Department of Political Science

The whistleblower hero in cinematic dramatization

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The article analyses the construction of whistleblower heroes in cinematic dramatization. Drawing on Joseph Campbell’s and Vladimir Propp’s work on mythology and fairy tales and Jeffrey Alexander’s civil sphere concept, I argue that these narratives are structured as a journey with five thresholds that all must be crossed before heroic status can be awarded. The theoretical framework is applied in an analysis of eight whistleblower films. So far, films have not been explored as a source of sociological insight into the values and meanings associated with whistleblowers. While the article focuses empirically on films, the findings have broader implications. The analysis of films lets us discover the ideal-typical contours of the whistleblower as a distinct social and political persona in democratic societies. Unpacking their hero-making narratives equips us with new tools to interpret the moral-political grammar of the meaning struggles that emerge in the wake of real-life whistleblower disclosures.

Original languageEnglish
JournalThe Sociological Review
Pages (from-to)414-433
Number of pages20
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021

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