Senior Thesis completed for May 2018 Graduation.
In American culture, black women have often been categorized in stereotypical ways as the hypersexualized jezebel, the subservient mammy, or the angry black woman. These disparities can primarily be seen in our media which has become a major part of culture and deeply influences public opinion. The purpose of this study is to explore how these stereotypes are an integral part of our culture and how the influence of the media affects the black woman’s universal image. The main questions this study asks are 1) What are the origins of these stereotypes? 2) How are these stereotypes shown in the media? and 3) How do these stereotypes affect the black woman’s image in society? The study defines media as television sitcoms and dramas, and the sample for analysis is made up of seven shows dating back from the 1950’s to the present day. The study uses qualitative analysis of these shows to arrive at the main themes that were used to depict black women characters. These themes are then compared with popular stereotypes of black women. Preliminary results show that the stereotypes that were used throughout history to represent black women are still subtly represented in our media. In addition, the study also found that current shows lack an opportunity to connect with younger black women. The study recommends creating a TV show that defies stereotypes and focuses on young black women who have to figure out how to break through them. The results of this study are noteworthy because they will provide a link between stereotypes of black women created as a result of slavery and the stereotypes seen in the media today. The study will also offer a solution by proposing an example of an alternate television show that defies such racial stereotypes.