Date of Award

Summer 7-28-2017

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in American Studies (MAST)


Interdisciplinary Studies

Committee Chair/First Advisor

Dr. Griselda Thomas

Second Advisor

Dr. Nichole Guillory


The reoccurrence of the Black Brute, the Thug, and the modern day Coon stereotypical images on current television narrowly defines Black masculinity as a monolithic experience. Young Black boys, are often unable to see themselves as those who are portrayed on television. The images they see on screen are sometimes not realistic. Unfortunately, for some young Black boys, these stereotypical images may heavily influence their own behavior. Society often criminalizes and demonizes young Black men as angry, violent, and dangerous. They pose as a supposed threat to society and are thought to be even more problematic as they age. Currently, there is a need for alternative representations of Black youth and masculinity, which will allow for young Black men to define themselves and not allow society to define them. In this project I explore the Black male leads: Lucious Lyon in Empire and Luke Cage in Luke Cage. In addition, I explore the complexity of their characters and how their worldview of Black masculinity ultimately shapes their masculinity as Black men. While both were created as innovative representations of Black masculinity, they are mirrored images of historical stereotypes of Black men: the Thug as portrayed by Lucious Lyon in Empire and the Black Brute as portrayed by Luke Cage. This analysis focuses on the shift in current Black male representations in popular culture through a Black feminist lens. Themes addressed in this research project include: Blackness, Black love, and Black male gender performance and worldview.