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Black like it never left: Black women and representation in contemporary broadcast television


It is imperative that we recognize that broadcast television is not dead, despite echoing declarations to the contrary, and that it can be a viable platform for presenting Black-led programs telling complex stories. In this project, I argue that current broadcast television shows are harnessing their industrial position and staple generic conventions to reorient depictions of Blackness on broadcast to more complexly and resonantly reflect lived Black experiences. It seems that these stories are being told not just on niche or fringe platforms catering to Black audiences, but also on long established and popular broadcast channels. This project is a limited survey of Black female representation on broadcast television comprised of three case studies: Fox's emergency procedural 9-1-1, The CW's HBCU set drama All American: Homecoming, and ABC's sitcom Abbott Elementary. Guiding this survey is a set of critical questions: First, how do these cases represent Black womanhood? Second, what are the industrial and creative contexts of these cases and how do they influence the texts? How do their creators, showrunners, writers, and actors work within the broadcast parameters and appropriate traditional conventions to display different iterations of Blackness? Finally, what new cultural meanings, if any, are the resulting representations generating?


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media industries
television studies
Black feminist thought


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