Who’s behind the screen?

Assignment for my minorities in the media course about the responsibility producers have in representing minorities on television

The mass media, particularly films and television, plays a pivotal role in our lives. The producers have the highest social and ethical responsibility of portraying characters in a way that will prevent any harm to the audience. The purpose of this paper is to analyze the responsibility and consequential weight of stereotypical portrayals of minority groups on television.

Women, African-Americans and Latinos are some of the few that have consistently taken a beating by the vicious, stereotypical directions of producers. Producers may feel the need to provide a comical way of pleasing the mainstream, however the mainstream is more of a social construction than actual reality. Social learning theory suggests viewers in this mainstream are acquiring their perspective by observing characters’ stereotypes on TV. The notion of this “mainstream” view is a cycle created by TV itself, instead of what people truly believe. Producers must understand that when they attack minority groups, they don’t always know who’s behind the screen. As an example, in early Disney, producers didn’t take into consideration that young girls were watching these movies and aspiring to be just like the princesses. Looking back now, I can see how harmful it was for young girls to look up to characters who are over sexualized and given little to no personal aspirations besides acquiring a prince or male hero.

While shows like Scandal feature a strong Black woman as the main character, there is still a lot of progress to be made by producers. For example, Olivia Pope, the main character of Scandal, is accomplished and holds one of the highest positions in government but is still sexualized as the mistress of the white, married president. The idea of the sexualized African-American woman goes back to the same representations by the mainstream media mentioned in “Ethnic Notions.”

To analyze current producer’s choices, I chose to watch Modern Family, a comedy on ABC. I’ve been watching this show for a few years now, and have always enjoyed it because I thought it displayed a progressive outlook on society. It features a gay couple, a matriarchal family, tender husband and an older divorced man with a young Hispanic wife. Though progressive in nature, the producers sexualized and assigned a hot temper to Gloria Delgado, the Hispanic wife played by Colombian actress Sofia Vergara. She’s purposely made to wear more promiscuous, brightly colored clothing and to speak dramatically and incorrectly, all stereotypes mentioned in “The Bronze Screen.”

As a woman, I belong to a marginalized group that’s frequently represented as the sexualized, unintelligent woman who lives for only the love of a male counterpart. It’s frustrating to be put in a box society created.

Though there has been a revolution of both racial and gender stereotypes, the ones still around today are hurtful and hindering to both women and minorities. Producers must realize their social responsibility of not constructing these offensive versions of reality, or the cycle of thinking these stereotypes are true will continue, and viewers will continue to be influenced by the wrong messages.

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