This article investigates how neoliberal globalization has been mediated through audiovisual narratives since the 2000s. It identifies a cluster of films, produced by and circulating on German public television, which use the generic conventions of the popular crime genre to constitute a sub-genre—the televisual economic crime drama. Using a content and textual analysis that focuses on the backdrop of historical context and genre norms, the article examines key tropes to assess the critical potential of this sub-genre. The analysis demonstrates that both the containment theme of “a few bad apples” and a systemic critique can structure these narratives of neoliberalism. At its best, the televisual economic crime drama argues that alternatives to neoliberalism are possible by referencing Germany's history of the social market economy and by featuring characters as well as images of active citizenship, solidarity, and collective action in the workplace.
Sabine von Dirke is an Associate Professor of German at the University of Pittsburgh. Her scholarship integrates approaches in the social sciences and the humanities for exploring the mediation of socio-economic and political issues in German and European public discourse and cultural production. Previous scholarship has analyzed sub- and countercultural developments from the student movement of the 1960s and the Red Army Faction to the party of the Greens, questions of migration and cultural citizenship, and pop-culture phenomena, including Neue Deutsche Welle, German hip hop, and pop literature of the 1990s.