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Reinforcement of Stereotypes in Television and Media

Info: 1430 words (6 pages) Essay
Published: 12th Oct 2017 in Media

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Since the invention of television, racial, culture and ethnic stereotypes have been used to explain unknown cultures and ethnicities to those consuming content from this medium. Stereotypes on television were also used to gain new viewers whose ideals aligned with what was being presented in the programming as well keep viewers who may have been turned onto the show because of the stereotypes shown fit their perceptions of other races, cultures and ethnicities. However, many of these stereotypes paint certain racial, cultural, and ethnic groups in a negative light. These portrayals of race, ethnicity and culture in television negatively impact the way the groups portrayed as seen by people and are controlled by those who are in ownership positions at television conglomerates.

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Stereotypes are used in television to both frame what little is known about a race, ethnicity, or culture and to frame people in a way that make the characters relatable to those who are not informed. Media has long been criticized for their representations of African Americans on television. While the quantity of African-American portrayals has increased, the quality of these images has not. 1 Research using perceptions have shown that negative exposure to African-American portrayals in the media significantly influences evaluations of African-Americans in general and have an effect on viewers of all ages and races. 2 Studies have shown that on television, African-Americans are generally put into blue-collar occupations such as a house cleaner or postal worker while have shown that they are portrayed in roles such as servant, criminal, entertainer, or athlete. This is in stark comparison to the supervisory occupational roles regularly given to white television characters. 3 African-Americans are also regularly given negative personality traits and low achieving statuses. For viewers without their own base knowledge of African-Americans, these stereotypical portrayals cause them to create negative assumptions about African-Americans based on what they have seen on television. 4 Many programs on television do not display African-Americans in positive roles, but instead focus more on reaffirming negative stereotypes. However, media shapes and influences public perceptions and these negative stereotypes have the same impact on public perceptions. 5

Stereotypes are reinforced through the media, particularly on television. Because of time and dramatic constraints, producers, casting directors and casting agencies freely admit to stereotyping and using stock characters which are familiar to the audience. Characters are typecast based on what the script calls for based on stereotypes in an effort to make the hiring and writing processes easier and faster. For decades, working class men were portrayed as dumb, immature, irresponsible, and lacking in common sense. 6 As African-American men are more frequently typecast into working class, blue-collar occupations, this especially extends to African-American men. The production process in Hollywood studios and associated organizations gives rise to the use of stereotyping to meet the time demands of production. If a production company had an entire year to complete a season of 22 to 24 episodes, an episode would have to be produced on average every 2 weeks, which includes script writing, casting, staging, filming, and editing. 7 This pressure on the production team causes them to simplify as much as possible in order to streamline the process and thus allows for using stereotypes to make script writing and character casting easier.8 Creators will become more likely to stick to what is familiar to them as they do not have the time to become familiar enough with a racial, ethnic or cultural group to present a realistic portrayal of that group. For producers, casting directors and casting agencies, unless the idea behind the story is a contradictory to the stereotype, there is a strong pressure to use existing stereotypes to decrease the time spent casting characters and writing scripts. (Butsch 2014) This pressure also comes from media conglomerates whose main aim is to produce as much content as possible to make as much money as possible.

One of the most obvious trends in media ownership is its increasing centralization into fewer and fewer companies. Media ownership has become so concentrated that as of the mid-2000s only five global firms dominated the industry in the United States; The Walt Disney Company, Time Warner, News Corporation, Viacom and the German company Bertlsmann AG. (Croteau, Hoynes, and Milan 2011).These conglomerates wield influence that extends to all parts of the multimedia entertainment. They produce newspapers, magazines, radio, television, books, and movies.

  1. Narissra M. Punyanunt-Carter. The Perceived Realism of African American Portrayals on Television. The Howard Journal of Communications. Accessed October 2, 2014. https://library.uoregon.edu/sites/default/files/data/guides/english/howard_journal_communications.pdf
  1. Ibid.
  1. Ibid.
  1. Ibid.
  1. Ibid.
  1. Richard Bush, “Six Decades of Social Class in American Television Sitcoms.” In Gender, Race, and Class in the Media: A Critical Reader. (Los Angeles, CA: SAGE Publishing, 2014), 507.
  2. Ibid., 513.
  1. Ibid.


Butsch, Richard. “Six Decades of Social Class in American Television Sitcoms.” In Gender, Race, and Class in Media: A Critical Reader, 507-516. Los Angeles: SAGE Publishing, 2014

Croteau, David P., Hoynes, William D., Milan, Stefania. “The Economics of the Media Industry.” In Gender, Race and Class in Media: A Critical Reader, 28-30. Los Angeles: SAGE Publishing, 2014. Originally published in David P. Croteau, William D. Hoynes and Stefania Milan, “The Economics of the Media Industry,” in Media/Society: Industries, Images Audiences (2011).

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Monk-Turner, Elizabeth, Mary Heiserman, Crystle Johnson, Vanity Cotton, and Manny Jackson. “The Portrayal of Racial Minorities on Prime Time Television: A Replication of the Mastro and Greenberg Study a Decade Later.” Studies in Popular Culture. http://pcasacas.org/SiPC/32.2/Monk-Turner_Heiserman_Johnson_Cotton_Jackson.pdf (accessed October 2, 2014).

Punyanunt-Carter, Narissra M.. “The Howard Journal of Communications.” The Perceived Realism of African American Portrayals on Television. https://library.uoregon.edu/sites/default/files/data/guides/english/howard_journal_communications.pdf (accessed October 2, 2014).

Randall, Steve . “Primetime Racism on Fox.” FAIR. http://fair.org/extra-online-articles/primetime-racism-on-fox/ (accessed October 2, 2014).

The Opportunity Agenda. “Social Science Literature Review: Media Representations and Impact on the Lives of Black Men and Boys.” The Opportunity Agenda. http://www.racialequitytools.org/resourcefiles/Media-Impact-onLives-of-Black-Men-and-Boys-OppAgenda.pdf (accessed October 2, 2014).

“UPDATED: Fox News’ Long History Of Race-Baiting.” Media Matters for America. http://mediamatters.org/research/2011/06/13/updated-fox-news-long-history-of-race-baiting/180529 (accessed October 2, 2014).


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