Beauty and the beast: gendered and raced discourse in the news

Paula Wilcox

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article explores the implications of the extent to which the mythic intrudes on the everyday in newspaper reporting, taking as a case study the drive-by shooting of two young, black women in Birmingham in 2003. An analysis of news headlines and texts demonstrates the use of mythical language and imagery in this case (as in other high-profile cases) as compared with the usual reporting of homicides in the press. Notions of innocence and guilt are explored through the construction of gendered and raced bodies in the case study. The article finds that this media discourse relies for its impact on the simultaneous and mutually dependent construction of fabular gendered and raced ideas; of exceptional innocence and purity (unusually) attached to black femininity (beauty) and of exceptional and volatile violence (usually) attached to black masculinity (the beast). Moreover, the discourse is constructed such that guilt for the gun crime extends beyond the individual perpetrators to the black community as a whole. While media coverage reflects a realistic fear of gun crime, the article concludes that media discourse in this case directs fear towards the black community/male as the dangerous 'other', and that this is crucially underpinned by polarized gendered discourse.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)515-532
Number of pages18
JournalSocial & Legal Studies
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2005


  • black femininity
  • black masculinity
  • gendered discourse
  • innocence
  • guilt
  • violence


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