"It's Just a Prank, Bro!" A Sociological Analysis of New Media, Race, and Horrid Humor

This qualitative study sociologically examines the intersections of anti-Black racism, stereotypes, digital space, and humor. Current literature focuses primarily on the existence of racism and the use of stereotypes within digital cultural products; however, little research focuses on the use and implications of anti-Black stereotypes positioned as humor or why the humor is racially and socially significant in a space where ordinary people can create their own media: YouTube. A content analysis was conducted of the top 20 most viewed YouTube hood prank videos. Critical Race Theory, with a focus on whiteness, was used to analyze the inner workings of YouTube hood prank videos. I found hood prank videos employ historical anti-Black stereotypes of Black men as violent, dangerous, criminal, drug-involved, and fearful of the police, and use racial sadism as a specifically abusive form of humor. My findings indicate the need for additional sociological examinations of humor as a tool of the oppressor and for a further unmasking of the racism on which the purported humor is built.