Over the course of the century, we humans have come so far when it comes to racial equality and fighting against negative stereotypes. We are noticing change being made at a global scale that is empowering everyone and promoting diversity. One that has a profound impact on racial stereotypes is popular culture and this is especially true for the youth. However, the lack of diversity in popular culture has been a topic raised by many. Many directors, producers, and video game developers have made it their concern to add diversity to their work but the argument here is; Does the media that promote racial diversity racially stereotyping people?
Lately Hollywood has been the home to numerous movies that are promoting racial diversity.
Huge blockbusters like Straight Outta Compton, Black Panther and series like Empire are breaking racial stereotypes: by having a majority black cast and using black characters as protagonists. Although they were all critically-acclaimed, I contend that these movies, that are indeed promoting racial diversity, are reinforcing racial stereotypes.
Why is it, in Hollywood, certain races are confined to a certain role? Why is it that, more often than not, black talent is used to portray a character in a plot about a character overcoming poverty with a career in rap or music? For instance, the TV series Empire does not fail to promote racial diversity nonetheless it falls victim to reinforcing racial stereotypes of African-Americans. Lucious, the male protagonist, is heard in the trailer saying, ”I started selling drugs when I was 9 years old.
” reinforcing the common stereotype in which African American men are associated with drugs. He later builds a multi-million dollar company with the money he acquired from selling drugs. Although him being portrayed as a rich and powerful man in the movie was a positive thing it all crumbled to the fact that the money that built the multi-million dollar company was obtained unlawfully: by the selling of illegal drugs. In addition to Luscious history with drugs he is, short-tempered, has been the cause for multiple homicides, and has even gone to the extent of throwing his own son in the garbage can because he dressed up as a woman. The same characteristic of Lucious, short-temper, is also depicted in his ex-wife Cookie Lyon. Throughout the course of the movie, Taraji P. Henson, the actress that played Cookie Lyon, has done a couple of things on set that bolsters the “Angry Black Women” stereotype. She constantly gets into fights with not only her ex-husband but also his current wife. There are scenes of her throwing her shoe at her former husband, and throwing food and drinks at his current wife. “Mary Mitchell wrote that watching Empire was like watching another reality TV show depicting black people behaving shamefully.” With the hype of making the world a global village, we need a serious call to attention to end this sort of racial stereotypes in popular culture. This kind of plot can surely augment negative racial stereotypes about the black community, especially for the younger audience.
The influence that pop culture has on young children has been long overlooked but an analysis made by David Jackson on surveys collected from classes at Bowling Green State University and Wayne State University suggests that, ”young people are exposed to a tremendous amount of popular culture, and that they pick up on culture war issues, especially violence, racism, and sexuality, conveyed via entertainment media.” Another article that is a great demonstration of the influence of popular culture is Little Girls or Little Women? The Disney Princess Effect by Stephanie Hanes. This article brings to light the influence that Disney movies, that initially encouraged creativity, have on young girls so as to priming them to think that their looks determine their worth and that they should be superficial: that they should look more like the fictional characters designed by Disney. According to Hanes, “a University of Central Florida poll found that 50 percent of 3- to 6-year-old girls worry that they are fat.”
We need to stand up and together and raise our voices to fight this hate. We need to empower not just the black race but every race to make this world a better place and pop culture is certainly the best medium to make this change a reality. It can be used to promote positive things about one’s culture rather than reinforcing negative stereotypes. It can be used to fix the damage it has done and be used to promote positive things about one’s culture. Although this might not favor Hollywood as it thrives with topics like these; it is a change that must happen.