Swenson, “Rodney King, Reginald Denny and TV news”


In the article entitled Rodney King, Reginald Denny, and TV News: Cultural (Re)Construction of Racism the author, Jill Dianne Swenson employs the theories of Hall and Baudrillard together to provide a mechanism through which she looks at the video news narratives depicting the beatings of Rodney King and Reginald Denny. Alone these two theories are inadequate to provide a comprehensive explanation, but together they provide stereoscopic lenses to look at the videos of Rodney King and Reginald Denny. Baudrillard’s concept of the hyperreal is exemplified by the repetitious playing of the videos in order. TV news’ attempt to play the two videos of the beatings in order creates the illusion that they happened in sequential order. Baudrillard argues that the real is no longer real; rather a hyperreality is created in reality’s place. Hall’s theory suggests that the production of these videos invite the audience to “read racism.” The hyperreal mode of signification and preferred readings of these videos as stories of “racism”, in the case of King, and “reverse-racism” in the case of Denny, gave them a high sense of historical significance.  Thus both videos were encoded in a way as to limit the number of possible readings and encourage the preferred readings of racism.  TV coverage of these two events serves to explain how TV restores racial inequality and social order.


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