The Americans, Reviewed by Amanda



The television show, The Americans, follows the lives of two Soviet spies living in America during the Cold War. Airing from 2013 into 2017 and produced by a former CIA agent, the show has garnered various accolades and has been deemed a critical success.[1] By situating this TV narrative in 1981, mostly in Washington D.C., the show simultaneously constructs a historical narrative, with both fictional elements and factual ones, riddled with references to President Reagan, images of bulky, burgeoning computers and stereos, 80’s fashion, and of course, mentions of nuclear missiles. This show is also situated in a context where Western media has, for decades, depicted Russians – one of many American geopolitical “antagonists”- as stereotypical, hardened villains, contributing to both a political and cultural mythos of mediated xenophobia and a propagation of American exceptionalism. However, The Americans dismantles this dichotomy of nominal Americans versus Soviets or Russians, thus, belying other dichotomies, such as the nation versus the individual, reality versus truth, assimilation versus integration, and morally good versus morally bad, to just name a few. Utilizing Michel-Rolph Trouillot’s historiographical framework of examining the production of both vocality- power- and silences in history, it will become clear that both the Pilot episode and the second episode of The Americans gives voice to the previously silenced, thus, de-humanized, Soviets during the Cold War, but also, produces silences for others. This demonstrates the potential for historical narratives to bestow empathy and motive-voice- to previously ignored groups, but also, the potential for these narratives to further subjugate others[2].

As briefly mentioned, The Americans follows Elizabeth and Philip Jennings, two KGB spies, living in Washington D.C. in 1981 with their two children, Paige and Henry, who were both born in the US. The show also follows Stan Beeman, Elizabeth and Philip’s new neighbor, who happens to work in the counter-intelligence department at the FBI. Additionally, the viewer also gets glimpses of the Soviet Rezidentura or Embassy. The pilot episode introduces Elizabeth and Philip, posing as travel agents, as they try and capture a KGB defector, a formal Kernel, who has been working with the FBI, using various disguises, tactics of seduction, and violence along the way.[3] The second episode, The Clock, features Elizabeth and Philip being ordered to blackmail a maid employed by the American Secretary of Defense, to remove a clock from his office so they can bug it, in order to record an important conversation between said Secretary and another official.[4] They blackmail the maid by poisoning her son and offering the rare antidote only after the clock is replaced.[5] Meanwhile, Stan Beeman and the FBI blackmail an employee of the Rezidentura to leak information to them.[6] Constantly at risk of being exposed, Elizabeth and Philip navigate their “fake” marriage, their obligation to their children, Elizabeth’s desire to prioritize their nation and mission above all else, and Philip’s underlying desire to defect to the US in two tonally tense episodes amidst references of the “mad man” Reagan and the “evil Russians.”[7] Similarly to how Michel-Rolph Trouillot asked, “If history is merely the story told by those who won, how did they win in the first place? And why don’t all winners tell the same story?,” the show is also interested in examining the other “winners” or players of the Cold War and unraveling the different stories and implicit silences told in the process.[8] Although this TV show features an amalgam of both the fantastical and the factual, such as featuring violent fights and burning dead bodies with acid, while still referencing the conflict in Nicaragua and the stirrings of Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative, like Trouillot, in evaluating this popular history, I’m more interested in how the show produces historical narratives in innovative ways, dismantling the codified myths and dichotomies of Americans vs. Russians, giving voice and subjectivity to the previously silenced “other.”[9]

