Stereotypes Media the Media Has Essay

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The Sopade (underground messages to the Social Democratic Party's headquarters in exile) confirmed that a plurality of attitudes towards Jews -- ranging from virulent hatred to apathy and indifference -- continued to exist during the Third Reich and that these attitudes were shaped as much by geographical, class, and religious affiliations as by propaganda (Brown, 2002)."

An example of Christian in 2004, Director Mel Gibson became embroiled in controversy for producing what may likely be considered the most direct and explicit work of anti-Semitism created for mainstream consumption since WWII. In the Passion of the Christ, which would ultimately gross more than $370 million at the box office, Gibson would retell the story of Jesus with a focus on the myth of the Jew as a weak, effeminate figure whose treachery caused the death of the Messiah. (BOM, 1) the recall of an otherwise fading perspective on the Jews returned the pointlessly divisive question to the public discourse, likewise causing a firestorm that would have a dramatically negative effect on Gibson's theretofore well-cast public image. The Academy Award winning director would prove with this film that the response from both anti-Semites and Jews would be substantial. Its successful performance in the box office would illustrate that support does still exist for this media depiction of the Jews.

Italian Stereotypes in the Media

In addition to Jewish and African-American people, stereotypes of Italian people are also prevalent in the media. Most often this stereotype is associated with the idea that Italian people are always somehow affiliated with the mafia or organized crime Cavallero & Plasketes, 2004) . Although the mafia does exist, many of the images presented to the public concerning all Italians being a part of the mafia are unfair and wrong. This notion of Italian people have long been present in American media including television and movies. In fact, some of the most popular television shows and movies have been about Italian mafia families. This includes the television show the Sopranos and the movie the Godfather. In fact the Sopranos in one of the most popular cable television shows in the history of American television. According to Becker, (2007) the show had phenomenal ratings during its run and the a&E network acquired the rights to show reruns of the show well into the future.

According to an article entitled "Sophisticated television, Sophisticated Stereotypes" Italian-Americans have been stereotyped in the media since the first immigrant arrived in America. The article explains that Italians have been "portrayed as prone to crime, both the organized kind and the kind spurred by passion and vengeance. Italian distinctiveness was perceived also in physical terms. The immigrants were "swarthy" and seemed to show other signs of genetic inferiority, such as low foreheads. These images persist in the imaginations of many Americans: the criminal stereotypes are disseminated in the popular media and in recent years have even appeared in children's movies (DreamWorks's Shark Tale) and video games (the Grand Theft Auto series) (Alba & Kasinitz 2006).

Like African-Americans and Jews, Italian-Americans can also be negatively effected by the stereotypes that are portrayed by the media. In daily life the idea that all Italians are involved in shady criminal activity is discriminatory and unfairly stigmatizes an entire group of people (Armour, 1995).


The research indicates that the media plays a significant role in shaping the manner in which society views minorities. Minorities are particularly vulnerable to having stereotypical images projected in the media because they are less likely to hold high positions at media related firms. In other words the images being reflected in the media are not an accurate reflection of minorities because minorities are not in positions of power in media companies.

The research found that African-Americans have been stereotyped in the media for many decades. These stereotypes involve negative images of African-American people as mammies, lacking intellect, lazy and angry. All of these images are detrimental to this particular group as it related to how African-Americans are treated in society. These stereotypes lead to all types of discrimination in daily life that affect the entire community.

The research also found that Italian people are often associated with the negative stereotypes associated with the Mafia. Popular films and television programs portray these images without any reluctance and the public seems to gravitate towards these portrayals. Although there are some Italian-Americans that abhor the manner in which they are portrayed in the media, others do not view these images as damaging to the Italian community.

The research also found that there are many negative images of Jewish people that are present in the media. These images are associated with anti-Semitism. Such images tend to portray Jewish people as greedy and self serving. Because of the history of anti-Semitism towards Jews, there seems to be greater sensitivity towards the manner in which Jews are portrayed in the media. However, this does not mean that Jews have been exempt from stereotypical roles in film and television. These images contribute to some of the negative feeling that many people harbor towards Jewish people.


In the future those that are in positions of power in the media must be more mindful of the images that re being projected through the media. The major problem with such images is that they transfer into daily life and people cannot distinguish between fictional characters and the real people that they encounter. This causes tension in society and negatively effect minorities in society. To remedy this situation, media companies and executives must make a concerted effort to hire individuals from different ethnic backgrounds. Such diversity is needed so that when stereotypical images arise, these individuals can explain why this images are offensive and make suggestions concerning the types of images that would not be offensive to certain ethnic groups. If the media fails to understand the damage that such stereotypes are doing to ethnic groups and society in general.

It is also recommended that a greater amount of research be conducted on why audiences are so permissive as it pertains to allowing these images to be seen. People are aware that many of the characters that they see in film and on television are stereotypes but yet these films and programs are still viewed and in many cases they are some of the most popular shows in the history of American Media. Research should seek to understand why audiences don't object to these images in a manner that is meaningful.


The purpose of this discussion was to explore the phenomenon of the of minority stereotypes in the media. The research found that African-Americans, Italian-Americans and Jewish-Americans are quite often the target of stereotypes in the media. These stereotypes have existed for many years tin various media outlets. For all of the aforementioned groups these stereotypes are harmful because they cause people to view people for these groups in ways that are negative and inaccurate. The research focused on the types of stereotypes that are projected about various minority groups and how these stereotypes effect these groups in daily life. These stereotypes lead to discrimination in all aspects of life. People within society are highly influenced but what is shown in the media regardless of whether these images are positive or negative. As such the showing of stereotypes in the media can be detrimental to society as a whole because it perpetuates the notion that certain groups of people are better than others.

The three examples of African-American, Italian and Jewish-American experiences demonstrate that even as American society appears to achieve ever greater social egalitarianism, its core ethnocentrism still drives a wedge between reality and the impression held of America's minorities.

Works Cited

Alba r. And Kasinitz p. (2006) Sophisticated Television, sophisticated stereotypes. Contexts 5 (4). 74

Armour J. (1995) Stereotypes and Prejudice: Helping Legal Decisionmakers Break the Prejudice Habit. California Law Review. 83 (3), pp. 733-772

Becker, a. (2007) 'Sopranos' Makes a&E a Big Shot. Broadcasting & Cable. 137 (10), p4-25, 2p

BOM. (2004). "The Passion of the Christ" Lifetime Box Office. Box Office Mojo. Online at tm.

Brown N.T. (2002). From Weimar to Hollywood: Christian Images and the Portrayal of the Jew. Film & History (03603695), Sep2002, Vol. 32 Issue 2, p14-23,

Cavallero J.J. And Plasketes G.(2004) Gangsters, Fessos, Tricksters, and Sopranos: The Historical Roots of Italian-American Stereotype Anxiety. Journal of Popular Film and Television 32( 2)

Cuddy, a.J.; Fiske, S.T. & Glick, P. (2007). The BIAS map: behaviors from intergroup affect and stereotypes. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 92(4), 631-648.

Day, J.C. (2001). National Population Projections. U.S. Census Bureau. Online at < profile/natproj.html>. Fiske, S. (2004).

Ramasubramanian, S., Oliver M.. Activating and Suppressing Hostile and Benevolent Racism: Evidence for Comparative Media Stereotyping. Media Psychology, 9: 3, 623 -- 646

Schrank, B. (2007) "Cutting Off Your Nose to…[continue]

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