By D. Buckingham
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They might say they do, but… Leon: They just play it and just do something else. Damien: They wouldn’t be listening to it. The boys are attempting to deal with a difficult contradiction here. They know—or at least seem to have discovered—that black music carries high status for many of their white peers. Yet they also want to hold on to the notion that there is something distinctively ‘black’ about the music they enjoy, or at least about the way they use it. When pressed, they found this hard to define, although there was definitely a sense in which black artists who had ‘gone commercial’ were seen to have abandoned their specific appeal to a black audience.
While many of the texts named by black students were also named by whites, this was predictably much more the case with mainstream ‘black’ television than with more specialist music or magazines. Even in the case of programmes like The Cosby Show, however, black students tended to express stronger preferences, for example by ticking ‘always’ rather than ‘sometimes’; and they were much more likely to watch the slightly more ‘specialist’ Fresh Prince of Bel Air (90 per cent black, 52 per cent white).
The definition of what constitutes ‘appropriate viewing’ for young people, for example, is subject to a constant process of negotiation—and in many cases, a war of attrition—that takes place around the family television set. As we shall indicate in Chapter 6, many students demonstrated a clear and often ironical understanding of these processes; while most had access to additional sets, and thus the opportunity for private viewing, there was a sense in which, for better or worse, television was seen to be a ‘family’ activity.