The term DL which is short for on the down-low refers to men of color who live their everyday lives as heterosexuals, often married to women, but also engage in discreet homosexual relationships(Scott, 2010).To retrace its background a bit, DL is a term with a complex history(Phillips, 2005). The first known person to use the term down low in a homosexual context was George Hanna, who used the phrase in the 1930 song Boy in the Boat about lesbian. The term was popularized in the late 1990s in the Black community and was used to describe any slick, secretive behavior, including infidelity in heterosexual relationships (Boykin, 2005). The type of masculinity usually associated with DL is ultimately dangerously hyper-masculine, and mirrors hip-hop culture. For example, Collins (2004) suggested in her book,Issues of Black Masculinity, that hyper-heterosexuality of Black men continue to be shaped by the media, morphing into images of pimps, hustlers, and players. Collins (2004) alsosuggests Black DL men avoid being labeled DL and being characterized as being dominated by Black women, by becoming hyper-masculinized and hyper aggressive. She further suggested that the media’s representations of Black masculinity position Black men as aggressive thugs who refute being weak by being dominated by strong Black women. Collins went on to claim thatDL stereotypes serve to preserve ideological oppression and stigmatize Black men’s sexuality. As a result, Black DL men are not deemed to be truly Black because Black male sexuality, through the eyes of White dominated media, is defined through the lens of promiscuity and heterosexuality. The stereotypesof and stigma around DL Black men continue to be connected to weakness, whiteness, and diseases.
The DL Chronicles, created by Quincy LeNear and Deondray Gossett in 2007, is a hard-hitting television series based on the DL. TheDL Chronicles tells the stories of men of color who live sexually deceitful and secretive lifestyles. The narrator of the series, the aspiring journalist Chadwick Williams, pursues his research for a book about DL men and in doing so; he enters into a provocative and intriguing world of sexual discovery. Each of the four episodes in this series delves into the different lives and experiences of DL men of color across social, cultural, and economic boundaries. The television series includes Black cultural, sociological, and political commentary. At the surface, the television series for some can be explicit and at times even offensive. For example, The DL Chronicles highlights cultural, contemporary, historical, racialized, and societal issues in the United States through the display of existing stereotypes of Black people, DL men, and Black gay men as portrayed through its characters. The research design section (see chapter 3) of this dissertation provides a brief interpretation of sample elements from the series, which include the episode “Boo,” and the opening narrative of The DL Chronicles. I argue The DL Chronicles is one representation of DL identity, within the landscape of Black visual culture and cultural behaviors. The DL Chronicles revealthe effects of oppression and disenfranchisement is still in effect in Black culture as exhibited through the characters’ interactions with one another in this controversial television series. Additionally, this series provides an unapologetic view of intimacy between men of color and explores these scintillating stories with honesty and integrity (here! TV Network, 2008).The series received the 2008 GLAAD Media Award in the category of Outstanding Television Movie or Mini-Series. It is the first cable television show to center on Black Americans and the DL phenomenon in the gay community.
Deeper insight into the background of the creators of The DL Chronicles might fall into the history and experience of its creators.LeNear and Gossett met through mutual friends. One of their friends was trying to link them up for creative and business reasons. He had no idea that they were DL and gay. They were both actors and very closeted.Fearing,heir sexuality would ruin their chances of success in Hollywood.Over time, they gave love a try, and for seven years they loved each other in a DL relationship. Many of their friendships suffered because of their fear. They felt the pain of being unable to celebrate their love (http://www.glaad.org/blog/dl-chronicles-producers-quincy-and-deondray-gossfield-speak-glaad-about-being-married-live) openly.
Disillusioned with the lack of people of color in LGBTQ media and growing tired of the witch-hunt for DL, LeNear and Gossett created the indie anthology series,The DL Chronicles. LeNear and Gossett decided together that when their short film came out at its first film festival, they would come out as gay with it. The success of the series set them on a new path. LeNear and Gossett’s exposure of the DL in Black U.S. culture compels my research on Black DL men and their relationship to Black visual culture in a broader context. The research is important because Black visual culture remains a rich and under-explored territory that in general has been under-appreciated in the field of art education and African American studies. To date, there have not been any dissertations or studies done using The DL Chronicles as a primary source of examination to offer critical insightinto the Black visual culture. My purpose in this dissertation is:(a) to assess the stereotypesof Black male identity; (b) to identify and interpret the stigmasrelated to representations of DL, and (c) to examinethe subjugationsof DL that are interconnected to the curricular and pedagogical implications for art education and African American studies.
- In what ways are brothers on the DL represented in Black visual culture?
- In what ways can the discourse of brothers on the DL in Black visual culture be used to inform and guide curriculum in art education and African American and Diaspora studies?
To begin with, Snorton (2014) provided a working theoretical definition of DL and critiqued DL identity in the literature. My study extends Snorton’s (2014) analysis into the Black visual culture. Analyzing DL identity within the space within Black visual culture represents a merging of art education and African American studies through Black visual culture(Snorton, 2014).
Today, Black visual culture remains a rich and overlooked territory that in general has been disconcertingly fragmented. There are some scholars who have examined Black visual culture. However, none of these scholars has sufficiently examined DL identity within Black visual culture.For example, some scholars that have interpreted Black visual culture in their scholarship have not engaged in interpretations of Black visual culture informed by the pragmatic view of Black identity. Pieterse (1992) revealed, for example, that the Omnipresence of prejudice against Black people throughout the Western world is conveyed through racist imagery(Pieterse, 1992). Interestingly, Bearden and Henderson (1993) observed the lives and careers of some Black American artists and juxtaposed their work against fundamental artistic, societal, and political trends both in the United States and throughout the world. Hooks (1995) replied to the continuing discourse about constructing, unveiling, and evaluating art and aesthetics in an art world consistently concerned with social justice and Black identity politics(Hook, Art on my mind: Visual politics. , 1995). Doy (2002) took a global perspective in discussing how Black artists have been and continue to be slanted by the politics, cultures, societies, economies, and histories in which they live and work. Lewis (2003) looked at the works and lives of Black artists from the eighteenth century to the present and revealed the rich legacy of work by Black American artists(Lewis, 1993). Powell (2003) concentrated on the works of art themselves and on how these works, created during a time of major social disturbance and transformation, use Black culture as both subject and context. Lastly, Bolden (2004) highlighted influential and important Black American artists from the early part of the twentieth century who were actively discouraged from pursuing their artistic talent(Powell, 2008; Bolden, 2004).
The vast amount of visual culture produced, consumed, collected, and interpreted over the centuries includes images, performances, films, and other visual artifacts in which Black people are stereotyped, stigmatized, and subjugated. These examples might be considered Black visual culture. Additionally, the destabilization of Black visual culture in the United States comes from negative connotations about Black people reified by dominant Eurocentric and White American cultural ideology—that is, anyone who is non-White is inferior to anyone who is White, or what I signify as a Whiteness. That said Gray’s (2004)assimilation and the discourse of invisibility concept assists with destabilizing Whiteness in The DL Chronicles “as complex social and political issues (p. 85)” that questions“race, gender, class, and power” (p. 85). Therefore, Gray’s (2004) concept assists with the understanding of Blackness on television and helps me link the historical to the contemporary within the realm of visual culture.
Visual culture “refers to a plethora of ways to which the visual is a part of social life” (Rose, 2012, p. 4). Additionally, according to Mitchell (1972), “images and language are inextricably entangled” (p. 12). Some scholars make arguments for representation and non-representation of visual culture(Mitchel, 1986). Rose (2012) explained that “this diversity obviously makes generalizing about studies of visuality a difficult task” (p. 11), and continued to state that “the literature on (or against) ‘visual culture’ is its concern for the way in which images visualize (or render visible) social difference” (p. 11). In this context, Rose looked carefully at images and how they represent or portray distinctive separation in class, gender, race, and sexual orientation. For example, images of whiteness in Black masculinity are also situated within a conflicted affiliation with problematic representations of identity and masculinity within Blackness. Therefore, images are very powerful, and the meanings they convey can be explicit or implicit depending on the context in which they are being delivered or viewed. Writers on visual culture are concerned about how images look and how they are being looked at, a major component focused on by visual studies scholars such as Sturken and Cartwright (2009). They argued that the importance of images is not simply the image itself, but how certain spectators see and look at it in particular ways. Ultimately, visual culture is unquestionably an interdisciplinary subject.
