Understanding Media Representations: Stereotypes (Part 3)

Stereotypes are a key element of the media representations we’re familiar with. Stereotypes are a shortcut to understanding someone or something. Short-cuts are often flawed. They are a generalised understanding which refers to a group rather than an individual. Stereotyping is a depersonalising process that (often unfairly) categories individuals into groups based on perceived shared characteristics.

stereotypes2.jpg

We make judgements about people within seconds of meeting them, often based upon stereotypes we’ve seen in the media. The mass media has always been powerful in generating and circulating stereotypes. They become lodged in our minds. We like to put people into neat categories like we do with genre. Stereotypes also offer us an excuse not to make an effort to get to know people as individuals or to explore social issues in more detail.

‘Chav Britain’

This is a comedic stereotype that works to mask more complex social issues (lack of education or professional training opportunities, sense of social frustration due to lack of job opportunities). chavsIt is too easy just to dismiss these people as ‘lazy scum’ who we have brought these problems upon themselves but this is the image that the mass media is encouraging with programmes such as: Benefits Street, On the Dole and Proud, On the Dole and Pregnant, and The Jeremy Kyle Show.

There is no coincidence that these sorts of representations have been most forcefully promoted by mass media under a Conservative government. This becomes a vicious circle: people begin to identify with and play up to stereotypes.

Key uses of Stereotypes

  • an ordering process
  • a shortcut to understanding
  • a way of referring to ‘the world’ (parts of which we often know little about from direct experience)
  • an expression of ‘our’ values and beliefs

This post is one of three. To see part one (click here) or to see part two (click here).

These are notes from my semester one lectures and seminars.
I do not own the above images, they are from: http://youthjobfinder.blogspot.co.uk/2014/10/funny-stereotypes-how-foreigners-see.html and http://lavanamediaexamblog.blogspot.co.uk/2012/12/chavs.html.

 

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