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The Americans Blows the Nuclear Family's Legal and Political Cover

Susan Burgess (DePaul University, USA)

Law, Politics and Family in ‘The Americans’

ISBN: 978-1-83753-995-6, eISBN: 978-1-83753-994-9

Publication date: 25 September 2023


This piece argues that television families’ shift away from the traditional nuclear family form is crucial to understand the relatively rapid acceptance of same-sex marriage in mainstream politics. Released in the early 2010s, The Americans focusses on a KGB-created family composed of two Soviet spies, total strangers who ultimately have two children to further their cover as an innocent American family running a DuPont Circle travel agency and living in a Virginia suburb of Washington D.C. Rather than being idealised or sought after, The Americans reveals that the nuclear family is legally, socially, and politically constructed, and, in the end, doomed to failure. Sex and love and even children are instrumentally manipulated on a regular basis to further political goals, transforming basic assumptions about how marriage and family life really work beyond the façade of suburban America. This opens space for consideration and acceptance of alternative family forms, including same-sex marriage.



Burgess, S. (2023), "The Americans Blows the Nuclear Family's Legal and Political Cover", Sarat, A. (Ed.) Law, Politics and Family in ‘The Americans’ (Studies in Law, Politics, and Society, Vol. 89), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 37-56.



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Copyright © 2023 Susan Burgess