duCille, Ann. Technicolored: Reflections on Race in the Time of TV. Durham: Duke University Press, 2018. 352 pages. $27.95.
Ann duCille, Professor Emeritus at Wesleyan University, introduces readers to a limited litany of various television programs and actors, hailing black theatrical representation since its advent in the 1950s and correlated with historical events. For many readers, the author's assessment--a portion of which is commentary and the other part memoir--is an introduction to early television shows that ended before several generations had the opportunity to make their own analysis of them. This text provides ample American history as well as critical race theory analysis suitable for anthropologists, sociologists, and students of the visual arts.
Technicolored: Reflections on Race in the Time of TV explains that black actors' appearances on the small screen are oft-times compromised, reiterating tropes reminiscent of buffooning, hypersexualized, black American entertainers of yore. The professor refers to these incessant stereotypes heaped into the living rooms of both black and white viewers as "stigmatic blackness;" to otherwise be viewed as a distant object mitigated to appeal to white American society's perception of the "other."
Professor duCille examines in detail other races who were racially profiled in the development of early television. For example, she discusses the original Lone Ranger and the stereotype of the Native American, Tonto, with uncultured mannerisms. However, she neglects to analyze that the Lone Ranger was another form of imitation face; that this character was based on a real-life black hero Bass Reeves, a western bounty hunter who was successful in capturing most of the fugitives he sought to arrest. (1) In this instance, the western hero depicted on television as intelligent and courageous is falsely depicted as a white man, though in reality he was a black
American. Thus, the notion that no black American could portray a positive, intelligent hero forced his true story to be white-washed with a Caucasian actor.
The author then dedicates an entire chapter to the depiction of perfection in the guise of whiteness embodied in the blonde, young white actress Shirley Temple. duCille notes that movie directors portrayed little black girls in Shirley Temple movies no better than they did adults, including Bill 'BoJangles' Johnson and Hattie McDaniel, who performed whatever tasks necessary to indulge the...