Moreover, from these two episodes, one can clearly see the show-runners’ goal for this historical drama: to humanize and give voice to the previously silenced and demonized Soviets, therefore, acting as an example of Western media constructing a narrative about the “East”-Russia. Joe Weisberg similarly stated, “The question at the heart of the show is whether you can relate to the enemy.”[10]A strategy for relating to this supposed “enemy,” utilized by the show, is giving voice to historical silences. Trouillot notes the many ways silences are produced in the historical process, such as when narratives are created and when “retrospective significance” or “history” is constructed.[11] One could argue that through the production of this TV show, one is producing a narrative and “retrospective significance,” particularly in this case as the audience is temporally distant from the events and  knows the broad outcomes of the Cold War- that the Soviet Union will fall. Furthermore, as Trouillot also notes, there are strategies to remedy silences produced in historical narratives, such as by providing different interpretations of “known” events, juxtaposing sources, or creating a new narrative of “conflicts.”[12] Arguably, these two episodes of The Americans are employing some of these strategies to give voice to the previously silenced Soviets through its omniscient narration enabling deep dives into Elizabeth and Philip’s-Soviet- subjectivities providing a different perspective of Cold War events. The do this by juxtaposing the motives and beliefs of the Soviet characters and the American ones at the FBI and by creating one larger narrative encompassing the many conflicting interpretations and viewpoints of events. Implicitly within Weisberg’s goal of humanizing and giving voice to the previously vilified Soviets, is an argument against xenophobia and not allowing differences in identities to divide societies.

However, one must evaluate whether Weisberg achieved this goal of humanizing-giving voice and power- to the previously silenced, thus, vilified, Soviets through an analysis of this historical narrative produced by the TV show, specifically, the first two episodes. Like Trouillot examining the production of the Haitian revolution’s historical narrative in order to give voice to silences, one can examine how The Americans’ historical narrative gives voice to the silenced Soviets. Firstly, The Americans echoes Trouillot by emphasizing the importance of the individuals in the narrative, especially, exploring their subjectivities.[13] Specifically, Trouillot notes the importance of subjectivity using the example of a striker as the individual:

…a competent narrative of a strike needs to claim access to the workers as purposeful subjects aware of their voices. It needs their voices in the first person, or, at least, it needs to paraphrase that first person. The narrative must give us a hint of both the reasons why the workers refuse to work and the objective they think they are pursuing-even if that objective is limited to the voicing of protest…[14]

In this quotation, one can apply these parameters of subjectivity in historical narratives to The Americans, thus, giving vocality or power to the previously silenced Soviets- Elizabeth and Philip. Although the narrative is omniscient in that the audience is shown the subjectivities of both the Soviets and Americans, it clearly prioritizes delving into the “first person” perspective of Elizabeth and Philip’s lives, motivations, and struggles, such as having various scenes illustrating the love Elizabeth and Philip have for their children- one of their motivators for keeping their covers to secure their children’s safety and way of life. By depicting scenes, such as at the end of episode two, after Elizabeth and Philip have poisoned and threatened to suffocate the maid’s son, featuring Philip starring at his son, Henry, while he sleeps and having Elizabeth offer to pierce Paige’s ears as a form of familial bonding, the show’s narrative mitigates the Jennings’ “villainy” by depicting their internal lives/ subjectivities- this very human and “universal” love of children on both American and Soviet sides.[15] By focusing on this “objective motive”- to protect their children- the show’s narrative is subverting the stereotypical, “cold” and unfeeling Russian with a loving parent, instead. This, thus, fills in the emotional silence and “first person” motivation lacking in previous mediated depictions of Soviets in Western media, while also, implicitly debunking the dichotomy of national identity- American or Soviet. Because Philip and Elizabeth feel love for their children just like any American, doesn’t that also make them American in some way? Additionally, by delving into these characters’ “first person” subjectivities, the audience also becomes privy to Elizabeth and Philip falling in love after years of being in their fake marriage. This then debunks the dichotomy of “real” and “fake,” in addition to showing that perhaps, once again, Elizabeth and Philip are in fact “true” Americans as they are able to engage in a heteronormative, “American” love story that results in a family and participating in capitalism to purchase their white-picket fence house and sports cars. In this example, one can see how Weisberg’s goal of giving voice to once silenced subjectivities, thus, humanizing the Russians, is achieved through examining the production of historical narratives.

