Honors Presentations



Kulture, Klass & Kim: Kim Kardashian West’s Appropriation of Blackness

This thesis explores how Kim Kardashian West appropriates Blackness through her skin, hair, and body. It tracks the problematic historical and cultural implications of appropriating certain facets of Black culture. I use the framework of post racialism and ‘wokeness’ as a brand to help explain how she is able to get away with culturally appropriating without consequences. This thesis analyzes her self-produced images by looking at her various Instagram posts and the magazine covers she has appeared on, as well as looking at users’ Instagram comments to begin to understand how everyday people understand Kardashian West. Ultimately, I argue that because of post-racialism and ‘wokeness’ as a brand, Kardashian West lucratively appropriates Blackness, while simultaneously clinging onto whiteness. This comes at the expense of actual Black women, who are not afforded the same luxury.


Chronically Tweeting: A Look at How the Functionality of Twitter Creates a Vital Space for the Chronically Ill

This work is focused on the usage of Twitter within the chronically ill community (CI/ CIC). Throughout this paper, I focus on three categories of tweets: affirming/proving disability tweets, ableism tweets, and community building tweets. All three of these categories help to prove that the functionality of Twitter suits the chronically ill community. The functionality of Twitter and its ability to connect people throughout the world is why it is a place where chronically ill people can easily connect. Many people in the CIC suffer from isolation and loneliness, but through the use of digital technology such as Twitter, chronically ill people have the opportunity to engage with one another. Unlike other social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter is made up of people that one does not know in person. This is helpful for chronically ill people because most do not know other sick people in their daily lives. I argue that Twitter functions more like a chat room where conversation can flow. The chatroom feature of Twitter mirrors the ebbs and flows of chronic illness. Finally, the lack of gatekeepers on Twitter allows the CIC to express their struggles without the fear of removal from the platform, something that often happens on Instagram and TikTok. Twitter provides the CIC with a space, something that they do not normally have. Disclaimer: I am situated within the chronically ill community. I am an active participant on Twitter, which is how I have personally gained access to this information. Being a member of this group gives me a unique perspective and the ability to better understand the underlying meaning of tweets.


Category is.... Hegemony! Reading into RuPaul’s Drag Race’s Neoliberal Reification of Transphobia & Cisgenderism Endorsed by RuPaul Charles

Charisma, Uniqueness, Nerve, and Talent. These are the four characteristics the producers of RuPaul's Drag Race (RPDR) say are required for potential drag performer contestants, but it seems as though there is a lot more that the show requires from its competitors. This thesis explores the ways that RPDR has reified hegemonic ideals of cisgenderism and transphobia in a consolatory attempt to assuage heterosexual, cisgender, non- queer viewers, who the show is marketed towards, as well as capitalist media elites, trying to conform drag art performance and queerness into a commodifiable and cisgenderistic product. Under the guise of purported healthy multicultural queer representation, RPDR pigeonholes the unprecedented mainstream potential for drag performance due to their adherence to cisgenderism and transphobia. This essay analyzes how this is accomplished through the show's insistent slur usage, ridicule-focused humor, binaristic understanding of gender, favorability of ideal femininity, and unequal focus on trans bodies throughout the show’s search to determine who does not fit their changing mold for “America’s Next Drag Superstar,” the title given to the winner of each season. This essay also analyzes how RuPaul Charles' public comments surrounding the show's trans- exclusive characteristics contributes to this reification, carelessly defining drag performance as only radical for cisgender gay men and invalidating the work of non-cisgender drag performers around the globe.


Hashtags and Hierarchies: Black Women, Twitter, and an Expansive Conception of Political Mobilization

Black Twitter is a platform where millions of Black users engage with one another online in order to form solidarity through shared injustices. The users of Black Twitter connect through cultural practices such as signifyin’ and Blacktags, which are solely used and recognized by the Black community. I argue that the discourse on Black Twitter has been framed around the protection of the Black male body, (especially after the 2014 Ferguson protests), while often disregarding the primary operators of the site, Black women. In this thesis, I argue that Black women have turned to Twitter to voice issues of intersectionality and marginalization through the understood language of hashtags – and that, through an understanding of the significance of the hashtags #hurtbae and #BlackGirlMagic as vehicles around which Black women have organized online, we can produce an expanded conception of political mobilization by Black women and of our definition of what constitutes important aspects of Black female identity. Although these two hashtags are overlooked as platforms for mobilization, they have given Black women the agency to protest their marginalization in a patriarchal and white dominated society. Through the qualitative analysis of these two hashtags, I am able to understand how Black women celebrate achievements and dismantle patriarchal oppression.

Keywords: Black Twitter, #hurtbae, #BlackGirlMagic, Magic, Intersectionality, Blacktags, Political Mobilization


"We can show that!” Audience-Producer Relationships and Their Effect on Let’s Play Production

In recent years, Let’s Plays (LP) on YouTube, videos in which people show themselves playing video games for an audience, have exploded in popularity and accumulated large fanbases across the internet. In order to understand the relationship between Let’s Plays on YouTube and their cultivated audience, analysis of audience interaction in two episodes of Funhaus’ podcast, Dude Soup, was conducted alongside personal communications from creators on YouTube. Understanding the relationship between LP producers and audience provides some insight into the way these creators can bridge the gap between their audiences and their content. Due to the interactive nature of Let’s Plays, maintaining healthy audience relations goes hand-in-hand with producer transparency about Let’s Plays as a product in order to prevent parasocial relationships and allow for future channel growth. Using Funhaus as a specific example of how these relationships can be navigated, this research highlights the importance of audience correspondence in the new media era.


