Document Type


Date of Degree

Spring 2014

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Communication Studies

First Advisor

Timothy Havens


A figure that has been pushed to the periphery of television shows throughout history, the African American woman has become more and more visible recently thanks to the proliferation of the cheap-to-produce reality television genre. Although many of these shows do feature African American women, critics often argue that these shows are a disgrace to the community, full of bickering women who are more obsessed with their labels than one another. This dissertation is an attempt to recuperate these programs from such denigration. I argue that reality television shows that focus on African American women do provide a great service to the community. Using soap opera theory as a theoretical foundation and close reading as an analytic tool, this project argues that these reality programs, which are called docusoaps, provide complex representations of African American women that are rarely seen on television. In addition, they offer therapeutic space to the women on the program as well as possible ones to the Black female viewers at home. The case study is The Real Housewives of Atlanta, a show that has aired on Bravo since 2008. This show has served as the template for the various African American docusoaps that have followed it, making it an important site for the investigation of how these programs present Black women and possible therapeutic spaces for that community.


African American Women, Docusoaps, Reality Television, Television Studies, The Real Housewives of Atlanta


vi, 149 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 144-149).


Copyright 2014 Alexander Hawley

Included in

Communication Commons