Accepted Paper:

Establishing closeness in television series: about the advantages of the need to share a flat  


Christine Hämmerling (University of Zurich)

Paper short abstract:

By analyzing US-sitcoms that show females living together as flat mates out of necessity, the paper discusses formal and thematic advantages of such a special setting of interdependence. It argues that normative ways of living are both reproduced as well as challenged in these narratives.

Paper long abstract:

Many television series depend on characters that spend a lot of time together. This necessity to have characters being and staying together in a common place might be one of the reasons, why sitcoms often focus on living-rooms or offices. While sitcoms often dwell on family life and affairs, they also often promote characters in an age in between or after family lives: young and older people, who are experiencing the freedom and bondage that comes from being on their own. In TV-shows the new found independence from former boyfriends, husbands, nursing homes or oppressive parents often leads to other kinds of dependencies: Since the leading character cannot afford his or her own flat, he or she has to move in with others. Characters become flat mates: They share their living-rooms, and their lives. This constellation and the fact that it derives from a financial necessity holds many advantages for storytelling. Looking at series like "2 broke Girls" (2011- ), "Gilmore Girls" (2000-2007), "Friends" (1994-2004), and "Golden Girls" (1985-1992) I will analyze how closeness is established between fictional characters by having them live together. I will also focus on narrations of female independence and female relationships. I argue that it is not only the advantages of community that is promoted in such series, but also the disadvantages of not having a choice. In the context of situational comedy these narratives both reproduce and challenge normative ways of being in the world.

Panel Sui02
Thrift and dwelling: popular media representations of 'appropriate' ways of being in the world