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Communication and the Media
In western society, stereotype is commonly placed onto what Anglo-Saxons believe that they are not normal to their culture. Fundamentally, the media also play a part in how people “think” and generalise a group of individuals, based on the other’s gender, race, religion, hair colour and so forth. This essay will discuss the stereotype that is reinforced in specific print and broadcast media representations, concentrating on three examples of gender-roles, blondes, and African-Americans, and what it tells about dominant ideologies.
Firstly, we have fixed beliefs, opinions and attitudes that individuals hold about typical characteristics of female and male gender roles. These may relate to personality, where males are tough and intensive, while on the other hand, the females are usually the weak and sensitive (Williams, La Rose & Frost, 1981). A popular example of this is in the television series of “The Simpsons”, an American cartoon series. In “The Simpsons”, the man (i.e. Homer Simpson) is portrayed as a drunken, obese ogre who is stupid and doesn’t know how to behave appropriately, or be a proper father figure to his children. The woman (Marge Simpson, the wife and mother of three children) however, is portrayed as a sensible, musically orientated, and fun-loving person (Jorian, 1997).
Furthermore, Gunter argues that there are two major traits to female stereotyping; firstly, there is a severe under-representation of women in action-drama films in terms of actual numbers relative to the males. Secondly, even when women do appear, they tend to be portrayed only in a very selected range of roles. An example of this the James Bond movie “The World Is Not Enough”, where he is the witty, handsome hero, while the female actress is portrayed as the helpless victim, even though she plays the role of a professional nuclear scientist.
Moreover, women were more likely than men to be presented as product users in commercials. Women were shown more often than men in the home, as housewives. The nature of the differences in the sex-role portrayal was common and in accordance with traditional sex roles. Men were typically portrayed as having and knowledgeable about reasons for buying particular products, as occupying roles with the practical consequences of product purchases (Gunter, 1986). For instance, the commercial for ‘Demtel’, where a man tells the viewers about how reliable the product is. Where for the ‘Continental Pasta’ commercial, a mother prepares dinner instantly for her family, and becomes a ‘super mum’.
Likewise, stereotypes are given to people with blonde hair. The popular saying about blondes is that “all blondes are bimbos”, is becoming an increasingly more common stereotyping associated with blonde haired women. The notion of the “blond bimbo” is generally determined by age – to most people they associate them as ‘a young, sexy girl with long blond hair, large breasts, long legs who is stupid and superficial’ (Agius, Bicknell & Watson, 1997). It suggests that the stereotype imagery have been formed from iconography rather than any evidence that there is a definite relationship between blonde hair and stupidity. The stereotype has been very heavily built up and shaped by the media today. A key example of this is Pamela Anderson, who has been moulded by the media, to represent society’s typical ‘blonde bimbo’. She even fits the connotations – young, blonde hair, large breasts and carries around a stupid attitude (even though she more than likely is not), in the movie ‘Barbed Wire’ (Jorian, 2000).
Another example of the media capitalising on this stereotype is the culture of girls appearing in newspaper and magazines, which eight out of ten pages were ‘stereotypically’ blonde (Agius, Bicknell & Watson, 1997). These are supposed to characterise the male fantasy. All these images of blonde women as projected through the media to us are all very sexual, and so we can see the connection between the origins of the stereotype, and the effect is has on the people today who just so happen to naturally reproduce this image (Agius, Bicknell & Watson, 1997). One of the stories that made it through newspapers is about Britney Spears, a young natural blonde female pop artist, who appeared semi-naked on the Rolling Stones Magazine.
Another typical stereotype in western society is targeted on African-Americans. Racial profiling has been the focus of frequent result placed onto African American. Muharrar (1998) states, “Racial profiling is the discriminatory practice by police of treating blackness as an indication of possible criminality”. In police racial profiling, individual officers act on racial stereotypes against racial minorities, especially African-Americans. On the other hand, an indirectly related racial profiling is broadcasted on the news media, but still portraying that ‘blacks’ are associated with all types of crimes. According to the article ‘DWB – Driving While Black’ by Angie Cannon, she described an incident of a white trooper pulling over Robert L. Wilkins, a Harvard-educated Washington Attorney, who was an African-American, for not only speeding in his car, but also released a sniffer-dog to search for drugs.
However, a positive stereotype on African-Americans is that they are known as very good musical artists. Throughout history, despite that African-Americans were subjected as entertainers for the rich as a part of slavery work, they have made a break through and now have a huge recognition in popularity to having ‘soul’ in music (Pieterse, 1995). One example of an African-American artist having ‘soul’ is Macy Gray, who sings about the daily troubles and tribulations of life.
In addition, another terrain on which African-American have been permitted to manifest themselves is sports. Several sports had travelled along with Africans to North America during slavery times. For blacks during the earlier times of allowing them to play sports, they were treated as gladiators in a circus. Their success seems to confirm one of the stereotypes of degrading the blacks as ‘all brawn and no brains’ kind of athlete (Pieterse, 1995). New racial myth has been created to ‘explain’ the sports achievements of blacks. An example of this is Mike Tyson, a once world champion boxer, who is known as a fierce, and brutal fighter.
In conclusion, the ideology is dominant throughout western history and what is believed as ‘normal’ to the society. Many westerners think that way because they may be afraid of what they do not understand and believe that is presented through media. To basic understanding, it is implied that males are usually in higher position than females. Men take on roles of being portrayed as insensitive, decisive, and powerful heroes, and women the opposite, which were implicated in the examples supported previously. Categorically, the media generalises them as ‘bimbo’ and unintelligent, because of their physical attributes. Icons such as Pamela Anderson and Britney Spears are projected as the epitome of ‘blonde’. Finally attributes to how western society condemns African-Americans, in today’s society, lies both on positive and negative side of stereotype. They are now popular in both singing and in sports because of African-Americans natural ability. However, it does not absolutely outweigh the fact that the media continuously to negatively portray them as criminals.
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