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Black Women in Reality Television Docusoaps

A New Form of Representation or Depictions as Usual?


Adria Y. Goldman and Damion Waymer

Black Women in Reality Television Docusoaps explores representations of Black women in one of the most powerful, popular forms of reality television – the docusoap. Viewers, critics, and researchers have taken issue with what they consider to be unflattering, one-dimensional representations. This book discusses images of Black women in reality television during the 2011 viewing year, when much criticism arose. These findings provide a context for a more recent examination of reality television portrayals during 2014, following many reality stars’ promises to offer new representations. The authors discuss the types of images shown, potential readings of such portrayals, and the implication of these reality television docusoap presentations. The book will be useful for courses examining topics such as popular culture; mass media and society; women’s studies; race and media; sex and gender; media studies; African American issues in mass communication; and gender, race and representation, as well as other graduate-level classes.
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Chapter 9. Who Is She Repping?




Earlier we discussed La La Anthony’s written piece on her racial identity. La La decided to release her essay in response to several questions about her racial identity; she was often asked if she were Black. She confirmed that she was Latina. But the fact that La La was often questioned about her ethnicity is an example of how racial ambiguity and social construction of race are factors when studying and discussing women of color.

After researching reality television dating shows, Dubrofsky (2011) concluded that reality television shows often cast racially ambiguous members, whose ethnicity or racial background is not easily discernible. More specifically, racial ambiguity refers to participants who are not labeled as a specific race on the show. In these situations, the individuals’ appearance can be construed as one or more races even if he or she is not actually a member of the race(s) that viewers attribute to them. If a woman in a reality television show “is not marked physically as a woman of color, the series can represent her ethnicity in a mutable fashion” (Dubrofsky, 2011, p. 31). Regardless of the race these ambiguous characters claim or identify with, producers are able to use these women to “signify several women of color” (p. 32). Viewers then see the ambiguous women as a representation of their specific racial and ethnic groups (Dubrofsky, 2011; Ono, 2008; Valdivia, 2005). ← 105 | 106 →

La La’s essay...

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