When referencing visual culture art education (VCAE), Dorn (2005) stated, “What some consider most radical about the VCAE approach is its attempt to shift the Art Education field from its traditional emphasis on studio art into a dialogue about art as a socially constructed object, devoid of expressive meaning” (p. 47). Similarly, Michelle Kamhi (2010) is another scholar who believes the future of art education is in jeopardy. She argued, for example, that if students are oppressed, it is due to their ignorance and that of their immediate family and community. She referenced the film Precious as “moving testimony to that truth” (Kamhi, 2010); however, she failed to account for the fact that the film Precious is a representation of a Black visual culture that breeches the limitations of whiteness. Looking at VCAE as socially constructed allows students to learn outside and inside of the classroom. Nonetheless, Duncum (2003) summarized how art educators visualize what the study of visual culture could mean to students in their classrooms. Duncum (2003) showed precedence in his study to another reason why art educators should care about the information in this study. Duncan argued that visual culture focuses on the ways culture can be represented through visual connotations, and he wrote about how culture is manifested through reproduction and presentation of visuality. Therefore, visual culture is the visual interpretation of culture, philosophy, and ethos by using images to communicate with society (Grant, 2013). The DL Chronicles is an example of a Black visual culture that relies on this framework to examine the phenomena of Black DL men. Studying this series is important because, historically, there is a lack of critical cultural engagement with DL identity.The ignorance of it has been pervasive and embedded deeply within U.S. culture.
For Crenshaw (1995) and Collins (2000), “‘Intersectionality’ means the examination of race, sex, national origin and sexual orientation, and how their combination plays out in various settings” (p. 57). These authors argued that the intersection, or what Collins (2000) termed “the interlocking nature of identities,” (p. 57) is inseparable, and one must consider how these multiple identities simultaneously reproduce particular sites of oppression and exclusion. Crenshaw (1995) inquired as to why and how Black people are always in multiple intersections that are always crossing. Scott (1997) along with Crenshaw (1995) and Collins (2000), echoed Beauvoir (1949) in suggesting that gender is not born, but made, thus providing a sociological critique not of the body, but rather of cultural specifics such as social roles, cultural functions, and representations of femininity and masculinity.
For hooks (2004), ethnic and racial differences within masculinity are important to diversity in African American studies. Framing these issues within the context of intersectionality provides ways in which masculinity is experienced, accepted, negotiated, and interpreted. For example, hooks further suggested that “masculinity, as practiced by Black Americans, plays upon and, at times, calls into question culturally dominant projections of Black masculinity; which these scholars define and described as restrictive interpretations” (p. 36). Additionally, to this point I argue, Black men are seenas a highly commoditizedin the cultural domains of entertainment. They are positioned as a sexual fantasy. Areas such as sports and music also reveal the extreme difficulties and possibilities of being a Black man. Another factor in constructing Black male identity is social stigma and penalties, which can include community isolation, violence, and prejudice when Black men who do not conform to the expected masculine performance or narrative. For example, (Potoczniak, 2007) posts such attempts are undermined rather than celebrated. For instance, Johnson (2008) and Alexander (2006) usedintersectionality to explore how Black gay men navigate cultural and social spaces. More specifically, Johnson (2008) focused on the intersections of race, gender, and sexuality and how Black gay men situate their lives within groups and geographic regions in the United States that marginalize their ethnicity, masculinity, and sexuality. In focusing on competing notions of Black masculinity, Alexander (2006) documented how White and Black communities can differ in their interpretations of moral versus immoral embodiments of Black masculinity(Johnson, 2003; Alexander, 2006). For Alexander (2006), qualities of the moral Black man in solidarity with whiteness include being articulate, polite, and intelligent; however, such qualities can be considered bad in some facets of Black culture. Therefore, someone who embodies character traits that are moral can simultaneously be understood as immoral (Alexander, 2006) when situated in heteronormativity and homonormativity. In short, Johnson (2008) and Alexander (2006) concluded that intersectionality is constructed in heterosexism and thus is homophobic. There is little room for its construction of Black masculinity to imagine a Black man who is attracted to men or both men and women.
Queer theory renders identify multiple and unstable.Queer theory celebrates the difference that contributes to a non-threatening truth, but queer theory also deconstructs identity as much as it does genderand its accompaniments such as power, social roles, and hierarchical locations. Queer theory also critically analyses social dynamics and power structures regarding sexual identity and social power by challenging and deconstructing normativity, especially as supported by essentialist notions of identity. Informed by a constructionist agenda, queer theory has moved from explaining the modern homosexual to questions of the operation of the hetero/homosexual binary.Queer theory moves from an exclusive preoccupation with homosexuality to a focus on heterosexuality as a social and political organizing principle. And,queer theory moves from a politics of minority interest to a politics of knowledge and difference (Ferguson, 2004). Here, my use of queer theory ends up asking questions similar to those raised in the discourse around intersectionality, even if the questions resonate differently and are located within other fields of inquiry. That said, queer theory denounces sexuality as universal while affirming it as a social construct. Even though queer theory effectively examines the role of sexuality in the lives of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people, and other sexual and gender minorities, the research repeatedly centers on White people as subjects of inquiry to the exclusion of queers of color. For example, the queer theory was constructed inwhiteness instead of including the differing racialized experiences amid homonormative people.
Ferguson (2004) looked at the way heteronormative culture has functioned in constructing citizenship through whiteness. Which has historically excluded people of color based on race, gender, and sexual orientation? He went against societal norms and used sociological theory to expound on his concepts. Ferguson (2004) defined a queer of color critique as “social formations at the intersections of race, gender, sexuality, and class, with a particular interest in how these formations correspond with and diverge from nationalist ideals and practices” (p. 48). Ferguson identified the historical imbrication of discourses that must be disjointed in a queer of color critique. Ferguson further asserted that with the reliance on whiteness in seminal queer theory texts, the manufacturing of coming out as a liberatory act reflects a hegemonic narrative that further instigates epistemological bias that does not necessarily represent queer subjects divided by the racial distinction. This framework has a similar overarching theme for facets of the LGBT&Q community.
Moreover, Ferguson (2004) eloquently distinguished between how queers of color resist interpellation into these controlled categories of Black American identity established by canonical sociology and dominant literary representations. He questions how in an already marginalized context White queer narratives are placed on Black queers or queers of color and assert that these expectations do not fully address the issues faced by these further marginalized groups. Similarly, Cohen (1997) stated, “in many instances, instead of destabilizing the assumed categories and binaries of sexuality, queer politics has served to reinforce simple dichotomies between heterosexual and everything ‘queer’” (p. 438). As a result, queers of color are asking questions that are non-conforming and seen as deviant from whiteness. Queeris therefore not an essentialist category of identity but rather a set of critiques of White homosexuality and patriarchy.In short, queer of color critique is a heterogeneous enterprise made up of women of color feminism, materialist analysis, poststructuralist theory, and queer critique. And therefore, queer of color critique does not focus on identity constructs of DL men.
Intersectionality, queer theory, and a queer of color critique question the idea of fixed sexual identities. Jagose (1996), for example, contendedthat queer theory’s challenge is to construct fresh ways of thinking about fixed single variable conceptual ideas of sexual identities such as gender, heteronormativity, and homonormativity. Additionally, Johnson and Henderson (2005) stated, “lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, and transgendered people of color who are committed to the demise of oppression in its various forms, cannot afford to theorize their lives based on ‘single-variable’ politics” (p. 5). In short, oppression is typically experienced on various fronts; therefore, raising one identity above others as the primary focus of analysis potentially reinforces the power of whiteness instead of destabilizing its dominance. Although research in art education, African-American studies, and queer and gender studies is improving in terms of including Black gay men beyond an implied and anecdotal comment, there is still little research with a specific focus on how DL men grasp and experience their masculinities; this, in turn, directly affects how brothers on the down low navigate the narration of their lives.
In the late twentieth century, tensions arose when subpopulations of Black Americans were confronted with crosscutting issues affecting multiple identities, such as those suggested by differences in class, gender, or sexuality (Cohen, 1999). When this occurred, a racial hierarchy developed in which those in the subpopulation were expected to defer their differing interests to the interests of those sharing their presumed primary racial identification.
Furthermore, I must restate, my purpose in this dissertation is(a) to examine the stereotypesof Black male identity; (b) to identify and interpret the stigmasrelated to representations of DL; and (c) to discuss the subjugationsof DL that are interconnected to the curricular and pedagogical implications for art education and African American studies.That said, I argue that the hegemonic American construction of identity and images of Black men in the United States are filled with stereotypes of hypersexuality, savagery, primitivism, and docility.These images have become infused into the Black community. As a consequence of identity constructs that result from whiteness, Black men who classify themselves as homosexual are seen as a crosscutting issue, which is a cultural line that creates further ostracism within an already marginalized Black community. For example, Black gay sexual identity has been seen in Black communities as mitigating one’s racial identity and deflating one’s community standing. In short, Black men that identify as bisexual, homosexual, queer, or gay are belittled because they are seen as being like women under the stereotypical white cultural positioning of white gay men as being sissies, faggots, or effeminate.
