Conflicting Realisms: Animated Documentaries in the Post-Truth Era

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2 Scopus citations


This article explores the relation between the rise of animation in digital culture to shifting notions of realism in animated documentaries. Realism is addressed as a representational choice as well as a political goal and is defined as the believable articulation of reality. By placing issues of credibility and the viewer’s role as arbiter of the work’s truth value in relation to contemporary notions of ‘truthiness’ (that are based on the viewer’s belief system rather than on fact) the article analyzes animated documentaries in the wider atmosphere of post-truth. I focus on two conflicting theorizations of realism: realism as the familiar and easily read vs. realism as de-familiarization. Whereas only a decade ago animated documentaries were deemed oxymoronic by many, as the sub-genre of animated documentaries proliferates it risks losing its critical potential and becoming an easy way to promote misinformation for viewers who cease to question the representation that becomes ‘invisible’ due to common use. That said, animated documentaries that creatively combine varied visual styles and intentionally disrupt viewing have the potential to de-familiarize by accentuating the representational choices made, which is crucial for engaging, critically evaluating information and creating counter narratives in a post-truth era.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)20-40
Number of pages21
JournalStudies in Documentary Film
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2021


  • Animation
  • documentary
  • politics
  • realism
  • truth
  • twenty-first century

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts


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