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.