Nordic Noir as a category

In the context of an article discussing the forthcoming latest televisual adaptation of Simenon’s literary Maigret texts, Tara Conlan classified the relatively recent televisual trend of broadcasting subtitled television programming to niche audiences as being part of a ‘Euro-crime invasion.’ Certainly, if one specifically focuses on the publication of literary texts a case may be made based on an analysis of sales figures, accompanied by other investigative methodology, to demonstrate that the distribution of Scandinavian crime fiction over the last decade within the UK and Ireland has resulted in an increased audience awareness of cultural, subcultural and geographic factors that are specific to the Nordic condition. However, with regards televisual texts, to talk of Scandinavian programming in the context of an ‘invasion’ is deeply problematic and raises several significant issues, most notably due to the connotations attached to this term as it implies a displacement and/or eradication of the indigenous form. That a number of televisual and filmic texts have not only been imported and broadcast on free to air networks but have also found an audience in quantitative terms and audiences with regards to qualitative approaches of classification is a potential area of enquiry for the rapidly emerging discipline of Fan Studies. The promotion of said texts by various international embassies is also an interesting development particularly in terms of the legitimization of popular culture artefacts and their corresponding fandoms.

BBC Four’s limited financial resources and available slots has resulted in a very narrow sample of televisual texts being available via broadcast platforms although Arrow Films and other DVD distributors have announced several titles for 2013 release which are not presently scheduled to be carried by any UK based free to air broadcaster. In terms of generic classification/codification Nordic Noir may be fluid and consequently, with each new text the parameters are redefined. The inclusion of Lilyhammer, for instance, suggests that the generic form may now be sufficiently defined for it’s audience to appreciate parody. Also, BBC Four’s transmission of Icelandic series Næturvaktin (The Night Shift) whilst marketed by the broadcaster as comedy has been classified by several fans on assorted forums as being a Nordic Noir text. Have we now reached a point where the term Nordic Noir is simultaneously meaningful and meaningless? Is the term now an intersection which facilitates a struggle between audience and institution over ownership of generic boundaries?

As we, the viewing audience, ready ourselves to engage with the final season of Forbrydelsen the object of our fandom is analysed in press commentary, promotional materials, and user generated content such as forum postings and blog entries. The Irish Independent has published an article which debates potential sources of viewing pleasure for Nordic Noir programming, forms of cultural identification, and associated motivational factors with regards audience loyalty. Another example of institutional discourse being made available to the fan community is the well researched booklet that Arrow Films has distributed alongside several of its titles, this text contains a narrative account of the development by Jakob Stougaard-Nielsen of Nordic Noir as a literary genre that emerged in response to generic developments in other territories and as a consequence of social and political developments within the post war Scandinavian cultural context. Stougaard-Nielsen also addresses cinematic and televisual developments. Furthermore, Arrow Films booklet announces several titles which will be released in the UK and Ireland in 2013; Anno 1790, The Eagle, The Protectors, Unit One and Van Veeteren. With the release of each title the boundaries of what constitutes Nordic Noir could conceivably shift/expand. Through the utilisation of social networking and via the film club that enables distributor to directly interact with the consumer within a physical setting Arrow Films has engaged with its fanbase and it will be interesting to see how audience conceptions of the generic category impact upon the release strategy and optioning of further texts for UK and Ireland release.

Tara Conlan’s article on Maigret can be read here;

The Irish Independent’s article on Nordic Noir can be read here;

For those interested in reading further about the formation and maintenance of Nordic Noir as a genre Vicky Albritton’s well researched blog contains many articles which debate individual texts, key generic, social and historical developments;