A New Form of Representation or Depictions as Usual?
Chapter 1. Black Women’s Mediated Depictions: An Overview
BLACK WOMEN’S MEDIATED DEPICTIONS: AN OVERVIEW
In June of 1939, Ethel Waters became one of the first Black people to appear on the then-new medium of television. Her role was that of a warm-hearted maid. This was a significant milestone for Black people; however, more than three decades following Ethel Waters’ first appearance on television, Black people’s roles on television were still mostly as dedicated domestic workers or unruly savages who were intellectually inferior to White Americans (Gray, 2008; Holtzman & Sharpe, 2004; Smith-Shomade, 2002; Wilson, Gutierrez, & Chao, 2003). These negative, limiting depictions manifested themselves in different forms—especially when depicting Black women. For the purpose of clarity, a brief history of Black women’s mediated depictions is provided to ground and situate our current study. After the brief history, we discuss our rationale for discussing Black women’s mediated depictions in docusoaps.
Black Women in Media
Black women are considered a “double minority” (Smith-Shomade, 2002, p. 31). More specifically, White (1999) argued that “the uniqueness of the African-American female’s situation is that she stands at the crossroads of two of the most well-developed ideologies in America, that regarding women ← 27 | 28 → and that regarding the Negro” (p. 27). As a result, Black women have faced and continue to face discrimination and inequality because of their perceived inferiority to both White Americans and men (Byerly, 2007; Collins, 2005; Littlefield, 2008). These ideological implications are only magnified in the realm of entertainment media...
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