Until now, the considerations I have suggestedin this dissertationare not just for understanding the question about multifaceted notions of Black DL identities or Black lived experiences. Nor are theyonly about the distinctive Black masculinity identities of the self from a particular perspective. They are here to establish anunderstanding of how some Black people learn Black-consciousness and the unfathomable interactions Black-consciousness compels some Black people to take certain actions. Interconnected to discussions of sexuality are discussions of masculinity. Black (2000) and hooks (2004) argued that by the end of slavery “patriarchal masculinity had become an accepted ideal for most Black men, an ideal that would be reinforced by twentieth-century norms” (p. 4). Collins (2004) in a similar vein suggested that Black masculinity was negotiated through understandings of the economic and political climate during the Jim Crow era when Black men were emasculated, yet depicted as being naturally hyper-heterosexual(Collins, Black Sexual Politics, 2004). The next chapter is a review of the literature that surrounds key concepts and areas of importance in this study. Chapter 2 also builds on the discourse in Chapter 1 surrounding destabilizing Whiteness in representations of DL in Black visual culture.
This chapter is a review of the literature that surrounds the key concepts and areas of this study. This chapter also builds on the discourse in Chapter 1 surrounding destabilizing Whiteness in the representation of the brother on the down low (DL) in Black visual culture. In the intersection of Black male emasculation and queer theory, I focus on the sustained interaction of these two concepts with contemporary politics of identity, masculinity, and media representation. In this dissertation, I also reflect on categorization and institutionalization of Black men in visual culture.Then I discuss how knowledge and power plays of hegemonic U.S. culture and people are structured and regulated using social dynamics.I ultimately provide insights into these things by investigating them and looking closely at their social constructs. I also focus on the social critique of power and marginality regarding U.S. Black male culture at the intersection above. Using the existing literature, I identify and examine some important connections within the discussion of U.S. Black male culture in general and DL culture specifically to emphasize epistemological considerations, difference, marginality, and agency. These considerations have been instrumental in critiquing the relationships of Black man emasculation and queer theory. Although some of this has been written about already, the relationships among these other aspects have not.I investigate the relationship between heteronormativity, homonormativity, patriarchy, whiteness and blackness, and queerness and the DL.I focus on how the DL navigates this complex space within the African American diaspora and also within the underexplored curricular and pedagogical implications of visual images of the DL man for art education and African American studies.
Due to technological advancements in the previous and current century, media is considered a vital instrument of individual’s insight and elucidation of African American cultural and chronological image. This tool can be used to develop positive or negative perception, depending upon the administrators of the industry. Studies found that the American media with few exceptions, always tried to portray an impoverished, aggressive, and negative stereotypic image of black American culture (Wallace J. B., 2005).These perceptions and conceptions in the western society persist as portrayed by the TV and film due to the unawareness of people about African American culture and values. A very less knowledge is granted about them in schools and colleges so the leading source of figures and statistics is media and it’s all forms (Hawk, 1992). It was mentioned in research that the use of African Americans purposely by media to select the characters for their participation were always an important factor, to portray impacts of their culture negatively. As a result, it prohibited the flourishment and advancements in African American culture(Davis & Gandy, 1999).
Gorney and Love enforced the idea that the world is exhibited with the help of social media and social media mirrors the world. American social media move through a revolution in the rear of changes and advancement occur in American culture. Starting from the theater and now Internet, American social media is continuously rising and struggling to hit upon its position in the world. Through every single alteration in media, the picture and emails they forward all are significant. Due to the widespread use of social media, it is essential to check all the emails and imageries they forward. It is estimated that the single activity of American people is TV watching along with nap and job (Gorney & Loye, 1978). The TV is serving as an educationalist, entertainer, a baby minder and a companion. The Command and Control of television programs on societies and especially in American society is commendable (Blystone & Ryan, 1978).
A study done with the help of about two hundred African American participants determined the link between the images of African American culture portrayed by the media and the public view about these exposed images. It described the threats to the cultural identity of African Americans due to media presentations and management of these intimidations, in detail.It was declared by the study that the black youngsters want to eradicate these images. A negative perception of the respondents was discussed in the study, with the role of media about the misrepresentation of minority’s culture(Fujioka, 2010).
In another study different ways of cultural condemnation were used to evaluate the picture of African American entertainers in the American media. It focused on the probable links between the limited, prefixed, biased and misleading images of Black Americans, particularly those who were predominant in the American industry. The conduct those entertainers receive from the developing society was elaborated in the study, stating that how racism and facts were influencing the daily life of American population. The African American picture was represented as a masked image of their culture by the media, in the study and the television, film and music industry performances of Black entertainers were mentioned to be incapable to clear the exploited image of their culture (Turner, 1994).
Another study focused the stereotypical cultural images of the African American entertainers and their judgment by the society. Specifically, the crime related stereotypic images were discussed, and it was found that they had a deep impact on the audience and in the society. The members of the society perceive that image to be a cultural characteristic of the specified race. So, these portrayed images develop groups in the population with favoritism and hatred to specific races(Mastro, 2003).In the study by Wilson (1999), it was described that how adolescents react to the media portrayals of the Black culture through its entertainers. As the entertainers could be perceived as a role model for the young generation, so the impact of these images was studied in detail and it was reported that certain areas need to be focused to develop the better image of the African American culture and society like awareness about race, stereotypes, social interactions and racial discrimination in media (Wilson, 1999).
The concepts related to nations and culture propagated by social media, which lead African American females to face a tough time. At the time of Reagan government, it started with an ideal appearance, pushing towards vulgarity in present films. On a daily basis, people talk about the nations, gender, and groups which consistently procreating the prevailing and unfair outlooks of African American women and vulgarity. The character and personality of African American females are greatly damaged due to the excessive representation of their bad image in different nations, mainly due to assorted sexual activities. These widespread images of African American culture as portrayed by the female and male entertainers are accepted by superior civilizations and by African American society. Thestudy of Littlefield deliberated the mass media as an organization and suggested to fight against this organization regarding collective integrity for Cultural Revolution of the Black community.(Littlefield, 2008).
A new trend of consent has been developed towards the popularity of destructive pictures of Blackculture on media, also evaluation of the impacts of these demonstrations and youth dismissal or confirmation of these pictures for the welfare and individuality of black youngsters. This research was planned to assess the restrictions generated by mass media on the road to success of black youth. Concerned people were directed along with black youngsters within the age of 14 to 21. Efforts proved that some modifications were played an important role in the presenting optimistic picture of black, on the other hand, the approval of destructive culture of black on social media give rise to huge distinctions of age, gender, and values(Adams-Bass & Stevenson, 2014).
So much literature has been published about the Black Americans and their issues, and so there are so many publications about the Black Gay Men. One of such publication is “Brother to Brother,” by Essex Hemphill (1991). In this book the word, “Black,” refers to the African Americans and the book is written especially for the black gay men who face so many social issues regarding their existence as ‘Gay.’ This book shows that how a black gay man cannot have a normal life and what is home actually for him? There is no place for gay men on earth, and so their parents do not accept them as what they are and who they are. Their friends do not like them for their existence as gay in society (Mercer, Welcome to the Jungle: New Positions in Black Cultural Studies, 1994). They cannot express what they feel and what they want to have in their lives. In fact, the society takes them as doing sin by loving another male and by which to care for him. The gay men have no place if they do the things according to their will thus this book has been written to highlight that there is a high requirement of the civil rights for gay men to have a peaceful life in the society and they must be accepted as what they are (Hemphill, 1991).
Reid-Pharr (2001) also published his book to represent the issues faced by African American gay men. According to him, the gay is the one who cannot tell their identity will confidence because no one accepts them because their identity cannot be possibly summed up by the society. Moreover when they tell the people about what they are and who they are then the society not only deny their personality but also consider that they are attempting any sin by being gay . The purpose of this publication is to capture the black masculinity’s complexity, and it expressed the views of black masculinity to show how the society has fractured the gay in African American society by not accepting their identities. Throughout the literature, Reid-Pharr has provided great insights into the gay’s life that are original and provocative (Reid-Pharr, 2001).
In 2005, McBride published his work regarding sexuality and race into the African American gay men. This literature offers contemporary cultural criticism to the African American Society for not accepting the gay as part of their society. The book has been divided into three sections, “Race and Sexuality on Occasion, queer Black Thought, Straight Black Talk.” These sections of the book explore intersections of gender, class, sexuality, and race issues. Part one of the book, “Queer Black Thought,” reveal the truths of race and sexuality in the America. The essays in this section point out specific flaws in the racist organization and enlighten that how the Black Americans have been neglected by the American at their workplaces (Scott D. , 2010). In the second portion, “Race and Sexuality on Occasion,” he represented that how the gay men and lesbian have become the part of comedy and fun rather than the political realities and civil rights. In the last part of the book, “Straight Black Talk,” writer placed the subjects of sexuality and race into the lens of theory and intellectualism. Thus the collection of these essays create awareness of inequality in the Black Society of America and represents that how the gay have been neglected and have been facing harsh realities due to their identity as homosexual (McBride, 2005).
