African American Stereotypes In Film And Television

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Thug. Barbaric. Dragon Lady. Terrorist. Geek. Sexpot. When these adjectives are utilized to describe groups of people, they may create or establish stereotypes. A stereotype is defined as, “a relatively fixed and oversimplified generalization about a group or class of people, usually focusing on negative, unfavorable characteristics” (Colman). Stereotypes involving gender and various ethnicities are utilized and reinforced through the powerful mediums of film and television, which significantly influences popular culture by altering the beliefs and attitudes of people in society. These ideas can also be viewed as assumed knowledge that is passed on through socialization. Film and television rely on stereotypes as a method to create characters.…show more content…
African Americans are often typecast as a “magical Negro,” black best friend, thugs, brash women, and domestic help. A key role for African American men in film and television has been the “magical Negro” character, or “magical” African American friend who possesses insight or special powers whose purpose is to help white characters out of difficult situations, while appearing unconcerned about their own fate or lives. For example, in the movie, Hitch, Will Smith is the dating coach who mentors the awkward white client and helps him win the heart of a beautiful white female. These characters exist for the purpose of supporting white characters, “reinforcing the idea that African Americans aren’t as valuable or as human as their white counterparts” (Nittle 1). Black best friends usually do not possess exceptional skills like “magical Negros” do, however, they are utilized in films and television shows to lead white characters out of a critical situation. The black best friend is generally a woman character whose main purpose is “to support the heroine, often with sass, attitude and a keen insight into relationships and life” (Braxton 1). For example, in the television show, The Ghost Whisperer, the actress, Aisha Taylor, played the supportive and funny best friend to the white main character, played by Jennifer Love Hewitt. The entertainment industry uses this role to make it appear that they are having diversity in their films and shows. Unfortunately, this does a disservice to African American women because it doesn’t allow popular culture to view them as independent and strong women, capable of being on their own. On the other hand, many African American males also play the roles of thugs, which include procurers and drug dealers. Since a large number of criminals in movies and television shows are played by African Americans, the entertainment
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