POROI Seminar with Alfred L. Martin, Jr.: "Blackbusting Hollywood"

Thursday, November 15, 2018 - 11:30am
Obermann Center Library
111 Church St.
Iowa City, IA 52245

In his paper, “Blackbusting Hollywood: Racialized Media Reception, Failure, and The Wiz as Black Blockbuster,” Alfred L. Martin, Jr. (Asst. Professor, Dept. of Communication Studies) draws attention to The Wiz as the first black-cast blockbuster and assesses its significance to issues of black media production and reception. With a focus on press reviews and archival production research, the author introduces the idea of “racialized media reception” in order to understand the ways that The Wiz carried weight beyond its hefty $20 million budget.

As a black-cast blockbuster, the film’s reception was understood by black reviewers to have enormous consequences for the future of black film in Hollywood. And its perceived failure, itself a testament to the persuasive power of media reviews to inform public opinion, presents an opportunity for reassessing the relationship between black-cast cinema, the industry, failure and audiences. Providing an analysis of reviews from both the black and white presses the essay positions the concept of failure not as a value-free barometer of quality and appeal, but as a construction by and for the politics of race and media production. Taken collectively, these reviews defined the parameters of acceptance for their respective readers, and ultimately shaped the narrative of The Wiz as failure.

All attendees must read the paper in advance: PDF iconBlackbusting Hollywood POROI Draft.pdf

To RSVP and register for a lunch from NoDo, please e-mail Naomi Greyser, mentioning any food sensitivities, at naomi-greyser@uiowa.edu

Headshot of Alfred Martin
Alfred L. Martin Jr.'s current book project, The Queer Politics of Black-Cast Sitcoms (Indiana University Press, forthcoming) argues that the black-cast sitcom is an explicit genre, and therefore its engagement with black gayness does not resemble any other contemporary genre. By examining audience reception, industrial production practices, and authorship, the project argues that representations of black gay characters are trapped into particular narrative tropes. Martin has published articles in scholarly journals including Communication, Culture & Critique, Feminist Media Studies, Popular Communication, and Television and New Media. Martin is currently the Co-Chair of the Society for Cinema and Media Studies’ Television Studies Scholarly Interest Group. Martin serves on the editorial board of Queer Studies in Media and Popular Culture. Martin is currently working on essays about black audiences and the film Black Panther, and the black ballerina Misty Copeland and the contours of black fandoms. Martin is also co-editing an edited collection on The Golden Girls tentatively titled Thank You for Being A Friend: The Cultural Phenomenon of The Golden Girls.


What is a POROI Seminar? 


Every semester, POROI hosts rhetoric seminars featuring the work of UI and visiting scholars, artists, researchers and activists. Each presentation takes place with an audience from diverse disciplines who have read the work and are prepared to engage with the text. The virtue of the format becomes especially apparent as disciplines and intellectual traditions cross paths with personal proclivities, reading habits, patterns of knowledge and modes of expressions. The group provides rigorous and supportive criticism concerning what it sees as the work's strengths and weaknesses, providing the speaker with ideas for revision and eventual publication. Many presenters eventually publish revised versions of their projects in scholarly publications, film festivals, research outlets, or other venues.


If you are interested in sharing your own project at a POROI rhetoric seminar, email kembrew-mcleod@uiowa.edu and naomi-greyser@uiowa.edu to talk about it!