Woodard (2014) also published his book in which he discussed the homoeroticism within the slavery culture of United States. This literature shows that how the masculinity and sex of the African Americans have been affected by the Americans. It has been the trend that Americans consider them as power, and thus they consider Black Americans as their slaves. The Black Americans have not only treated as slaves but also have been the victim of harassment and psychological torture (FLAHERTY, 2012). The White Americans have made the situations for the Black, in which they will face sexual harassment, slavery, hunger, and starvation, to break them. From this study, it can be concluded that the Black Americans have been facing great social challenges and it proves that still in this twenty-first century, there exist so many social evils in the society due to which the existence as Black Americans is quite difficult (Woodard, 2014).
Neal (2013) also wrote about black masculinity in his book, “Looking for Leroy: Illegible Black Masculinity,” in which he discussed that the African American men are bound into their bodies which are legible only as hip-hop thugs, petty criminals, and pimps. He questioned the public and the media to queer of black masculinity and to show that how the black men bodies are often thought to be the body in need of policing or a criminal body. He highlights that the black bodies are not actually how they are portrayed rather they have been playing out in every institutional arena from health care sector to education sector (Capehart, 2012). He challenged then if the one will analyze the black men bodies then he will find that the realities are different than the image created by black males. In fact, in this literature, Neal discussed that Black Americans are exactly opposite to the image created about African Americans in America and are serving in different fields of like just like the Whites and it will be ethically wrong to tag them as criminal bodies (Neal, 2013).
David Bordwell is a well-known film critic who discusses the formal properties of film on his blog, Observations on Film Art. This blog has been shared by his wife Kirstin Thompson too. He had been writing so many books on films and had also edited a book in 1996 with the philosopher Noel, Post-Theory: Reconstructing Film Studies. Bordwell and Thompson also published a book with the name Making Meaning: Inference and Rhetoric in the Interpretation of Cinema which was published in 1989 and is still in use. This book is helpful in understanding, how to critic the movie. In this book, he introduced a theory which is helpful to understand the best way to critic a movie or film.
Bordwell, in his theory, distinguishes between comprehension and interpretation of the movie. Comprehension is the minimum requirement to have literal understanding and interpretation is a technique to understand the uncovered or hidden meanings of the film. By comprehending and interpreting any film, play, or painting, one can easily understand the main message hidden in that film, play, or role thus it helps to understand the central role of the subject. Bordwell’s theory describes all those steps which are essential to evaluate the film. Without having an understanding with those steps, no one can understand and analyze the theme, meaning, and hidden objectives of the film or movie (Animals, 2016).
Bordwell published a book Making Meaning in 1989 and then by this book he introduced a four level theory in 2000 to understand the meaning of any film or movie. He introduced the four level of theory which are referential meaning, explicit meaning, implicit meaning, and symptomatic meaning. This means that to understand the film we have to watch in four perspectives then we will be able to understand it’s all terms and hidden meanings. In short, without understanding these four levels, we cannot make sense of a film. Now it is essential to understand that what are these four levels and to which terms they refer to?
It helps to understand the world of the film which means that it helps to understand the environment defined in the movie, such as the Chicago city is a windy city. It also helps to understand the diegesis of the film which defines the fictions and the spatial coordinates created by the film. It also provides the knowledge of film conventions and the conceptions of time, space, and causality, such as cultural literacy. It means the referential meaning one can understand the film belong to which city, or country, or culture and how the people are living in that place and culture. It provides the information about the weather, living style, and thinking of the place. In short, it provides the environmental information of the film (Animals, 2016).
It helps to understand the main message or theme of the film, such as an abstract. It means that with the help of explicit meaning, one can describe that what message has been conveyed to the public by the movie. If the film wants to lead in a direction, then it requires a solid message or theme, and that theme is understood by the explicit meaning of the film. Explicit meaning is the main abstract of the film, but along with referential meaning, it makes up the literary meaning of the film which helps to understand that what is the purpose of the film (Miller, 2000).
Implicit meanings are the covert or symbolic meaning of the film. When the explicit and referential meaning defines the purpose and theme of the film, then implicit meanings help to understand the hidden meaning of the film. For example if the movie is about the psychological issues then referential meaning will highlight the culture of the environment of the movie and explicit meaning will help the viewer to understand the main objective of the film, such as madness can overcome sanity, but the implicit meaning will actually define that what is the difference between madness and sanity. This means the most difficult thing is to understand the implicit meaning of the movie because it requires great attention and a deep knowledge about the film theme.
The implicit meanings of the film help to understand the main problems, questions, and issues highlighted in the film. Sometimes, the implicit meanings contradict explicit meanings, but the understanding of both helps to understand the complete theme of the film.
Symptomatic meaning refers to the hidden objective of the film, which can be highlighted by any symbolic word, or expression in the movie. Symptomatic meanings are different from the referential, implicit, and explicit meaning of the film and are, sometimes, difficult to understand. The example of such symptomatic meaning is if the father says to his son that the grass is so tall that he cannot see the cat walking on the grass then the son will get the symptomatic meaning that father is saying to mow the lawn. Similarly, in the film, there are some symbolic meaning of some expressions or phrases that need to be understood with attention and deep concentration (Animals, 2016).
Bordwell and Thompson’s theory is no doubt of great importance and is helpful in understanding the film. It helps to understand the sketched environment, main objective, hidden theme, and symbolic meaning of the film. However, there are some limitations to this theory too. When someone observes the film to critic it then he/she will make his own implicit, explicit, thematic, and symbolic meaning. Maybe if one is observing one thing of the film then it may also be possible then he is ignoring the other important thing about the movie. In this way, everyone makes his perceptions about the movie.
When the film is designed to highlight any social evil, then there may be many things highlighted in the film and thus it, sometimes, become difficult to understand the exactly hidden theme of the film, in that case, it all depends on the viewer’s mind level and observation of the film. This means that everyone will make his meaning regarding film and thus the critics of everyone will differ from the other person. Some films just highlight the biography of any individual, and then it depends on the viewer that either he finds that film the representation of that individual or over-representation of the individual. For example, many observers think that Theory of Everything is the movie which is based on the invention of Black Hole Theory. However, the other observers think that it is about the Stephen Hawking while observing the movie some consider that it is representing the actual life of the Stephen and some consider that the movie has somewhere over-represented the life of Stephen and he was not actually how he has been represented. It proves that this all depends on the observation and approach towards the implicit, explicit, referential, and symptomatic meanings of the Bordwell’s theory.
Kobena wrote a book about the photography of Robert Mapplethorpe, in which he discussed how the people had used their lens to describe the culture and artifacts of Black Males. In his book, he discussed that Mapplethorpe had used his camera’s lens in an amazing way by showing the pictures of Black males, by which he wants to describe the Black’s vision in the eyes of Whites. Kobena wrote about the book, The Black Males, about which he said that in this book the most of the males are nude and the viewers consider that the black males have been represented as the symbol of sexuality and hypersexuality amongst them, but according to Mapplethorpe’s representation the Black Males are the representation of Erotic or Aesthetic Objects. According to Kobena, when the painter portrays a white female nude picture then he portray the picture in the way, a man wants to look at female thus feminist pictures act like passive and as sexuality objectification. However when the same is done to portray a male’s picture, then the consideration become different, and people take it as a threat to the masculinity and traditions (Mercer, Reading racial fetishism: the photographs of Robert Mapplethor, 1994).
Kobena says that Mapplethorpe has drawn the black males picture to show the male’s pictures as sexual objectification, same like white females. He wants to highlight the shiny black body of the black males to attract the white gay men as well as to show the slavery of the African Americans. Moreover, the Mapplethorpe’s painting of the Black males also represents then as Hero or as the symbol of Strength to threat the White rapists and terrorists. By the painting, Mapplethorpe wanted to show that African Americans can no more be treated as slaves rather they can be used as Heroic symbols and they may also use their power against Whites.
According to the Bordwell and Thompson’s theory, the Mapplethorpe’s painting’s referential meaning represent to the African American culture in which he wants to represent the slavery or beauty or strength of the African Americans. The explicit meaning of the painting represents the beauty and strength of the African Americans with the help of the shiny, muscular, and attractive body of the African Americans. The implicit meaning of this painting is that the African Americans can no more tolerate the slavery and sexual torture of the Whites. Finally, the Symptomatic meaning of the painting is that African Americans are so strong and beautiful that they can be used as the symbol of Heroism and Strength. They can be used as models because they are having the attractive and strong bodies than the Whites (Mercer, 1994).
