Critical Analysis Of Stereotyping In Films & The Media Case Of White Zombie Research Papers Example
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Stereotyping refers to judging or presenting people in a way that supports preconceived notions and views of what people perceive them to be. The media has been cited as a major avenue through which stereotypes are built into people’s minds and reinforced. This paper posits that films are made for the majority of people in a given society and in light of that, stereotypes are enforced by films through the casting of people in the dominant view society has conceived of them.
Pre-World War II Films Depicting Segregation and Stereotypes
The first element of the films in this era was that it had titles that showed impossibility and some kind of inadequacies that are directed towards certain people who play the role of the villain. Viewing the title of White Zombie, it is easy to say that the bad guys were always people of foreign and non-Western European male origins.
White Zombie, filmed in 1932 showed a bewitched beautiful White lady who fell prey to Haitian Voodoo which was seen as an exotic evil. The opening scene commences with the presentation of the songs of the Haitian Voodoo rituals filmed in a dark night to create an air of fear and horror and panic to the viewer. This indicates that the whole idea of Voodoo is a negative practice and it is somewhat devilish and satanic and ought to be viewed in a negative light. In other words, Voodoo is shown as something that was at odds with the acceptable and normal activity in the society.
The Black carriage driver who gave interpretations about the fearsome songs being sang was cast in the light of a lower cast and a downtrodden individual who was just riding a horse that was to convey the White madam and her husband to her home. This showed that on the Caribbean islands and in most societies, Black people were kept for only one job – lower caste jobs - jobs that were undesirable. And in this situation, there was some kind of a hierarchy – the horse, the Black carriage rider and then the master. This creates an unconscious hierarchy of the society and the community.
The Black carriage rider also describes Voodoo which is a Black thing in a negative light. He stated that the Voodoo drumming was evil and it brought about evil spirits. Therefore in the opening lines, we have a strange chant by an unknown group of people being introduced to the audience as a bad and a negative thing. Then it goes further to indicate that the Black man was not meant to be anything more than a mere carriage drive. The Black man uses negative language to describe his own culture. This gives credibility to the stereotype that everything about Africans and Black people was bad and it was meant to be bad. This creates preconceptions in the minds of the viewer and this lays the foundations for stereotyping.
Additionally, the role of the spiritualist who cast the spell on her was played by an Eastern European migrant who seemed to have features that were uncommon or unacceptable in the American society. This individual, Bela Lugosi had previously played the role of Dracula in the Romanian myth story and this gave him a reputation based on his features that were simply un-American at that time.
It is so interesting that although the Eastern Europeans were presented as the bad guys in these films made before 1945, care was taken not to show any African-Americans or people of other origins in any role beyond a low-caste role. This is because in that period, where segregation was the norm in the law, African-Americans were seen as some kind embarrassment. They could only do works that was limited to low class manual labor. And they were not included in anything that was considered civilized. This applied to Africans and people of minority populations that were considered to be inferior or unnecessary to the film in question. Therefore, there was a general perception that the films of the early cinema was meant to recreate the images of the White Americans and Western European families and glorify them in a positive framework. Whenever anything outside the normal Protestant or Christian culture was to be presented, it was presented as a bad thing and a negative situation and context.
Civil Rights, Globalization & Homogenization
For most part of the 20th Century, “African-Americans were systematically denied human and constitutional rights and equal opportunities.”. This led to a distinct cultural, art, linguistic and literary system that made the African-American different from other people in the United States. This distinction was depicted through the videos and media interactions between African-Americans and people of the mainstream American society.
After the civil rights movements took center-stage, there was a general trend towards the modification of the media and the film industry. This sought to show diversity and inclusion in various departments and aspects of film-making. Obviously, homogenization came with a lot of conflict and disagreements, as there were many concerns and issues that showed tensions and potential disrespect for other people’s views and cultures.
The first thing that came with the quest for homogenization was to present people from minority groups in various positions. For instance, in most films featuring the Vietnam War, black soldiers were presented in the American units and this showed that there was some kind inclusion or diversity. However, few African-Americans in these videos played any leading roles.
However, in spite of all this, stereotyping did not end. After the events of September 11, 2001, it became apparent that the stereotypes changed significantly. This is because by then, most people viewed Arabs and persons from the Middle East as terrorist and this culminated in numerous films and videos that were presented to show that distinction and stereotype. The implication is that most of these views and most of these individuals were treated negatively and viewed in a negative conscience because of what a few Arabs had done.
It is identified that the film industry is used as an avenue to depict the status quo. Therefore, looking at the way Eastern European migrants were cast in negative light in the first half of the 20th Century in films like White Zombie, it can be said that negative views and negative perceptions of people are interconnected and interlocked with people of certain backgrounds.
This was about to change in the period of the Second World War when the Eastern European migrants proved to be trustworthy Americans who supported the American war effort. At this point, a new foe, the Communists came up. These individuals were also cast in a negative light and people of various serious demeanors and of Russian origins were used in such negative roles.
When the civil rights movement came up, Hollywood began to cast African-Americans and understand the need for inclusion in a diverse world. Therefore, African-Americans were used in small and minor roles. These were roles that were considered to be limited. The African-American vernacular was used and African-Americans were cast as a group of people with little or no money. This changed when an African-American elite and middle class evolved. African-Americans started getting mainstream roles and casting in positions like the US president amongst others. Then came the “War on Terror” after September 11th, 2001. This marked a period where Arabs and persons of Middle Eastern and North African origins were cast in a negative light as terrorists.
This research’s findings confirm the main thesis of the paper. This is because the research identifies that the media and he film industry are a reflection of the dominant elements and aspects of culture and social development in a society at a given point in time. The dominant audience is made up of the ones who are seen to be in the majority. Therefore, the presentation of media releases and movies are done in such a way and manner that the dominant beliefs of people are reinforced and restated through the presentation of stereotypes. This is evident by the fact that in the first half of the 20th Century, the migrants of Asian and Eastern European origins to the UK and USA were presented as the bad people. Any culture outside the dominant Western European or Anglo-Saxon cultural frame was shown or depicted in a bad way and manner. This marked the advent of Hollywood and the film industry.
Afterwards, as society evolved and Asian-Americans and Eastern European and Germanic American migrants were accepted into mainstream society. The African-American and other minority concerns were aired through the civil rights movement. This culminated in the inclusion of minorities in roles that were often negative and a reflection of the stereotypes held against them. Finally, when African Americans were full accepted in conventional roles in US media and film, the question of Arabs and Islamic members of the American society were raised. Currently, there is the negative cast of North Koreans. This pattern indicates that the media and film industry just presents people in a way and manner that people perceive them. This indicates that people love to see the things that they associate with certain people, being cast and presented to them through the media and the film industry.
Appadurai, Arjun. “Disjuncture and Difference in Global Cultural Evolution.” Theory Culture Society (1990): 295-310. Print.
Moreman, Christopher and Cory James Rushton. Race, oppression and the zombie: essays on cross-cultural appropriations of the Caribbean tradition . San Diego: UCSD, 1974. Print.
Sun, Chyng Feng. “Ling Woo in Historical Context.” TV By Night (2001): 656-682. Print.
Tate, Greg. Everything but the Burden: What White People are Taking from Black culture. New York: Harlem Books, 1990. Print.
Volp, Letti. “The Citizen and the Terrorist.” Immigration and Nationality Law Review (2002): 561-579. Print.
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