How Does Popular Culture Stereotype You?
Society is characterized as a structured mass of people, united by collective aims and means of their achievement. Among all human needs aims of getting food and safety are of the primary interest. All the other aims are based on this foundation, providing the development of the society accordingly with certain collective agreements. In turns out when the society has no needs to struggle for food and safety it shows some interest in cultural development and scientific achievements. However, certain obstructions to its development may emerge. Among the mentioned one can name different stereotypes. Stereotyping is one of the features of a human brain and a useful social function in the past, which turned to be a negative factor when influenced by modern popular culture. Stereotypes may be of racial, gender, age, disability, religion or other basis and are mainly a set of clichés implemented among the masses by some persistent image. The mentioned culture itself combines the materials from newspapers, television, the Internet, radio and other media sources. The daily information from these resources tends to have certain clichés towards the behavior and the way of thoughts of an ordinary information consumer. Thus, they cease the person’s opinion and implement popular culture image or cliché instead. In the following paper the mentioned social phenomenon is argued as a major obstacle in establishing friendly and productive development of the society in all its spheres. The research debates on the problem of the role of popular culture stereotypes and clichés in modern society. It analyzes the nature of main stereotypes providing the evidence of the present day situations. The level of stereotyping media influence should be ceased in the US because it leads to various psychic diseases and prevents the development of the society. Thus, the research question in the paper is “What are the dominant clichés of popular culture that stereotype people and prevent their development?”
One of the primary interest for the study are race-based stereotypes. Due to historic reasons many countries of the world have citizens from different places of the planet. These citizens greatly vary in their mother tongues, traditions and skin colors. Though the development of this part of any society differs in the certain way from its “native” representatives, people are mainly the same all over the world. In the ancient times the psychic function of stereotyping allowed differentiating members of one social group from the other. It assisted in distributing of the social roles in class societies building the social pyramid. However, in modern times, daily information from the media sources causes this function to produce clichés that harm the development of social contacts. Popular culture sets certain stereotypes on the people of certain racial identity. Mainly they are based on the image of representatives of a particular race from TV screens and music charts. For instance, on the basis of popular main-stream musicians and the images from films and television African American identity is associated with violence, misogyny, materialism and deviancy. This negative message might be intentionally or unintentionally sent from the representatives of the society. However, the television shows and the cinema exaggerate this image even more, providing stereotypical attitude towards the discussed representatives of the community.
Among the mentioned but quite debatable initiatives one can name Latino Comedy Project that aims at using the clichés about Hispanics in a comedy show. This show has taken the motto “Will stereotype for food”. Such shows may be the reason for list of debatable issues to emerge. The thing is that if a certain race representatives are performing the jokes about themselves it might look like fun. However, if such jokes are being performed by the representatives of another race, it is regarded as racism. Thus, the breaking point between the fun and the offence is too easy to notice. In this case, even humorous intentions may found to be of racist assumptions. These are the main reasons of why the stereotyping images should be removed from the media sources.
Religion Based Stereotypes
The second discussed stereotype of popular culture is connected with racial clichés in terms of their relation to different ethnicities. These are stereotypes based on religion. Religion has always been a difficult question nearly for every nation. There were periods in the history of humanity when religions caused severe wars and were the reason for a threat for some groups of people. Unfortunately, the latter is the case of modern reality. The main religious fear of the US citizens is Muslims. It is a sad truth that these stereotypes are based on the real terroristic actions practiced by the representatives of radical Muslim movements on 9/11 and during the Boston Marathon. After these terrible incidents, the society had become extremely suspicious on every Muslim representative. If this representative happened to be with a beard, the suspicion has been rising exponentially. Social studies approve that it has become more difficult for the US Muslims to live after 9/11. In order to beat the stereotype, Muslims even launched a campaign to meet this social irritation with humor. Such jokes in the social networks turned out to be a good tactics to cease the impact of one of the gravest prejudices of our times. However, the media exaggerated projects as Arab-American Comedy Festival “Arabs Are Coming!” may serve for the situation to aggravate. The reason for this is the acceptance of a cliché with its exaggeration and spreading instead of attempts of showing Arabs as ordinary representatives of the society. Furthermore, Arab stereotyping has been taking place even before terroristic attacks. The phenomenon of “the three B syndrome”, which refers to the persistent portraying of Arabs in TV and movies as bombers, belly dancers and billionaires has been the constant issue over decades. One of the reasons the popular culture image of Muslims prevails in the collective mind is explained by Zabel as the weak incorporation of Arab culture and Islam into the curricula. As a consequence, parents, teachers and children have a wide specter of problems when facing religious prejudice at schools. Thus, unsolved problems of small school societies turn out to be much bigger problems after the graduation of a child. Thus, popular culture distorts the image of certain religion groups, stereotyping it to a simple form of either strange or malicious nature.
