Event Date: 

Friday, March 1, 2013 - 12:00pm

Event Location: 

  • South Hall 3605

Event Contact: 


Qiuana Lopez, UCSB


All are welcome to attend the next SocioCult meeting, which will be held Friday, March 1, 12-1 p.m. in the Linguistics Classroom, 3605 South Hall. UC President's Postdoctoral Fellow Qiuana Lopez will be presenting a preliminary run-through of her talk for the American Association for Applied Linguistics (title and abstract below). Bring your lunch; dessert will be provided.

Aggressively Feminine: Linguistic Performances of Blackness by White Female Characters in Hollywood Films

Qiuana Lopez (UCSB)

Dialect performances in the media are of great interest to both sociolinguists and second language instructors as a ready resource for studying dialect variation.  However, not all performances are created equal.  Research has demonstrated that linguistic performances of minority dialects in the media are often more concerned with indexing ideologies of the dialects and their speakers rather than providing a realistic linguistic account (e.g. Bucholtz & Lopez 2011; Hill 1995; Lee 2006; Meek 2006).  This is especially true with performances of African American English (AAE) by white as well as black characters, which usually contain the most stereotypical forms of the dialect and often violate grammatical rules (e.g. Green 2006; Lopez 2009, 2012).

This paper examines the representations of AAE by young white female characters in Hollywood film.  These characters use features of AAE to perform stereotypical racial, class, and gender identities.  Whereas (white) women’s language is often ideologically viewed as more polite, less aggressive and closer to the standard than men’s language (e.g. Barrett 1999; Lakoff 2004), these characters reject the characteristics of women’s language and the expectations of white middle-class femininity by appropriating nonstandard linguistic features that are ideologically viewed as masculine, aggressive, obscene, black, and working-class (e.g. Morgan 1999, 2004; Spears 1998; Troutman 2001).  The performances are racially complex in that they “challenge the sanctity of biological racial categories” as well as “question the assumed desirability of being white” (Wilkins 2008: 158).  However, in doing so, they perpetuate a stereotyped form of black femininity that suggests that black women are more sexually aggressive and available than white women.  An analysis of these performances reveals the danger of using media data in the classroom to illustrate AAE without a discussion of the problematic implications of such representations.