Stereotypes: An Old Concept that Still Exists Today|Laya Mohan

Stereotypes should not define us: we hear this phrase everywhere we go, especially in diverse situations. Racial groups of people have fought long and hard to overcome stereotypes, alas the common presumption still remains. This is especially true in sitcoms, when non white characters are introduced. The stereotypes associated with non white characters are often present in the personality of that character, thus reinforcing the not necessarily correct archetype.

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Still from Big Bang Theory, “The Commitment Determination,” (Season 8, Episode 24, 2015.) Image from http://www.designntrend.com/articles/62630/20151013/big-bang-theory-season-9-taps-laura-spencer-series-regular.htm.

Historically, it was very common to have sitcoms, and even earlier Radio shows use highly stereotypical dialogue in non white characters. These non white characters embody the worst stereotypes of their racial background. The shows portrayed non white characters as inferior or the most typical of their race. Back then, most of the racial jokes were tailored towards members of the Black community. These jokes were demeaning towards members, however, nothing could be done. Jim Crow South existed and thrived during the time of early sitcoms and radio. During the Jim Crow Era, non whites were degraded and looked down on, as if they were not considered a person.  The laws restricted access and congregation of the two racial groups. With the government themselves restricting rights of people of the Black community under Jim Crow laws, the actions paralleled right into sitcoms and other entertainment forms to ridicule Blacks.

Today, we do not have laws set in place about racial barriers against anyone, yet in many of our present day sitcoms, the same racial stereotyping occurs. The stereotypes are not solely directed at the Black community, instead expands to Asians, Hispanics and Middle Eastern people. For example, Raj Koothrapalli in The Big Bang Theory: He is a well educated Indian man who is friends with the main characters. He is portrayed as geeky, a bit feminine and unable to speak to women unless he is drunk. He is noted as the other and different than his white friends, who although most are geeky and awkward, Raj’s awkwardness stands out. He also speaks with a heavy Indian accents, thus making him stand out even more. Raj’s portrayal of common Indian stereotypes strives to add comic relief, but instead pokes fun of the people from an entire country. Sometimes these jokes are funny while other times they are offensive. This example goes to prove that in 60 years, the stereotype humor has not ceased, instead moves on to other racial groups.

-Laya Mohan

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5 Responses to Stereotypes: An Old Concept that Still Exists Today|Laya Mohan

  1. mediaphiles says:

    It is really sad and disappointing to see that racial stereotypes still exist. I do think it is somewhat encouraging to see some shows introducing different racial groups as main characters; for example, George Lopez, Tom or Donna in Parks and Recreation, and more. This is, however, not to say that there needs to be much more progression toward equality.

  2. mediaphiles says:

    It is really sad and disappointing to see that racial stereotypes still exist. I do think it is somewhat encouraging to see some shows introducing different racial groups as main characters; for example, George Lopez, Tom or Donna in Parks and Recreation, and more. This is, however, not to say that there needs to be much more progression toward equality. –Jenna Romano

  3. mediaphiles says:

    I agree that we have seen a new take on stereotype-humor in sitcoms that are currently on television. I think this definitely mirrors what is taking place in society, which is although communities may be becoming more diverse there will unfortunately always be prejudice and discrimination. It’s something that is deeply ingrained in our culture and instead of disappearing completely, it has taken new, subtle forms that I believe has absolutely bled onto our television screens. -Courtney Green

  4. marymdalton says:

    Remind me to have us mention diversity at The Emmys in class tomorrow — or you bring it up!

  5. mediaphiles says:

    As mentioned in previous comments, I hate that race is so difficult to capture on television shows. Being a part of a minority group, hispanic, I’ve always find myself looking for hispanic characters on shows to relate to. I think its funny, if we think about even movies- that it has taken us this long to get a Latino/Hispanic disney character or princess. Many times when a minority group is presented, it is presented with the more stereotypical qualities which can make it funny (if done on purpose and correctly) or just miserable to watch when it’s your culture thats being misrepresented.

    Alexandra Peralta

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