Bordwell’s and Thompson’s theory, Four Levels of Meaning, is designed to understand the hidden theme of the films and to have a critic analysis of the film but in this study, our objective is to analyze the DL Chronicleswhich is a television series. That is why we will modify the Bordwell and Thompson’s theory in a way that it will help to understand the television series, DL Chronicles. In this way, I will analyze the implicit, explicit, referential, and symptomatic meaning of this television series and will understand the hidden meaning of this series and its representation of African Americans.
The purpose of this study is to analyze the DL Chronicles and to understand that how the representation of African Americans Gay men has been used in this television series? For this purpose, I will use the Bordwell and Thompson’s theory according to which the understanding of film depends on four levels of meaning which as referential meaning, implicit meaning, explicit meaning, and symptomatic meaning. Bordwell and Thompson have focused on their theory to understand the theme of the film, but my focus is to analyze the theme of television series, so I will modify the same theory to understand the meanings of the television series.
In this study, we will firstly observe the episodes of the DL Chronicles then will find the four meanings of the episode and will analyze the hidden theme of the television series. In this chapter, I will present a sample analysis of my study which will help to understand the basic theme of my study.
For this sample analysis, I have selected the episode 2 of volume 1 of DL Chronicles. I will just present the analysis of a part of this episode which starts at 3:50 end at 5:40.
In this part of the episode the character, Robert, and food store manager, Austin, are chatting with each other via the internet. They are chatting with each other and asking each other to use a webcam. Firstly the Austin asked Robert to remove his shirt and then to stand up to show him full body on the webcam, later the Robert asked Austin to show his body on webcam. Both are interested in each other, and Robert feels that he is in love with Austin. He saw Austin and was highly impressed by his body, and so he asks him to tell about his address. In the meantime, the door knocks and Robert daughter was there.
This scene of this television series is showing that two males, Robert and Austin, are getting interested in each other because they are gay men. According to the Bordwell and Thompson’s theory, the referential meaning of this scene shows that the television series is about the African American gay men who are interested in each other and develops hidden relationships with each other. The explicit meaning represents that in Black community there are males who are gay men and they love to have a relationship with each other and enjoys their relationship even though if they are married or not (Wallace, 2002). The implicit meaning of this scene represents that the Black males cannot highlight their relationships with other males because they are not allowed to show their bisexual relationship to the society because it is considered as a sin. However, the symptomatic meaning shows that both males are enjoying their bisexual relationship with each other in a closed room on webcam because they are afraid of society and they cannot expose their reality to the world (Chronicles, 2013).
Collin (2004) published his literature about the Black gay males and the bisexuality in the African Americans. In his literature, The Black Power to Hip Hop, he represented the group of six males who are interested in each other and are having a life as black gay men. They love each other’s company and cannot imagine having a separate life. In his literature, he has shown the same theme as that of DL Chronicles Episode 2 Volume 1. He has also represented the same theme that how the African American males are interested in each other and they develop their relation with each other in a hidden way (Collins, 2006).
Collin also published his book in 2004, Black Sexual Politics, in which he represented that homosexuality and bi-sexuality have been common in Black Americans or African Americans. According to Collin, the black males have been used as slaves by the Whites, and that is why they have become so frustrated with life, and they show their masculinity in several ways, either by having male to male sexual relationships or by raping the women to show their dominance and masculinity. According to him, it is Black males’ politics to show their sexual strength by the homosexuality, bi-sexuality, or masculinity behaviors. They use their bodies to have revenge from others and to have satisfaction (Collins, 2004).
Collin also discussed that there was a time when black women were the victim of white men rapists, but now the issue is that they have been the victim of black male rapists this is because the black males have started to use rape as a powerful tool of their violence. They want to show their masculinity and dominance to the nation, and thus they have no other option but to use such ways in which either they develop homosexual relation or become rapists.
In this study, the primary focus of the review is a television series, DL Chronicles, which consist of four episodes. This series is about the African American males who are gay men but are afraid of showing the word their realities. In this series, each episode is about the Black gay men who are having hidden relationship with each other, and they don’t want it to expose to their relatives and the World because the society considers it as sin and don’t like such males who enjoy homosexual relationships. The study will reveal that how the DL Chronicle is showing the lives of the brothers on the down low.
For the analysis of DL Chronicles, I will use Bordwell and Thompson’s theory which will help to have a thorough understanding of each episode of this television series. For this purpose, I will describe each episode, then its analysis, and then its link with the literature. The study will reveal that how the black males have homosexual relationships and how they face difficulties in having such relationships. The purpose of this television series is to highlight the importance of the civil rights of gay men or lesbians. Our society does not accept such people who are homosexual, and thus they face difficulties and become fun of the society. Sometimes, they get fed up of hiding their inner reality and finally they either commit suicide or become criminals.
The Chadwick Journals have presented a television series, DL Chronicles which is edited and directed by Quincy LeNear and Deondray Gossett and its each episode is a story of black gay men. In this chapter, each episode will be analyzed by Bordwell’s theory and by the literature published about black masculinity and homosexuality.
The episode started when the Wes Thomas, a real-estate banker, met the journalist. He had some commitments, and after finishing his all tasks, he reached home where his wife was waiting for him. His wife told him that his brother in law, Trend, will be spending few days with them at their home. Wes was not that much happy with the presence of Trend.
In the next scene, Trend was helping his sister in the kitchen when Wes arrived and asked his wife to help him in managing his tie. She refused because her hands were wet. The trend went towards Wes and helped him in setting his tie and suit. During his help, he tried to touch Wes’s body. Wes was not comfortable and stopped Trend. Wes and his wife had arranged a dinner for their friends. During the gathering, the guests were making love with their wives but Wes was not comfortable with his wife, and he could not understand that why his couple is not like the normal couples.
After the party Wes’s wife was washing the dishes, when she saw Wes coming towards her, she left all the things and tried to make love with him. In response, Wes got annoyed and started telling his wife about his hard job and strict routine. Wes was the one who was guilty of not being able to satisfy his wife and though he just wanted to cover the things by discussing his struggling life. When the conversation was going on between husband and wife then at the mean time Trend came and realized that there is something wrong. However, Wes left for his room without saying anything to Trend (Chronicles, 2013).
The trend went into Wes’s room and asked him that what is going on and why he is so much depressed. Wes became frustrated, and finally, he discussed everything with Trend. During their discussed, Wes realized that he was much more comfortable with the Trend. They both had an incredible night together while Wes’s wife was waiting for him on the bed. In the next morning, when Wes woke up, he realized that he had done something wrong and damn he had done sex with his brother in law. He immediately came down stairs. He was afraid of losing his wife that Trend made him relax by saying, their relationship is a secret relationship, and Wes’s wife won’t have any idea about it.
The next day, Wes was guilty of what he had done, and so he bought flowers for his wife and reached home to have a new start with his wife but unfortunately she was not at home. After knowing this, Wes sat in the kitchen and started waiting for his wife. When she reached home, she saw Wes sitting in the kitchen so depressed and lonely. Wes said her sorry, in response she hugged him and forgave his all words and actions.
After going to the bedroom, Wes’s wife wore white night dress and applied fragrance and lotion on her body to attract Wes. But Wes was not at all comfortable with his wife, and so he went to bed. His wife came to him and started a serious discussion with Wes by saying that she knows everything about him and Trend. Wes got afraid and thought that Trend has told everything to her and asked that what does she know about him and Trend? She told that she had a discussion with Trend about Wes’s fight with the trend and she has an idea that Wes is not comfortable with Trend’s presence. This was a relief for Wes and replied that he has no issues with Trend so he could stay at home as long as he wants.
In the end, the narrator, Chadwick Williams, asked a question about him that many males are gay men but just because they are afraid of society they don’t accept them as gay men and they never understand their identity.
In this episode of DL Chronicles the male, Wes is on the down low who had a beautiful wife. He was the one who wanted to develop a very healthy relationship with his wife. The episode shows that Wes was never able to satisfy his wife. Wes’s wife was also facing a great depression. Everything was not going well between the couple when Trend came to visit them. Wes was not happy with Trend’s stay at their home because he was gay .
In the episode, the Chadwick journals have represented that how difficult it is for the brother in the down low to manage his relations and his desires. Wes was on the down low and did not want to let her wife know about his relation with Trend. The episode helps the viewer to understand that most of the black gay males are facing depression and fear just because they want to maintain healthy relations just like the other males and don’t want to let people know that they are having any hidden relationship with a male. Wes was having a relationship with Trend, who was his brother in law, which not only gave him relief but pleasure too. On the other hand, Wes was trying his best to keep his wife happy, but for that, he had to fight with himself.
