Media Racism, Sexism, and Stereotyping

His wife constantly has to tell him how to take care of the kids. His children outsmart him and are shown to be out of control at times. On the other hand, the middle class family has a calm, brilliant child. He constantly has to give the working class dad guidance in his day to day decision making. The working class dad is represented as a failure at life, at supporting his family, and the main element highlighted in his role is how stupid he is. The middle class dad is always the calmer one, he takes care of everything whenever a crisis arises, he teaches his kids manners, and is shown as a loving husband.

I cannot find any examples of middle class men that are portrayed in the same demeaning way as working class men. Butsch’s piece discusses how inferior statuses are represented by using negative stereotypes of minorities, women, old, and young. These stereotypes are placed into character roles. The problem with this is that viewers are not consciously thinking about the negative images they are watching and the ways in which it affects their view of the depicted group. Think of children and teens watching shows with such inaccurate representations.

They start believing and connecting these made up characters with how the real world works. If blondes or black people are portrayed on television as dumb then teens will assume that all people belonging to this category are of inferior intelligence. Butsch also mentions that television can devalue higher status characters by making them have opposite characteristics. He gives example like men acting feminine and adults acting childish. They often will use this strategy when showing a person with contradicting status positions and the lower status characteristic will overshadow the high status characteristic.

This is greatly degrading to both sides. For instance, a man in real life that is very feminine will be thought of as a less than for demonstrating characteristics associated with femininity. This sends the message that acting like a woman is a horrible thing to do because women are the lesser gender. The reading was extremely interesting because you can think of numerous examples in our day to day life of stereotyping and character roles. It is frightening how racist and prejudice these shows can be.

With the documented impact that advertising has on our culture, we realize how significant the portrayals of different minority groups in advertising can be. In the case of Native Americans, American advertising has a long tradition of exploiting their image and names in order to sell goods. This commodification and corruption of their names and images leads to distorted views of Native Americans by not only other populations, but by Native Americans themselves. Native Americans “must” act or look a certain way in order to be “true” Native Americans.

Merskin stated, “Racial and ethnic images, part of American advertising for more than a century, were created in “less enlightened times” but have become part of American popular culture and thought and persist to this day” (Merskin, 2001, p. 480). The image that has emerged of Native Americans is “always alien to white” and, thus, seen as not fully human (Merskin, 2001). As Merskin (2001) wrote in her article, we have, to a great extent, become desensitized to the use of Native American imagery and names in advertising.

So much so, that we often do not realize how prevalent this practice still is. I know that I am guilty of this as well. When I first read Merskin’s article I thought she was referencing advertising of the past. Then I opened an old issue of Glamour magazine and found a full color, two-page advertisement for American Spirit cigarettes with its use of an American Indian in headdress in its branding. As I looked at the advertisement with disbelief, I glanced at the bottled water I was drinking from; the bottled water company was Arrowhead.

There is certainly something to this notion of Native American imagery playing a negative role in advertising today. Reference Section Butsch, R. (2005). Five Decades and Three Hundred Sitcoms about Class and Gender. The Social Construction of Difference & Inequality: Race, Class, Gender, and Sexuality. Merskin, D. (2001). Winnebagos, Cherokees, Apaches, and Dakotas: The persistence of stereotyping of American Indians in American advertising brands. The Social Construction of Difference & Inequality: Race, Class, Gender, and Sexuality.