The Nexus of Netflix: Neoliberalism, Individuality and Exploitation

The growing popularity of streaming platforms as a replacement for linear traditional television within American households is irrefutable. Offering users to be the masters of their own domains by setting the parameters of their viewing experience, controlling what they watch, when they watch it and how they watch it promises a sense of individualized freedom and autonomy with seemingly no consequences. In a neoliberal world, however, this promise is an intangible, insidious fantasy that holds the power to negatively impact those which it supposedly benefits. Netflix, being the world’s leading streaming entertainment service, with upwards of 167 million global subscribers, stands as an empire, that has tapped into the business of packaging and selling this individualized freedom by constantly articulating a user’s ability to customize, personalize and develop their own niche experience. Through Netflix’s aesthetic appeals and technological strategies, the platform promotes an autonomous liberty for its users. However, this comes at the expense of their own exploitation.


With(Stan)ding Cancel Culture: Stan Twitter and Reactionary Fandoms

Cancel culture is often regarded as a witch hunt on social media, a way to harass people into silence, an excuse to bully critics—but that was not always the case. This analysis traces the history of cancel culture, its appropriation by stans, and its rebirth as the commonly known petty, polarized behavior on Twitter. Cancel culture began on Black Twitter via call-outs directed at public officials or celebrities for being racist, homophobic, sexist, etc. in an attempt to shed light on the abuse of power, to boycott corrupt companies, or to revoke support for problematic authority or celebrity figures. The social justice logic and activism behind cancel culture has been appropriated by Stan Twitter, which is an obsessive, overzealous group of pop culture fans. Stans noticed the power that cancel culture had to end careers, twisted the activism into harassment, and restructured cancel culture as an excuse to censor anyone who questions, competes with, or critiques their idols. Today, cancel culture is seen negatively because of the deeply negative effect of Stan Twitter on this originally well-intentioned movement. This current version of cancel culture is almost always seen as an obstacle in the way of real progress in social justice activism. These two phenomena - cancel culture and stan Twitter - are the seeds of polarized behavior that have been planted in social media and that implicitly affect the ways that Twitter users respond to and make sense of the world in general. Polarization is the new normal, it infects everything from politics to entertainment, and it limits productive discourse by marginalizing those who do not immediately align with a dominant ideology.


Figuring It Out with You All the Way: Understanding the Evolution of Girl Power Media on Disney Channel Through Analysis of Lizzie McGuire and Andi Mack

This paper is an analysis of the evolution of girl power media on Disney Channel. Girl power is a phenomenon that came to fruition in the 1990s and early 2000s, which pushed girl empowerment into the public sphere. It emphasized girls and their stories as a way to bring the lives of girls to the forefront and give them resources and support. Through including girls in the marketplace and in cultural conversations, as well as creating media for them, girl power aimed to show girls that they have agency and that they are active members of society. In this era, multiple American television shows were created that focused on young girls and their experiences, giving them voices they hadn't had before, as most shows historically centered around male characters. This paper focuses on two Disney Channel shows, Lizzie McGuire (2001-2004) and Andi Mack (2017-2019) to analyze the ways that girl power media, specifically on Disney Channel, has changed throughout the years. I chose to look at Disney because of the ways that Disney as an empire impacts the lives of both young and older viewers. Disney is a powerhouse when it comes to media and entertainment, and I believe it is important to closely analyze the messages their content sends out. I am comparing the first twelve episodes of Lizzie McGuire to the first season of Andi Mack. I take into account the ways that the political/social climate has shifted, as well as the ways that television content in general has changed, to understand certain similarities and differences between the two shows and the way that girl power media has transformed. I also pay close attention to the social conditions of each show, in an effort to notice any changes within peer interactions. Most heavily, I focus on the ways that the shows express the girls' agency within specific categories (family, socially, romantically) and how the shows generally represent race, gender and class. I argue that Disney's girl power content has evolved with the times in certain ways and has become more progressive, but its original content also cannot be ignored for its progressive and valuable moments.


Redefining the Rainbow: Coming Out in the Age of Technology

Since the inception of YouTube in 2005, there has been an increase in the creation of coming out videos from both celebrity YouTubers and beginner video creators. Each of these videos continues to shape the coming out experience as a public one, but famous YouTubers format their coming out stories in particular ways to appeal to audiences through acts of self-disclosure. This thesis seeks to compare the videos posted by these distinct groups of people and the factors that influence how they are created. Engaging in textual analysis of coming out videos posted on YouTube, the present research shows how audience interaction and community building impacts how coming out videos are formatted and produced. Further, these videos are shaped by the celebrity status of the creators, but the personal experience of coming out publicly through YouTube allows an emotional connection to audiences and the LGBTQ community.