Greek stories and Scandinavian romance2022-10-31
Georgia Aitaki has analysed financial crises, striving for international attention and broken hearts in countries far from home.
With her doctoral thesis ”The Private life of a nation in crisis - A study on the politics in/of Greek television fiction”, Georgia Aitaki, senior lecturer in Media and Communication Studies at Karlstad University, examined the Greek TV industry and the mechanisms involving its producers, screenwriters and filmmakers. The thesis is a deep exploration of an industry that rarely affords freedom for those who write and produce TV dramas for the Greek market. Georgia Aitaki calls it both introvert and invisible.
– It may sound harsh, says Georgia Aitaki. But the Greek market is relatively small, and Greece has a small population. Greek productions have found it hard to break through internationally, since they are produced for a Greek audience. American and Scandinavian productions have a much wider audience. That’s my description of the situation for Greek TV productions today.
For example, no Greek productions have managed to find a place on Netflix or HBO — international streaming services where you can find a lot of local shows from different countries.
– There has been talk about it happening, but something always goes wrong. I don’t know exactly why, but it’s never a smooth process for Greek productions to reach out.
Georgia Aitaki still thinks the potential for more international attention is there, however.
– The quality and the presentation have become much better and is more in line with international standards. For example, the stories told in Greek TV dramas have become better and more socially relevant.
What themes can we find in Greek TV productions?
– It’s difficult to answer, but then general trend of Scandinavian noir has inspired a few screenwriters. Currently, there is a tendency of including politically relevant themes in Greek productions. The refugee crisis, the economic situation, human rights and the pandemic — all turbulent subjects — is given attention. The younger generation of screenwriters pick up on what affects them and are inspired by it. Both the producers and the audience hope for a more equal and just society, and this is reflected in the TV shows.
What do you want to highlight with your research?
– I want to show how politically relevant subjects are covered in TV shows. National identity, how it is to be Greek in a globalised world. I also want to examine the political climate and how the commercial aspects that have dominated TV production actually work. Understanding the impact of TV shows that adapt these issues into their stories. The labour market, values, relationships and how they affect what we see.
– Not surprisingly, my research showed that important events in Greece are represented in the fictional stories of the TV productions. How ideological representations are included is also interesting. The TV stories often want to place the responsibility purely on the individual. For example, the financial crisis in Greece is depicted as something everyone is responsible for. There is no critique of the economic system or those who are responsible for it.
Where there finding in the study that surprised you?
– I was fascinated by the fact that the people who create the TV shows rarely have the creative freedom to tell the stories they want to tell. The majority felt constrained by unwritten rules connected to how the market is constructed and what the producers think the audience wants to see. There are exceptions, however. There are individuals in the industry who feel they have freedom to express their visions and ideas. So, for some reason some people find a path towards more freedom.
In the article ”Farmer wants a (Swedish) wife – white mobilities in the reality romance show Bonde söker fru – Jorden runt”, Georgia Aitaki continues her research on how TV shows depict cultural differences in a global perspective. The curiosity for this subject was born after finishing the doctoral thesis.
– I had lived in Sweden for a while and felt more secure in making my own cultural impressions, says Georgia Aitaki. I became interested in reality TV, because it's a popular genre internationally, and at the same time a kind of hybrid genre with documentary aspects. I also find that there is an interesting kind of realness to reality TV.
Why specifically choose ”Bonde söker fru – Jorden runt”?
– I’m particularly interested in the sub genres of the big, popular TV shows. Especially those who deal with love and romance and cover subjects such as geographic boundaries and restrictions for how long you can be in a foreign country. This shows aren’t necessarily about love, but more about how different cultures co-exist and how people from different cultures can understand each other and what kind of negotiations may arise when they meet.
What’s interesting about ”Bonde söker fru – Jorden runt”, is that it’s about farmers who travel abroad but then want to meet Swedish women, not women from the country they visit. The expectations of the farmers who travelled to Australia, Spain and Mozambique was to find someone in their native country with the same cultural understanding and background.
Did ”Bonde söker fru – Jorden runt” meet your criteria for good reality TV?
– The show made me reflect on how unequal the opportunities for migration is for various groups of people. The show depicts love migration as an adventure and an opportunity for self-realisation, rather than a life-long decision with high stakes, as is the case for many people in the current, very strict migration regimes. My research inspired me to continue to analyse romantic TV drama related to gender, race and the way stories about understanding each other are told.
- ”Farmer wants a (Swedish) wife – white mobilities in the reality romance show Bonde söker fru – Jorden runt”
- ”The Private life of a nation in crisis - A study on the politics in/of Greek television fiction”