Additionally, the audience is also shown Elizabeth and Philip’s subjectivities through featuring flashbacks in the Pilot.[16] These flashbacks provide this “objective motive” Trouillot discusses by providing crucial context of what led Elizabeth and Philip to become spies, therefore, leading the violent lives they now lead. For example, one flashback to July 1960 in Gryazi, Soviet Union, depicts Elizabeth training, learning to fight and having her English corrected, but then, being raped by the same ex-KGB Kernel who defected to the FBI, who the Jennings then kidnap and kill.[17] In this horrific flashback, the camera zooms in on Elizabeth’s face while she is violated, emphasizing that there is deep pain and sacrifice rooted in her story. Another scene in the episode features Elizabeth finally telling Philip her Russian name, Nadezhda, and explaining how her father was killed during World War 2 fighting in Stalingrad.[18] By filling in the silence of Elizabeth’s individual life and understanding the hardship she came from, this historical narrative bestows her vocality and thus, power, as the audience is able to understand and understanding possesses the potentiality for empathy- an important tool in humanizing an individual or group. One could view these flashbacks woven into this historical narrative as a possible “alternative source,” providing more information on a silenced group, thus, allowing for more nuanced and detailed narratives to be constructed.

Furthermore, Trouillot’s destabilizes the claim that “…history is a story about power, a story about those who won,” by demonstrating that two, diverse historical narratives can be produced from the same events, for instance, how the Alamo narrative can be seen as either supporting American exceptionalism or disproving it.[19] The Americans arguably has two narratives- two histories- at work: one for the Americans and one for the Soviets, supporting Weisberg’s mission of subverting the legacy of the Cold War’s xenophobic narrative, by showing both sides as human, giving voice-power- to both sides.[20] In the Pilot and The Clock, both episodes try to debunk the dichotomy of good vs. evil, like Trouillot’s Alamo example, by filling in silences through Stan and the FBI and the Jennings, making all these primary characters empathetic: their narratives can be interpreted as either morally “good” or “bad.” For example, the show invests in fleshing out both the FBI and the Rezidentura- the audience sees both spaces- and the second episode features both English and Russian.[21] Additionally, vexingly for the audience, one feels relief at both the Soviets successfully bugging the Secretary of Defense’s office, while also feeling pleased regarding Stan getting an informant from the Rezidentura.[22] In this show’s production of historical narratives, it problematizes the idea that a historical narrative must have one, all-powerful victor, implicitly arguing for a more egalitarian power dynamic where neither party is silenced.

Producing both historical narratives for the TV show, but also producing a broader “retrospective significance” or history of the Cold War, The Americans further mitigates the silencing of the Soviets, thus, their de-humanization, by constructing a “materiality” of history.[23] As Trouillot notes in regards to not having a physical body of the Haitian Colonel, audience members or readers of historical narratives are more likely to remember and view a narrative as “credible” if there are physical bodies or buildings-physical traces- that were/are discoverable.[24] By producing this historical narrative, the actual television show acts as a materiality of history to some extent, rendering the invisible- the Jennings’ spy profession and the legacy of “silent” or absent historical narratives depicting the Soviets in a sympathetic light in Western media- visible, thus, giving them voice. Therefore, by producing this historical narrative, this TV show is adding to the overall “history” of what people remember from the Cold War era, dismantling older mediated histories of the same time period.

