David Batchelor suggests that in Western culture colours has been an object of extreme prejudice. (Batchelor, 2000, p. 22) In fact, apart from colours, people also use other properties to separate themselves from others, such as genders, cultures, countries, and so on. The problem of using this kind of oversimplified categorising system, such as ‘white is safe’, causes bias and can be dangerous.
Richard Dyer in his article ‘the matter of whiteness’ mentions that the sense of privilege and considering whiteness as non-raced. This issue shows in a lot of films, where there seem to be some default positions: white, male, able bodies. (Dyer, 2003) And over a thousand of films failed the ‘Bechdel Test’. (Power, 2009)
Donald Bogle identified five basic stereotypes in American films: the Coon, the Mammy, the Tom, the Buck, and the tragic Mulatto. (Bogle, 1989) They may seem old fashion but in fact still exist nowadays. Tom Brook provided some examples of stereotypes in 21th-century films, such as ‘12 Years a Slave’. (Brook, 2014)
Apart from the traditional but still exist stereotypes, after some searches online, I found that there are many other common prejudiced ‘rules’, which including women can only talk about men, anything is better than being disabled, everyone has to be white in fantasy movies, and so on. (Sargent, 2012)
I think it is normal for people to consider those who are ‘different’ from themselves as ‘others’. There are many cultures and lifestyles in the world, insufficient knowledge can cause fear and misunderstanding. However, in a computer era with all the easy-to-access resources, there is no excuse to say that a certain group of people are all good or bad just because they are were not understood. In addition, people work in the media industries need to consider the message they deliver. Advertisements and films are seen by millions, media literacy is crucial and should be more carefully examined.
Batchelor, D. (2000) Chromophobia. London: Reaktion Books Ltd.
Bogle, D. (1989) Toms, coons, mulattoes, mammies, & bucks: An interpretive history of blacks in American films. New York: The Continuum Publishing Company.
Dyer, R. (2003) Privilege: A Reader. The matter of Whiteness. US: Westview Press.
Power, N. (2009) One-Dimensional Woman. UK: John Hunt Publishing.
Brook, T. (2014) Slavery on film: What is Hollywood’s problem? BBC. Available at: http://www.bbc.com/culture/story/20131015-hollywood-scared-of-slavery (Accessed: 11/05/2016)
Sargent, J. F. (2012) 6 Insane Stereotypes That Movies Can’t Seem to Get Over. CRAKED. Available at: http://www.cracked.com/article_20082_6-insane-stereotypes-that-movies-cant-seem-to-get-over.html (Accessed: 11/05/2016)
Figure 1. 12 Years a Slave [Image] Slavery on film: What is Hollywood’s problem? BBC. Available at: http://www.bbc.com/culture/story/20131015-hollywood-scared-of-slavery (Accessed: 11/05/2016)
Figure 2. Main characters in ‘The Lord of the Rings’ [Image] 6 Insane Stereotypes That Movies Can’t Seem to Get Over. Available at: http://www.cracked.com/article_20082_6-insane-stereotypes-that-movies-cant-seem-to-get-over_p2.html (Accessed: 11/05/2016)