The situation becomes clearer when his wife was getting ready for having sex at night, but he went to bed and refused to have sex with her. He was uncomfortable with having sex with his wife because his body was not accepting to have a relationship with a female. He was fighting with his inner and with his body just because he did not want to reveal his reality. This shows that how the gay men of African American community face a difficult time to hide their facts. He could not tell his wife about his homosexual relation, and thus he had no other option but to live as a person on the down low .
When analyzing the episode according to the Bordwell’s theory then the four levels of meaning become so apparent. The referential meanings are that in African Americans the gay men are facing depression in their lives and relationships. The explicit meanings are that there is no place for Gay men in society and thus they are afraid of having homosexual relations. The implicit meaning is that homosexual male can never have a satisfactory relationship with a female, but just because the society does not accept them as gay, they have to marry a woman and have to spend a life which is not designed for them. The symptomatic meanings show that Wes was so much uncomfortable with his wife because he could not give his best while having sex with his wife, whereas he was so comfortable and satisfied while having sex with Trend. This shows that brothers on the down low are the victim of depression and anxiety because they are fed up of hiding their secret relations from the society.
Since 1982, the researchers are more concerned to analyze the social issues faced by gay men. If we see the historical point of view, then so much literature has been published to describe the lives of different gay men with different perspectives. Kimmel and Brod (1996) also presented their research in which they examined the masculinity of the mid-1980s within the literary and cultural studies movement. This action situated male masculinity in the context of politics and sought to answer how men positioned themselves in or about feminism, especially when they are gay men (Kimmel, 2003). The same has been discussed in this episode that when the man is identified as gay, then society make him a victim of humor and challenges his masculinity.
In this episode, Wes was afraid of facing the community and to show his masculinity and strength as a man; he had got married to a woman. Wes was trying his best to make his marriage life ideal and charming just because he wanted to show the world that he is the man who knows who to keep his wife happy. This indicates that just to keep his masculinity at priority; he decided to live on the down low.
The same has also been discussed by Boone (1990). In his research, he suggested that if men wish to engage in feminist approaches to social critique, they would have to turn the critical lens on themselves and their original bodies. Such a critique, according to Boon (1990) provides analysis and conceptualizes male masculinity and sexuality from both historical and cultural contexts. This new context redirected the focus from gender to differences within men and manhood (Boone, 1990).
In 2001, Reid-Pharr published his work regarding sexuality and race into the African American gay men. This literature offers contemporary cultural criticism to the African American Society for not accepting the gay as part of their society due to which they have no other option but to live a life with a lie . The book of McBride is also about the masculinity of black gay men which has been divided into three sections, “Race and Sexuality on Occasion, queer Black Thought, Straight Black Talk.” These sections of the book explore intersections of gender, class, sexuality, and race issues. Part one of the book, “Queer Black Thought,” reveal the truths of race and sexuality in the America and enlighten that how the Black Americans have been neglected by the American at their workplaces. In the second portion, “Race and Sexuality on Occasion,” he represented that how the gay men and lesbians have become the part of comedy and fun rather than the political realities and civil rights. In the last part of the book, “Straight Black Talk,” writer placed the subjects of sexuality and race into the lens of theory and intellectualism .
In this episode, the character, Robert, and food store manager, Austin, met each other in the food store when Robert was searching for a food item. During their meeting, they had great conversation, and both exchanged each other’s contact number. In the night, Robert message Austin via the internet and asked Austin to join him on webcam. Both had video chat one by one in which they Robert saw Austin and got highly impressed by his body. Once both were done with video chat, Robert asked Austin about his home address. In the meantime, Robert’s daughter knocked his door.
Robert got so confused and opened the door. Robert’s daughter asked him that what he was doing and why he is so confused, he replied that he is just checking emails. Later he reached Austin’s place and told him that he likes him. Robert was living on the down low and was interested in developing a secret relation with Austin. In return, Austin said that he is an openly gay and they both can have a relationship if he wants (Chronicles, 2013).
The next day Robert went to the food store to meet Austin and there both spent quality time with each other. Robert did not inform Austin about his daughter. In the evening, Austin and his colleague were going in the market when the Austin saw Robert with his daughter. He called Robert to ask that who is that lady; in return, Robert pretended that Austin is his client and introduced his daughter, Rhonda, to the Austin.
At night, Robert went to Austin’s place to explain him about his relationship with his wife and his daughter. Robert told that he cannot tell his daughter about his reality because he is afraid of losing her. Austin understood his situation and made him comfortable by saying that he won’t let anybody know about their relation. Robert also invited Austin for dinner at home.
The next day Austin had dinner at Robert’s home. After having dinner, Austin said thanks to Rhonda and left the house. Robert also accompanied him till the gate. Robert and Austin were giving good night kiss to each other when Rhonda saw them. Rhonda was surprised and could not accept what she had seen. The next morning she went to the food store and had a conversation with Austin. She asked him that does her father living on the down low? Is he having a relationship with Austin? In response, Austin told the reality to Rhonda. The reality was very painful for her because it was difficult for her to accept that her father is gay.
When Robert came to know that Austin had told the reality to Rhonda, then he got angry at Austin and broke his relationship with him. Austin tried to make him understand that its normal and his daughter will accept him for what he is? Robert replied that now his daughter will never look at him with respect and it will be quite difficult for her to accept that her father is living on the down low. He said that being gay is not a proud for him rather he is embarrassed by what he is actually.
Finally, Robert decided to went to the home and to talk to his daughter. But Rhonda was not ready to understand Robert rather she did not accept his apology. In response, Robert said so helplessly that this is what all he is, and he cannot do anything with it. He told Rhonda that he is not having any disease which can be cured so he cannot do anything with it. Rhonda realized that she should understand her father’s feelings, and so she hugged him. Finally, Robert went to the food store and said sorry to Austin and started a happy and relaxed life afterward.
In this episode the story is about two males, Robert and Austin, one is open gay, and other is living on the down low. Robert is the one who is afraid of facing his daughter and the society. They both started having a secret relationship with each other at Austin’s place. With this episode, it is easier to realize that African American gay men prefer to live on the down low just because they are afraid of losing their relations. They are afraid of facing society, they get married to women and pretend to have a life like straight men, but this results in the depression and anxiety in the brothers living on the down low.
The brothers on the down low have to face so many social challenges. Especially in Robert’s case, he could not tolerate losing his daughter. But when Rhonda came to know about the reality of Robert then it was challenging for her to understand the situation. But here the Chadwick shows that living on the down low is not an option rather gay men have to communicate about their feelings and realities. This is what has proved by Robert’s conversation with his daughter. When Robert described with Rhonda and let her understand that nothing is in his hand, then she realized that whatever the case is but Robert is her father and she has to accept him as he is.
The end of the episode is great and a lesson for all that if we will accept the gay men for then they will be able to have a better and relaxed life. When Rhonda accepted her father for what he is and allowed him to have a relationship with Austin, then Robert was so comfortable and achieve peace in his life. This means that the society must accept the gay men and must let them spend their lives freely.
According to Bordwell’s theory, the referential meaning of the episode is that in African Americans the gay men are facing depression in their lives and relationships and they prefer to live on the down low just because they are afraid of losing their relations. The explicit meanings are that the society must accept them for what they are and must allow them to have a free and open life. The implicit meanings of the episode are that black gay men are always afraid of facing the society, and thus they marry women and develop their families, but they are always unable to keep their wives happy, which results in divorce. The gay men do not show what they are because they have no courage to face the society thus they pretend to be as masculine males. Whereas the symptomatic meanings of the episode are that the brothers on the down low take the support of lie to protect their relations. If the society will allow them to live life freely, they will be more satisfied with their lives and will be happier.
According to society, the masculinity of the men can be defined as his physical strength. If the male is successful in keeping his wife and relations satisfied then he is the real man otherwise his masculinity is challenged. This is what has been shown in the episode. Robert wanted to keep his image as an active father in the sight of his daughter, and that is why he preferred to living on the down low. He was afraid that his daughter would not understand his position and then he will become humor for the society and his masculinity will be challenged. Such discourse on manhood, masculinities, male identities, and the emergence of gay studies, men’s studies, and queer theory have also been the part of literature since the nineteenth century.
Collin, Richard, and Pinar have published so much literature about gay men in which they have been discussed about different gay men who have faced so many social challenges because of their identity (Collins, 2000). Richard also published literature in 2001, in which he discussed the critical theory to understand the situation of gay men and the challenges faced by the brothers on the down low (Richard Delgado, 2001; Pinar, 2004).
