Television scholarship has substantially ignored programming aimed at Black audiences despite a few sweeping histories and critiques. In this volume, the first of its kind, contributors examine the televisual diversity, complexity, and cultural imperatives manifest in programming directed at a Black and marginalized audience. Watching While Black considers its subject from an entirely new angle in an attempt to understand the lives, motivations, distinctions, kindred lines, and individuality of various Black groups and suggest what television might be like if such diversity permeated beyond specialized enclaves. It looks at the macro structures of ownership, producing, casting, and advertising that all inform production, and then delves into television programming crafted to appeal to black audiences—historic and contemporary, domestic and worldwide. Chapters rethink such historically significant programs as Roots and Black Journal, such seemingly innocuous programs as Fat Albert and bro’Town, and such contemporary and culturally complicated programs as Noah’s Arc, Treme, and The Boondocks. The book makes a case for the centrality of these programs while always recognizing the racial dynamics that continue to shape Black representation on the small screen. Painting a decidedly introspective portrait across forty years of Black television, Watching While Black sheds much-needed light on under-examined demographics, broadens common audience considerations, and gives deference to the the preferences of audiences and producers of Black-targeted programming.
Since the 1990s and the recent rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, there has been a rise in diverse racial representation on television. In particular, Black characters evolved and began to move away from racial stereotypes. In this collection of essays, the representation of Black characters in professionally defined careers is examined. Commentary is also provided on the portrayal of Black people in relation to stereotypes alongside the importance of Black representation on screen. This work also introduces the idea of the Black-collar category to highlight the Black experience in white-collar jobs. The essays are divided into six parts based on themes, including profession, and focuses on a select number of Black characters on TV since the 1990s.
Being Mara Brock Akil examines the body of work of the showrunner who produced Girlfriends, The Game, Being Mary Jane, and Love Is___ . Grounded in Black Feminist Thought, this book analyzes themes that define Black womanhood and examine audience reception and social media interaction.
Language Arts & Disciplines by Allissa V. Richardson
Bearing Witness While Black tells the story of this century's most powerful Black social movement through the eyes of 15 activists who documented it. At the height of the Black Lives Matter uprisings, African Americans filmed and tweeted evidence of fatal police encounters in dozens of US cities--using little more than the device in their pockets. Their urgent dispatches from the frontlines spurred a global debate on excessive police force, which claimed the lives of African American men, women, and children at disproportionate rates. This groundbreaking book reveals how the perfect storm of smartphones, social media, and social justice empowered Black activists to create their own news outlets, which continued a centuries-long, African American tradition of using the news to challenge racism. Bearing Witness While Black is the first book of its kind to identify three overlapping eras of domestic terror against African American people--slavery, lynching, and police brutality--and explain how storytellers during each period documented its atrocities through journalism. What results is a stunning genealogy--of how the slave narratives of the 1700s inspired the Abolitionist movement; how the black newspapers of the 1800s galvanized the anti-lynching and Civil Rights movements; and how the smartphones of today have powered the anti-police brutality movement. This lineage of black witnessing, Allissa V. Richardson argues, is formidable and forever evolving. Richardson's own activism, as an award-winning pioneer of smartphone journalism, informs this text. Weaving in personal accounts of her teaching in the US and Africa, and of her own brushes with police brutality, Richardson shares how she has inspired black youth to use mobile devices, to speak up from the margins. It is from this vantage point, as participant-observer, that she urges us not to become numb to the tragic imagery that African Americans have documented. Instead, Bearing Witness While Black conveys a crucial need to protect our right to look into the forbidden space of violence against black bodies, and to continue to regard the smartphone as an instrument of moral suasion and social change.
An exploration of grief and racial trauma through the eyes of a Black end-of-life caregiver. Most of us understand grief as sorrow experienced after a loss—the death of a loved one, the end of a relationship, or a change in life circumstance. Breeshia Wade approaches grief as something that is bigger than what's already happened to us—as something that is connected to what we fear, what we love, and what we aspire toward. Drawing on stories from her own life as a Black woman and from the people she has midwifed through the end of life, she connects sorrow not only to specific incidents but also to the ongoing trauma that is part and parcel of systemic oppression. Wade reimagines our relationship to power, accountability, and boundaries and points to the long-term work we must all do in order to address systemic trauma perpetuated within our interpersonal relationships. Each of us has a moral obligation to attend to our own grief so that we can responsibly engage with others. Wade elucidates grief in every aspect of our lives, providing a map back to ourselves and allowing the reader to heal their innate wholeness.
When Lieutenant Uhura took her place on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise on Star Trek, the actress Nichelle Nichols went where no African American woman had ever gone before. Yet several decades passed before many other black women began playing significant roles in speculative (i.e., science fiction, fantasy, and horror) film and television—a troubling omission, given that these genres offer significant opportunities for reinventing social constructs such as race, gender, and class. Challenging cinema’s history of stereotyping or erasing black women on-screen, Where No Black Woman Has Gone Before showcases twenty-first-century examples that portray them as central figures of action and agency. Writing for fans as well as scholars, Diana Adesola Mafe looks at representations of black womanhood and girlhood in American and British speculative film and television, including 28 Days Later, AVP: Alien vs. Predator, Children of Men, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Firefly, and Doctor Who: Series 3. Each of these has a subversive black female character in its main cast, and Mafe draws on critical race, postcolonial, and gender theories to explore each film and show, placing the black female characters at the center of the analysis and demonstrating their agency. The first full study of black female characters in speculative film and television, Where No Black Woman Has Gone Before shows why heroines such as Lex in AVP and Zoë in Firefly are inspiring a generation of fans, just as Uhura did.
