Watching television need not be a passive activity or simply for entertainment purposes. Television can be the site of important identity work and moral reflection. Audiences can learn about themselves, what matters to them, and how to relate to others by thinking about the implicit and explicit moral messages in the shows they watch. Better Living through TV: Contemporary TV and Moral Identity Formation analyzes the possibility of identifying and adopting moral values from television shows that aired during the latest Golden Era of television and Peak TV. The diversity of shows and approaches to moral becoming demonstrate how television during these eras took advantage of new technologies to become more film-like in both production quality and content. The increased depth of characterization and explosion of content across streaming and broadcast channels gave viewers a diversity of worlds and moral values to explore. The possibility of finding a moral in the stories told on popular shows such as The Sopranos, Breaking Bad, The Wire, and The Good Place, as well as lesser known shows such as Letterkenny and The Unicorn, are explored in a way that centers television viewing as a site for moral identity formation.
Steven A. Benko is a professor of religious and ethical studies at Meredith College.
Introduction: Television: What is it Good For?
Steven A. Benko
Chapter One: Sleeping with Fishes and Talking with Horses: Animality, Identity, and Vegetarianism in The Sopranos
H. Peter Steeves
Chapter Two: The Bigger the Lie, the More They Believe: Morality and Ethics in The Wire
Chapter Three: The Two Walters: Walt Whitman's Poetry and the Moral Vision of Breaking Bad
Chapter Four: Check Your Settings: Change to a Democratic Framework for Feminist Subtitles
Leigh Kellmann Kolb
Chapter Five: "The Lord of War and Thunder": The Morality of Nemesis and Retributive Justice within Justified
James L. Shelton
Chapter Six: Law and Loyalty in Hellcats
Chapter Seven: Justice is Served: Bryan Fuller’s Hannibal and the Evolution of Cultural Morality
Douglas L. Howard
Chapter Eight: What Made the Devil Do It?
Matilde Accurso Liotta and Martina Vanzo
Chapter Nine: Letterkenny: Tolerance Meets Tradition
Chapter Ten: Morality versus Mortality: The Meaning of (After)Life in The Good Place
Jill B. Delston
Chapter Eleven: How Television Produces Invisible Communities in an Age of Loneliness. A Detailed Look at 13 Reasons Why
Chapter Twelve: Can Watching TV Make Me a Unicorn? TV and the Ethics of Decency
Steven A. Benko and Eleanor Jones
Chapter Thirteen: The Baby Yoda Effect: A Kantian Analysis of Mandalorian Ethics
Chapter Fourteen: “So, a Black Captain America, huh?” Race in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier
Alisa Johnson and Steven A. Benko
About the Contributors
This fine collection of essays captures exactly why television in its Golden Age is so ripe for fruitful ethical analysis. A great feature of this book is that it finds compelling and enduring philosophy in so many different programs. In other words, it's not just for members of particular fandoms. It has real appeal for a variety of fandoms, as well as for philosophers. This book is a welcome addition to the growing field of philosophy and pop culture.
This series of essays, written by various contributors, scrutinizes an assortment of television series ranging from the prestigious, such as The Sopranos, Breaking Bad, and The Wire, to "lighter" fare, such as Letterkenny and The Unicorn, through a philosophical lens. The moral framework applied to each series is well researched, making this collection a sound addition to courses across disciplines from philosophy to media and film studies. The popularity of several of these series, coupled with some authors’ (likely) divisive conclusions, will ensure lively student discussions in class and on the page. Highly recommended. Advanced undergraduates through faculty.
1/31/23, Choice: This book was included in a roundup of top community college titles.