Race and Gender in Media

The internet, film, television, and video games all portray race and gender. Unfortunately this portrayal is often viewed as perpetuating negative stereotypes. For example, females were solely portrayed as homemakers in television shows in the fifties and black men were not given leading roles in early Hollywood films.

If they were featured they were shown as musicians or some other side role. These portrayals contribute to confining these people to roles by instilling the feeling that they were not capable of doing anything except what the media has shown them able to do.

In sitcoms that feature working-class families, the husband is always portrayed in the same slightly dim-witted way. He works rather incompetently at his blue-collar job and returns home to his homemaking housewife who is often far more attractive than her husband. Shows that follow this formula are almost endless, The Honeymooners, The Simpsons, The Flintstones, King of Queens, Everybody Loves Raymond, are just a few.

By always featuring a slovenly husband and an attractive wife these shows give the viewer the idea that all men deserve a beautiful, loyal woman and women have to settle for any man they can get. The man clearly has the upper hand in these shows. It was not until recently that television shows started to have female characters in other positions besides the housewife. Still, women are given weaker characteristics overall and are shown as subservient to their men.

The depiction of women in hip-hop videos is even more negative, they are simply sex objects who are often referred to as bitches and hoesb. Their gyrating half-naked bodies are the focal points of almost every hip-hop video. Luxury items like yachts, cars, gold, platinum, mansions, and cash are also strewn about in these videos giving the idea that these women are nothing more than luxury items that the right amount of cash can buy.

Their bodies are the only thing they have to offer as they are portrayed as having no personality or intelligence. The black women in these videos come to represent the ideal of beauty for black girls. However, this high standard of beauty is an almost impossible ideal to obtain.

Television shows have often linked race to the lower class. In Sanford and Son, the main character lives in his junkyard and drives his beat up truck around town looking for treasures amid the trash, usually the white man’s trash. The implicit message here is that only white people have the money to throw out stuff that is still usable. Blacks are often shown in subservient roles to whites.

The shows Beulah (1950) and Gimme a Break (1983), feature black maids working in white households where they are reliant upon their white families for food, shelter, and money-in essence, their very survival. Black family life on sitcoms is portrayed as dysfunctional, again leaving room for the “white man” to save the day.

Shows like Webster (1983) and Diff’rent Strokes (1978) feature black children who are taken in by white families and saved from their maladjusted lives in the black community. A common idea in these shows is the failure of the black father; either he is absent or he is poor. Either way, he is unable to properly take care of his family implying that black men overall have failed.

Television, the internet, and video games are all responsible for perpetuating negative stereotypes of race and gender. The level of activity of these various media (from passive to active) seems to be connected to the amount of influence they have on us. Television usually sets gender and race stereotypes into our minds somewhat subconsciously.

Whereas, the bias in video games and on the internet is much more obvious because we actually play a part in them because we are more actively immersed in that type of media. Television does have the potential to change stereotypes, however, despite being a passive medium, when it directly challenges gender and race stereotypes and presents information in an emotionally engaging way and allows its viewers to connect personally with an individual rather than the group he or she supposedly represents.

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