Media's Stereotyical Portrayal of Blacks Term Paper

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But Martin Lawrence bugs out his eyes a little and he's a coon. It makes no sense.'7

The defense seems somewhat warranted. After all, if all characters in the sitcom Martin were white, and acted the same way, such behavior would be attributed to the standard stupidity showcased on television. Much like the quote earlier about sitcoms and stereotypes leveling things, television in general fails to showcase the brightest and most sublime of human endeavors.

Lawrence is not alone in criticisms aimed at contemporary black actors. In her essay, "Stereotypes of History: Reconstructing Truth and the Black Mammy," Jennifer Kowalski claims, "actors such as Martin Lawrence, Eddie Murphy, and Tyler Perry, have once again recycled the first existence of the Mammy/Aunt Jemima character." The "mammy" stereotype is "represented as full-figured women with strong and defensive attitudes, especially toward men who may bring harm to their loved ones." Lawrence recently starred in a series of movies called "Big Momma's House" where such behavior finds ample representation.8 The importance of this is that it seems to suggest that stereotyping exists as part of a lineage. Where the stereotype ends and reality begins is a mater of ambiguity.

We have seen the history of stereotyping as almost innate to human nature. Stereotyping exists as a method for more easily comprehending social environments. Unfortunately, this behavior often leads to shortchanging others in real life. The stereotypes of African-Americans vary and almost always exist as power devices, to simplify and dehumanize a race of people. Television, namely the sitcom genre, and its penchant for absurd caricatures, has lent itself to perpetuating these stereotypes, as witnessed by the show Martin. While it may never be within the ability of television and television writers to get past stereotypes, possessing a greater understanding of how such stereotypes are born, and how they operate, can enable an individual to see through the veil of pseudoreality. Unfortunately, "television or movie stereotypes reinforce widely held notions about black sexual prowess, criminality or laziness and make comedies easier to execute because there is less explaining to do."9 Since television is more about ratings than reality, and since the executives responsible for these endeavors are primarily white, there is an even greater pseudoreality operating within the previous pseudoreality.9

Endnotes

1 Aristotle. "Poetics." The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. Ed. Vincent B. Leitch. New York. W.W. Norton and Company, 2001, 90-117.

2 Walter, Lippmann. Public Opinion. Free Press Paperbacks. New York, 1997.

2 Lippmann.

2 Lippmann.

3 Robert R. Means Coleman. African-American Viewers and the Black Situation Comedy: Situating Racial Humor. Taylor and Francis Inc. New York, 2000.

2 Lippmann.

3 Coleman.

2 Lippmann.

2 Lippmann.

4 Travis L. Dixon. A Social Cognitive Approach to Studying Racial Stereotyping in the Mass Media. http://www.rcgd.isr.umich.edu/prba/perspectives/winter2000/tdixon1.pdf Web. Winter 2000. Accessed Apr. 11, 2010.

4 Dixon.

5 John Bowman. "Blackboard Jungle Fever." Martin. Martin Lawrence, Tisha

Campbell-Martin, Carl Anthony Payne II, Thomas Mikal Ford. The WB. January 21, 1993.

5 Bowman.

5 Bowman.

6 Barry Koltnow. "Crazy Like a Fox: Martin Lawrence Puts a Positive Spin on Criticism." The Chicago Tribune 27 Mar. 1994. 11 Apr. 2010

7 Eric Deggans. The Struggle to Get Past Stereotypes. St. Petersburg Times.

July 22, 2001. Accessed Apr. 13, 2010.

8 Jennifer Kowalski. Stereotypes of History: Reconstructing Truth and the Black

Mammy. Spring 2009. Accessed Apr. 13, 2010.

9 Isabel Wilkerson. Black Life on TV: Realism or Stereotypes? Published August 15, 1993. Accessed Apr. 12, 2010.

9 Wilkerson.

Works Cited

Aristotle. "Poetics." The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. Ed. Vincent B.

Leitch. New York. W.W. Norton and Company, 2001, 90-117.

"Blackboard Jungle Fever." Martin. By John Bowman. Martin Lawrence, Tisha

Campbell-Martin, Carl Anthony Payne II, Thomas Mikal Ford. The WB. January

21, 1993

Coleman, Robert R. Means. African-American Viewers and the Black Situation Comedy:

Situating Racial Humor. Taylor and Francis Inc. New York, 2000.

Deggans, Eric. The Struggle to Get Past Stereotypes. St. Petersburg Times. July 22,

2001. Accessed Apr. 13, 2010.

Dixon, Travis L. A Social Cognitive Approach to Studying Racial Stereotyping in the Mass Media.

Web. Winter 2000. Accessed Apr. 11, 2010.

Koltnow, Barry. "Crazy Like a Fox: Martin Lawrence Puts a Positive Spin on Criticism." The Chicago Tribune 27 Mar. 1994. 11 Apr. 2010



Kowalski, Jennifer. Stereotypes of History: Reconstructing Truth and the Black

Mammy. Spring 2009. Accessed Apr. 13, 2010.

Lippmann, Walter. Public Opinion. Free Press Paperbacks. New York, 1997.

Wilkerson, Isabel. Black Life on TV: Realism or Stereotypes?

Published August 15, 1993. Accessed Apr. 12, 2010.[continue]

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