‘Kinaesthetic Empathy and Contemporary Television’ – Zoë Shacklock
The Department of Film Studies speaker series presents ‘Kinaesthetic Empathy and Contemporary Television’ by Dr Zoë Shacklock (from the University of St Andrews).
Much of the rhetoric surrounding contemporary television is concerned with what it is not: not tied to a weekly schedule, not grounded within national borders, not caught in the regulatory demands of broadcast networks, and indeed, perhaps, not television at all. Yet such negative definitions obscure the way that the structure, meaning, and impact of these prestige programmes continues to revolve around features that have always been fundamentally televisual. In this paper I explore how contemporary ‘quality television’ places the body at the centre of its aesthetic, narrative, and affective impact. Such body-oriented aesthetics – or what I am calling television’s kinaesthetics – offer an approach to television that remains sensitive to the specificities of the medium.
I explore these ideas through a case study of three recent television dramas that explicitly engage with the politics of empathy, something that has always been crucial to television’s mode of address: Hannibal (NBC, 2013-2015), Black Mirror (Channel 4, 2011-2014; Netflix, 2016- ), and Sense8 (Netflix, 2015-2018). Each of these programmes presents a mode of empathy that demands an embodied understanding of others, in which the ability to feel with other people plays out across the body in motion.
Kinaesthetic empathy is explicitly framed as a transformative mode of relating to the world, offering new forms of intersubjectivity and identity (particularly queer ones), and new kinds of futures. These programmes thus offer space to reflect on a transformational moment in television studies, and to challenge the evaluative and interpretative frameworks through which we define quality television.
This event will take place in the Film Studies Boardroom.