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The role of media in emerging stereotypes about Latinos in United States

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Television has a long history. The first electronic television was invented in 1927. With the benefits it brought to people as the major source of entertainment, it also caused many disputes. Repeatedly this media was the reason of many scandals. And it includes the spread of common stereotypes and prejudice about particular group of people too.

According to Louis Althusser, the French Marxist philosopher, there are different “State apparatuses” – government’s tools. Media is an example of Ideological state apparatuses. It is considered that media is the most powerful tool, through which government can influence the audience because it is voluntary (people choose what to watch themselves, there are much more choices). There are many examples how media affected people. Almost every American film propagate the idea of American dream: If you work hard, you’ll get everything. It led to the massive flow of immigration to the United States, including Latinos. This group of population is one of the fastest growing. They make up about approximately 17% of US population. However, despite of this, there are many stereotypes about this group of people, in which the significant part of white people believe.

Very often Latinos encounter with clichés, that other nations assign to them and the vast majority of these clichés are negative. So, why is it so? This paper argues that media is a powerful government’s tool that affects audience by presenting Latinos in a stereotyped way and causes the emergence of prejudice and racism.

The majority of stereotypes about Latinos are represented on Anglo media with the audience of white English men. Most media fall into this category and as their audience are English people, they try to show Latinos in the audience’s view. Nowadays, researches show that portrayals of Latinos on television is infrequent and in the majority of cases unfavorable. Although Latinos are considered the largest minority group in the US, yet they compose only 3% of the television population. But in the past Latinos weren’t portrayed on media at all. When national press encountered on this fact, they called Latinos and Mexicans “the invisible minority”.

The first news and stories about Latinos represented this group in the negative light or labeled with stereotypes because it was a period of problems with immigration policies. There is an example of “stories” about Latinos: in 1967 a reporter of Time magazine wrote about the inhabitants of East Los Angeles “tawdry taco joints and rollicking cantinas,” smelled “the reek of cheap wine (and)….the fumes of frying tortillas,” and heard “the machine gun patter of Spanish”. As media is the form of socialization and source of information, such reports on newspapers, radio and TV eliminated the understanding among nations and caused more prejudices.

One of the reasons why stories about Latinos were so biased is that they were underrepresented on such jobs as reporters and editors. Another reason for this negative representation on media is that reporters, making news about immigration, used such sources as law enforcement and public officials. And this kind of sources tends to portray immigrants as the problematic people. Not surprisingly, Latinos were portrayed under certain clichés in entertainment programs too.

The typical roles of Latinos: Latin lover, the bandit, the faithful servant, the mustachioed overweight slob, the mamacita, and the woman with loose morals. Latin and Mexican actors often got stereotyped roles, even if their character was the main. For example, Spencer Tracy’s part in “Tortilla Flat,” Wallace Berry’s in Pancho Villa, Marlon Brando’s lead in “Viva Zapata,” and Valerie Harper’s role in “Freebie and the Bean” portray more stereotypes about Latinos than the personal characteristic of the heroes. Often it also was a serious obstacle in actor’s career. Thus, Rita Morena, who got an Oscar for the film “West Side Story”, refused to play in many movies because all directors offered her stereotyped roles.

Besides, Latinos are often become the objects of jokes on media due to their inability to speak English without any accent. This prejudice occurred in 1950-s thanks to the show “I love Lucy”. Obviously, such portrayal of significant part of population led to dissatisfaction and protests. In 1911, a Spanish newspaper “La Cronica” started a campaign against stereotyping of Mexicans and Native Americans in the cowboy movies as usually these groups were represented as villains or cowards. However, nothing changed and only led to further consequences.

In 1966 Mexican counsel officially protested to the NBC network. This example illustrates how influential became media that it affected even policy and international relations. Unfortunately, with the time, situation only worsened. If in 1960-s civil protests against the misrepresentation of Blacks led to positive changes on media, it also switched an emphasis on Latinos. According to data, by 1996 stereotypes about Blacks decreased, while Latinos became a new target and the amount of negative stereotypes about them increased significantly. Despite the fact that Latino characters became to appear on TV more often, their roles are still stereotyped. Except for the roles of villains, Latin actors often get roles of powerless representative of low or middle class, who can’t cope with the problems without the help of Anglo hero. Consequently, constant misrepresentation of particular group of population led to the emergence of prejudice in audience’s minds. Many scholars suggested that frequent exposure to same messages on television affect viewers and make them to adopt media’s representation of information.

TV is a cool media, it demands little audience’s participation, thus people may pay little attention and don’t evaluate messages carefully. Also, it is proposed that those, who watch TV more often, are more likely to have the same opinions and ideas as it presented on media. Another important factor in television’s impact is that usually the majority of viewers don’t have other sources to check the validity of the information.

Dana Mastro, Elizabeth Behm-Morawitz & Michelle Ortiz conducted an experiment to verify how people’s opinions about Latinos are influenced by television’s stereotyped representation of them. 362 communication students were recruited as participants for this experiment. In the first session scholars assessed following things: media consumption, perceptions of portrayals of Latinos on television, and demographics of the participants. In the second session, they looked at perceptions of Latinos in the United States, interracial contact, demographics. The results confirmed that the amount of time watching TV affect people’s relations to Latinos. This pattern occurred with all stereotypes that were examined in this experiment: criminality, intelligence, work ethic. But people who had access to other sources had contact with Latinos, were less likely to believe in these stereotypes. This research demonstrates how easily people believe to the information that media present to them.

