To read this content please select one of the options below:

Til’ Death Do Us Part: The Americans and the Domestic Politics of a Queer Family

Claire Rasmussen (University of Delaware, 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


The narrative of The Americans weaves together a spy thriller and a family drama, though it drives home the inseparability of the political and the personal through the lives of the central characters, Philip and Elizabeth, a couple whose marriage is a cover for their work as Soviet spies. This chapter provides a queer reading of their marriage, drawing from the real history of the Cold War politics of sexuality that associated American values with the hetero- and gender normative, white, and middle-class nuclear family. In contrast, the Soviet Union was understood to have disrupted this natural order by installing the state as an overbearing patriarch. Philip and Elizabeth’s fictional cover as a nuclear family requires them to perform American marriage, family, and selfhood. In doing so, they reflect the centrality of the family in America’s Cold War self-image in which the family serves as the anchor of the American order, enabling economic and political self-sufficiency. Their performance of the family challenges our ability to differentiate between real, authentic family that can serve as the legitimate source of social reproduction and between the counterfeit, fake family that disrupts the social order. The queer family, refusing to be placed beyond realm of the political by the moral language of family values, subverts our ability to distinguish between genres since the family drama is already a political thriller.



Rasmussen, C. (2023), "Til’ Death Do Us Part: The Americans and the Domestic Politics of a Queer Family", Sarat, A. (Ed.) Law, Politics and Family in ‘The Americans’ (Studies in Law, Politics, and Society, Vol. 89), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 57-77.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2023 Claire Rasmussen