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Authenticating Whiteness - Karens, Selfies, and Pop Stars

Authenticating Whiteness

Karens, Selfies, and Pop Stars

By Rachel E. Dubrofsky
Series: Race, Rhetoric, and Media Series

Hardcover : 9781496843326, 184 pages, November 2022
Paperback : 9781496843333, 184 pages, November 2022

A critical examination of authenticity as a strategy of whiteness in popular media


In Authenticating Whiteness: Karens, Selfies, and Pop Stars, Rachel E. Dubrofsky explores the idea that popular media implicitly portrays whiteness as credible, trustworthy, familiar, and honest, and that this portrayal is normalized and ubiquitous. Whether on television, film, social media, or in the news, white people are constructed as believable and unrehearsed, from the way they talk to how they look and act.

Dubrofsky argues that this way of making white people appear authentic is a strategy of whiteness, requiring attentiveness to the context of white supremacy in which the presentations unfold. The volume details how ideas about what is natural, good, and wholesome are reified in media, showing how these values are implicitly racialized. Additionally, the project details how white women are presented as particularly authentic when they seem to lose agency by expressing affect through emotional and bodily displays.

The chapters examine a range of popular media—newspaper articles about Donald J. Trump, a selfie taken at Auschwitz, music videos by Miley Cyrus, the television series UnREAL, the infamous video of Amy Cooper calling the police on an innocent Black man, and the documentary Miss Americana—pinpointing patterns that cut across media to explore the implications for the larger culture in which they exist. At its heart, the book asks: Who gets to be authentic? And what are the implications?


"Authenticating Whiteness offers a new lens through which to understand representations of everyday whiteness. It powerfully discusses how whiteness often constructs itself as ‘authentic’ and how authenticity functions as a strategy of whiteness. Focusing on media and celebrity culture, including representations of white femininity, this book has a lot to offer to scholars of race, whiteness, and media. This is a highly valuable contribution to the literature on media representations of whiteness and particularly white femininity."

- Raka Shome, author of Diana and Beyond: White Femininity, National Identity, and Contemporary Media Culture

"In this book, Rachel Dubrofsky takes an innovative and expansive approach to the relationship between authenticity and whiteness. She positions her compelling argument that authenticity works as a strategy of whiteness within a range of media and popular culture, from Taylor Swift to Miley Cyrus, from reality television to Twitter, from Karen to Trump. Her detailed and careful analyses on the varied alliances of whiteness with authenticity makes a substantial contribution to conversations on the roles of media and popular culture, affect, and surveillance in understanding the powerful relationship between authenticity and whiteness."

- Sarah Banet-Weiser, author of Authentic™: The Politics of Ambivalence in a Brand Culture

"Authenticating Whiteness is an important exploration of the fragile nature of whiteness in its contemporary sociopolitical habitat. In examining how whiteness is unapologetically shape-shifting, self-protective, and often insecure, Rachel Dubrofsky issues a compelling challenge we won’t soon forget in this masterful critical-theoretic volume."

- Ronald L. Jackson II, author of Scripting the Black Masculine Body: Identity, Discourse, and Racial Politics in Popular Media

"This book unearths how authenticity emerges as a powerful social force through various mediated discourses . . . . Authenticating Whiteness is a must read for scholars and students in media studies, communication, and critical cultural studies. Highly recommended."

- W. Alvarez, CHOICE

"[A]ntiracist work requires White people to let go of authenticity, become uncomfortable and uneasy, and embrace the messiness of identity within antiracist spaces. . . . These conversations are not straightforward, and as Dubrofsky aptly articulates, often result in Whiteness taking up space that decenters Black activism, experience, and autonomy. So while antiracism is a slippery concept for White people, Dubrofsky restates how necessary it is to confront the incomplete tensions between comfort and freedom of Whiteness in given spaces if we are to do this work meaningfully."

- Sim Gill, International Journal of Communication

"The topics are attention-getting. . . . [This] book would be a good addition to libraries with collections related to communication studies, media studies, and race relations."

- Allison Faix, The Southeastern Librarian

"By conducting critical textual analysis on various popular media representation, such as news articles, music videos, reality TV series, and selfies on social media, Dubrofsky provides an insightful understanding of how mediated authenticity and whiteness are related. . . . Please be prepared for the intense notetaking with highlighters and frequent nodding-along when you read this well-written, empirically solid, and insightful book, just as I did."

- Qian Huang, Surveillance & Society

"Dubrofsky covers quite a lot of ground in under 200 pages, but her interdisciplinary work and supporting evidence is laid out clearly to all readers. Dubrofsky defines many of her terms and contextualizes how she will be using them for her project, which is helpful given the way various fields engage with research and methodology. This book is intended to be part of a broader project that other scholars will hopefully join; Dubrofsky is clear that her work is only the beginning of a much larger conversation."

- Morgan Foster, Journal of Popular Culture