PJAS 15 Autumn-7

Aleksandra Różalska
Transgressing the Controlling Images of African-American Women?
Performing Black Womanhood in Contemporary American Television Series

Polish Journal for American Studies, vol. 15 (Autumn 2021), pp. 273-290

Abstract: Drawing from intersectionality theories and black feminist critiques of white, masculinist, and racist discourses still prevailing in the American popular culture of the twenty-first century, this article looks critically at contemporary images of African-American women in the selected television series. For at least four decades critics of American popular culture have been pointing to, on the one hand, the dominant stereotypes of African-American women (the so-called controlling images, to use the expression coined by Patricia Hill Collins) resulting from slavery, racial segregation, white racism and sexism as well as, on the other hand, to significant marginalization or invisibility of black women in mainstream film and television productions. In this context, the article analyzes two contemporary television shows casting African-American women as leading characters (e.g., Scandal, 2012-2018 and How To Get Away With Murder, 2014-2020) to see whether these narratives are novel in portraying black women’s experiences or, rather, they inscribe themselves in the assimilationist and post-racial ways of representation.

Keywords: African-American women, Shonda Rhimes, TV series, black feminism, intersectionality, racism

DOI: 10.7311/PJAS.15/2/2021.07

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