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From the antics of Flavor Flav on Flavor of Love to the brazen behavior of the women on Love & Hip Hop, so-called negative images of African Americans are a recurrent mainstay of contemporary American media representations. In Double Negative Racquel J. Gates examines the generative potential of such images, showing how some of the most disreputable representations of black people in popular media can strategically pose questions about blackness, black culture, and American society in ways that more respectable ones cannot. Rather than falling back on claims that negative portrayals hinder black progress, Gates demonstrates how reality shows such as Basketball Wives, comedians like Katt Williams, and movies like Coming to America play on "negative" images to take up questions of assimilation and upward mobility, provide a respite from the demands of respectability, and explore subversive ideas. By using negativity as a framework to illustrate these texts' social and political work as they reverberate across black culture, Gates opens up new lines of inquiry for black cultural studies.
About the Author
Racquel J. Gates is Assistant Professor of Media Culture at the College of Staten Island, City University of New York.