Contemporary television’s portrayals of psychotherapy reveal anxieties surrounding surveillance and intimate self-disclosure in clinical and therapeutic settings. This paper analyses two twenty-first century television series featuring therapy sessions that observe and monitor mental states for prognostic purposes, engaging in what Alan Westin terms psychological surveillance: Peter Morgan’s The Crown (2016–2023) and Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Fleabag (2016–2019). These shows feature contrasting modes of intimate self-disclosure—confessions and postconfessions—that emerge in psychotherapy. The confessional mode emphasises authenticity and a desire for healing. Postconfessions, on the other hand, are a parodical mode of revelation that refuse the authenticity and intimacy elicited by therapy and traditional confessional modes. Confessional discourses in The Crown reveal that state power, reinforced by genetic authentication, can benefit from psychological surveillance. In contrast, Fleabag uses postconfessional discourse to implicate the audience in the therapeutic encounter, capitalising on the increasingly decentralised self-care modalities sustained through social media, television and other audience-driven mediums.
- Medical humanities
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Contributors SH is the sole contributor to this article and confirms responsibility for the following: research conception and methodology, analysis and interpretation, and manuscript preparation.
Funding This paper was supported by funding from the National Institutes of Health for Vanderbilt University’s Center for Genetic Privacy and Identity in Community Settings, 5RM1HG009034.
Competing interests None declared.
Patient and public involvement Patients and/or the public were not involved in the design, or conduct, or reporting, or dissemination plans of this research.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.