Come get these memories: Gender, history and racial uplift in Bill Condon's Dreamgirls

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Social Identities, 2012, 18 (5), pp. 537 - 553
Issue Date:
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On the release of the screen adaptation of Dreamgirls (2006), ex-Motown songwriter William 'Smokey' Robinson fielded speculations about corruption at America's most successful black-owned business. In the broader context of racial inequalities in media ownership and distribution, this article asks how spectacles of hard-won individual success, juxtaposed sharply against sexually and financially corrupt 'music moguls', continue to shape popular mythologies of the US music industry. In particular, the article focuses on the ways that sexual combat, corrupt masculinities and the politics of respectability inform Dreamgirls' dramatization of the shift from pre-integration to post-Civil Rights America. Finally, the notion of post-racial discourse is used to make sense of the competing historical interpretations at work in the film and its critical reception, especially with regard to the use of past entertainment icons to make sense of Beyoncé Knowles' and Jennifer Hudson's own success stories. Throughout, the article argues that myths of meritocracy cannot be separated from the racialized and gendered cultures of production that continue to shape the contemporary repackaging of popular histories and musical genres. © 2012 Copyright Taylor and Francis Group, LLC.
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