactions to the character of Stella Gibson. Some lauded her as a feminist supersleuth, while this claim was dismissed by others, calling the series misogynist. What were the arguments?
    By casting a woman as its lead character and the way that it deals with female portrayal in general, the crime show “The Fall” evokes the question of feminism and misogyny. On the one hand, some reviewers claim that the show in itself is strongly feminist and a positive example for female empowerment. On the other hand, there are critics who argue that by attempting to portray women as tough, independent characters the show often tries too hard and ultimately becomes mysogynist again. In the following, I will explore both sides of the argument that we also discussed in class.
    First of all, the show can be seen as feminist since the female victims are being humanized by introducing their backstory. This not only creates empathy but also gives an identity to a formerly faceless victim. The fact that the show keeps the “overall bodycount low” draws even more attention to the lives and fates of the individual victims (Cubitt, 2013). Thus, “The Fall” criticizes crimes against women by pointing out the reality of the situation.
    Furthermore, there if offers a deconstruction of the stereotypical image of women on media – virgins vs. vamps – by introducing the character of Stella Gibson who is fighting for justice and the general good but also embraces her sexuality. She is “smart, brave, capable and unapologetically sexual” (Davies, 2015). One cannot easily put a label on her since she defies typical conventions and, hence, represents a well rounded, highly complex character suitable for a show that claims to be feminist.
    By contrast, it can be argued that “The Fall” relies on a cliché or a wrong kind of feminism and therefore is ultimately unsuccessful in its attempt to empower women. In fact, the feminism that is expressed seems to substitute a quite old-fashioned opinion: the female has to be stronger than the male and the focus must solely lie on the female perspective in order to create something feminist. This message is quite outdate since we nowadays strive for equality. One should not have to put women on a pedestal in order to stress their importance.
    Additionally, Stella Gibson as a main character often comes off as intimidating rather than inspiring. Her toughness and sexuality is sometimes so over the top that it alienates the viewers. At times, Gibson’s character appears as a highly (self-)constructed identity that Gibson can put on like a mask or rather wear as an armor to fend off any male criticism. However, this does not feel like a natural quality that all women (should) possess but rather as a kind of pseudo-feminism imposed on her by the writers of the show.
    Finally, “The Fall” debatably “glamoris[es] violence against women by equating it not only with sex, but with sexual attractiveness” (Cooke, 2014). The camera lingers too much on certain things and there is a connection drawn between Gibson’s sexuality and the Spector’s hunger for murder. The fact, that killer is a quite attractive and intelligent guy further complicates this matter and contributes to making murder seem appealing. The objectification of and violence against women is not dealt with as harshly as it should have been.
    In my opinion, the show’s attempt to introduce a female perspective and a feminist angle ultimately failed due to their outdated understanding of feminism. “The Fall” often simply tries too hard to achieve its (feminist) goals and thereby misses them completely. Even though I could identify some promising feminist features, I feel like the misogynist components overshadow the positive aspects. Ultimately I think that the show offered a lot of potential but failed to harness it. (601 words)
    Cooke, Rachel. “The Fall – Misogyny in a Veil of Classiness?” The Guardian, 16 Nov 2014,
    Cubitt, Allan. “The Fall’s writer Allan Cubitt on Women and Violence in TV Drama.” The Guardian, 7 Jun 2013,
    Davies, Madeleine. “Women, Subject: The Fall is the Feminist Crime Show We’ve been Wanting.” The Muse, 22 Jan 2015,

  24. Response 2 – Question 3

    Gillian Anderson plays the heroine detective Stella Gibson located in Northern Ireland in the BBC TV series “The Fall”. She represents a strong woman who is in charge of her own life. Amy Sullivan, a contributing editor for Times magazine, claims about the TV show:
    “Refreshingly, none of the tropes we’ve been trained to expect in a story about a powerful woman play out. Nobody resents Gibson’s appearance on the scene or questions her authority. Her gender is a non-issue; subordinates hop to when she enters a room and they follow her commands without question. Gibson doesn’t try to submerge her femininity and stomp around barking out orders. In Anderson’s restrained yet compelling performance, Gibson is cool, calm, and always chic, with the most fabulous coat in detectivedom.”
    (, 23.07.2017)
    On the other hand there are feminist voices that claim that Stella Gibson is not a real feminist. They say that she is portrayed like a man and behaves like one, which has nothing to do with feminism. There is for example a scene where she comes up to an attractive opposite of her sex and openly tells him to come to her room if he wants sex too. If such a behavior makes her a strong and independent character is open for discussion.
    There are a lot more female heroes in the wide area of the detective series out there. To name Gillian Andersons most important career leap is mandatory: She played the character of Dana Scully in “The X Files” for almost 10 years in over 200 episodes. At first, being set up as a sceptic insecure woman to control her colleague Fox Mulder, she develops into a strong independent person following her own goals and believes. In “The X Files” Mulder and Scully are portrayed on a same level of “heroness”. She helps him and saves his life and he does the same for her. Anyway, Scully is immediately Mulders source of stability and because of her he stays rational. Without Scullys strength Mulder would have failed soon after he got access to the mysterious X files. Later in the series she becomes more independent as she is suspicious of the acts of her government due to odd and seemingly extraterrestrial happenings. When the character of Mulder disappears for almost a season, she takes over and is portrayed as the main character together with a new colleague.
    A classic female detective hero can be found in “Murder, She Wrote”. In this series Angela Landsbury plays the role of the female amateur detective Jessica Fletcher. Comparable to “Midsomer Murders”, “Murder, She Wrote” is a long term successful crime series which was aired for 12 years. The fictional character Jessica Fletcher was an English teacher and became a writer of crime novels in the series. With her abilities to solve mysterious crimes she helps friends, family and the police to solve riddles. Later she becomes a well-known university professor. Mrs. Fletcher can be seen as the perfect Lady that masters her own life with intellect and charm the way she wants.
    Another heroine is the fictional character Temperance Brennan in the TV series Bones. Her strength can be seen in the different aspects of her life. Next to a family with a child she is a university professor and a forensic anthropologist. She helps solving crimes by investigating remains of human bodies. She is a strong and independent female figure.
    Another mentionable fictional heroines in detective series would be, Catherine Willows (CSI: Crime Scene Investigation) who was raised by her single mother and left school early. She finds interest in police work and decided to go back to school and become a CSI supervisor.

