McNair/Gateway Scholars Program USC

LaVasjah Williams

Major and Classification

Communication

Faculty Mentor

  • Michelle Gordon, Ph.D.

Department

  • Dornsife: English and Gender Studies

McNair Project

Existing in the Margins of the Past: The Portrayal of Black Women in Reality TV

Abstract
The concept of Existing in the Margins of the Past is descriptive of the Black woman's contemporary existence in America. The historical oppression, exploitation and colonization of Black women may have ceased; however, they still influence the Black woman's experience, perspective and perception through media images. This research will analyze the images of Black women in reality television specifically. Due to the unscripted nature and the perceived realness of reality television as well as the specific historical conditions of African American women, it is important to explore the ways in which the representations of Black women in reality television function to reproduce or rupture oppressive stereotypical images of the past. Through a critical content analysis of the popular VH1 reality show Love and Hip Hop-Atlanta, this project will reveal if images of the past like the Jezebel and Sapphire are still cognate to representations of African-American women in present day. The project will investigate what kind of cultural and political work these images do in our contemporary moment and what African-American women are doing in response to them.