Culture Wars in Gothic Mode: The Example of HBO’s Miniseries Sharp Objects


  • Vladana Ilić PhD Candidate, Department of Ethnology and Anthropology, Faculty of Philosophy, University of Belgrade



Southern Gothic, American culture wars, HBO


Cultural and political polarization in The United States has been a prominent topic both in social sciences and the media since the beginning of the 1990s. Whether the polarization is understood as a deep moral divide among Americans, i.e., as the culture war between liberals and conservatives, or as a superficially maintained political hostility, i.e., as party sorting between Democrats and Republicans, most scholars agree that the media sphere is deeply polarized, especially since 2016 when Donald Trump emerged as a political figure and then the U.S. president. HBO, known for its progressive cultural capital and liberal ethos, distinguishes itself in the daring narrative productions which often tackle polarizing themes of race, gender, sexuality, etc. Gothic mode or genre is among the often-employed narrative styles of its productions. American gothic, also the subject of increasing academic interest in recent decades, has been largely considered within its cultural and historical context and interpreted as a site where the nation’s historical benighted ghosts disrupt and challenge official enlightened national narratives. As HBO’s original production told in a gothic mode, Sharp Objects (2018) will be contextualized within the U.S. culture wars and analyzed as a Southern Gothic tale told from the liberal progressive perspective. The show’s narrative will be seen as a gothic journey deep into the South by a liberal heroine haunted by her conservative ghosts, who attempts to face and settle them. The paper explores the thesis that the gothic disruptive potential is of a conditional and limited impact on liberal America’s Enlightenment narrative.


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How to Cite

Ilić, Vladana. 2022. “Culture Wars in Gothic Mode: The Example of HBO’s Miniseries Sharp Objects”. Etnoantropološki Problemi / Issues in Ethnology and Anthropology 17 (1):91–118.