Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Science


Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication


Journalism and Mass Communication

First Advisor

Tracy Lucht


This study examines portrayals of lead characters played by black and mixed-black men and women in four contemporary top-grossing box office films released from 2010-2015. The qualitative textual analysis assesses whether leads played by black or mixed-black people conform to or stray from Hollywood’s historical messages that have allowed for racial and gender inequalities on screen. By cross-analyzing characters in terms of genre and gender and forming an understanding of how each character functions in their respective narratives, my analysis identified four major themes. Lead characters played by black and mixed-black people are shown a) having broken or absent families; b) engaged in servitude and/or subordination, which also included uniformity in terms of appearance; c) associated with criminality and/or weaponry; and d) facing one’s fears and striving for a better life, which often involved confronting one’s financial struggles. My findings also suggest that there is more complexity to be found in the roles given to black and mixed black actors/actresses than has been the case historically, as historical portrayals of African Americans are challenged and complicated by contemporary films with both historically based and fictionally based plots.


Copyright Owner

Melissa Ann Garrett



File Format


File Size

122 pages