    615 words

    Thank you for the nice summer term sessions.

    1. Response “The Fall” Question 2:
      Response Paper on The Fall: Feminist Supersleuth or Misogynist Series?

      The Fall is a British TV series, starring Gilian Anderson and Jamie Dorman, and written by Allan Cubitt, which first aired on BBC2 in 2013. The series’ setting is Belfast where the viewer follows both DCI Stella Gibson and the serial killer Paul Specter. Reactions to the show have been divided, even though is was a massive success for BBC2 concerning audience numbers (around 2.5 million people watched it). On the one hand, journalists and TV critics praised the unapologetic feminist standpoint of the leading detective played by Anderson – a woman who represents unapologetic sexual autonomy, who is always elegantly dressed, brilliant in her job and tying together the loose ends her male colleagues have not even noticed while fighting of their sexist remarks and unwanted sexual attention. 

      The journalist Madeleine Davies called Gibson “the feminist detective we have all been waiting for“: in her eyes, Gibson finally gives the detective series a female persepective. For Davies, Gibson’s “emotionally detached one-night-stand“, her negation to let her male colleagues treat her with disrespect and of course her quoting of Margaret Atwood embodies hallmarks of feminism. Also Allan Cubitt regards Gibson’s femininty as central and claims that he intended to portray her as a woman who knows her own sexuality while every male character in the show does struggle with his. 
 On the other hand, one might reply that the objectification of the male body (which Gibson admits to when questioned about her one-night-stand with another police officer who gets shot later) is not only “more uncomfortable“ for men – it remains an ojectification of a human being after all. Additionally, it is questionable whether Gibson embodies feminism or clichés of feminism, pasted together by a male writer.
      The show has also faced serious criticism, among others by the Guardian journalist Rachel Cooke. Cooke worries about the camera being the “voyeuristic accomplice“ of Specter when entering the houses of his soon-to-be-victims, she raises the critique that “The Fall“ is for the most part glamorising violence against women “by equating it with their sexual attractiveness“. Specter’s crime scenes in the series resemble works of art, painted by the Old Masters, he is a well-read man, quoting Nietzsche and Dante and his sophistication may be almost as fascinating to the viewers as it is to his teenage babysitter Katie. To Cook, this poses a threat: the audience might not recognize the despicable evil of Specter’s deeds because they are too much in love with his model body and the intellectual mental framework he has built in order to justify his violent acts against women.
      Allan Cubitt seems to have anticipated this kind of criticism and had already written about it also in The Guardian in June 2013: he argues that since Specter is a voyeur, a certain kind of voyeurism is certainly needed within the show to explore Specter’s psychology in more depth – which was one of Cubitts’s core interests. Even though, Cubitts strongly rejects the reproach of glamorising violence against women. He claims that he certainly did not want to objectify and dehumanise his female victims the way it is done in so many other detective TV shows, on the contrary he tried to get the viewer to know her and see her daily struggles, plans and dreams. 

      To sum up, The Fall has been heavily discussed in British media and in my opinion, the discussion about what feminism is and what the representation of female characters as victims or sleuths has to do with it will probably continue until gender equality has been reached.

      Works Cited:
      Cooke, Rachel. “The Fall – Misogyny in a Veil of Classiness?” The Guardian, 16 November 2014,
      Cubitt, Allan. “The Fall’s writer Allan Cubitt on Women and Violence in TV Drama.” The Guardian, 7 June 2013,
      Davies, Madeleine. “Women, Subject: The Fall is the Feminist Crime Show We’ve been Wanting.” The Muse, 22 January 2015,

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