ROME — At an upcoming spring conference, the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross will examine father figures and their portrayal in TV, including Lord Grantham from the British series Downton Abbey.
Many television series “portray the father as being the family's problem,” observed professor Enrique Fuster, one of the organizers of the conference, which is scheduled for April 22-23, 2013, at the Roman university.
Fuster, who teaches cinema history at Holy Cross, noted that screenwriters often depict schizophrenic and dysfunctional families, and their solution for these situations is usually “a family rupture.”
The official title for the conference will be “The Figure of the Father in Television Series,” and it will feature speakers comparing how British and American series portray the role of the father.
"We chose to speak about the role of the father because the role of the family is very vague, and the father is a sort of window that represents it," Fuster explained.
Talks will include an analysis of parental models found in the British dramas Luther and The Hour, as well as the American shows Mad Men, Breaking Bad, In Treatment, Shameless and Dexter.
Downton Abbey's Earl of Grantham, played by Hugh Bonneville, could be faulted for his involvement with a maid in season two, as well as his sometimes strained relationship with his daughters.
The popular series, which launched in September 2010 in the U.K. and three months later in the U.S., depicts the lives of a British aristocratic family and their servants in the early 20th century.
Fuster explained that “we believe that fiction plays an important role in shaping our social habits” as a reason for examining father roles and relationships in TV.
Professor Juan José García-Noblejas, who teaches film and TV scripting at Holy Cross, also reflected on the importance of a father figure for series to achieve success.
“Curiously, nearly all successful TV series deal with the figure of a father, indirectly, by having him very present,” he said.
“The father in Downton Abbey is very comprehensive and accepts mistakes, but he doesn't accept what he sees as whims of his daughters,” García-Noblejas noted.
He found it interesting that “the eldest daughter has a clear opposition to her father's wish to marry her with the heir, and the youngest marries the chauffeur, also against the father's wishes.”
“The aim of this event is to, without losing actuality, know that the family is an essential dimension in our society,” García-Noblejas explained.
"Series are a way of knowing our society's current problems and mirror society in small weekly doses," he added. "We simply want to gather people who have had time to analyze and watch these series, which have a huge number of viewers around the world, in order to discuss them without losing our Christian perspective."
The conference, as well as being aimed at an academic audience and lovers of television drama, is also directed at creators “in the world of television drama, offering a unique opportunity to reflect on their craft,” according to the university's website.
Guest speakers will include Italy's famous TV journalist Costanza Miriano as well as Alberto Fijo, editor of Spain’s Fila Siete TV magazine and editor in chief of Aceprensa.