What is a Stereotype? what is Stereotyping?
We live in a crazy, unpredictable, vast world that contains billions of people who individually pertain unique characteristics. As much as we would like to think that we know everything about other countries, groups of people, or even ourselves, we do not understand anything to the fullest. Even in our own country which, in my opinion, is very diverse, seems to still be oblivious and clueless to what is in front of our faces. Stereotyping, to my understanding, is a form of identifying unfamiliar groups negatively or positively, which Charles Ramirez Berg explains more in his chapter about the truth through multiple theses.
“In Categorizing the Other”, it states that stereotyping is the creation of categories based on the recognition of gross differences. It is not necessarily a “bad” thing to do; it is how our brain categorizes, organizes, and recalls information, and we all do it despite what kind of person you are. To dig in deeper about the concept of stereotyping that merit our attention, there are 11 theses about stereotypes and its characteristics that reflects all stereotypes. Some are more rational than others meanwhile some too vague to categorize to all stereotypes.
One of his theses stated, the antidote to stereotyping is knowledge. As simple as this statement is, there is a lot of reasons to dismiss it. Yes, knowledge is a powerful trait that each one of us should seek but when it comes to understanding other groups of people and or individuals, it is difficult due to never being in the other’s shoes. There are many knowledgeable, intelligent individuals in this world, but they will never comprehend the out-group’s feelings and mind. For example, a white, successful businessman such as Donald Trump, is very knowledgeable about business tactics and persuasion and as president, he must know about other countries and ethnic groups policies and culture. With the amount of knowledge he has, he is still an ignorant, selfish, inconsiderate, and racist individual who receives too much credit due to his rank in society.
With as much knowledge a person can receive, someone of one group will never know how a person of another group is viewed in the eyes of society. Michael R. Ornelas mentioned in Ramirez Berg’s piece, “experience, contact, and maturity usually erase [stereotypical] images among reasonable people” (Berg 2002). I do agree that we need experience, contact, and maturity but I would not say it erases the stereotype. Back then, people mostly got their “information” and “knowledge” about others through the screen. In The Celluloid Closet, the gay and lesbian community were absolutely misrepresented. Producers exaggerated characteristics and the audience believed it and stuck with those thoughts and stereotypes for the years to come. Gaining “knowledge” about the gay and lesbian community did not do anything to erase stereotypes, it strengthened them. Hollywood still exaggerates those stereotypes today. Even though we may be more cultured and understanding now, knowledge will never be the antidote and I believe we will never find one.
Another thesis mentioned in Ramirez Bergs excerpt is, stereotypes are ideological. In a separate article published by Dr. Gordon Hodson, a psychologist, states stereotypes shape our thinking, our ideologies, and our actions (Hodson 2012). Stereotype and ideology share a similar definition dealing with relationships between distinctive ideas but are not the same which is why this thesis should be more complicated than it states. Stereotypes are a fixed, oversimplified idea about a person or group. Ideology is a collection, a system of ideas based off a concept such as politics or economics. How I see it is that stereotypes are the base to greater thoughts and ideas (ideologies). Stereotypes shape how we believe, expect, and goal orientate ourselves in a sense of how we could make a situation and or stereotype transpire. I know, complicated.
Dr. Hudson explains how stereotypes about groups can serve to keep them in place. For example, expressing that men are agentic and hard-working effectively keeps men in the top tiers of companies. Women on the other hand, are compassionate, empathetic, and nurturing effectively keeps them out of the corporate boardroom. When we state those stereotypes, our ideologies configure to multiple ideas of where men and women should be put in societal careers, how much money they should be paid, or what kind of work is expected from either.
As Charles Ramirez Berg recalls, stereotyping is typically understood as, making value judgements and assigning negative or positive qualities to individuals or groups (Berg 2002). Over the course of history, almost all stereotypes were established for us today. We continue to thrive off stereotypes, so how are we going to fix it? Berg’s theses provide an outline of how stereotypes work and give reasons why they happen. However, we can all conclude a few fall short.