Christopher in 2015, also published his article in which he discussed the military men who prefer to live on down low just because they cannot face the society and cannot tolerate the questions on their masculinity. Military men are considered to be highly physically fit and strong, and thus the society cannot accept them as gay. He discussed that especially the African Americans prefer to live on the down low just because they have already been facing the social challenges due to discrimination. Now they get afraid of facing more social issues and questions on their masculinity (Alt, 2015).
The episode is about the brother on the down low. Robert’s daughter used to take him the hero and thus he did not want to break her pride. He was worried that if he tells his daughter about his relation with Austin then maybe she will stop considering him as her hero. He could not see disrespect in Rhonda’s eyes and could not tolerate questions on his masculinity that is why he preferred to live on the down low. Neal (2013) also wrote about black masculinity in his book, “Looking for Leroy: Illegible Black Masculinity,” in which he discussed that the African American men are bound into their bodies which are legible only as hip-hop thugs, petty criminals, and pimps. He questioned the public and the media to queer of black masculinity and to show that how the black men bodies are often thought to be the body attempting sin. He highlights that Black bodies have right to live their lives either as bisexual or homosexual. In fact, the Black gay men have no place in society, and they are considered to producing sin in the society, but actually, it is not the case. The society must allow them to live their lives freely. In this why they will be able to achieve their inner peace .
The episode started when Boo had harsh discussion with a lady. The lady, Kesha, was his girlfriend and actually, she was fed up of his cheating habit and thus she wanted to kick him off from her house. Boo had many girlfriends as well as boyfriends. He had some friend with whom he liked to spend his time. He was living on the down low, but in front of his friend, he used to pretend that he is highly interested in females. He was having relations with girls as well as boys. He was afraid of facing the world and relations after exposure of his reality because of his mother, as well as people from the society, did not like gay men.
When Boo went home, his mother was watching television, on which an interview about gay men was going on. The people were discussing the show that gay men have no life because they cannot have family or children and they are useless for the society. Boo’s mother started discussing the same topic with Boo and asked him about his plans to settle his life . Boo was less interested in discussing his settlement rather only one thing was going on in his mind that the society and his mother will never accept him if they will come to know about his secret relations with boys. After feeling fed up of this all he went to Kesha’s apartment and asked her to forget everything and to have time with him.
Boo was bit frustrated, and thus after spending time with Kesha, he went to his boyfriend. When he came back to Kesha, then she asked him that why did he leave and where did he go? Boo was unable to give her satisfactory answer, which made her annoyed and she again kicked him out of her home. This made Boo hell frustrated. He tried to contact Kesha several times, but she did not respond. Finally, Boo went to one of his boyfriends and spent some time with him.
Two weeks later, Boo again went to Kesha’s home and asked her that why she was not attending his call? After having the discussion with Kesha and knowing that she is no more interested in him, he went back home and sat alone in a room where he thought that why he can’t have a peaceful life like others. Why he is living on the down low and why can’t he expose his reality to the world. This made him more frustrated. He could not tell the society that he is gay thus he decided to have multiple relationships just to satisfy himself and to kill his frustration.
This episode shows that how the gay men get frustrated of their lives, and then they make multiple relationships. Boo is one of the brothers on the down low who cannot tell the society that they are more interested in homosexual relations he pretends to be a strong man who has so many girlfriends. In the episode, Boo is, again and again, going to Kesha and tried to maintain his relationship with her just because he wanted to show the world that he has a girlfriend just to prove his masculinity and identity as the able-bodied male.
The Boo had secret relations with the boys, and he could not expose those relationships because he was afraid of facing his mother. According to her mother and the society, the gay men are useless, and their lives have no meaning because neither they can satisfy the woman nor they can have babies. Such considerations of society have somewhere made gay men depressed and unacceptable for the society and make their life frustrated. Finally, gay men become hypersexual just to kill their frustration. The Down Low personalities always live with lies, and this increases the level of depression and frustration in them.
According to Bordwell’s and Thompson’s theory, the episode’s referential meanings describes that the episode is about the African American gay men who get frustrated with their society and depressed by continuing the lie of their life. The explicit meanings of the episode are that the frustrated gay men love to have relationships with several women and men just for their pleasure and to overcome their frustration. The implicit meanings of the episode are that the gay men are afraid of facing society because they know that there is no place for them which never let them lead towards success and peaceful life. The symptomatic meanings show that gay men are never satisfied rather they are guilty and frustrated, and they just want to get rid of everything. They can only achieve pleasure, satisfaction, and peace by having a homosexual relationship with other males.
In this episode, Boo is living on the down low and proving his masculinity he tries to maintain his relationship with Kesha. She was the one who used to treat him as a slave and used to kick him off every day, but even then he was in relation with her just to prove the society that he is having a healthy relationship with a female. Boo had been facing significant social challenges because he was unable to tell his mom about his reality and by having a support of a lie, he could not achieve the satisfaction level in his life. Finally, Boo becomes hypersexual to get rid of his frustration. As hooks (2004) argued that hegemonic ideologies about gender and sexuality continue to construct an environment that condones and connects hyper-masculinity with heterosexuality while stigmatizing queerness by connecting it to maligned femininity (Hook, 2004). Connected to the Black identity struggle is the devaluation of the feminine.
Black men who exhibit feminine traits are demeaned, disparaged, and excluded from pure, authentic Black spaces or Blackness, thus linking homosexuality with effeminacy. Such links to femininity suggest inferiority rather than empowerment (Hook, 2004). Collins (2004) also argued that the gay men become surrogate women. She continued to suggest that femininity as a performance of queer identity reinforces Black masculinity as an unfeminine narrative. To protect Black masculinity, the feminine performance becomes widely accepted as the identifier of homosexuality, and being effeminate excludes African American gay men from Black manhood. Such negative discourse about homosexuality can be seen in Black music. Some facets of hip-hop genre, for example, Collins (2004) suggested, is hyper-masculine and filled with negative discourses. Such spaces normalize violence against LGBTQ communities (Collin, 2004).
Woodard (2014) published his book in which he discussed the homoeroticism within the African American culture of United States. It has been the trend that Black gay men are considered to attempting a sin in the society, and thus they have no place in the society and thus they are treated as a useless object of the community . They are treated like slaves and have been the victim of harassment and psychological torture which causes the increase in frustration and depression in gay men . The same has shown in the episode that Boo was hell frustrated by the society’s views about gay men and thus he used to kill his frustration by adopting hypersexuality.
Mark was living with his boyfriend, named Donte. Mark was having a good relationship with Donte, but he was, also, afraid of losing his relations that are why living on the down low. Both, Mark and Donte, were setting their home when Mark’s cousin Terrell reached home. Mark greet Terrell and then asked him that if he will be living with his girlfriends or with Mark. In response, Terrell told that he would stay with Mark for few days.
Donte was not comfortable with the presence of Terrell, and so he warned Mark that when he is back from his work, he does not want Terrell at their home. Mark could not say Terrell to leave. Instead, he decided to change his room setting so that Terrell will have no idea about his relationship with Donte. After reaching home, Donte found a change in Mark’s room. While watching at the room, Donte tried to make Mark understand that why he is afraid of facing the society and why he prefers to live on the down low rather than an open gay? But Mark replied that he is not scared of facing society rather he is afraid of losing relations, and thus cannot tell the world that he is gay .
In the night Terrell and Donte had a discussion about the relation with Mark. Terrell asked a different question, but Donte continued to pretend that Mark and he are just roommates. In the night Terrell pretends that he was sleeping when Mark went into Donte’s room. Terrell immediately woke up and begin to trace the Mark and secretly watched what Mark was doing in Donte’s room. When Mark opened the door, he found that Terrell was outside the room. They all pretend to show that everything is normal and then all left for their beds.
Next evening Mark and all went to bar where Terrell and his friend had great fun with Mark, which made Donte highly jealous. At the mean time, two ladies came into the club. Terrell encouraged Mark to join those girls. When Mark left for those women, Terrell and Donte had a long discussion in which Terrell told Donte that he was also in a relationship with Mark and he knows that Mark is gay.
Donte got insecure. After reaching home, Donte asked Mark about his relationship with Terrell. He also asked Terrell, to tell the truth, and said him to tell whatever he told Donte in the club. Terrell pretended to be innocent and said that he does not know that what he is talking about?
During the discussion, Reginald Stokes entered the home and told everyone about his relationship with Terrell. This made the situation funny and full of humor. Mark was hiding that he is gay, but he did not know that Terrell was also gay. Finally, Terrell left home. Mark and Donte started to live together as an open gay. They understood that the only way to win the game is to stop playing and thus they have to accept that they are gay men and society also needs to accept them as who they are.
