Concentration: Film and Television Studies

Title of Project: Historic Mammy, Modern Reality Stars

Inspiration Behind the Project:

The purpose of this thesis is to demonstrate how over the years the history of film has been layered with mythical characters of African American women. One of the most prominent characters is that of the “mammy” Who is typically portrayed as an overweight, unattractive, large breast and buttocks middle age African American who is neglectful of her own family however, is loyal to her master’s family. Although this character has been reconstructed to incorporate other stereotypically character traits such as, that of the “Jezebel”, the “Sapphire” or the “Angry Black Woman” based on changes in the social climate most of the underlying stereotypes of this character still ring true in modern day film and media.

The most recent reconstruction of the mammy is that of African American Reality Stars. This thesis will compare these characters and highlighting the stereotypes which have remained constant and those which have been redefined making reality stars the modern day mammy. In addition, this thesis will also explore the links between the construction of reality shows such as The Real Housewives of Atlanta (2008) and Basketball Wives (2010) to that of scripted shows like Scandal (2012) and Deception (2013) which use some of these same racial stereotypes.