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Representation of Black Youth in Roy Williams’ Lift Of and Fallout

  • Journal of Modern English Drama
  • Abbr : JMBARD
  • 2018, 31(3), pp.5-31
  • Publisher : 한국현대영미드라마학회
  • Research Area : Humanities > English Language and Literature > English Literature > Contemporary English Drama

KIM, YOO 1

1성균관대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

This paper explores Roy Williams’ complex representation of British black youth in two of his works, Lift Off (1999) and Fallout (2003). Williams, a leading contemporary British black dramatist, challenges the mainstream media’s stereotypical portrayals of black masculinity and black-on-black crime, which are largely based on the perception of urban black youth as hyper-sexualized, degenerate and criminal-minded. Unlike the first and the second generations of British black dramatists, who relied heavily upon ‘the migrant sensibilities’ or the binary opposition of white and black, Williams’ plays focus on a complex web of black identity, particularly the urban sensibilities of a third-generation of black youth in contemporary British multiculturalism. Dealing respectively with the stereotypes of black machismo and the public discourse on black-on-black violence, Life Off and Fallout swerve away from the representation based on fundamentally binary terms which have long characterized the racial relations between black and white. In both plays, the conflicts within black communities are critically examined and the notion of black solidarity is under scrutiny. Williams’ representation of black youth is closely related with the immediate and urgent social, economic issues such as racism, urban poverty, violence and gang culture. Establishing the links between black masculinity and crime impinging upon black youth culture, Williams contextualizes it in relation to the social structure. However, Williams’ black youth are not recounted as passive victims of white supremacy. They are also subject to criticism, being the active agents of criminal deeds and demonstrating the lack of any ethical awareness and moral responsibility. The representation of black youth in Life Of and Fallout challenges both the conservative discourse, which has defined black youth as a hotbed of crime and the well-meaning liberal discourse, which has attempted to posit them as mere victims of the repressive social system.

Citation status

* References for papers published after 2022 are currently being built.

This paper was written with support from the National Research Foundation of Korea.