Visualizing Deviance in Post-Reagan America: Magic Johnson, AIDS, and the Promiscuous World of Professional Sport

Cheryl L. Cole, Harry Denny

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


In this paper we explore the maintenance of the duplicitous discourse of heterosexual AIDS by examining how identities are articulated as threatening through the modem “logic of containment” that underlies the discursive formation around AIDS. Specifically, we examine the mainstream media's coverage of Magic Johnson's announcement that he had tested positive for HIV antibodies. We suggest that Johnson's HIV status is codified through the pro-family agenda, the war on drugs, and anti-welfare strategies established under Reagan so as to render deviance visible and contain AIDS in the national imaginary. This narrative simultaneously produces a white, heterosexual “general public” that is compassionate, responsible, safe, and threatened, while obscuring the responsibility of multinational capitalism and the Reagan-Bush administration for the erosion of social welfare programs and the neglect of AIDS.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)123-147
Number of pages25
JournalCritical Sociology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Oct 1994


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science

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