Film Quarterly columnist Rebecca Wanzo surveys the history of fictional treatments of labor in US television and film and examines the frequently overlooked role played by sentimentality in media representations of labor and union organizing. Noting that sentimentality has been criticized for its deployment of suffering bodies as “other” objects for voyeuristic tears as well as for sometimes collapsing difference in an effort to construct empathy, Wanzo observes that documentary has often been a more welcoming space for the telling of sympathetic narratives about unions than Hollywood fiction films and television. This makes the depiction of labor and union organizing in Wanzo’s two case studies—the sitcom Superstore (NBC, 2015–21) and the primetime soap Homefront (ABC, 1991–93)—all the more exceptional. At a moment when labor issues are more relevant than ever, Superstore shows people why labor loses, but Homefront reminds people why labor won.

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