Moreover, by producing this historical narrative in a TV format- a material entity that can be watched on physical DVDs or digitally- the show is adding to the myth-making and Cold War “canon” in the West. Like Trouillot notes, media plays an important role, not just academia, in producing these historical narratives and myths, thus, is also important in producing silences.[25] The TV show’s narrative, itself, demonstrates this, as it depicts both Paige saying she has an assignment about “how the Russians cheat in arms trades”- showing the dissemination of these myths and silences in academia- but also, shows Henry and Philip attending a presentation celebrating an Astronaut or “American hero.” [26] However, counter to this particular myth of American exceptionalism on the show, the TV show’s broader historical narrative itself, produces an alternative myth or narrative, thus, remedies some of these silences, by depicting the complex humanity of its Soviet characters, Elizabeth and Philip. The opening credits of the show also highlight the importance of media in disseminating these myths and according silences by presenting various American images, monuments, and video, against Soviet ones, such as having “Jazzer-cise” juxtaposed against Russian dancing or a picture of Santa replaced with the image of Karl Marx.[27] In this dizzying array of images, an audience member becomes aware of the previously understood myths, historical narratives, and dichotomies, disseminated through media, but also, by placing the images of supposedly dichotomous entities in such close proximity, one realizes that the iconography of “The Americans” and “The Soviets” aren’t as different as one had thought. This prepares the viewer to encounter a narrative that fills in past silences and constructs a narrative different from the “Russians as the enemy” ones they had grown up seeing from the Cold War media canon. Therefore, this, once again, supports Weisberg’s mission of giving voice to the previously silenced Soviets, through the production of this television narrative. In this way, once could argue that The Americans is a successful popular history in that it challenges the role of power and silencing in the production of historical narratives.

However, The Americans’ historical narrative also engages in the silencing of others, even as it tries to give vocality to the previously silenced Soviets. Trouillot states, “By silence, I mean an active and transitive process: one “silences” a fact or an individual as a silencer silences a gun,” through his diction, emphasizing the violent and weapon-like potential of silencing others.[28] The first episode’s narrative participates in the gendered silencing of Elizabeth through rape.[29] While this act of gendered and bodily silencing is arguably used to garner sympathy for Elizabeth’s character which some may argue gives her “voice,” the narrative decides to eventually make the rape more about Philip’s revenge and rage- his subjectivity, not Elizabeth’s, as shown through it being the catalyst for Philip to finally kill the kidnapped ex-KGB defector who perpetrated the rape.[30] In fact, one could argue that this act of gendered silencing acts more like a plot-device than an excuse to explore Elizabeth’s subjectivity as the rape seems to be more about needing a catalyst for the episode’s narrative closure- killing the KGB defector which then acts as a catalyst for both the American and Soviet governments to ramp up their aggression towards each other. Thus, this act of silencing doesn’t offer a substantial opportunity to return vocality-power- to Elizabeth -its purpose in the narrative is simply to take away Elizabeth’s power, in order for Philip to truly perform his through violence- killing the rapist- and in a broader sense, it eventually leads to acting as the “rationale” for more masculine male aggression to be performed between the two nations. Its purpose is to bestow rationality to men, while still silencing a woman.[31] Additionally, the TV show’s narrative participates in the literal silencing and bodily violence enacted upon a Woman of Colour and her son in the second episode.[32] Philip in disguise, at one point, pushes Viola, the maid, into a wall and clamps his hand over her mouth, literally voiding her of her ability to speak and move.[33] Even though the episode does try and show Viola as a resistor of this silencing, for instance, when she refuses to bug her employers office, lets this racialized and gendered violence/silencing act as a catalyst to explore Elizabeth and Philip’s subjectivities, namely, their relationship with their children. Her voice and her son’s are stolen, in order to give voice to Elizabeth and Philip. Therefore, while The Americans attempts to give voice to the previously silenced, it still privileges bestowing this vocality-power- to those who have rid themselves of their “otherness”- the anglicized, white-passing Elizabeth and Philip. While one may argue it would be anachronistic to give voice-power- to those who were marginalized, as this narrative shows to its Soviet characters- giving marginal individuals and groups a voice is a powerful way of showing the validity of peoples’ existence even when they did live in a deeply stratified and hierarchical world: whether or not people had political or social power, they still existed, thus, they had a historical narrative- a voice- to be recorded. As historians, as The Americans selectively demonstrates, it is possible to bestow voice- a proof and validity of existence- to the previously silenced.

