Remediating the Eighties: Nostalgia and Retro in British Screen Fiction from 2005 to 2011




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De Montfort University


Thesis or dissertation

Peer reviewed


This doctoral thesis studies a cycle of British film and television fictions produced in the years 2005-2011 and set retrospectively in the 1980s. In its identification and in-depth textual and contextual analysis of what it terms the ‘Eighties Cycle’, it offers a significant contribution to British film and television scholarship. It examines eighties-set productions as members of a sub-genre of British recent-past period dramas begging unique consideration outside of comparisons to British ‘heritage’ dramas, to contemporary social dramas or to actual history. It shows that incentives for depicting the eighties are wide-ranging; consequently, it situates productions within their cultural and industrial contexts, exploring how these dictate which eighties codes are cited and how they are textually used. The Introduction delineates the Eighties Cycle, establishes the project’s academic and historical basis and outlines its approach. Chapter 1 situates the work within the academic fields that inform it, briefly surveying histories and socio-cultural studies before examining and assessing existing scholarship on Eighties Cycle productions alongside critical literature on 1980s, 90s and contemporary British film and television; nostalgia and retro; modern media, history and memory; British and American period screen fiction; and transmedia storytelling. Chapter 2 considers how a selection of productions employing ‘the eighties’ as a visual and audio style invoke and assign meaning to commonly recognised aesthetic codes according to their targeted audiences and/or intended messages. Chapter 3 investigates semi-autobiographical dramas that bear the mark of remembering, from the vantage point of the present, a time of fast expansions and shifts in the global media landscape. Chapter 4 explores how historical fictions locate historical knowledge in the decade’s refraction through modern media and reconstruct, deconstruct or ironise these mediations to meet particular cultural or industrial demands. Chapter 5 identifies two spin-offs that exploit shifts toward transmedia production and distribution by using eighties iconography as the set pieces for an immersive fantasy world, considering how and why their source texts are adapted and what this implies for past representation. Finally, the Conclusion reviews the project’s findings and briefly considers possible factors for the cycle’s deceleration and transformation after 2011. Ultimately, this project sees the Eighties Cycle as a by-product of shifts in Britain toward advanced globalisation and new mediation that have facilitated access to domestic and international mediated recent pasts. These productions operate within a distinct recent-past period screen fiction mode, engaging audiences equipped with comprehensive notions of the eighties as circulated in media. Meaning is produced in how these notions are structured; sometimes they are lauded, sometimes parodied, sometimes criticised or ironised, and sometimes they are simply cited for the sheer pleasure of recall.



Nostalgia, Retro, Contemporary British Film and Television, The 1980s, British Period Drama, Media and Memory, New Media, British Post-War History, Transmedia, Globalisation



Research Institute