Lincoln School of Film & Media welcomes Dr. Tanya Horeck, Reader in Film, Media & Culture at Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge, to give a paper entitled:
‘Caught on Tape’: Elevator Violence, Black Celebrity, and the Politics of Surveillance
‘Jay-Z physically attacked by Beyoncé’s sister Solange’: so screamed the TMZ headline to the “raw” surveillance video it obtained from the inside of an elevator in New York in May of 2014. The video instantly went viral and initiated thousands of memes organized around the hashtag #WhatJayZSaidtoSolange, as people clambered to share their responses to the video and to offer their theories as to why Solange physically lashed out at Jay-Z while Beyoncé stood by, still and silent. This paper compares the Jay-Z/ Beyoncé video to the Ray Rice surveillance video that TMZ published four months later, in which the black American NFL star knocks his fiancée unconscious in an elevator. I will examine how the two elevator videos become entangled with one another – both in mainstream media and in an explosion of internet memes – in ways that indicate the tenacity of certain deeply rooted and pernicious racial and gender stereotypes. It is no accident, I argue, that the most publicized surveillance videos on TMZ to date, involve the depiction of racialized, black bodies. What is of specific concern to me here is how the apparently “passive” lens of surveillance actively works to reproduce black bodies as toxic and criminal, in ways that both highlight – and obscure – the complex questions of agency that have become so central to digital platforms.