What is the role films play in perpetuating stereotypes in contemporary society? Please use two-three examples from the films we watched this past semester to support your argument. Your essay should be between 500 and 1000 words.
Unlike a character type, stereotyped characters are oversimplified, and often cast in a demeaning light. Here are just some examples:
The Magical Negro
The Mammy
Arab anti-American Villain
Native American Warrior
Latin Lover
Latina Maid
Asian Prostitute
Asian Geek
Kung-Fu Fighter
The Dumb Blond
Italian Mobster
The Gay Fairy
If you are unfamiliar with these stereotypes, visit Racial and Racist Stereotypes in Media.
Women are often portrayed as one-dimensional characters, serving as romantic interests for heterosexual leads.
The study Gender Inequality in 500 Popular Films found the following:
Of the speaking roles in the 100 top-grossing films of 2012, only 28.4% were played by women.
In the same 100 films of 2012, 56.6% of 13-20 yr old girls wore sexually revealing attire, compared to 11.6% of boys the same age.
Furthermore, 39.9% of 21-39 yr old women wore sexually revealing attire, while the number dropped significantly for women over age 40 – down to 16.4%.
Percentages for nudity among female characters mirrors these statistics.
Overt stereotyping is just one means of marginalization within the film industry. Another is lack of representation.
The studies, Race/Ethnicity in 500 Popular Films and Gender Inequality in 500 Popular Films found the following:
Speaking Roles
Of the speaking roles in the 100 top-grossing films of 2012:
3.6% other (or mixed race)
4.2% Hispanic
5% Asian
10.8% Black
76.3% White
28.4% Female
0.31% LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender)
Behind the Camera
Of the 565 directors of the top-grossing films from 2007-2012, twenty (3.5%) were Black men and two (0.3%) were Black women.
In films with a non Black director, only 9.9% of the on-screen speaking characters are Black. When a Black director is in this leadership role, 52.6% of all speaking characters on screen are Black.
Of the 100 top-grossing films of 2012, women accounted for 4.1% of directors, 12.2% of writers and 20% of producers.
Films with female directors have more girls/women on screen and less female sexualization.
What does this mean?
Think about your own experiences watching films. Do you find characters that reflect you in some way? Or do you feel invisible? What does it mean to be invisible from mainstream media? How do you think a lack of representation resonates in a young child?
Imagine being a person of color, and looking for someone who looks like you in popular films. Here’s what you would see in a variety of contemporary films:
Though at first glance it may seem the preponderance of men cast as heroes is not a big deal, it actually has a downside.
When the only alternative to a strong, heroic male character is a pitiful, weak (often gay) one, a particular message is sent to all men.
Real Men don’t cry.
This is an unfair portrayal that ignores the range of emotions felt by men, as well as their right to be scared, vulnerable, or uncertain.

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