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Top boy: cultural verisimilitude and the allure of Black criminality for UK public service broadcasting drama

Malik, Sarita and Nwonka, Clive James (2017) Top boy: cultural verisimilitude and the allure of Black criminality for UK public service broadcasting drama. Journal of British Cinema and Television, 14 (4). pp. 423-444. ISSN 1743-4521

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Identification Number: 10.3366/jbctv.2017.0387


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, screened by the UK’s leading multicultural public service broadcaster, Channel 4, in 2011 and 2013. This article produces an analysis, drawing on sociological and media studies perspectives, and through historicisation 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 postmulticulturalist and neoliberal tendencies within public service broadcasting frameworks. The article suggests that black urban crime narratives do not advance understandings of the organisational 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 the representation of black criminality.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2017 Edinburgh University Press
Divisions: Sociology
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
H Social Sciences > HT Communities. Classes. Races
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN1990 Broadcasting
Date Deposited: 18 Dec 2018 10:43
Last Modified: 15 May 2024 21:30

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