Presentation Title

The Minority Anti-Hero: Race and Behavioral Justification in Power

Faculty Mentor

Arienne Ferchaud

Start Date

18-11-2017 1:45 PM

End Date

18-11-2017 2:00 PM

Location

15-1808

Session

Social Science 1

Type of Presentation

Oral Talk

Subject Area

behavioral_social_sciences

Abstract

This article explores the minority anti-hero on television as it relates to concepts of race and behavioral justification. Previous studies have addressed the ways in which whiteness functions advantageously for popular criminal anti-heroes on television, yet literature exploring the effects of race for characters of color is relatively nonexistent. I hypothesized that accessibility of the criminal stereotype does not allow men of color to inhabit the same immoral status as white characters without penalty. I subsequently analyzed the first season from the Starz series Power and conducted a textual analysis using theories of race and hegemonic masculinity to compare the behavioral justification of Ghost and Tommy, the minority and white anti-heroes featured in the show. Results show that Power develops a dichotomous relationship between the minority and white anti-hero based on work priorities, attitude towards violence, and public image. This relationship ultimately serves to distance Ghost from stereotype and deflect the characteristics onto Tommy, whose whiteness allows him to absorb criminality with less cultural consequence. While this strategy broadens the palatability of the show, I find that it is ultimately harmful for minority representation on television. Implications of media representation and directions for future research are discussed.

Summary of research results to be presented

The dichotomous relationship developed between Ghost and Tommy serve to distance the main character from criminality, and therefore stereotype. Ghost’s commitment to the club, discomfort with violence, and high class image prevent him from arrest within the show but also from the Black criminal stereotype in popular culture. This criminality is instead deflected onto his counterpart Tommy; whose whiteness allows him to inhabit a one-dimensional criminal identity with less consequence. While both are technically criminals, the direction of their narratives is reversed. Ghost strives towards redemption and attempts to remove himself from his past, whereas Tommy embodies his working class background and looks to expand the drug business. Ghost is complicit in crimes, but the point is that he desperately does not want to be. Despite Ghost’s position as the protagonist, Tommy’s narrative becomes more indicative of the typical anti-hero. The frequency with which minorities are portrayed stereotypically on television complicates a call for more criminals of color on television. Yet the issue is not mere criminality but the dimensionality with which they are depicted. Immoral characters of color are necessary in order to realize the spectrum of humanity, otherwise television risks pigeonholing model minorities. Television’s “Golden Era” is marked by a definitive whiteness, and parallels larger patterns of white victimization in media. The racialized narratives we see in entertainment media are reflected in news media and beneficial to whites but disadvantageous to people of color and may have implications in real-world events, given the socializing power of television.

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Nov 18th, 1:45 PM Nov 18th, 2:00 PM

The Minority Anti-Hero: Race and Behavioral Justification in Power

15-1808

This article explores the minority anti-hero on television as it relates to concepts of race and behavioral justification. Previous studies have addressed the ways in which whiteness functions advantageously for popular criminal anti-heroes on television, yet literature exploring the effects of race for characters of color is relatively nonexistent. I hypothesized that accessibility of the criminal stereotype does not allow men of color to inhabit the same immoral status as white characters without penalty. I subsequently analyzed the first season from the Starz series Power and conducted a textual analysis using theories of race and hegemonic masculinity to compare the behavioral justification of Ghost and Tommy, the minority and white anti-heroes featured in the show. Results show that Power develops a dichotomous relationship between the minority and white anti-hero based on work priorities, attitude towards violence, and public image. This relationship ultimately serves to distance Ghost from stereotype and deflect the characteristics onto Tommy, whose whiteness allows him to absorb criminality with less cultural consequence. While this strategy broadens the palatability of the show, I find that it is ultimately harmful for minority representation on television. Implications of media representation and directions for future research are discussed.