, Volume 5, Issue 4, pp 309-322
Date: 03 Oct 2013

For Us Only? Examining the Effect of Viewing Context on Black Audiences’ Perceived Influence of Black Entertainment

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A host of theories including symbolic interactionism explains how media construct our social perceptions. Research suggests that stereotypes of blacks reinforce negative racial attitudes, whereas other findings suggest that blacks enjoy black media characters, even ones that may be considered stereotypical. Current research has yet to address or explain this discrepancy. The present study explores the impact of the race of co-viewers on blacks’ responses to stereotypical content in black films. An experiment was conducted where black participants viewed clips of black films with either an All black audience or a racially Mixed group with a majority white audience. Findings revealed that watching black films with white co-viewers did not influence blacks’ enjoyment or perception of bias; however, an interaction between viewing condition and influence target emerged such that when viewing among a racially Mixed audience, blacks expressed concern that portrayals in the film would negatively influence whites’ attitudes toward blacks and their likelihood to interact with black people more than themselves. Implications for race relations in a multicultural media landscape are discussed.