Though feministic movements added more objective way on the place of men and women in the society, gender problems still have a place. The reason for this is the persistency of impact of a popular culture media. Various TV shows and ads are exaggerating the roles of men and women in a daily life, sometimes mixing them or changing in order to produce a humorous effect. With time, such clichés stick to the public mind and it often becomes quite difficult to differentiate one from another. Such spheres as family life, music and social activism, movies and television, sport, technology and schools turn out to be a wide polygon for experiments of a popular culture. One of the main reasons for the image of popular culture to impact is the effects of internalization and effects of media representations. The media sources tend to produce specific standards of gender behavior, habits and the way of life. Another thing is numerous images of simple-minded and emotional blondes, toys of superheroes pumped up on steroids, domestic women in the TV ads and so on. Such sources are persistently washing the brain of a public, forcing it to think and the way it is told and shown when talking about gender roles in the society. People tend to follow these images, but the degree of association of a person with the image may vary upon its psychics and sense of ratio. Thus, one can observe cases of underestimation or extreme self-criticism as well as different psychic disorders based on the fact that a person fails to meet the iconic standards set by the mass media.
Despite the fact that popular culture may bring confusion and distortion into public mind it sometimes raises important questions. For instance, the cartoon “Talk to me, Alice, I Speak Woman” by Mick Stevens stresses public attention on the problems men and women may have in their communication. However, such humor in stereotyping should be treated extremely accurately. The reason for this is while some of the cartoons focus on language itself, others comment on women’s speech and other potentially offensive subjects. Thus, popular culture in the birthplace of numerous gender stereotypes that should be omitted in order not to offend the representatives of any gender.
One more victim of popular culture stereotypes turns out to be the elderly people and the youth. It is often surprising how mass media can enclose any category of people with the aura of stereotype. Thus, according to popular culture, teen agers are more about drinking soda and having parties rather than studies. The Internet, parties, sex and electronic games seem to be of primary interest for an average youngster accordingly to some of the movies and music artists. It is not even surprising that the young people which do not fit these so called popular standards start underestimating themselves and feel ashamed of their way of life.
Another thin is with the elderly people. Because of the popular culture impact people tend to see aged people as sweet and vulnerable, which mostly means “helpless victims”; if they successfully cope with the duties of a younger person in their age they are shown as “bizarre and comical”; growing old is unavoidably connected with deterioration and decline. Furthermore, the group of elderly people could be regarded as people that need no care because of their inevitable death. Such striking images are leading for this category of people to be under-represented and ignored, which is not the case in a democratic society. It also has been documented that people often talk with their aged relatives using “baby-talk”. Such cases are vivid examples of popular culture influence that harms the great segment of people all over the country. Opposing to mass cultures, collectivist cultures, for instance, believe that the elderly should be valued, respected, and cared for. This is the vivid example of how different vision of ageism might be rendered by public and put into social practice.
Specialists say that placing stereotypes and prejudices is a usual trait of a human mind. Such actions aim several functions such as simplifying the information about the person for its convenient use, classifying the representatives of society, assisting in self-identification and recognizing the classified representatives. However, it turns out that popular culture intentionally or unintentionally uses these traits with negative impact on the society. As a consequence, people got stereotyped regarding nearly every specific group or activity they belong to. The above mentioned evidence argue on gender, race, religion, age based stereotypes brought by popular culture through mass media sources. The primary issue of popular culture is its negative impact of stereotyping people. Such impact is damaging the person’s identity, because one starts either chasing mass culture values or escaping from them. In such cases as aging and disability people often feel neglected and forgotten. All mentioned above might lead to different consequences, from social antipathy to numerous health problems based on the psychic disorders. Any person has a big variety of choices of what kind of person to be. However, accepting the stereotypic image and choosing the cliché for becoming its representative significantly limits this variety and lowers the quality of the person’s life. Thus, any person should treat the images of mass media filtering them through the basic moral and ethics values. On the level of media sources different stereotypes of popular culture should be resisted by means of popularizing true human values. One should remember that human beings have equal talents and bad habits and it is up to the person to decide whether to follow stereotypes or remain unique and live a happy life.