Blackness Is Burning is one of the first books to examine the ways race and psychological rhetoric collided in the public and popular culture of the civil rights era. In analyzing a range of media forms, including Sidney Poitier’s popular films, black mother and daughter family melodramas, Bill Cosby’s comedy routine and cartoon Fat Albert, pulpy black pimp narratives, and several aspects of post–civil rights black/American culture, TreaAndrea M. Russworm identifies and problematizes the many ways in which psychoanalytic culture has functioned as a governing racial ideology that is built around a flawed understanding of trying to “recognize” the racial other as human. The main argument of Blackness Is Burning is that humanizing, or trying to represent in narrative and popular culture that #BlackLivesMatter, has long been barely attainable and impossible to sustain cultural agenda. But Blackness Is Burning makes two additional interdisciplinary interventions: the book makes a historical and temporal intervention because Russworm is committed to showing the relationship between civil rights discourses on theories of recognition and how we continue to represent and talk about race today. The book also makes a formal intervention since the chapter-length case studies take seemingly banal popular forms seriously. She argues that the popular forms and disreputable works are integral parts of our shared cultural knowledge. Blackness Is Burning’s interdisciplinary reach is what makes it a vital component to nearly any scholar’s library, particularly those with an interest in African American popular culture, film and media studies, or psychoanalytic theory.
“Black Television Travels provides a detailed and insightful view of the roots and routes of the televisual representations of blackness on the transnational media landscape. By following the circulation of black cultural products and their institutionalized discourses—including industry lore, taste cultures, and the multiple stories of black experiences that have and have not made it onto the small screen—Havens complicates discussions of racial representation and exposes possibilities for more expansive representations of blackness while recognizing the limitations of the seemingly liberatory spaces created by globalization.” —Bambi Haggins, Associate Professor of Film and Media Studies at Arizona State University “A major achievement that makes important contributions to the analysis of race, identity, global media, nation, and television production cultures. Discussions of race and television are too often constricted within national boundaries, yet this fantastic book offers a strong, compelling, and utterly refreshing corrective. Read it, assign it, use it.” —Jonathan Gray, author of Television Entertainment, Television Studies, and Show Sold Separately Black Television Travels explores the globalization of African American television and the way in which foreign markets, programming strategies, and viewer preferences have influenced portrayals of African Americans on the small screen. Television executives have been notoriously slow to recognize the potential popularity of black characters and themes, both at home and abroad. As American television brokers increasingly seek revenues abroad, their assumptions about saleability and audience perceptions directly influence the global circulation of these programs, as well as their content. Black Television Travels aims to reclaim the history of African American television circulation in an effort to correct and counteract this predominant industry lore. Based on interviews with television executives and programmers from around the world, as well as producers in the United States, Havens traces the shift from an era when national television networks often blocked African American television from traveling abroad to the transnational, post-network era of today. While globalization has helped to expand diversity in African American television, particularly in regard to genre, it has also resulted in restrictions, such as in the limited portrayal of African American women in favor of attracting young male demographics across racial and national boundaries. Havens underscores the importance of examining boardroom politics as part of racial discourse in the late modern era, when transnational cultural industries like television are the primary sources for dominant representations of blackness. Timothy Havens is an Associate Professor of television and media studies in the Department of Communication Studies, the Program in African American Studies, and the Program in International Studies at the University of Iowa. In the Critical Cultural Communication series
Language Arts & Disciplines by Donnetrice C. Allison
This book critically analyzes the portrayals of Black women in current reality television. Audiences are presented with a multitude of images of Black women fighting, arguing, and cursing at one another in this manufactured world of reality television. This perpetuation of negative, insidious racial and gender stereotypes influences how the U.S. views Black women. This stereotyping disrupts the process in which people are able to appreciate cultural and gender difference. Instead of celebrating the diverse symbols and meaning making that accompanies Black women's discourse and identities, reality television scripts an artificial or plastic image of Black women that reinforces extant stereotypes. This collection's contributors seek to uncover examples in reality television shows where instantiations of Black women's gendered, racial, and cultural difference is signified and made sinister.
A new edition that brings the ways we watch and think about television up to the present We all have opinions about the television shows we watch, but television criticism is about much more than simply evaluating the merits of a particular show and deeming it “good” or “bad.” Rather, criticism uses the close examination of a television program to explore that program’s cultural significance, creative strategies, and its place in a broader social context. How to Watch Television, Second Edition brings together forty original essays—more than half of which are new to this edition—from today’s leading scholars on television culture, who write about the programs they care (and think) the most about. Each essay focuses on a single television show, demonstrating one way to read the program and, through it, our media culture. From fashioning blackness in Empire to representation in Orange is the New Black and from the role of the reboot in Gilmore Girls to the function of changing political atmospheres in Roseanne, these essays model how to practice media criticism in accessible language, providing critical insights through analysis—suggesting a way of looking at TV that students and interested viewers might emulate. The contributors discuss a wide range of television programs past and present, covering many formats and genres, spanning fiction and non-fiction, broadcast, streaming, and cable. Addressing shows from TV’s earliest days to contemporary online transformations of the medium, How to Watch Television, Second Edition is designed to engender classroom discussion among television critics of all backgrounds.