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Michael Jordan ’s body offers a significant site to explore larger cultural meanings and anxieties in post-Reagan America. Informed by cultural studies sensibilities, this paper explores selected sporting and advertising accounts to suggest that representations of Jordan’s athletic body are constructed by promoters in ways which rely on particular associations of Black masculinity, sexuality, and the nuclear family. The carefully crafted image of Michael Jordan offers an enticing portrait of Black masculinity, playing off notions of natural athleticism and family sentiment in ways designed to induce devotion. This public persona of Jordan participates in the moralistic “family values” climate of post-Reagan America, while simultaneously working to deny historical and stereotypical depictions of Black masculinity as overtly erotic and dangerous. Thus marketing strategies encourage a voyeuristic, albeit “safe” enjoyment of Jordan’s commodified body.
Mary McDonald is with the Department of Physical Education, Health and Sport Studies, Miami University, Oxford, OH 45056.