Habsburg Horror: Freud on Netflix
The Austrian Netflix series Freud both critiques and celebrates Austrian culture as it attempts to honor Austrian national identity while also rejecting nationalism. This delicate dance reflects the challenges confronting Netflix as it aspires both to global universalism and cultural specificity. In Freud, the fictional Sigmund Freud teams up with a traumatized war veteran and a beautiful medium to contain the táltos, which represents all the violent urges repressed in the unconscious. The series forthrightly portrays the violence and damage done by Viennese anti-Semitism and Austrian imperialism, without any nostalgia for the Habsburg monarchy. Ultimately, however, it projects the most pernicious nationalism onto Hungary, a kind of “internal abroad” for the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The series presents a psychoanalytic interpretation of the origins of illiberal nationalism. The detective and therapist who can heal these traumas is an Austrian, albeit an Austrian Jew, who is therefore himself a kind of “internal alien.” The series is thus able to both present a critical reckoning with Austrian history, while also burnishing the Austrian image. As such, it reflects the efforts of Netflix to respond both to national and to cosmopolitan audiences.
Tobin, Robert Deam, "Habsburg Horror: Freud on Netflix" (2022). Publications. 2.