Defining Mixed Race on Television: an Analysis of Barack Obama and Saturday Night Live

Posted in Barack Obama, Communications/Media Studies, Dissertations, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States on 2012-04-13 03:37Z by Steven

Defining Mixed Race on Television: an Analysis of Barack Obama and Saturday Night Live

California State University, Sacramento
Fall 2011
109 pages

Amanda Joy Davis

THESIS Submitted in partial satisfaction of the requirements for the degree of MASTER OF ARTS in COMMUNICATION STUDIES

This study uses a semiotic approach to textual analysis to examine social constructions of Barack Obama’s race in televised sketch comedy to discover how this construction contributes to the process of hegemony regarding society’s treatment of mixed race. Polysemy will be explored as a key contributing factor. The television program chosen for this study is Saturday Night Live (SNL); the program will be examined for visual and linguistic references to Obama and mixed race. The absence of mixed race references will also be analyzed for their contribution to the show’s overall message. This study argues that while SNL mentions mixed race, it ultimately adds to the hegemonic treatment of mixed race individuals. That is, it identifies Obama as monoracial, ignoring his mixed race heritage in favor of a neat, pre-existing category. While SNL had the opportunity to step outside of the typical dismissal of mixed race and defend their choice of actor to portray Obama, and refer to him as mixed race on a consistent basis, they opted instead to categorize him as monoracial. In doing so, SNL upholds the silent treatment given to the mixed race community, forcing a monoracial identification based on appearance, a hegemonic course of action.

Read the entire thesis here.

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