Iconographies of the present. Political populism, economic instability and migratory crisis in «Years and Years» (BBC and HBO, 2019)
Issue Date: 
2021
Publisher: 
Servicio de Publicaciones de la Universidad de Navarra
ISSN: 
2386-7876
Citation: 
Sorolla-Romero, T. (Teresa). "Iconographies of the present. Political populism, economic instability and migratory crisis in «Years and Years» (BBC and HBO, 2019)". Communication & Society. 34 (2), 2021, 281 - 296
Abstract
In its six episodes, the British series Years and Years (2019) calls on images that resonate in the collective imagination of the contemporary media, although some of them have their roots in visual motifs with a strong tradition in Western visual culture. In this article, we attempt to identify these images, representing the political conflicts, social tensions, ecological disasters, and economic uncertainties of the end of the 2010s and beginning of the 2020s, and analyse their transfer from the media to television fiction. Among the references and other motifs analysed are images from the realm of contemporary photography appearing in the press and, for example, at the prestigious World Press Photo event. But an earlier pictorial and cinematographic tradition shows the survival of these visual motifs in the images from Years and Years, interweaving the public sphere with television fiction. Methodologically, we draw on contemporary image theory, including the legacy of Aby Warburg and Walter Benjamin, and textual analysis rooted in semiotics. The visual motifs analysed crystallise around the social unease and humanitarian disasters unleashed by economic and migratory crises, the banalisation of politics in the media, the threat of authoritarian populism and the stylisation of images of war. They include the allegory of freedom and representations of popular revolt and hard times.

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