Sexuality on America Screens
Sexuality on screen in America has evolved in various ways. That is whether the content itself or attitudes towards the content. In early years, sexuality between man and woman was considered private. No one wanted to know or hear what a couple does in their bedroom. As for sexuality in terms of sexual orientation, it should not exist and if it did, which did and was publicized on screen, it was a sinful and evil act. Throughout history, there are many examples of sexuality portrayed on screen that affiliates with political constraints and liberations due to cultural assumptions surrounding gender, race, and ethnicity.
The film The Celluloid Closet consisted of multiple scenes of sexuality in film which caused many riots and political conflict for most of America. Showing a film of two gay men, developing a sexual relationship was far off the radar but the support for it and hate for it pushed producers to develop films that would shake American’s cores. Although the goal for most films were to scare homosexuals and straight people that it is a malicious act, it also educated those about sexual orientation and that the sexuality between a man and woman was the same as if it were between two men or two women. Films such as Boys in a Band, Parting Glances, and The Children’s Hour explored sexuality through hardships, which ended in either in living with the consequences or death.
The appearance of sexual activity with in films intensified. At points the audience saw two men come in contact in the bedroom, touching and kissing. The Celluloid Closet explained how the raunchy scenes caused a revolution of hatred for sexuality in the early 1900’s to well deep in the late 1900’s. Films under the category of exploring sexuality got too lenient, making Americans uncomfortable and exposing a hidden world that was not meant to be shared. True enforcement of code provisions came about only after a widely publicized campaign by the catholic legion of decency in the early 1930s declaring a ban of sexual movies. Thus, the creation of the Production Code Administration Film Analysis Form from 1934-1948. This strict, specific form put major constraints on what Hollywood could produce and what could be shown in theaters. The restrictions on movies locked away any creativity and advocative content in the country of “freedom”.
The concept of sex has always been there. Now to do what with it and how to understand it was quite a mystery for most. Especially during the 1930’s and 40’, at the time of WWII. Men’s mindset was do it whenever they want when they got the chance to because they never know when it will be the last time. In Sex Hygiene, sexuality was depicted as a scary, infectious, diseased act with potential death. To these men, they have never heard of STIs, yet again they were clueless about what consisted in the male anatomy. The goal was to scare them to stop being sexually active. In retrospect, they should have gone in a different direction with it than a mediocre film. The stigma about sex, women, and men has always been carried with some come of baggage when a person decides to have sexual intercourse. In this case the baggage for men is a sexual transmitted disease.
To dig in deeper with Sex Hygiene, the main “doctor” hosting the visual said along the lines of “if you have sex with a woman who has a disease, which she most likely does”, insinuates that all ethnic women are dirty. This type of sexuality on screen depicts women as inferior to the male’s perspective. It constrains sexuality by creating fear and doubt of a normal human act. Although I do not condone sex with random strangers, I simply do not agree with the hidden messages that lie in between the lines of exploiting women.
Sexuality on screen throughout American history has had a lot of ups and down. Sex and sexual orientation were never talked about in public. Having them incorporated with in films and shared with thousands across America put a damper on how people viewed it. I would say it constrained sexuality surrounding the assumptions of gender, race, and ethnicity. Liberation of sexuality content would slowly be accepted as the acceptance and understanding of the LGBTQ+ community started to grow. Today, a person’s imagination and truth to what sexuality means to as producers and directors, is widely recognized as an improvement in society. There would be no doubt of any restrictions to any films that advocate any type of sexuality.
- Berg, C. R. (2002). Categorizing the Other: Stereotypes and Stereotyping. In Latino Images in Film: Stereotypes, Subversion, and Resistance. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press.
- Hodson PhD, G. (2012, December 22). Stereotypes As Legitimizing Myths. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/without-prejudice/201212/stereotypes-legitimizing-myths