Double Negative

The Black Image and Popular Culture

Book Pages: 248 Illustrations: 52 illustrations Published: August 2018

African American Studies and Black Diaspora, Cultural Studies, Media Studies > Film

From the antics of Flavor Flav on Flavor of Love to the brazen behavior of the women on Love & Hip Hop, so-called negative images of African Americans are a recurrent mainstay of contemporary American media representations. In Double Negative Racquel J. Gates examines the generative potential of such images, showing how some of the most disreputable representations of black people in popular media can strategically pose questions about blackness, black culture, and American society in ways that more respectable ones cannot. Rather than falling back on claims that negative portrayals hinder black progress, Gates demonstrates how reality shows such as Basketball Wives, comedians like Katt Williams, and movies like Coming to America play on "negative" images to take up questions of assimilation and upward mobility, provide a respite from the demands of respectability, and explore subversive ideas. By using negativity as a framework to illustrate these texts' social and political work as they reverberate across black culture, Gates opens up new lines of inquiry for black cultural studies.


"Gates considers not only formal producers of media but also black audiences who engage with these works, successfully arguing for a more nuanced understanding of what makes for black cultural production." — Anna J. Clutterbuck-Cook, Library Journal

"Racquel J. Gates’ unpacking of black racial media figures postulates that negative images derived from cultural theorist Stuart Hall’s encoding/decoding practice can be reconfigured to provide agency and hybridity to black figures. . .  . Recommended. All readers." — S. Lenig, Choice


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Racquel J. Gates is Assistant Professor of Media Culture at the College of Staten Island, City University of New York.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments  ix
Introduction. Negativity and the Black Popular Image  1
1. Eddie Murphy, Coming to America, and Formal Negativity  35
2. Relational Negativity: The Sellout Films of the 1990s  81
3. The Circumstantial Negativity of Halle Berry  114
4. Embracing the Ratchet: Reality Television and Strategic Negativity  142
Conclusion. Empire: A False Negative?  182
Notes  191
Bibliography  211
Index  219
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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