Racquel J. Gates
The Black Image and Popular Culture
Duke University Press 2018
New Books in African American StudiesNew Books in Arts & LettersNew Books in CommunicationsNew Books in FilmNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Political ScienceNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in Popular Culture April 3, 2019 Lilly Goren
Racquel J. Gates’ new book, Double Negative: The Black Image and Popular Culture (Duke University Press, 2018), interrogates understandings of African-American representations on screen. This book is an important analysis of the concepts of negative and positive representations, especially in regard to the narrow space that these binary classifications create. Gates takes on not only the concept of representation, but also the texts where the images are presented, leading the reader through a variety of popular culture venues. Double Negative presents a careful typology of negativity, with extensive and diverse examples of each distinct variation. This analysis also integrates texts that are often dismissed or undermined. Instead, Gates provides valuable and nuanced interpretations of genres, reclaiming popular culture artifacts that are often excluded from scholarly or critical analysis. Gates explores many of the less respectable images and presentations of African-Americans, considering not only the images themselves and the narratives in which they are presented, but also the historical context in which the popular culture artifacts are engaged and consumed. Double Negative also takes up a metanalysis of celebrity in context of representation, especially in the entwining of race and gender. This is a fascinating book, examining important political questions and understandings through popular culture texts.