The Reframing of Black America: The Portrayal of African Americans in American Television Crime Dramas

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Date

2017-04-24

Authors

Omoni, Femi

Advisors

Thorne, Susan

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Abstract

Crime dramas are one of the most popular genres in film and television history. For over 100 years, American audiences have watched depictions of the conflicts that occur between cops and bad guys, and sometimes between cops and cops, or bad guys and bad guys. In the early days of film, the most common role of police officers was that of the bumbling fool who was there to serve as a laughingstock for the audience, and to serve as both a set-up and a punchline for the protagonist. But what happened when people were asked to take onscreen police officers more seriously? And what happens when lines between worlds fictionalized and real begin to blur? This research explores the evolution of the police drama from the series that invented the genre in the 1950s to the one that deconstructed and revolutionized it in the 21st century, and it particularly looks at the roles that race and racism played in the changing nature of this genre. It examines how African Americans are represented in crime dramas and looks at the way that these television shows replicate or challenge stereotypes that suffuse American media and popular culture. Sometimes the shows acted as a mirror to reflect the broad national view. At others, they were intended to serve as a gadfly to instigate change.

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Omoni, Femi (2017). The Reframing of Black America: The Portrayal of African Americans in American Television Crime Dramas. Master's thesis, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/14072.


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