Showrunner as Auteur: Bridging the Culture/ Economy Binary in Digital Hollywood

Elizabeth Blakey

Published Online: 2017-11-30 | DOI:


This article engages the metaphor of showrunner as auteur to examine freedom of expression in television. News articles offer the metaphor of showrunner as auteur, with Hollywood journalists discussing the writer-producers of the new Golden Age of Television. Media convergence, including cable and digital technologies, has disrupted traditional TV organisations and power brokers, bringing about a renaissance. Jenkins (2006) challenges scholars to see media convergence in terms of voice and participation, rather than technology. Following Jenkins, this study engages auteur theory, and Marshall McLuhan’s analysis of the medium and the message, to better understand TV showrunners. Critical insights from Marx and Bourdieu are considered with regard to the interplay of cultural and economic forces. The analysis compares earlier film directors-Jim Jarmusch and the Coen Brothers-with showrunners of the cable and digital era, including David Chase, the Wachowskis, David Benioff, and Diablo Cody. Because of disruptive technologies, TV showrunners are able to break free from media restraints and bridge the culture/economy binary that structures TV as a field of production. No longer bound by broadcast censorship and scheduled programming, TV showrunners are producing shows that express their signature messages, transforming TV into a cinematic experience.

Keywords: digital televisionfreedom of expressionMcLuhan

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