The misrepresentation of race in the media drastically influences society’s outlook and opinions, perpetuating stereotypes and creating unconscious biases. Whether it’s an advertisement between sitcoms or a major motion picture there is often heavy use of racial stereotypes throughout further solidifying these expectations into society’s mindset. The world today is densely packed with constant easy-to-access information offering brands and organizations more and more ways to reach you and carry out their respective agendas. In every form of media, but specifically in advertising, television, and film certain expectations and roles for each race are repeated.
The entertainment industry is also guilty of perpetuating the stereotypes that have controlled society for hundreds of years.2 The first official film was a 50 second silent film in 1896 yet the first movie in which an African American actor, Lincoln Perry, came out in 1927. Lincoln Perry, who went by the stage name Stepin Fetchit, was best known for playing a mumbling shiftless fool who was incompetent and lazy. This marks the birth of the appalling and racist caricature that eventually grew into a common stereotype for African-American men in film. This stereotype causes society to see African-American men as not as hardworking as Caucasian men who are generally depicted more power-strong roles in the same movies.
3 A study by the University of Southern California revealed the serious lack of diversity in actors and actresses who starred in top grossing films between the years of 2007 and 2014. Out of the 30,000 actors and actresses starring in top grossing films 73.1 percent were Caucasian and the next highest were African-Americans who only made up 12.5 percent. With this small amount of minority actors and each minority stuck playing stereotypical roles, like a drug dealer or a domestic worker, young, impressionable viewers are being raised watching movies in which the minority do not play equally important roles as other Caucasian actors or actresses.
I am definitely influenced and impacted by the powers of the media and how quickly a message can spread on such a massive scale. Since the beginning of social media the majority of users have been young adults and teens navigating the virtual landscape on our own because our parents are unable to keep up or have yet to catch on to the ever-changing social media world. The ability for anyone to instantly spread a message to anyone, whether it be one person or 133 million people, is something that new and heavily misused. Our generation is constantly bombarded by information. Advertising agencies study the most effective ways to make their product or message well known to our generation so they focus their attention on the newest and biggest social media platforms. 4 According to Common Sense Media, a non-profit focused on educating families about media and technology, over 75 percent of teenagers in America have and use some form of social media. Since my generation has such a heavy online presence and we have seen social media grow and adapt from what it started as truly makes us the ground zero for a lot of these apps like Instagram and Snapchat. Instagram and Snapchat were launched just as I got my first phone so I thought that as kids my age grew, these apps would grow with us, but in reality it was the opposite. As these apps grew, their potential for ad revenue grew along with it making each app more valuable to advertising companies and their clients. With the influx in advertisements as social media grew more kids and young adults were exposed to persuasion tactics and rhetorical appeals that we’d never experienced before. I have never bought anything due to the persuasion of an advertisement but I have bought a package of Supreme underwear due to the hype around them at school and in hindsight $45 for four pairs of underwear wasn’t at all worth it. The media has designed a society in which they can push a view buttons and shift millions of opinions in seconds nearly completely removing the process of independent thought from society as a whole.
Maheshwari, Sapna. Different Ads, Different Ethnicities, Same Car. The New York Times, The New York Times, 12 Oct. 2017, www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/10/12/business/media/toyota-camry-ads-different-ethnicities.html.
Hurst, Roy. Stepin Fetchit, Hollywood’s First Black Film Star. NPR, NPR, 6 Mar. 2006, www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5245089.
Santhanam, Laura, and Megan Crigger. Out of 30,000 Hollywood Film Characters, Here’s How Many Weren’t White. PBS, Public Broadcasting Service, 22 Sept. 2015, www.pbs.org/newshour/nation/30000-hollywood-film-characters-heres-many-werent-white.
Rideout, Victoria. Social Media, Social Life: How Teens View Their Digital Lives. Common Sense Media Research Study, Common Sense Media, 2012, www.commonsensemedia.org/file/socialmediasociallife-final-061812pdf-0/download.
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