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    Trump’s America and the return of ‘Satanic Panic’ in contemporary Gothic film and television

    Gough, Charlotte (2023) Trump’s America and the return of ‘Satanic Panic’ in contemporary Gothic film and television. Doctoral thesis (PhD), Manchester Metropolitan University.

    File will be available on: 27 June 2025.
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    This thesis identifies a distinct trend of contemporary Gothic screen culture (2015-2022) which textually conceptualises the cultural ‘return’ of 1980s and 1990s ‘Satanic Panic’ conditions in the United States under President Donald Trump. This trend, using narratives and imagery of the Satanic and Satanic conspiracy, has seen three thematic subcategories emerge across film and television texts. I define these subcategories as 1) film and television series centred on ‘Satanic Ritual Abuse’ subjective trauma narratives, 2) male-focused demonic possession films, and 3) film and television centred on Satanism and liberal youth culture. These texts are, I argue, simultaneously in dialogue with the premillennial moment and pervading left-wing socio-political anxieties specific to the Trump era. The case studies articulate, what I conceive as, the strands of contemporary American discourse that characterise this Satanic Panic ‘revival’: post-truth trauma culture, (post)modern ‘male rage’, and generational ‘culture wars’. Across three thematic chapters, I demonstrate how these film and television texts are distinctly configured through postmodern, premillennial retroactivity, as part of what scholars and critics alike have identified as a broader nostalgic turn in popular culture towards—or rather back—to the 1980s and 1990s. This effectively conceptualises the contemporary relevance of the Satanic Panic to Trump’s America, and speaks to a cyclical heritage of Satanic scapegoating and political apocalypticism throughout the nation’s history. It is this project’s contention that these Gothic textual and contextual themes are largely and collectively cohered around contemporary gender and national identity debates surrounding fourth-wave feminism and the conceived ‘crises’ of contemporary white masculinity. Such Gothic recalls work to articulate the contemporary socio-political anxieties of an ideologically fractured ‘post-truth’ present, caught between a national past mythologised by Christianised, patriarchal conservatism, and a future forecast as ‘apocalyptic’ on both sides of the political spectrum.

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