Robo-Diva R&B: Aesthetics, Politics, and Black Female Robots in Contemporary Popular Music
Robin James. University of North Carolina
This was a very interesting report on the portrayal of black, female r&b singers such as Beyoncé and Rihanna as non-humans, called the Robo-Divas. This paper does a great job at deconstructing the societies values regarding race and gender in mainstream pop culture.
Stereotypically, western society views black women as closer to nature, and more nurturing individuals than white women. Additionally, African-American men represent hyper-masculinity and toughness. In the past, white musicians such as the rockers of 1960 were known to take these characteristics and apply them to their persona, in the process creating powerful and effective brands.
European civilizations are portrayed as moving further away from nature and actively embracing technology. Conversely, Africa is portrayed as the cradle of civilization. As societies industrialize and move further away from these roots, they are seen as moving further away from emotion, empathy, community, etc.
For hundreds of years, blacks were enslaved by white society in North America. They were overworked, and severely mistreated, needless to say it was a terrible and shameful era. In it’s most superficial form, the modern day industrialization of robots (most of which are owned by white patriarch society) have the same economic effect as the African-American slaves once did. Eventually, there was a revolution and the slaves broke free of their bondage. Today, much science fiction postulates the idea, what if the machines revolted and took over, like in The Matrix?
There is an underlying anxiety in certain corners of white patriarchal society that tries to resist this automation of machines, in fear that it will one day be their demise.
The black Robo-Diva challenges the norms in society, by affirming her sexual expertise while being completely integrated with technology. It’s very difficult to see a stereotype like this, because technology is a scientific paradigm we are born with. This has led to the creation of a persona that is both lusted over and feared at the same time. No doubt, they are one-in-a-million in terms of talent, but my hat goes off to the brand experts that came up with this one- intentional or not.