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Community Media-Making Practices and Aesthetics: Potentials and Pitfalls

Aspiration, Desire, and Digital Communities in the Age of Gig Work and Social Hierarchies

Winter 2024

Vol. 24 no. 1

This issue of The Projector features the indispensable research of Mel Monier and Steven Dashiell. In 2023, the Society for Cinema and Media Studies Caucus on Class recognized both scholars for their incisive and innovative work. Monier’s article, “‘You’re Here for the Makeup and for the Tea,’” illuminates and contextualizes the invisible labor behind many YouTube videos and the cultural work Jackie Aina specifically undertakes in her makeup videos. It also illustrates concrete ways that dominant culture’s shaping of digital realms impacts content producers like Aina—and how she overcomes those challenges to successfully sustain Black culture. Dashiell’s article, “‘I Have Something for You,’” also effectively demonstrates how scholarship can integrate research on social identity and material conditions. The article’s concise but meticulous analysis of selected pizza-boy depictions in gay pornography transcends familiar accounts of desire, masculinity, and representation by carefully considering working-class men’s fraught identities in post-industrial, neoliberal U. S. society. Both articles represent models for scholarship that sheds light on contemporary screen media, social identity, taste formation, cultural dynamics, and socioeconomic realities.  

                                                                                          ---Cynthia Baron, Editor   

“You’re Here for the Makeup and for the Tea”: An Analysis of Jackie Aina’s Racialized, Feminized, and Cultural Labor

by Mel Monier 

Image by Christian Wiediger

This article addresses the precarity of online spaces for Black women through an analysis of Nigerian American YouTuber Jackie Aina’s content. As one of the few prominent dark-skinned Black women lifestyle and beauty content creators, Aina is placed in a precarious state of hypervisibility, which enables her to reach wider audiences, but also leaves her more vulnerable to online harassment. This article contributes to conversations about digital worker’s uncompensated aspirational labor and Black women’s affective labor in digital spaces. Using Critical Technocultural Discourse Analysis (CTDA) and textual analysis of Aina’s YouTube videos from 2018 to 2021, I illustrate how Aina performs multiple levels of paid and unpaid labor by building affective communities with her audience, navigating racism and algorithmic bias online, and protecting her digital spaces from racial and gender-based violence. I also address the structures of social media platforms that afford Black women creators like Aina radical community but can also render Black women extremely vulnerable.

“I have something for you”: The Erotic Habitus and Class Situatedness of the Pizza Boy Trope in Gay Pornography

by Steven Dashiell 

Man delivery pizza to customer.jpg

This article analyzes the pizza boy in gay pornography and the social expectations associated with the character’s class performance. I consider Adam Isaiah Green’s notion of erotic habitus, “a socially constituted complex of dispositions, appreciations, and inclinations arising from objective historical conditions that mediate the formation and selection of sexual scripts.” Examining four portrayals of the pizza boy in pornography, I propose that the components of embodiment, transgression, negotiation, and sexual positioning in the erotic habitus of the performances play into social expectations and class-based views of the pizza boy in his masculine role. The pizza boy occupies a class space that differs from his customer, and his participation in the sex act is therefore inherently tied to desire, need, and complicity. His aggressiveness, sexuality, or forcefulness, if present, can be written off as representing a masculinity associated with men in lower socioeconomic positions. The pizza boy trope in pornography thus presents class difference as correlating to sexual expectations and working-class reliance on using anything in one’s arsenal to succeed in life.

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