Date of Graduation

5-2022

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Department

Political Science

Advisor/Mentor

Corrigan, Lisa

Committee Member/Reader

Dowdle, Andrew

Committee Member/Second Reader

Maxwell, Angie

Abstract

The white gaze, or the assumption that the default reader or observer of a piece of media is white, affects the way that people of color are shown on television. This research project uses the hit Netflix show Bridgerton to study the way that modern-day representations of people of color both challenge whiteness and white supremacy, while also reinforcing the white gaze. This is done through the examination of works by George Yancy, Laraine Wallowits, Frantz Fanon, Laura Mulvey, Kristen J. Warner, and Cheryl I. Harris on the white gaze, the male gaze, narrative conventions of soap operas and telenovelas, and Black occularity, to study the visual and racial politics of Shondaland’s newest streaming sensation. By investigating the new racial politics of modern soap operas, to ultimately ask: How does Shonda Rhimes invite the white gaze into Bridgerton and how does this function within or against generic conventions? How does she perpetuate a white aesthetic despite populating the show with so many people of color? How does the (hyper)sexualization of the Black characters (re)produce or counter the white gaze, particularly as sexuality is meditated through interracial relationships? Finally, I suggest that the show recolonizes the Black body by transplanting the white gaze into this era; glosses over the harm and oppression brought by slavery and white supremacy towards Black people and people of color, while still recognizing racial differences at a surface level; and whitewashes the effect that representation at this scale could give to the communities the actors are a part of by having stories cater to a white audience.

Keywords

color-blindness, white gaze, Shonda Rhimes, recolonization, white supremacy, television

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