Sport Stars: The Cultural Politics of Sporting Celebrity

By David L. Andrews; Steven J. Jackson | Go to book overview

2

EXCURSIONS INTO OTHERNESS

Understanding Dennis Rodman and the limits of subversive agency

Mélisse Lafrance and Geneviève Rail

American basketball star Dennis Rodman's multitudinous personas and unpredictable interaction with television media have been frequently characterized as disruptive and counter-cultural. Indeed, according to many observers, Rodman has radically defied normative convention and redefined representations of gender, race, and desire within the American cultural imaginary (Barrett, 1997; Jefferson, 1997; Johnson, 1996; McDonald and Aikens, 1996). Even after having considered those elements of Rodman's productions that might challenge cultural norms, we have concluded that his extraordinary spectacular enactments consolidate dominant fantasies of race, gender and desire, and are therefore only problematically subversive. Indeed, our previous examinations (Lafrance and Rail, 1997, 1998) of existing literature as well as Rodman's most important promotional strategies have shown that understanding Rodman's self-presentations as vitally disruptive elicits serious theoretical and conceptual dilemmas.

As regards the first dilemma, we have highlighted the paradox encountered by observers attempting to make sense of the Rodman craze: that is, Rodman's persona appears to be predicated on the exploitation and reproduction of dominant norms and codes while being recognized as rebellious and intelligently non-conformist. We have addressed this contradiction and discussed how the apparently incongruous constituents of Rodman's success at once effloresce and limit his subversive agency. Rodman's enactments of "marketable difference" (Kellner, 1996, p. 459) destabilize the American semiotic by mainstreaming superficial aesthetic transgressions, but his mobilization of white masculinist and heterosexist fantasies reinforces dominant discourses of race, gender and sexuality.

Second, we focused on Rodman's performances of drag and the limits of his subjective agency. Contrary to McDonald and Aikens (1996) and Barrett (1997), who interpreted the Rodman phenomenon as a disruptive force vis-à-vis regimes of gender and sexuality, we found Rodman's cross-dressing to have little disruptive effect. In fact, we argued that construing Rodman as disruptive

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Sport Stars: The Cultural Politics of Sporting Celebrity
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • 1 - Introduction 1
  • Bibliography 17
  • 1 - Michael Jordan 20
  • Bibliography 34
  • 2 - Excursions into Otherness 36
  • Notes 48
  • Bibliography 49
  • 3 - Andre Agassi and Generation X 51
  • Bibliography 68
  • 4 - America's New Son 70
  • 5 - From "Child's Play" to "Party Crasher" 87
  • Bibliography 99
  • 6 - Postmodern Blackness and the Celebrity Sports Star 102
  • 7 - Evil Genie or Pure Genius? 124
  • Notes 136
  • 8 - Punishment, Redemption and Celebration in the Popular Press 138
  • 9 - The Spectacle of a Heroic Life 151
  • 10 - Gretzky Nation 164
  • 11 - Hideo Nomo 187
  • 12 - Global Hingis 201
  • 13 - Nyandika Maiyoro and Kipchoge Keino 218
  • 14 - Imran Khan 231
  • 15 - Brian Lara 243
  • Notes 255
  • 16 - Cathy Freeman 257
  • Index 271
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