Additionally, in evaluating whether or not Weisberg achieved his goal of giving vocality to the previously silenced Soviets, implicitly arguing against xenophobia, in these first two episodes, one must ask whether the way in which he argues against xenophobia isn’t counter-intuitive. The way in which he argues against xenophobia- by showing that the Westernized Elizabeth and Philip, with their heteronormative love, deep protective-instincts for their children, and participation in capitalism are “just like” the Americans, such as the FBI agent Stan and his family- is actually an argument for assimilation and an implicit idea that a group can only be humanized if they resemble the West, eschewing their “exotic” names and cultural mores, in the process. One must also question whether this Western narrative, produced by Americans, is a way for the US to have the ultimate narrative authorial power- ability to silence or give voice depending on their wishes- on the Cold War narrative? In some way, by producing a Western TV show that arguably prioritizes Soviet subjectivity, is this just a larger attempt to control the historical narrative- have the supreme power to produce this narrative how the West pleases? While these maybe extreme questions, it’s important to interrogate whether Weisberg’s goals in producing this historical narrative are not just reproducing silencing power dynamics of the past, but instead, are trying to distribute this power to produce narratives in a more equitable fashion. It’s also worth noting that one of Trouillot’s limitations was that he wanted to produce historical narratives that weren’t solely dictated or centred around the West, but still appeared to desire the West’s acknowledgement, such as when he states that many Haitian “…narrators aim to conform to guild practice” and admitting he “…bowed to some rules, inherited from a history of uneven power, to ensure the accessibility of my narrative.”[34] Similarly to Trouillot, The Americans, while attempting in many ways to create a counter-narrative to many of the Western ones disseminated in the past, still arguably conforms to many ideals of American exceptionalism and Western archetypes, such as the show’s implicit argument for embracing societies’ similarities in debunking the many dichotomies, mainly “The Americans” vs. “The Soviets”, but not acknowledging that perhaps xenophobia can only be challenged- one of Weisberg’s implicit goals-when we embrace our differences- not silencing those who are different- and recognize that power plays a role in who we deem as the “other.” Thus, we must be vigilant like Trouillot, in identifying where silence and the subsequent “otherness” is produced.

Overall, the first two episodes of The Americans are an entertaining and refreshing example of popular history, especially because of Weisberg’s implicit goal that echoes Trouillot’s argument of locating silences in the production of historical narratives and finding ways to bestow vocality to those previously silenced, oftentimes through producing alternative narratives. Despite displaying a few limitations, namely that the show still engages in silencing others, the fact that this popular history is in the form of easily consumable media helps disseminate Trouillot and Weisberg’s power-altering narratives that contributes to a narrative movement- in Hollywood and history alike- to amplify previously silenced, under-represented or mis-represented voices, hopefully, encouraging more empathy regarding cultural differences amongst audience members- a commendable goal.

[1] Joe Weisberg, interview by Katie Arnold-Ratliff,, March 12, 2013.

[2] Michel-Rolph Trouillot, Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (Boston: Beacon Press, 1995).

[3] The Americans. “Pilot.” Directed by Gavin O’Connor. Written by Joseph Weisberg. FX, January 30, 2013.

[4] The Americans. “The Clock.” Directed by Adam Arkin. Written by Joseph Weisberg. FX, February 6, 2013.

[5] lbid.

[6] lbid.

[7] The Americans. “Pilot.” Directed by Gavin O’Connor. Written by Joseph Weisbeg. FX, January 30, 2013.

[8] Michel-Rolph Trouillot, Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (Boston: Beacon Press, 1995), 6.

[9] The Americans. “The Clock.” Directed by Adam Arkin. Written by Joseph Weisberg. FX, February 6, 2013.

[10] Joe Weisberg, interview by Katie Arnold-Ratliff,, March 12, 2013.

[11] Michel-Rolph Trouillot, Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (Boston: Beacon Press, 1995), 26.

[12] lbid., 27.

[13] lbid., 23.

