Mass media is the primary source of stereotypes; it negatively alters the perception of society toward specific kinds of people. Whether it be in films, advertisements, on television or print, one can find the misrepresentation of either sex, race, class, sexual preference, or culture. Media is to blame for the establishment of such inaccurate depictions of people, specifically women and ethnic minorities (Browne). This is because media continually manifests the imprecise portrayal of people through its various mediums.
Due to the unrealistic perception the media upholds, society begins to take these fallacious attributes as truth, which in turn leads to the inappropriate treatment of the type casted parties. The trouble with stereotyping comes from the fact that it is rooted in falsity. In essence, stereotypes serve as labels that provide a set of characteristics to describe a particular group of people (Media Awareness Network). These labels represent either one of these categories: “class, ethnicity or race, gender, sexual orientation, social role or occupation” (Media Awareness Network).
Unfortunately, the reduction of characteristics to labels presents many problems. First of all, every group possesses a gamut of differences that cannot be simplified into labels (Media Awareness Network). To be identified through labels means undermining the inherent dissimilarities, or worse, to eliminate it altogether. Second, stereotypes can turn mere representations into real categories (Media Awareness Network). Stereotypes are only labels attached to a certain group of people; it does not necessarily mean that these labels really reveal how these people are in real life.
However, because the stereotype has become the means for identification, the labels were taken as true. Lastly, stereotyping encourages “social prejudice and inequality” (Media Awareness Network). The very fact that the labels used for identification are inaccurate presupposes the unfair nature of stereotyping. Media is to blame for the widespread influence of stereotyping. Hollywood, for example, continually uses stereotypes in its movies and television programs. It may appear harmless to some, but it is actually very detrimental to society.
The influence of these stereotypes has gone beyond the small and big screens, and has begun exerting its impact in reality. Women and ethnic minorities are two of the victims of stereotyping. Women are the most common victims of stereotyping, and in media there have been numerous ways to stereotype women. For example, there is the dumb blond stereotype. It is not very often that we see blond actresses portraying smart characters on television or movies, and this is because of the dumb blonde stereotype. Another example is the evil corporate executive stereotype (Browne).
This stereotype implies that women can climb the corporate ladder, but only by being manipulative and cruel. Those are only two among the many stereotypes of women in media. Women’s body image and self-identity are also affected by media stereotypes. This is most evident in the world of advertising. Women have been objectified in multiple ways for the sole purpose of selling a product (Media Awareness Network). More often than not, women are portrayed as sex objects in advertisements because they immediately catch one’s attention (Media Awareness Network).
Consequently, women in general are also influenced by the standards of womanhood that are upheld by the prevailing stereotypes in media. Compared to the actresses and models of the yesteryears, today’s celebrities are thinner. Unfortunately, this thin culture had slowly brainwashed women everywhere, making them believe that beauty is dependent on thinness. This then resulted in women, even young girls, starving themselves just so they could fit in this unrealistic standard of beauty (Media Awareness Network). Minorities have also been stereotyped in media for years.
Anyone who has been exposed to North American media can clearly say that minorities have always been misrepresented in television and movies. Whether it is in the entertainment industry or the news and current affairs department, minorities are given degrading labels (Media Awareness Network). For example, African Americans are depicted as poor people who eventually become criminals (Browne). Another example would be Indian Americans, who are always depicted as jobless drunkards who squat on government property (Browne).
Lastly, ever since the 9/11 tragedy, people from the Middle East have been stereotyped as terrorists (Browne). Regardless of what they do, they are identified as a people with harmful intentions and terrorist plots. In my opinion, media is solely responsible for perpetuating stereotypes. It is because it continually manifests the inaccurate depictions of people and culture. These depictions have negative effects, not only in terms of representation, but also in reality.