White people watching TV programs learn particular messages about Latinos and as the majority of these lessons are negative, automatically people experience dislike toward this group. Media doesn’t inform audience about Latin culture properly, rather it mess the information and provoke racism. In the book “Latino images in film: Stereotypes, Subversion, and Resistance” by Ramirez Berg C., author says that the way how Latinos are portrayed on US media can be called “Latinism”. What means that Latin America and its population are depicted in such way to justify the US superiority and imperialistic goals – the dominance in the hemisphere and right to interfere in the international politics of Latin America.

So, confirming what Louis Althusser proposed about the “state apparatuses”, politics is involved in the way media present particular information. Another strong evidence for this is that Latinos are often associated with immigrants. In the recent years news about immigration make an emphasis on Latin people in particular. Consequently, viewers became more concerned with Latino immigrants. Thus, media’s attention on specific groups can help to understand people’s relation toward different nations.

Data shows that since 1994 the problem of immigration became more significant and by 2000 Latin people were mentioned much more often than other immigrants. In 2006 there were debates and mass protests concerning the Border Protection, Anti‐Terrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act. These protests show the power of media, by interpreting information and portraying Latinos in a certain way, it provoked people to the negative attitude towards particular nation and even aggression. It’s important to find out how exactly TV programs portray Latinos and what techniques do they use to encode the specific message.

Let’s consider the famous TV show “Desperate Housewives” created by Marc Cherry for ABC Studious. It’s audience is approximately near the 21 million people. This series is about four housewives, who live in the suburban town and are occupied by domestic affairs. There are four central characters: Susan Mayer (Teri Hatcher), Lynette Scavo (Felicity Huffman), Bree Van de Kamp (Marcia Cross), and Gabrielle Solis (Eva Longoria Parker). Gabrielle and her husband Carlos are two main Latino characters and both of them have some stereotyped features or actions. Gabrielle is an attractive woman, who wears seductive clothes (short skirts, red lips, large earrings, high heels), she was a model and married her husband only for money. At the beginning of the series this character already has a lover, however she doesn’t love him and uses for personal goals. Although the Solis’s is one of the richest family in the town, Gabrielle and Carlos are both greedy. If Gabrielle is spoiled and hard-headed woman, who can easily spend all her money, her husband is a wealthy businessman, whose primary concern is getting more money, even using illegal methods.

The relationships between spouses represent Mexican gender ideology, in which family is hierarchical, husband has the authority over the wife. The character of Eva Longoria is very manipulative, she knows what she wants and do everything to get it. Gabrielle uses her body, sexuality and intelligence to manipulates men. She can make some mistakes, but largely she succeeds in getting what she wants whatever the price. Thus, in the “Desperate housewives” both Latino heroes depict common stereotypes that dehumanize and decrease beliefs about Latino morality. The behavior of Gabrielle shows viewers that Latino women are sexy, prudent, cunning and greedy without any moral principles. Carlos falls into the common category of rich businessman, who is ready to commit a crime to get more money. Both characters behave under certain rationalized clichés, assigned to Latin people: all women are hot and manipulative, men are criminals.

Some people may argue that usually stereotypes are based on facts. So, all these stigmatized ideas about Latinos emerged as a result of real cases. Actually, it is truth that some Latin countries are major drug suppliers. And that as the result of poor economics, in certain countries of South America the rate of criminality is high, for example, Caracas, Venezuela. However, it doesn’t mean that automatically all Latino people are dangerous criminals. These facts don’t allow media to depict the whole nation in a negative way. Moreover, according to the FBI report by 2016, white people compose 69% of total arrests, while Hispanics and Latino only 18%. But despite of this fact, “Intergroup” comparisons of perpetrators (Black and Latino vs. White) found out that Blacks and Latinos are more likely than Whites to be portrayed as criminals on television news. Thus, the majority of stereotypes are exaggerated or misrepresented. They make some groups to look more beneficial than others.

As results of the experiment by Dana Mastro , Elizabeth Behm-Morawitz & Michelle Ortiz show that many people tend to believe in what media tell them, however comparing with real facts, it is not always the truth. It’s difficult to say why it is so and who get profit from this but many facts show that these stereotypes connected with immigration policy and the ideas of ruling class, who makes the media and inform people. Consequently, such shows as “Desperate housewives” continue to appear, presenting Latino characters in a negative way and misrepresenting their culture and real behaviors. By influencing its audience, such shows cause dislike and prejudice in people’s minds towards Latinos and resentment of Latinos by their reaction on such shows. As a result, there is miscommunication between people and cultures, living in one area.

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GradesFixer. (2019, March, 27) The role of media in emerging stereotypes about Latinos in United States. Retrived August 24, 2019, from https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/the-role-of-media-in-emerging-stereotypes-about-latinos-in-united-states/
"The role of media in emerging stereotypes about Latinos in United States." GradesFixer, 27 Mar. 2019, https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/the-role-of-media-in-emerging-stereotypes-about-latinos-in-united-states/. Accessed 24 August 2019.
GradesFixer. 2019. The role of media in emerging stereotypes about Latinos in United States., viewed 24 August 2019, <https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/the-role-of-media-in-emerging-stereotypes-about-latinos-in-united-states/>
GradesFixer. The role of media in emerging stereotypes about Latinos in United States. [Internet]. March 2019. [Accessed August 24, 2019]. Available from: https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/the-role-of-media-in-emerging-stereotypes-about-latinos-in-united-states/
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