[14] Michel-Rolph Trouillot, Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (Boston: Beacon Press, 1995), 24.

[15] The Americans. “The Clock.” Directed by Adam Arkin. Written by Joseph Weisberg. FX, February 6, 2013.

[16] The Americans. “Pilot.” Directed by Gavin O’Connor. Written by Joseph Weisberg. FX, January 30, 2013.

[17] lbid.

[18] lbid.

[19] Michel-Rolph Trouillot, Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (Boston: Beacon Press, 1995), 5.

[20] Michel-Rolph Trouillot, Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (Boston: Beacon Press, 1995), 9.

[21] The Americans. “The Clock.” Directed by Adam Arkin. Written by Joseph Weisberg. FX, February 6, 2013.

[22] lbid.

[23] Michel-Rolph Trouillot, Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (Boston: Beacon Press, 1995), 26-29.

[24] lbid.,29-47.

[25] lbid., 19-20.

[26] The Americans. “Pilot.” Directed by Gavin O’Connor. Written by Joseph Weisberg. FX, January 30, 2013.

[27] The Americans. “The Clock.” Directed by Adam Arkin. Written by Joseph Weisberg. FX, February 6, 2013.

[28] Michel-Rolph Trouillot, Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (Boston: Beacon Press, 1995), 48.

[29] The Americans. “Pilot.” Directed by Gavin O’Connor. Written by Joseph Weisberg. FX, January 30, 2013.

[30] lbid.

[31] lbid.

[32] The Americans. “The Clock.” Directed by Adam Arkin. Written by Joseph Weisberg. FX, February 6, 2013.

[33] lbid.

[34] Michel-Rolph Trouillot, Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (Boston: Beacon Press, 1995), 56-57.

4 responses to “The Americans, Reviewed by Amanda”

  1. Liam Mather says:

    Hi Amanda,

    You do a commendable job at integrating Trouillot’s multilayered argument into your review of “The Americans.” I have a deep interest in the Cold War, and you have inspired me to check out the series!

    However, your analysis rests on a premise that warranted a more rigorous examination. You write that the show succeeds by giving a voice to the “previously silenced Soviets.” Before the twenty-first century, when former Eastern bloc countries opened their archives and revolutionized Cold War historiography, two main interpretations of the Cold War prevailed in the Western academe. In one school were “orthodox” historians, establishment types who blamed the Soviet Union for Soviet-American animosity. In the other were left-leaning and Marxist historians—the “revisionists”—or, perhaps more accurately, the Soviet apologists—who placed full blame on the United States. The revisionist perspective had significant sway over popular understanding of the Cold War, especially during and after the U.S. debacle in Vietnam. The hold of revisionism can be seen in the wave of leftwing protests that swept across Western democracies in the late 1960s, and in films like “Apocalypse Now” that were heavily critical of Western foreign policy during the Cold War. To the extent that Western historians did silence the perspective of the Soviet Union, that silencing was a consequence not only of their political biases, but of the state’s totalitarian restrictions on information. Thus, I am not sure that “The Americans” is engaged in as ambitious a project of “de-silencing” as you imply. (And perhaps the Russian perspective is now being broadcast directly from the White House!)

    You also write that the Soviet people have been “de-humanized” in the West. Through the characters of Elizabeth and Philip, the show demonstrates that Americans and Soviets have many cultural similarities; they both love children, for instance. Your argument reminded me of a speech given by Ronald Reagan in 1984, in which he famously said:

    “Just suppose with me for a moment that an Ivan and an Anya could find themselves, say, in a waiting room, or sharing shelter from the rain or a storm with a Jim and Sally, and that there was no language barrier to keep them from getting acquainted. Would they then deliberate the differences between their respective governments? Or would they find themselves comparing notes about their children and what each other did for a living?”

