IMAGERY MATTERS: EXPLORING THE REPRESENTATION(S) OF AFRICAN AMERICAN MALE STUDENTS IN SEASON FOUR OF THE WIRE.
Mawhinney, Hanne B.
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The educational challenges facing young African American male students are complex and multifaceted. The media play a significant role in the perpetuation of these challenges, due to the historically negative and stereotypical portrayals of Black males. Despite the plethora of research and discourse about the educational attainment of African American male students, few studies explore the academic and masculine portrayals of this population of students in the media. Using a textual analysis guided by a theoretical framework of cultural representation and televisual realism, this qualitative inquiry seeks to examine and interpret the cultural message(s) <italics>The Wire</italics> conveyed about African American male students in the era of <italics>No Child Left Behind</italics>. This study explores the intersection between academic and masculine portrayals of four young African American male students in season 4 of <italics>The Wire</italics> using dimensions of cool pose and traditional stereotypical tropes and counter-tropes that visual media have historically used to portray African American males in visual media. The findings from this study revealed that the four boys studied in season 4 of <italics>The Wire</italics> were multi-dimensional characters. As such, they were characterized using traditional stereotypical tropes, but their characterizations shifted into more encouraging representations. The shift in these characterizations created emergent themes that spoke to the cultural messages conveyed about African American male student characters through season 4 of <italics>The Wire</italics>. The findings from this study have implications for policy, school leadership, and future research. First, Congress should commission a committee of representatives from civil rights groups, foundations, and media reform activists to review and assess the historical and contemporary portrayals of African American males on television. Based on its findings, the committee should offer media reform recommendations to Congress. Second, because school systems currently struggle with identifying appropriate methods to address the needs of African American male students, school systems and parent groups should collaborate with organizations and foundations that work to establish creative outlets for young men of color to tell their own stories in alternative media. Third, given few studies have explored the representation of African American male students in visual media, the field needs additional research in this area.