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Senior Thesis: Examining Black Female Leads on Television

May 3rd, 2018


Taylor Griffith wanted her senior thesis to focus on strong black female leads on television shows, so she began her investigation the way most students do, by checking the available literature. But when the Princeton student made her first trip to B Floor at Firestone Library, she came up short.

“I looked all over,” said Griffith, a sociology major who also is earning a certificate in gender and sexuality studies. “There’s a book on Oprah, and there’s a book on Cosby. There are five books on ‘Game of Thrones.’ There’s absolutely nothing on the television shows I’m interested in.”

She punched her topic into Google, searching for books about the slew of current television series that feature black women as lead characters, shows like “Scandal” and “How to Get Away with Murder,” both produced by Shondaland, Shonda Rhimes’ production company. “To my knowledge, there is not a single, in-depth book analysis of Shonda Rhimes’ shows or the shows I have opted to look at,” Griffith said. “It was baffling to me.”

What she did find was plenty of research on the television industry as it relates to black women, African Americans, stereotypes, racism and feminism. But the intersection of these topics and how they coalesce on the small screen is a little-studied frontier. “It’s very exciting in that respect,” Griffith said.

Click here to learn more about Griffith's research.

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