Do Movies and TV Shows Promote Stereotypes?

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Diya Asawa

Think about the movies or TV shows that you watch on Netix—there’s a pretty good chance that you’ve seen anything from screaming soccer moms and oil sheiks to geeky kids and barbaric warriors. These racial stereotypes are often overlooked because they are interwoven into the Hollywood fabric. However, it is essential to address these stereotypes because they can have a damaging impact on the behaviour and mental health of individuals and societies. In Hollywood, minorities from various ethnic groups usually land roles that sketch them as sidekicks to the white protagonists. While there are campaigns like #OscarsSoWhite and new movies featuring diverse actors or actresses, a lot needs to be done to ensure cultural and racial diversity.

Black Stereotypes

In movies like The Green Mile, black people are usually portrayed as side characters or friends who exist to help the white protagonist out of dicult problems but have no individual life of their own. This stereotype is so common that it has its own name—the “Magical Negro.” When black people are not playing a subservient role, they are often characterised negatively as criminals. Older movies like Gone with the Wind and more recent movies like The Help feature black people as domestic workers and maids—this age-old stereotype emerged in television years ago and has continued to show up today. Black women are often depicted as having attitude issues, and reality TV shows like “Basketball Wives” exaggerate these characteristics in order to keep the viewers interested.

Arab Stereotypes

In Hollywood movies including the blockbuster True Lies, Arab criminals and terrorists are found in abundance. In True Lies, the members of the ctitious terrorist organisation called “Crimson Jihad” are characterised as extremely anti-American, without any rational reasons for being evil. The much-loved Disney classic, Aladdin, has angered many Arab-Americans because of the stereotypical portrayal of Arabs as barbaric foreigners with large noses and wicked eyes who live in the large, sandy


desert. This characterisation was even mirrored in Coca Cola’s Super Bowl commercial, where Arabs were shown racing on camels to a giant Coca Cola bottle in the middle of the desert.

Asian Stereotypes

Tech wizard. Kung fu champion. Restaurant worker with a strange accent. These are just a few of the many clichés on TV that misrepresent the Asian community. Not only are Asians constantly portrayed as lower class immigrants and funny sidekicks, they are also often grouped together as one big community, as if all Asian cultures are exactly the same. In order to showcase the cultural diversity among Asian cultures, it is important to promote more Asian directors, actors, and actresses who can bring authenticity into their work. Award-winning Asian movies like “Parasite” and “Crazy Rich Asians” have combined cinematic air with careful casting—these movies have not only broken stereotypes, but also left millions of people eager to see more.

Native American Stereotypes

Native American actors and actresses rarely get to be on screen, but when they do, they face a tough decision between staying true to their culture versus adhering to oensive stereotypes that illustrate them as savage warriors with strange rituals. This often means that Native Americans have to turn down roles for big lms and silently watch as their culture becomes devalued. Native Americans are mocked for their tomahawks and feathered regalia, and Westerns paint them as brutal tribes that deserve to be defeated by white cowboys.

These are just a few examples of the countless minority groups that are repeatedly humiliated onscreen. Watching television can have a negative impact on the self-esteem and condence of young children in minority groups and a positive impact on white boys. The continued portrayal of white men as the protagonists of TV shows and movies actually increases prejudice and discrimination against minority groups.

As one of the largest, oldest, and most dominant entertainment industries in the world, Hollywood will continue to inuence billions of viewers. With a world that’s becoming increasingly globalised by the day, it is necessary for the future generations to grow up watching and learning from television that isn’t riddled with age-old presumptions.


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