How Popular TV Shows Influence Policy


In Russia in the 1990s, missing an episode of the American soap opera Santa Barbara was “considered to be a personal mini-tragedy,” Mikhail Iossel writes. Although the peculiar post-Soviet obsession with the show has waned in the Putin era, it has never faded entirely. In fact, Iossel argues, it continues to shape everyday Russians’ views of the West.

In this collection of essays from our archive, we examine what popular TV shows, from Santa Barbara to Chinese ta shidai dramas, say about the countries that produce and consume them—and how these shows often reflect, and help shape, national identity.—Chloe Hadavas

The 1980s American Soap Opera That Explains How Russia Feels About Everything

In the post-Soviet experience, there was a peculiar obsession with “Santa Barbara,” Mikhail Iossel writes.

In Russia in the 1990s, missing an episode of the American soap opera Santa Barbara was “considered to be a personal mini-tragedy,” Mikhail Iossel writes. Although the peculiar post-Soviet obsession with the show has waned in the Putin era, it has never faded entirely. In fact, Iossel argues, it continues to shape everyday Russians’ views of the West.

In this collection of essays from our archive, we examine what popular TV shows, from Santa Barbara to Chinese ta shidai dramas, say about the countries that produce and consume them—and how these shows often reflect, and help shape, national identity.—Chloe Hadavas



Left: An ad featuring a woman in a fur coat in Santa Barbara, Crimea.  Right: An unfinished McMansion-style house in Santa Barbara, Kaliningrad.

Left: An ad featuring a woman in a fur coat in Santa Barbara, Crimea. Right: An unfinished McMansion-style house in Santa Barbara, Kaliningrad.

Left: An ad featuring a woman in a fur coat in Santa Barbara, Crimea. Right: An unfinished McMansion-style house in Santa Barbara, Kaliningrad.

The 1980s American Soap Opera That Explains How Russia Feels About Everything

In the post-Soviet experience, there was a peculiar obsession with “Santa Barbara,” Mikhail Iossel writes.



From left, Kalki Koechlin, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, and Pankaj Tripathi, in a scene from season 2 of Netflix's Sacred Games.

From left, Kalki Koechlin, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, and Pankaj Tripathi, in a scene from season 2 of Netflix’s Sacred Games.

From left, Kalki Koechlin, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, and Pankaj Tripathi, in a scene from season 2 of Netflix’s Sacred Games.Netflix

The Great Indian Streaming Wars

The battle over the country’s future is being waged one TV screen—and smartphone—at a time, FP’s Ravi Agrawal writes.



Me Too protest in China

Me Too protest in China

Supporters of Zhou Xiaoxuan, a feminist who rose to prominence during China’s #MeToo movement, display posters in Beijing on Dec. 2, 2020, during Zhou’s sexual harassment case against a television host. NOEL CELIS/AFP via Getty Images

The Sneaky Conservatism of China’s Feminist Dramas

As Beijing limits women’s choices, ta shidai television shows soothe without offering real change, Amandas Ong writes.


How Turkey’s Soft Power Conquered Pakistan

The TV drama “Ertugrul” reveals how neo-Ottoman fantasies are finding an enthusiastic audience in a country that struggles with Saudi and Western influence, Fatima Bhutto writes.



A scene from

A scene from “Babylon Berlin,” now streaming on Netflix. (Beta Movie)

A scene from “Babylon Berlin,” now streaming on Netflix. (Beta Movie)

German TV Is Sanitizing History

A new wave of historical dramas is telling the wrong stories about the country’s past, Alan Posener writes.

Leave a Comment