Living Color

Race and Television in the United States

Living Color

Console-ing Passions: Television and Cultural Power

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Book Pages: 288 Illustrations: 54 b&w photographs Published: August 1998

Editor: Sasha Torres

Gender and Sexuality > Sex and Sexuality, Media Studies > TV, Theory and Philosophy > Race and Indigeneity

Recent media events like the confirmation hearings for Clarence Thomas, the beating of Rodney King and its aftermath, and the murder trial of O.J. Simpson have trained our collective eye on the televised spectacle of race. Living Color combines media studies, cultural studies, and critical race theory to investigate the representation of race on American TV.
Ranging across television genres, historical periods, and racial formations, Living Color—as it positions race as a key element of television’s cultural influence—moves the discussion out of a black-and-white binary and illustrates how class, gender, and sexuality interact with images of race. In addition to essays on representations of "Oriental" performers and African Americans in the early years of television, this collection also examines how the celebrity of the late MTV star Pedro Zamora countered racist and homophobic discourses; reveals how news coverage on drug use shifted from the white middle-class cocaine user in the early 1980s to the black "crack mother" of the 1990s; and takes on TV coverage of the Rodney King beating and the subsequent unrest in Los Angeles. Other essays consider O.J. Simpson’s murder trial, comparing television’s treatment of Simpson to that of Michael Jackson, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, and Clarence Thomas and look at the racism directed at Asian Americans by the recurring "Dancing Itos" on Jay Leno’s Tonight Show.


“This book is a valuable addition to the literature on representations of race in American television. . . . [The essays] successfully expose different ways American ideas of race work themselves, often subtly, into televisual representation. Most media scholars now recognize the central force of race in American culture; hopefully this book will inspire more to examine how this force works its way through television.” — Journal of Communication

"Each of these essays illustrates the impossibility of understanding television without understanding race. Living Color subjects the analysis of television, like television itself, to critical interrogations that place racial difference at the center of television history, strategies of representation and narration, forms of address, and industrial production and circulation." — Herman Gray, author of Watching Race: Television and the Struggle for Blackness

"This collection of essays provides an essential addition to work within the fields of media, cultural, and critical race studies; its provocative readings of television texts and audiences will no doubt yield important new insights on the relationship between television, race, ethnicity, and history." — Lynne Joyrich, author of Re-viewing Reception: Television, Gender, and Postmodern Culture


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Sasha Torres is Professor of English at the Johns Hopkins University.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Introduction / Sasha Torres 1

Entertaining "Difference": Strains of Orientalism in Early Los Angeles Television / Mark Williams 12

Confronting "The Indian Problem": Media Discourses of Race, Ethnicity, Nation, and Empire in 1950s America / Pamela Wilson 35

Extra-Special Effects: Televisual Representation and the Claims of "the Black Experience" / Phillip Brian harper 62

Narrowcasting in Diaspora: Middle Eastern Television in Los Angeles / Hamid Neficy 82

Re-Covering Racism: Crack Mothers, Reaganism, and the Network News / Jimmie L. Reeves 97

"Reliving the Past Over and Over Again": Race, Gender, and Popular Memory in Homefront and I'll Fly Away / Mimi White 118

King TV / Sasha Torres 140

Televisual Politics: Negotiating Race in the L.A. Rebellion / John Caldwell 161

Pedro Zamora's Real World of Counter-publicity: Performing an Ethics of the Self / Jose Esteban Munoz 195

Game Theory: Racial Embodiment and Media Crisis / Stephen Michael Best 219

Here Comes the Judge: The Dancing Itos and the Televisual Construction of the Enemy Asian Male / Brian Locke 239

Selected Bibliography 255

Index 263

Contributors 273
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-2195-8 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-2178-1
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