by Sarita Malik and C. Nwonka
This paper discusses the ways in which in the early 2000s, a new form of multicultural television drama began to emerge in the UK, exploring contemporary gang life within Britain’s black communities. A notable example of this ‘black urban crime’ genre is Top Boy, the two authors argue, screened by the UK’s leading multicultural public service broadcaster, Channel 4, between 2011 and 2013. This article produces an analysis, drawing on sociological and media studies perspectives, and through historicization and contextualisation, that seeks to understand the fascination of the black urban crime genre for programme-makers, broadcasters and audiences in the contemporary British mediascape. It locates Top Boy at the intersection of complex media relations and modes of production that are themselves intertwined with political, legislative and cultural agendas tied to post-multiculturalist and neoliberalist tendencies within public service broadcasting frameworks. The article suggests that black urban crime narratives do not advance understandings of the organizational structure of urban gangs or drug related crime that are so central to these texts; nor do they offer a progressive contribution to contemporary debates or representation of black criminality.
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