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Ambivalent anti-heroes and racist rednecks on basic cable: Post-race ideology and white masculinities on FX

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This article explores the representations of white masculinities and the depiction of racism in anti-heroic narratives on the basic cable network FX in the United States. By juxtaposing the ambivalent racial sensibilities of a morally ambiguous white protagonist with the overt racism of stereotypical depictions of the white underclass, The Shield (2002–2008), Sons of Anarchy (2008–) and Justified (2010–) acknowledge the continuing existence of racial prejudice in American society while also supporting the dominant colour blind rhetoric that denies the continuing impact of structural racism. Although some scholars interpret the popularity of hyper-masculine anti-hero shows that speak to the notion of ‘masculinity-in-crisis’ as indicative of the declining benefits associated with white, male privilege, this analysis uses G. Harris’ notion of ‘postmasculinist television drama’ to argue that the consistent deployment of white masculinities in these FX programmes reinforce the post-race ideology associated with hegemonic whiteness by ‘othering’ problematic racial attitudes yet still allow white audiences to take ‘ironic’ pleasure from expressions of overt racism.
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Keywords: FX; anti-hero; basic cable; post-network television; prime-time drama; white masculinities

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Virginia

Publication date: October 1, 2014

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