SAMLA 2017

Race and Masculinity in Arrested Development

Running from 2003 to 2006, Arrested Development established a dedicated niche following through its clever writing, until it was abruptly cancelled by Fox. The show’s popularity prompted Netflix to revive it for a fourth season in 2013 and a fifth season in 2018. The show forces the racial Other to the margins, even as it displays insight into the way that minorities are reified. All of the major—and virtually all of the minor—characters are white. The show is both fantasy and nightmare of white America: the rise and fall of the Bluth company stands for the unraveling of the American Dream, represented by home ownership. The shoddy workmanship of the model home in which the Bluths live reflects white anxiety that their once uncontested dominance is being undermined in an increasingly pluralistic world.

Arrested Development marginalizes blackness through the character of Carl Weathers (playing himself). Weathers incarnates the white paranoia that the black masses are economic parasites living large off the welfare state. Weathers deploys the trope of the trickster figure and re-inscribes the image of African Americans as fundamentally dishonest, lazy, and manipulative. Moreover, the show exposes Western imperialism via the Bluth’s adopted Korean son, Annyong. Annyong, unsettles the seemingly neat distinction between American and immigrant by performing what Homi Bhabha calls “mimicry.”