In an ongoing study I'm conducting on Black manhood in college, Black male students across 12 different colleges unearthed hidden pressures to fulfill social expectations to be overly sexual, overly aggressive and athletic in college. Most study participants claimed or suggested that the stereotypical yet dominant images of Black men in media, particularly in television and movies, are linked to these pressures. A key question emerges: When Black college men are represented in media, how do these characterizations fail to represent a fuller, truer depiction about this group?
White men in college receive multiple representations in television and movies as White men's interests still remain standard in American society. One need only visit a neighborhood video store to locate media in which the following models of White men in college are clear: the "everyman" and "common-man" in movies like "Animal House" and "Rudy"; the heroic and virtuous men in movies like "Good Will Hunting" and "With Honors"; the privileged men of "The Skulls"; and the exaggerated intellect of characters in the "Revenge of the Nerds" series, "Real Genius" and even "Soul Man" in which actor C. Thomas Howell portrays a White man who masquerades as a Black man to receive a scholarship earmarked for Black students.
These, and other "mainstream" films like them, entitle White men to a range of characters that manage to be "White" "collegiate," and "men" simultaneously. However, Black college men characters are absent in the media unless they follow a storyline formula of manipulating women and forcefully overpowering other men. For example, consider films like "School Daze" "Higher Learning," "Drumline" and "Stomp the Yard" in which Black men in college are consistently portrayed as angry, overly sexual and domineering. Recently, reality television is doing much to further the prominence of these stereotypes.
Black Entertainment Television's most recent installment of its "reality" series, "College Hill Atlanta;' plays out stereotypes described in my ongoing study of Black college men's manhood and masculinities. In its most recent season, Drew, a dreadlocked, tattooed rapper, spent night after night engaging in sexually promiscuous and risky behavior with different women or writing misogynistic and sexually explicit rap lyrics. Also in the house was Dorion who, unashamed of being noninfimidating and intellectual, assumed key roles in the cast's creative and community service projects.
Drew appears focused on his "coolness" (i.e., player-of-women status, defiant posture and aloofness), which almost instantly appears to earn admiration from the other Black college men in the house. …