In social psychology, one of the main ways of studying how people interact with each other and their group behavior is through observation. One aspect of observation is through understanding the media. We live in a world of mass media, with blockbuster movies, dramas, situation comedies, and twenty-four-hour news channels. Add to this product placements and commercials. It could be said that what we watch or read is a reflection of who we are as a culture, but is that true? Movies like Gone With the Wind (1939), although spectacular cinematic experiences, were steeped in racial stereotypes. However, that was long ago. The world has changed considerably since then. Right? You expect racial, ethnic, and gender stereotypes in the media to be a thing of the past. Consider movies like Scarface (1983), The Birdcage (1996), and The Waterboy (1998) and the popular drama series The Sopranos
(1999–2007)—all had main characters portraying a particular group in a stereotypical manner. The fact is that stereotypes still do exist.
The purpose of this assignment is to examine stereotypes on television to see if it promotes prejudice and discrimination. Pick a television program of your choice; it should be something current (from the last ten years) and can be a drama or a situation comedy. Analyze the program and answer the following questions in your essay:
- What is the overall storyline and setting of the television program? Who are the main characters?
- Does the program portray the main or supporting characters in a stereotypical manner in terms of race, ethnicity, or gender? If yes, describe the stereotypes and explain how the stereotypes might promote prejudice and discrimination. If the program does not seem to promote stereotypes, explain how it was able to avoid doing so.
- Discuss the impact of stereotypes depicted in the media on individuals and society, using at least two contemporary examples.
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