Thursday, February 29 2024

A conference was held at The Pontifical University of the Holy Cross onThe Role of the Father Figure in TV fiction series on 22 nd and 23rd April. TV series have become the key
investment in the entertainment business in the last few years. This is in
part because they can produce a good quality product with relatively low
costs and in short time but also thanks to the mechanism of the series. In
this way viewers grow attached to the characters and the story.

As a result, it is an expanding market and the family has become a direct
consumer model and privileged target of this format. The aim of the two-day
intensive study was to closely examine the father figure in TV fictions
from a narrative, social and anthropological viewpoint to reflect on how
the family is represented on TV. Visiting academics and journalists gave
interesting insights and valuable contributions on and around this theme.

Prof Alberto Nahum García from The University of Navarra
gave a talk about The phenomena of TV series in the golden age of television from a
marketing point of view. He explained that TV fictions are well- tested
products and enjoy much success thanks to the skills of the producers who
satisfy the tastes and preferences of the TV audiences. Not only they
produce series maintaining costs low but also have skilful scriptwriters
available to create a well studied but continual coming next
effect of the characters and the story.

The journalist Costanza Miriano presented her book: It is the father who indicates the way – a rather unconventional
but thought provoking title to stress how the relationship between father
and child has changed. Today, children are on a par with their parents in
real life and in TV fiction. The model of the family is no longer a
patriarchal and hierarchic model but a more “liquid” one and she quotes
Zygmunt Bauman when he describes parents treat their children as equals.
The consequence of this is that there is a continual negotiation of needs
and desires which in turn creates a negative educative process. In this
situation technology becomes a surrogate for the parents who are absent or
irresponsible and unable to comprehend fully their parental duty.

Alberto Fijo
, Director of the magazine Fila Siete discussed

Tradition and modernity. Parental models in three British TV fictions:
Downton Abbey, Luther, and The Hour

. He discussed how the father figure is one of the pillars which miniseries
are structured around. We can see this in historical dramas like Downton Abbey where the father is portrayed as a mediating figure
amongst the three generations in the house, he endeavours to maintain
traditions and values in his family.

Paolo Braga
from The Catholic University of the Sacred Heart (Milan) gave an
interestingly rich talk on

Father guilt. The crisis of the father figure in US cable television
series: Mad Men, Breaking Bad; In Treatment, Shameless and Dexter.

In theses series the father figure is not portrayed as an example or a role
model but rather an anti-hero. He is not shown as the traditional father
who seeks to raise his children with certain values moreover, we see the
father from a more human point of view with all his defects and weaknesses
displayed. He has a complex personality and a dark side to his nature,
which make his character seem real, so much so the TV viewer can relate and
show compassion for him.These problematic series reflect more than anything
a tormented world made up of imaginary characters in particular situations
rather than truly reflect the tastes and preferences of the majority of
viewers. Series like these in fact, attract a particular niche of the

Prof Juan José García-Noblejas from The Pontifical
University of the Holy Cross (Rome) presented a discussion on

The crisis of well being and familiar nostalgia in Scandinavian Noir

. Here, the view of the father figure is decidedly more romantic and
idealised. He presents no surprises or special effects and is a prisoner of
a slow and pervasive existential nostalgia. The introspection of the
character is at the centre of the mechanism of the story.

Finally, Prof. Armando Fumagalli, a lecturer from Catholic
University of the Sacred Heart (Milan) gave a lively talk on

Conciliating the dramatic conflict with a positive approach to

Here, the father figure moves inside the tested rhythms and reassuring
characters of Italian comedy (Don Matteo, I Married A Cop
and the bittersweet film White As Milk, Red Like Blood (currently
at cinemas). For scriptwriters convenience it is easier to produce a series
where there is continual tension between the characters i.e. fathers and
children because it creates an element of suspense and spectators are never
bored. In this way, the structure of the narrative is engaging because
there is a conflict. The conflict does not last long and there is
reconciliation on both parties towards the end. In general, what transpires
is the centrality and the importance of the father figure in the narrative
structure in fictions and is certainly more important than one thinks. The
father figure is the character with his own dynamics and importance which
prevails in the serial scripts. At times there is a message in the story
and hints of recriminations and disdain but in the end this traditional and
reassuring approach, manipulated by the scripts shrewdness, exalts the
model within the fiction. By tradition these programmes appeals to a wider
audience like families. All that remains is to wish you Happy Fiction
viewing to everyone!

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