Retro Quality and Historical Consciousness in Contemporary European Television
Abstract: This article investigates the trend represented by the recent TV series This Is England 86 (2010), Deutschland 83 (2015) and 1992 (2015). It analyses retro in the series as enabling an exhilarating experience of the music, fashions and lifestyles of the past while claiming to offer a serious social history. The article thus takes issue with theories of retro that view it as ahistorical (for example Guffey), to demonstrate how retro in these series enables a particular dramatic conception of the dynamics of national history, whether in post-imperial decline (This Is England), a westalgie for the grip of geopolitical conflict (Deutschland 83) or the cyclical progression of trasformismo (1992). The article discusses the series’ common visions of the past as characterised by a pleasing youthful naivety, opposed to an implied present of cynical superior knowledge. I argue that these series embody retro’s distinct ability to combine irony and fetishism in its recreation of the past, as befits an age in which historical consciousness is increasingly referred to the intimate sphere of the individual self and its uncertain relation to posterity.