This episode shows that the Black gay men spend their lives by hiding their realities just because they are afraid of losing relations. In this episode, Mark and Donte had a homosexual relationship in which both are concerned about each other’s happiness and are possessive about each other. Whereas the Mark is afraid of losing his relations, his mother, and his friend, so he decided to live on the down low. However, Terrell’s entry made the episode funny, entertaining, and suspicious. Terrell understood in first sight that Mark and Donte are about each other because he was gay too, but he tried to find the reality humorously.
The episode showed that gay men don’t need to live on the Down Low rather they can tell everyone openly that they are gay men and the people will accept them for what they are. The episode has a theme that it is somewhere not the society which opposes gay men but somewhere gay men, themselves, are afraid of losing relations. In the end when Mark announced that he is gay and his mother and friends and society accepted him as gay then he became so relaxed and happy and started living as an open gay. This showed that it is not the people who make the life of gay men difficult rather sometimes they make their lives difficult by their thinking.
According to the Bordwell and Thompson’s theory, the referential meanings of the episodes are that in African American society the gay men live together, but they are afraid of losing relations, so they enjoy their secret relationship. The explicit meanings are that gay men don’t need to live on the down low rather they can tell the world openly about them, and the society will accept them for what they are. The implicit meanings are that it is gay men have to stand for their rights, and they don’t need to hide their realities. The symptomatic meanings are that the gay men also feel possessiveness for their partners in the same way as the partners in normal relations do.
Mark was afraid of losing his relations, and that is why he preferred to live on the down low. The same situation was discussed in “Brother to Brother,” by Essex Hemphill (1991) is written primarily for the black gay men who face so many social issues regarding their existence as ‘Gay.’ This book shows that how a black gay man cannot have a normal life and what is home actually for him? There is no place for gay people on earth, and so their parents do not accept them as what they are and who they are. Their friends do not like them for their existence as gay in society. They cannot express what they feel and what they want to have in their lives. In fact, the society takes them as doing sin by loving another male and by which to care for him. The gay men have no place if they do the things according to their will thus this book has been written to highlight that there is a high requirement of the civil rights for gay men to have a peaceful life in the society and they must be accepted as what they are
Mark was an African American who was living on the down low. He could not tell his family about his relationship with Donte because he knew that the society and his family would not accept him. Reid-Pharr (2001) in his book also discussed the issues faced by African American gay men. According to him, the gay is the one who cannot tell their identity will confidence because no one accepts them because their identity cannot be possibly summed up by the society. Moreover when they tell the people about what they are and who they are then the society not only deny their personality but also consider that they are attempting any sin by being gay. The purpose of this publication is to capture the black masculinity’s complexity, and it expressed the views of black masculinity to show how the society has fractured the gay in African American society by not accepting their identities (Scott, 2010). Throughout the literature, Reid-Pharr has provided great insights into the gay’s life that are original and provocative .
In this study, the major focus was to analyze the television series, DL Chronicles, which is about the brothers on the down low. The series consist of total four episodes. Each episode presents the story of an African American brother on the down low. In each episode, different circumstances have been discussed. The first episode is about the marital relations of brothers on down low, the second episode is about the fathers who are living on the down low, third episode is about the frustrated brothers on the down low who become hypersexual due to social issues, and fourth episode is about the unmarried brothers on the down low who are afraid of society.
From this television series, it becomes apparent that the series wants to convey a message to the society that the gay must have right to live a normal life. Hiding their reality and telling a lie to people makes them frustrated and depressed. Moreover, African American gay men have to face so many negative social attitudes which are based on sexual orientation, color, or culture. The African Americans have always been the target of harassment due to their color and ethnicity, and especially the gay men consider that there is no place for them.
This means that in the African American community, there is no place for gay men and people consider that gay men are useless people who are creating sins in our society and making our culture dirty. This makes people hate the gay men, and in fact, the relations leave the males after knowing that they are gay. That is why gay men are always afraid of facing the truth, and so they prefer to develop hidden or secret relationships with other males .
In the four episodes of the series, we analyzed that there exist a different kind of gay men, some are having wives, some are having daughters, some are single, and some are having relationships with other girls and boys. Each story is about a different gay which shows that gay men are facing great challenges even though if they are married, unmarried, or alone. They are afraid of facing the people and letting them know about their body’s reality (Collins, 2004).
When analyzing each episode separately, In episode 1 of the DL Chronicles the Wes is unable to satisfy his wife because he is not the man to do sex with a woman. Instead of telling his wife the reality, he preferred to be on the down low because, somewhere, he was guilty of being gay . This episode shows that just because of fear of society the gay men not only give pain to their self but also to their wives and families. Thus there must be social rights for gay men. The society must allow gay men to have a free life and to have a homosexual relationship because it is not their fault that they are gay men, but they are naturally created as gay men .
In the second episode of DL Chronicles the story is about Robert who is well aware of his reality and having a relationship with Austin. Robert developed a secret relation with Austin because he was afraid of losing his daughter. He thought that his daughter has always considered him as a hero and if she comes to know that he is gay, then everything will be destroyed and she will no more look at him with respect. But in the end, his daughter understood the pain and reality of her father and allowed him to have a free life as gay. This shows that how the gay men are afraid of losing their relations that in actual if they will communicate their situation with their relatives in the clear and straightway then it is possible that their relative will accept them for who they are. Hiding anything is not a solution rather facing the realities is the only solution to have a space in society as gay.
In episode 3 of the DL Chronicles the Boo is on the down low and to hide his reality from the society, he was having a relationship with so many girls and boys. This episode shows that Boo was profoundly affected by the conversations of the society about gay men and thus he pretended to be a straight boy, but he was frustrated. This frustration develops hyper-sexuality in Boo. The episode shows that the gay men also become criminals or frustrated just because the society does not accept them as gay. They become frustrated of the society and starts finding a place for them where they can have the free life to achieve their satisfaction level. When they fail to find such place then they become hyper and frustrated then they adopt anyway, either they start killing people, raping women, having multiple sexual relationships, or attempt another kind of crimes. It is our society which makes them criminals from gay men .
Finally, in the fourth episode, the story is about Mark who is having a secret relationship with his friend Donte, but when his cousin Terrell came to visit him, he was afraid of letting his family know the reality and thus he said to Donte to act as his roommate in front of Terrell. This made them realize that living as Down Low is useless rather they need to tell the world that they are gay men and they will live like gay men freely. This shows that until and unless the gay men will not raise their voices, no one is going to listen to their voices. The gay men must stand for their civil rights, and they must not hide their reality from the people. This will make them able to have a peaceful and perfect life as gay men. Although the society does not accept them and starts hating them when they will show the society that they exist and they don’t care that what other think about them then directly society will accept them. When they raise their voices then automatically the government will develop civil rights for them, and in this way, they will be able to have a happy and healthy life as gay.
The research questions for this study are;
- In what ways are brothers on the DL represented in Black visual culture?
- In what ways can the discourse of brothers on the DL in Black visual culture be used to inform and guide curriculum in art education and African American and Diaspora studies?
Thus by this research analysis of DL Chronicles, it can easily be concluded that in Black Visual Culture, the gay men are facing significant social challenges just because the society does not accept them as gay men and consider that they are the reason of the sins in the society. The gay men are not allowed to live the free life and if they expose the world that they are gay men, then they not only become the part of society’s humor but also they lose their relations. Nobody is ready to give them a place in the society.
The African American gay men on down low face great stress and anxiety due to several body challenges. They marry or keep girlfriends to prove their masculinity, but in actual they face great difficulty in satisfying a woman. They cannot achieve peace, and thus this makes them depressed. Another issue which is faced by gay men is that they understand they are not acceptable for the society, which makes them hypersexual and so they love to have sexual relations with multiple people, and they release their stress by keeping hypersexual relations with either girls or boys. In this way, the first question has been answered. However, for the second question, the answer is very clear. The brothers on the DL in Black Visual Culture are discussed in this research analysis and the DL Chronicles just because to make the people aware that how the gay men in the African American Society are facing significant social challenges and why is it important to maintain the Civil Rights for the Black gay men. This also helps the students of art and education and African American to understand that it is ethically wrong to make boundaries for gay men. They also have right to live a free life, and thus they must be allowed to have a free relationship with their partners. They must not be considered as a sinner rather the people should accept them for who they are. In this way, this research will also be helpful for the readers to understand that how difficult life is for the Black gay men just because society does not accept them.
In this study, I have analyzed a television series to understand the social challenges faced by Gay men in African American community. Further researches can be done to have an understanding of how psychologically gay men have been affected due to facing social challenges and not allowing to have open relationships with their male partners. It is recommended that gay men must be analyzed and discussed in different perspectives to show the society that how much is it important to give space to the gay men in society. There must be Civil Rights for the gay men so that they will be allowed to live their lives in the way they want and nobody will dare to point at gay men. Proper legislations must be maintained for the gay men’ rights in which they must be allowed to have a normal life like others.
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