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The Issue of Stereotypes in Films
Stereotypes and Their Consequences
What are Stereotypes?
Stereotypes are generalized statements or concepts about a group of folks. They may be in regard to race, gender, religion, orientation, or many other concepts. Stereotypes can refer to behavior or appearances or other aspects. For example, it is a frequent stereotype that Asian folks are undesirable drivers. Because stereotypes are generalizations about a complete group, they are often not accurately representative. This is due to the reality that individuals are diverse, even within a common group such as within a certain race.
How Stereotypes Take place in Film
The way a character speaks, dresses, behaves are all influenced by the need of the filmmaker. Stereotypes are integrated into film, each purposefully and inadvertently, due to the fact the filmmaker’s vision of the character might be a generalized representation based loosely on specific elements of culture. For example, a movie about basketball could feature several African American characters as athletics are considered a significant portion of Black American culture.
Consequences of Stereotypes
Since film (as effectively as all other media) presents ideas as widespread concepts with regards to society, the impact is that representations of characters translate to becoming reality. Regrettably, these tips are often misrepresented as they are derived from the thoughts of the filmmaker. When a filmmaker envisions a character, they may inject certain traits into that character that align with their individual concepts about how that certain character should appear or act. When these representations are presented to the general public via the film, they are accepted as frequent truths. This perpetuates stereotypes.
Stereotypes and Native and African Americans
Native and African American representations in film have historically been inaccurate and riddled with stereotypes. These stereotypes have contributed to generalized damaging concepts about both cultures. Some widespread stereotypes with regards to Native Americans are that they are distrusting of outsiders and that they are alcoholics. Frequent stereotypes with regards to African American are that they are criminals, unintelligent, and possess a litany of other damaging qualities.
While these ideas are not representative of these races as a complete, they are often the representations presented in film with modern day storylines. In mainstream Hollywood films presently, it is not uncommon for African American characters, created to be the hero, to be nefarious and unethical. For example, 1 of the main characters of Fist Fight played by Ice Cube engages in extremely unethical behavior and excessive aggression towards everyone around him, echoing the “black Rambo” stereotype (Levy et al. & Keen, 2017). Even the representations of Native Americans in modern day films such as the Twilight Saga shows Native Americans as becoming closed off from mainstream society and overly distrusting of outsiders. These present-day representations show the audience that “this is how this group behaves”.
Historical depictions are often inherently inaccurate as they are from the potential of a different race. These representations show Natives as gullible or possibly the stoic brave, or even as hostiles. African Americans have been shown as gleeful, comical slaves such as in ‘sambo’ and ‘mammy’ depictions. Other representations of African American girls that have transpired by means of time include the ‘jezebel’ stereotype- depicting an overly sexual and/or promiscuous woman. The ‘jezebel’ stereotype rose significantly in the course of the 70s but can be seen in films as early as Birth of A Nation (Pilgrim, 2012). Even though as modern viewers, we know that some of these depictions are inherently inaccurate, some depictions strongly influence our existing view points
1 of the main methods we see the combating of stereotypes in film is by means of the concepts presented by African and Native American filmmakers. Via confronting, difficult and exposing stereotyping, they are generating headway in altering perceptions.
1 way African and Native American filmmakers are challenging stereotypes in film is by confronting stereotypical behavior. An example of this can be seen in Spike Lee’s 2000 film Bamboozled. The plot of the film follows a black Television writer and the production of a show he creates that is excessively racist in its representation of primarily plantation era characters on a minstrel show. The film not only highlights how ridiculous these representations are but how properly it is received- tipping a hat to the notion that effective tv caters to the majority not the minority. The ending of the film leaves the audience with the concept that promoting out and misrepresenting culture for entertainment leads to a variety of damaging consequences.
One more manner of confronting stereotypes is by displaying that even though a certain sort of behavior could exist in a portion of the group, it is not systemic. In the film Smoke Signals, the father of a major character (Victor) is portrayed as an abusive alcoholic (Eyre et al., 1998). Although this stereotype is frequent of Native American males in film, this specific film moves beyond that idea to show that this behavior is not commonplace nor condoned. This variety of confronting performs to disband the stereotype by presenting a far more correct depiction of the majority of the group.
Challenging stereotypes is arguably one particular of the most effective methods of combating stereotypes. This is since it not only negates inaccurate stereotypes about a particular group, but also negates the optimistic ones concerning the majority. The majority of media presents white males as the protagonist or heroic character, even in journalism (Owens, 2008). When minority filmmakers select to present their protagonist as a minority (or female or option gender) there are many constructive effects. Very first, this challenges the stereotype that white men are the heroes. This is critically critical due to the fact this ushers in a new typical idea that anybody, regardless of race or gender, can be the “hero”. In turn this, creates constructive role models for minorities and females. Second, challenging the realism of a stereotype by showing it is not “the standard” helps quit perpetuation. For instance, much more regularly displaying black females as independent enterprise girls instead of “hoochie” stereotypes insinuated the latter is not the desired or common behavior.
Whilst most attempts at challenging stereotypes are in a constructive path, some unfortunately produce setbacks. In some cases, the way the stereotype is challenged perpetuates other stereotypes. For instance, blaxploitation films have been initially designed to empower black Americans by displaying strong, protagonist males. Even so, the films rather featured characters that had been not necessarily folks to be looked up to, such as in Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song (Gross, Van Peebles & Van Peebles, 1971). In this film, Sweet Sweetback was intended to be a powerful, hero, black man a character for the black community to admire. Nevertheless, the character was a pimp, who murdered cops. Furthermore, representations of females in the film contributed to the “jezebel” stereotype, which eventually became the ‘standard’ for black women (Pilgrim, 2012). Contemporary filmmakers have to be cautious not to make equivalent errors in difficult stereotypes, as the goal is not to legitimize stereotypes but disband them.
Exposing stereotypes is a far more direct method to moving away from the use and acceptance of stereotypes. This is completed by means of the presentation of a stereotype in the dialogue of the film and a rebuttal response to it. This can be noticed really straight in Jordan Peele’s Get Out (2017). In the film, an exchange occurs with regards to why it is “popular to be black”, in which the principal character Christopher contradicts the statements produced stating he doesn’t actually like sports or several existing trends. The exchange is a pointed dig to the fact that belonging to a specific race does not necessarily dictate a person’s preferences and that folks (albeit, accepting in the film) need to not simply make assumptions based upon appearances.
There is an age-old adage- “Don’t judge a book by its cover”. Essentially that is exactly what stereotypes do- generalize based upon outward qualities. Our media and film contribute heavily to the perpetuation of stereotypes. By showcasing generalizations and presenting them as frequent concepts, they turn out to be mainstream concepts. Minority filmmakers aid viewers in combating this through challenging, confronting, and exposing stereotypes in film. As modern viewers, we should be vigilant to not be swayed into this variety of pondering.
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