Challenging Disenchantment: The Discreet Charm of Occult TV

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Occult imagery is widespread in the contemporary global mediaverse, including in TV programs such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Charmed, Sightings, and The X-Files. This article considers the popular cultural presence of the otherworldly and the magical in relation to the strand of theorizing, beginning with Max Weber and taking a postmodern turn in Jean Baudrillard, that treats the cultures of Western modernity as disenchanted ones. In particular, it turns to Baudrillard's concept of seduction, which, while generating controversy in cultural theory circles, has had only a limited impact in media studies. The article argues that 'tele-visions of the otherworldly' constitute an enchanting challenge to modernist dis-illusionment, serve as a counterpoint to Baudrillard's 'obscene' media hyperrealism, and promote forms of imagination that, like magic realist literary fiction, undermine certain drives toward mastery associated with the dominant knowledge formations of Western modernity. TV's occult imagery can thus serve as the site of an unsettled and unsettling critical imagination, a skeptical popular subjunctivity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)421-447
Number of pages26
JournalComparative American Studies
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2003
Externally publishedYes


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