The television anti-hero
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This thesis tests the hypothesis that there has been a sustained depiction of the anti-hero on US cable television since the late 1990s. It also addresses a number of closely related research sub-questions. In summary, why has the anti-hero enjoyed such sustained popularity on American cable television at this juncture? In order to test the hypothesis and answer the research sub-questions, three case studies were chosen for analysis. These case studies, Dexter, The Wire and Breaking Bad, are all produced and broadcast by different cable networks, thus illustrating that the phenomenon of the anti-hero is not confined to one outlet. Each of the three shows was examined using close textual analysis, with the focus being placed on one central anti-heroic character in each case. In order to answer the associated why’s, it was necessary to also analyse industrial and socio-cultural factors that may have contributed to the increasing popularity of the anti-hero. For example, the shift in the American psyche which occurred as a result of the terrorist attacks of September 11th, a shift which, it is argued, created an uncertainty and ambiguity about justice, criminality and governance. An increase in individual alienation and a decreasing sense of community were also identified as contributing factors. Such shifts allow for a single-minded individualist character, even one who commits murderous acts with some rationale, to be a point of identification within an increasingly fractured society. Finally, another key contributing factor was the commentary that each show offers on twenty-first century masculinity and sexuality.