America exceptionalism in television spy dramas: mainstreaming america with "I spy," "Sleeper cell," and "24"?
This thesis explores the potential for American television spy dramas to mainstream their viewers to see America as exceptional, thereby seeing America as superior and in a unique position of power to inflict its beliefs on the rest of the world. This notion of American exceptionalism has existed since the founding of the United States and has often been a source of pride for the country. However, in the post-9/11 world, this component of American nationalism continues to contribute to the disdain terrorists feel in response to the Western world and American ideology. TV spy shows, through their established conventions and norms, potentially perpetuate the American characteristics that fuel terrorism aimed toward the West and the United States. As such, America was engaged in some historic events during the 1960s. The civil rights movement, being among them, had a tremendous impact on the makeup and ideology of the country. Accordingly, the television also played a role. By using media, cultural, and psychological theories, three American spy shows and their potential effects they had on viewers will be explored. "I Spy," a mid-1960s television spy drama, portrayed the ideal America, an America immune to the problems associated with race. This thesis will examine the show's positive portrayal of an exceptional America. Then, after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, TV spy dramas centered on the threat of terrorism and America's preparation and response to possible threats, which became a part of the nation's character. In contrast to "I Spy" and the 1960s, examples from "Sleeper Cell" and "24" will exemplify how these current shows depict a post-9/11 world in which America's exceptionalism seemingly could feed the terrorism it fights against.
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