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Voices

Exploring the Shifting Contours of Communication

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Edited By Patricia Moy and Donald Matheson

This edited volume on voices arose from the 2018 International Communication Association conference in Prague, Czech Republic. The contributions examine the conference’s central theme from multiple epistemological approaches, a host of methodologies, and numerous levels of analysis. They reveal how studying voice—or the plurality of voices—illuminates the process by which it is fostered and/or constrained as well as the conditions under which it is expressed and/or stifled. More important, the study of voice sheds light on the process by which it impacts behaviors, defines relationships, influences policies, and shapes the world in which we live. In other words, studies of voice are not relegated to a few domains, but interface with myriad discourses, actors, processes, and outcomes.

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6. The Color of Romance: Gatekeeping in the Age of Digital Media (Christine Larson)

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6. The Color of Romance: Gatekeeping in the Age of Digital Media

CHRISTINE LARSON

When the hit romantic comedy Crazy Rich Asians debuted in August 2018, headlines across the U.S. asked, “What took so long?” Not since 1993’s The Joy Luck Club had a blockbuster featured an almost entirely Asian-American cast. The long omission seemed to take producers and critics by surprise.

It shouldn’t have. This is hardly the first time that gatekeepers of mass-market media have underestimated the appeal of movies, books or TV shows starring Asian, Black, LGBTQ or other diverse characters. From Terry McMillan’s 1992 bestseller Waiting to Exhale to Annie Proulx’s 2005 Brokeback Mountain to Shonda Rhimes’ Scandal, stories featuring underrepresented characters have drawn mass audiences. Nevertheless, media gatekeepers including movie producers, book editors and literary agents only rarely green-light such work, thus overlooking potentially lucrative new projects while limiting the range of stories permeating mass culture.

One vivid example of such gatekeeper lapses can be seen in American romance publishing. Nearly one-quarter of romance readers come from multicultural background (12 percent Black/African American, 7 percent Latino/Hispanic, 4 percent Asian/Asian-American) and a majority of readers say they value ethnic diversity in romance characters (McLean 2016; Romance Writers of America 2017). Yet major publishers have failed to respond to this market: Just 8 percent of romance novels published by traditional publishing companies1 in the U.S. are written by authors of color (Koch...

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