Through Scandinavia, darkly: a criminological critique of Nordic Noir

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Nordic noir is a popular crime genre associated with a region (Scandinavia), a narrative style (unpretentious/socially critical), and a particular aesthetic look (dark/foreboding). Renowned for its psychologically-complex characterization and gloomy Mise-en-scène, and spanning best-selling crime fiction, film, and globally-successful television drama, Nordic noir has mushroomed from regional niche-market to international phenomenon in little more than a decade. A review of both popular and academic accounts of the genre suggest that much of Nordic noir’s appeal comes from its supposed “gritty” or “realist” account of Scandinavian society. This paper, however, adopts a different perspective. Drawing on cultural criminology, ultra-realism, and Lacanian psychoanalytic theory, we argue that, rather than accurately reflecting the complex social and political problems currently confronting late modern Scandinavian welfare societies, Nordic Noir has lost its grip on realism and any meaningful association with actual/established Scandinavian values. Instead, Nordic Noir is now functioning as a displacement narrative, a form of cultural expression that allows artists, producers, and their audiences to push the region’s social problems outside the realm even of the Imaginary.
Original languageEnglish
JournalThe British Journal of Criminology
ISSN0007-0955
Publication statusPublished - 2020

ID: 243337448