Karens, Selfies, and Pop Stars
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