    Elizabeth and Philip may not have been able to discuss their jobs with Jim and Sally, but as you write, they loved their children as much as their American neighbours. I think it is significant that Reagan attempted to humanize the Soviet people during his Presidency; even though many Americans likely held xenophobic views during the Cold War, his speech challenges your primary assumption.

  2. Anisha says:

    I really enjoyed watching The Americans a few years ago and your review made me want to go back and pick up where I left off. Your perspective on how Elizabeth was silenced in the rape storyline was one I hadn’t considered. It is curious that a show which attempts to give a voice to a group whose humanity is silenced by Western narratives of the past would silence a character in the process. And it is interesting to think about the effect of silencing not just in the broader context of our understanding of the past, but also in terms of how individuals are silenced by historical narratives.
    It is also indeed counter-intuitive that in order to show a Soviet perspective of Cold War America, the creators depicted a family that was so deeply assimilated in American culture – this implies that to humanize is the same as to Westernize. Perhaps the showrunners were not trying to provide an argument against xenophobia – maybe they just wanted to create something where the audience would empathize with a group commonly perceived as the enemy and have a “they’re just like us!” reaction to a depiction of Soviets. Even in this case, though, I agree that this indicates a very low judgement of the audience’s ability to identify with the “other,” sending the message that the Western archetype is superior.

  3. Sabrina says:

    Hi Amanda. I just started watching The Americans, and I am already claiming it as one of my favourite televisions shows so I truly enjoyed reading your analysis. Similarly, I wrote my film analysis on how contemporary Western media is refuting this past perception of Soviets being sort of robotic and cold-hearted by using narratives of the silenced. I agree with your statement on how the show, especially the first episode, does a truly credible job in portraying Soviets in a more humane way.
    I definitely saw that in the pilot episode. I think that is why they gave that rape story line to Elizabeth. They showcase a vulnerable moment in her past. Like you mentioned, she ultimately reveals her past hardships to Philip in order for the audience to empathize. Although I must mention that I felt like Philip killing Elizabeth’s rapist, after he finds out the truth, was because he truly cared about her. Despite the fact that their marriage is fake, there is love between them.
    I really liked the fact that you pointed out that the show does engage in silencing others. I also saw that when Philip was kind of mocking Viola for relying on God to cure her son, rather than stealing the clock from her boss to get the antidote. They should have showcased why Viola is so religious rather than it just being an alternative to stealing.
    Also, I agree with your argument about the show being a Western controlled Soviet narrative. In the pilot episode, Elizabeth and Philip don’t really exhibit much patriotism. It felt like Elizabeth became a spy because she was poor. And Philip is so assimilated to the American lifestyle that he wanted to defect. In that sense, the show makes it seem like being in America is ultimately the best solution for Soviets. Therefore, I also agree with the fact that the show portrayed characters that were ultimately too Americanized to address something like xenophobia.

  4. Michele says:

    I’ve really appreciated your review of the Americans, mainly cause you covered one of the main problems that I had while watching it. While I overall enjoyed the show, not secondarily for many of the reasons that you mention (i.e. the production of a counter-narrative which aims at giving voice to and humanizing the stereotypical Russian villains), I’ve also had a problem with how the main characters were portrayed. I too have found that their humanization was mostly done through Western lenses: speaking per absurd, if you were to take either Philip or Elizabeth out of the context of the show, I believe that they would not significantly differ from their American counterparts (as their neighboring FBI agent). While I don’t have enough datas to establish whether such a portrayal is wrong, I would argue that neither did the creator of the show (despite his CIA background, which I was not aware of). In this light, I felt that the show was somehow Westernizing or appropriating the narrative of the main characters. On the other hand, I found a little bit of an issue with your argument that Viola’s narrative was being silenced in favor of that of Elizabeth and Philip: in fact, while I find that this in undeniably true, to some extent I also think that it is unavoidable, as every narrative is bound to silence others in order to follow a specific standpoint, especially in a work of fiction. In other words, I thought that you might have been reading too much into that. Nonetheless, I really enjoyed your review!

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