Date of Award

Fall 12-7-2012

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Alisa Perren

Second Advisor

Kathy Fuller-Seeley

Third Advisor

Ted Friedman

Fourth Advisor

Greg Smith

Fifth Advisor

Jennifer Esposito



This dissertation examines how Tyra Banks, Shonda Rhimes, and Tyler Perry negotiate blackness in terms of racial representation both in their interactions with the press and public as well as in their final product. Banks, Rhimes, and Perry are among the few prominent African American executive producers working in an industry of inequality. Each is the creative figure behind a prominent prime-time television show. This project contributes to the discussion of race and representation in the field of television studies.

I argue there is a connection between how Banks, Rhimes, and Perry publicly discuss race and how these perspectives are encoded in America’s Next Top Model (Banks), Grey’s Anatomy (Rhimes), and House of Payne (Perry) from 2005-2010. These three are vital case studies because their shows offer a range of African American representations and extra-textual discourses about representations.

Chapter Two historically contextualizes the industrial shifts in mainstream broadcast networks and basic cable channels as it relates to blackness onscreen and diversity behind the scenes. ABC, The CW, and TBS are the focus of this chapter because they are the outlets for Banks, Rhimes, and Perry’s shows. I also position ABC, The CW, and TBS in relation to the rest of the industry as it has moved from the multi-channel transition to the post- network era. Chapter Three examines how Banks, Perry and Rhimes promote and publicize themselves as the key creative figure of their shows. This analysis places each individual in different sites of the burden of representation, which each handles differently. Chapter Four explores the connection between the role blackness plays in their image as public creative figure and how it is represented in their texts through a representational analysis of America’s Next Top Model, Grey’s Anatomy and House of Payne.

This dissertation advocates a neo-racial framework to examine blackness on television and behind the scenes. A neo-racial framework acknowledges that racial inequities continue to exist and the context surrounding these inequities needs to be examined. I conclude that the Banks, Rhimes, and Perry cases show that we are not in a post-racial society or in the post-network era.