In the wake of Halloween, a day in which every year without fail, there are people who dress up in offensive and insensitive costumes, it seems necessary for me to address offensive cultural stereotypes that are ever-present in popular media today. In previous decades and in the present day, films and television shows have portrayed racial minorities in stereotypical manners that have in turn, had consequences both politically and socially for minority populations in the U.S.
The portrayal of minorities in film was a lot worse decades ago, with minorities being portrayed in ridiculous manners by actors who were not even part of the culture they were dressing up as, through things like blackface, yellowface and other cultural appropriations. However, while today such tactics are deeply frowned upon in Hollywood, the film industry has still yet to truly progress in their portrayal of minority characters in film and T.V.
Latinos are still portrayed in stereotypical manners. It is not uncommon for Latinos to be made a mockery of, be played as having heavy accents for a “comedic” effect, be portrayed as simple-minded gardeners, or be depicted as “dumb,” such as in the popular movie “Nacho Libre.” A common stereotype that Latina actresses tend to be locked into are roles as obedient and one-dimensional house maids, or the role of a sex vixen. Other common stereotypes include being depicted as “Latin lovers,” a “cholo” who is involved in drugs and gang violence, an undocumented immigrant, or be wearing a sombrero and a poncho as Mariachi music plays in the background.
All of these stereotypes have been a disservice to the Latino community, as the popularization of such TV shows and films that portray Latinos in a one-dimensional manner serves to fuel the biases and misconceptions that non-Latinos have of the Latino culture. These stereotypes are deeply rooted in the psyche of many people, and serve to form prejudices in the minds of many. But the Latino community are not the only ones to be depicted in such a stereotypical manner, as many other races and ethnicities have had to deal with the same thing.
The portrayal of Native Americans have also been deeply damaging to the Native American community. Being depicted as “savages” or alcoholics, among many other things, has served to construct a deeply misguided perception that a lot of people have of the community. The Muslim population also has dealt with stereotypical portrayals of their community in popular Hollywood films, which has added to the deep prejudice that is unfortunately ever-present in the U.S. today. Asian Americans and African Americans have also dealt with being portrayed in stereotypical manners.
Thus, it is important that when we watch films and TV shows, we understand that the way certain minority communities are portrayed is more often than not, an inaccurate representation that draws on deeply-damaging and incorrect stereotypes crafted from many years of historical prejudice, racism and political scapegoating.
Featured Image retrieved from here.