Media and Its Role in Perpetuating Stereotypes

Media has a big part in projecting stereotypes into society since so many of us consume them daily. There can be stereotypes like blondes are dumb, or people who wear glasses are brilliant. Still, there can also be very damaging stereotypes like all Arabs are terrorists or that all Mexicans came to America illegally. Stereotypes place people into these little boxes that some can escape from while others can’t escape from simply because of how they look.

Advertisements are in every way we look. Whether we go to the mall, movie theater, or look at our phones, we’ll always see ads that contribute to influencing people’s beliefs on stereotypes and labeling a group of people as one whole.

Television shows that we’ve watched as kids could’ve influenced us into putting a particular group into a box without thinking twice about it since we were so young. “Jessie,” a Disney show, has been known for playing into many stereotypes. Someone left a review on the show saying, “There’s the dumb blonde, the idiot brother, the lazy old man, the black diva… Need I go on?” Another example could be “The Fairly OddParents,” which was voted 9th on the most stereotypical show. A review someone wrote for this show said, “Hmm… let’s see: The dumb parents, the evil babysitter who the parents always believe, the smart sister and dumb brother, the main character who is always mistreated, and many more. As much as I love this show, I gotta admit that there’s a lot of stereotypes.” Even the Disney movie Aladdin, released in 1992, led to protests from Arabs saying the film depicted Middle Easterners as barbaric and backward.

I think the issue that people so quickly jump into believing these stereotypes is because of the lack of diversity there is. I’ve heard many stories of actors who audition for roles and got a very stereotypical part, like Latinx people getting cast as gardeners or maids. In 2013 Arab American advocacy groups were accusing an ad that Coca-Cola aired stereotyping Arabs as “camel jockeys.” A stereotype that people thought was “cute and funny” was calling Latina girls “toxicas,” meaning they’re toxic or Latina girls being called “Spicy.” Before the advent of cinemas, Latina women were often portrayed as exotic and hotblooded, and this fetish/stereotype arose even more into the 21st century. “Spicy Latina” is a fantasy that mixes both sinister and sensual. The term exotic to the film industry was often associated with people with tan skin, brunette hair, and pouty lips. They’d always speak their mind, had a bad temper, was loud, and often got violent when angry. If you watch the show Modern Family, Gloria Delgado is literally what I described as a spicy Latina. But when did people start reducing Latina women as an adjective used to describe a pepper?

Back in the days in many dance halls, Latina performers were billed as Spicy Senoritas and hot tamales (this implied that loving them was painful yet pleasurable, like eating a pepper). Old Latina actresses in cinemas were shown as dangerous, seductive, lustful, and sexually aggressive. In 1933, President Franklin Roosevelt adopted the good neighbor policy toward Latin America that spurred the film industry to hire more Latinx and portray them positively though this policy backfired.

Gladly now, in the 21st century, there has been more media coverage that’s broken many stereotypes. The show “Pose” is about an 80’s ballroom culture scene with lgbtq+ characters being shown as empowered individuals rather than getting ridiculed. In many shows or movies, when an interracial couple is portrayed, writers turn it into a big deal almost every time but not in the show “The Good Place,” which involved many interracial couples. I see people often complain that in every movie or show that shows a representation of interracial couples or LGBTQ+ characters, there almost always has to be a character that is either racist or homophobic towards them, and people now are getting tired of being portrayed with negativity around them.


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