Negotiating New Racism: “It’s Not Racist, It’s Not Sexist. It’s Just the Way It Is.”

Thursday, 19 July 2018: 16:00
Oral Presentation
Whitney HUNT, Wayne State University, USA
Comic books have long been a cultural space dominated by white, masculine characters and audiences. More recently, comic books are being adapted into film and television series, encouraging underrepresented voices to become more prominent in comic book culture. While white men continue to dominate as creators, consumers and principle characters, women and people of color are purchasing comic books more than ever before, are more likely to go to the theater, and are just as likely to attend comic conventions. However, traditional leaders in comic books, Marvel and DC, have been slow to diversify their characters, and have been subject to substantial criticism for maintaining the dominance of white men. Movie goers have begun using social media outlets and online forums to engage in long overdue conversations about race in pop culture. Employing a qualitative content analysis of an online forum tailored to comic book culture and superhero movies, this research explores how fans negotiate their continued fandom of Marvel comics amidst claims that the comic book industry is discriminatory towards people of color. Drawing on sociological concepts of new racism and white racial framings, this study examines the wider societal context of race representation in film beyond imagery and content. Specifically, this research analyzes how forum discussion adopts framings of new racism when accounting for a lack of diversity in comic book films. Findings reveal that fans largely rely on white racial framings throughout discussion. Furthermore, central themes indicate that most forum participants suggest only overt discrimination implies that race matters, and minimize the effects of historical processes; moreover, few fans challenge traditional representations while most normalize white dominance. This study contributes to the growing body of research on new racism and the prevalence of white racial framings throughout mainstream media.