Interrogating the Awkward Black Girl

Beyond controlling images of Black women in televised comedies

Authored by: Kimberly R. Moffitt , Tammy Sanders Henderson

The Routledge Handbook of Gender and Communication

Print publication date:  November  2020
Online publication date:  November  2020

Print ISBN: 9781138329188
eBook ISBN: 9780429448317
Adobe ISBN:


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Collins (1990) introduced us to a set of controlling images that serve as commonly held and continuously perpetuated (mis)representations of Black women in media. One trope not specifically interrogated is that of the “awkward Black girl” (ABG). These are Black women characters who appear to struggle with their seemingly incongruous identities of Black, awkward, and educated. This chapter seeks to explore the evolution of this representation over the last three decades. By conducting a textual analysis of four ABG, Freddie Brooks (A Different World), Synclaire James (Living Single), Dr. Rainbow Johnson (Black-ish), and J (Insecure), we argue that this trope is an extension of a controlling image and potentially a space allowing us to transcend those static representations, enabling us to work “toward self-definition,” as Collins (1990) envisioned.

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