Media & Minorities: The Politics of Race in News and Entertainment

Article excerpt

Media & Minorities: The Politics of Race in News and Entertainment. Stephanie Greco Larson. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2005. 384 pp. $35.00 pbk.

In Media & Minorities: The Politics of Race in News and Entertainment, Stephanie Greco Larson has placed the spotlight on the portrayals of African Americans, Native Americans, Hispanics, and Asian Americans that have been found throughout the history of television, newspaper, and film.

The book concentrates on four areas: Racial Minorities in Films and Television Entertainment, News Coverage of Racial Minority Mass Publics, News Coverage of Racial Minority Social Movements, and News Coverage of Racial Minority Candidates and Politicians. Each chapter presents a synopsis of the main themes/ portrayals followed by specific examples and then concludes with the role of alternative media as it relates to that particular topic.

This approach provides structure for the reader and value for instructors who might consider using this book as a course text. All too often, however, the formula makes for a cumbersome read. Several chapters spend a disproportionate amount of discussion on racial and ethnic misrepresentations of the distant past. While these examples provide a historical framework, the number of pages devoted to them is counterproductive. Numerous times Larson points out that the social conditions that helped to foment Birth of a Nation or Gone with the Wind, for example, do not exist today. Thus, these images are left floating in space without a context to connect them to the present.

Also problematic is Larson's reliance on a handful of well-known works when discussing the traditional stereotypes of African Americans. While this does provide synthesis, those who are familiar with books such as Donald Bogle's Toms, Coons, Mulattoes, Mammies and Bucks: An Interpretive History of Blacks in American Films and Jannette L. Dates and William Barlow's Split Image: African Americans in the Mass Media may find themselves wondering what Larson's book has to add.

It's somewhat ironic that a book about bias is hindered by its own biases. Larson repeatedly points out that the media have a vested interest in promoting a certain point of view. It seems Larson does too. Larson promotes the alternative press as a panacea for all that ails the media. Indeed, every chapter ends with homage to the role of the alternative press in countering negative portrayals. Yet, all too often the book comes up short in trying to support this assertion. Many times, the discussion of the alternative press is merely a couple of paragraphs that often seem simply tossed in. …