In the entertainment and advertising industries, media stereotyping is standard protocol for boosting the success of programming and accessibility towards viewers. However, these stereotypes are becoming increasingly detrimental to those consumers who are forced to ingest them on a daily basis.
With magazines, television, and the internet, it is impossible to avoid the constant chatter of stereotypes that media and advertising agencies try to spoon feed the viewer. But, it is possible to identify and criticize the stereotypes that run the most rampant in our media outlets. This is an attempt to break free of the prejudices and self esteem issues they propagate.
One of the most dangerous ways in which the media stereotypes people is through the use of racial stereotypes. The entertainment industry, especially the film industry, is notorious for presenting their minority characters in a much more violent fashion then the white ones. Harsh language is far more overused in characters of racial minority than of their white counterparts, for example. This impression that people of color are somehow more violent, leads to fear and ignorance that fuels racism in America.
The perceived danger of minorities is then carried over into the news. It is not uncommon to see far more images of black or hispanic criminals than of white criminals, even when stories are being presented about all of them. One of the most famous examples of media injustice towards minorities comes from the coverage of Hurricane Katrina, where black teenagers taking food from a flooded store were described as looters. A white teen doing the exact same thing was described as a victim trying to survive.
Women are also scandalously marginalized by the stereotypes of the advertising industry, and its translation into Hollywood. Models seen on television and in magazines are often depicted in demeaning poses that over-sexualize women and girls, sometimes even suggesting that it is okay to take advantage of them. Couples are often pictured together with the female in obvious subordination to the male, feeding the inequality between men and women that still exists today.
Beyond that, models are often pictured as unreasonably skinny, and the airbrushing techniques of modern technology make women in the media look impossibly perfect. Sometimes, a model pictured in an advertisement isn’t even a real woman, but a composite of the body parts of several. This distortion of the female body has led celebrities to take up the cause of “the size zero.” The many “too skinny” stars in today’s entertainment world harshly affect the body image of young women and girls in the real world.
And, finally, the homosexual community is victim to raging gay stereotypes in all media outlets. How many times has the overly feminized and always sex crazed gay man been a sidekick to some Hollywood heroine in today’s romantic comedies? Conversely, it is equally common to see gay women portrayed as “trying to be like men.”
In the worst cases of gay stereotyping, the homosexual community is made to look like they are promiscuous and morally questionable, which often leads to the terrible bigotry that implies that all gay people will (or even should) die of AIDS. Gay stereotypes in the media are extremely detrimental to the progress of the homosexual community’s fight for equal rights.
In conclusion, it is impossible to deny that media stereotypes are everywhere. And, the common trend seems to be for these stereotypes to serve as attempts to further marginalize groups that are already at a disadvantage in the eyes of society. But, as viewers and consumers with firm understanding of the harsh effects of these stereotypes, it becomes increasingly easier to not only ignore them, but to rise above them.