Sunday, August 31, 2008

Considerations of Media Effects

The Social Psychology of Stereotypes: Implications for Media Audiences -
Bradley W. Gorham

In this article, the author, Bradley W. Gorham, stresses that stereotypes exist in every individuals’ mind whether the individual is aware of his prejudice or not. Gorham states that stereotypes are “structures in our minds” or “schema” which help individuals to effectively and easily translate messages they may view about a group of people based on a few applicable characteristics of that specific group. Thus, schemas make it possible for an individual to know the “specifics” of a group of people and what to expect from that group. In effect, these expectations are applied directly when we encounter an individual of a specific race or social group which in turn influences the way we may construe the situation. Gorham continues to infer that the conclusions we develop about a person are partial in support of the social groups we are directly associated with. Therefore, if an individual who is part of the group we identify with makes a mistake, we are more apt to forgive or be more understanding than if an individual unassociated with our “ingroup” acts wrongly. Thus, stereotypes work in favor of the majority. Different images in media trigger different stereotypes within us as well, sometimes incoherently. Gorham argues that we automatically place stereotypes on individuals, frequently without intentions of being prejudiced. Although sometimes unconscious, this automatic prejudice is something that needs to be dealt with. Gorham confronts this situation in stating that the only way to end “stereotype-congruent interpretations” of media images is to comprehend our role in the continuation of these biases. I interpret this to mean that we must make a conscious decision to realize and deal with the unconscious prejudices we may have instilled within us so that we can interpret media messages, or create new media, that is unbiased.

Gordham, Bradley W. "Considerations of Media Effects." The Social Psychology of Stereotypes (2004): 14-21.

The White Male: Desperate or Distracted?

In this advertisement for the new Chevrolet Aveo, the attractive white male is portrayed as someone who is desperate and only interested and distracted with attractive young women. He is depicted as someone who is helpless and stupidly trying to attract the attention of the female who has no interest. The woman is depicted as a strong, independent female who has no interest in the immature antics of the male who is desperately trying to get her to go out for coffee with him. They participate in a car chase in which the male is again distracted by attractive young women on the road and almost crashes into the initial 'attraction' in the Aveo. However, the woman has such control over the situation that she is able to avoid the accident and eventually wins the race. After the race is over, the young man asks again if she'd like coffee, thinking that he has won her over, but she again refuses and speeds off, blowing dust in his face.
The first time I viewed this advertisement, I didn't really look into the fact that the white male in this ad is definately the subordinate in the situation. He's depicted as stupid and childish, concerned only with the "winning-over" of the attractive young woman. After viewing this advertisement a second time, I realized the stereotypes placed upon the young man. I also pin-pointed some of the stereotypes related to the young woman. She is strong and confident and has too much on her mind to be distracted with men. She almost serves as an example and an encourager to all young attractive females in dealing with the antics of young men.
As Gorham pointed out, I was able to associate with the young woman, as I am also a young woman, and I almost felt angry with the relentless young man in the advertisement. This advertisement depicts the stereotypes caucasian men deal with as well as the stereotypes placed upon independent women, obviously gaining the approval of women in hopes that they would be interested in purchasing a car that might make them more independent (and hopefully more attractive to men).

The Role of Stereotypes by Richard Dyer

Summary: The Role of Stereotypes by Richard Dyer

Towards the start of Dyer’s chapter 3 in his book, The Matter of Images, I find it unsettling when he quotes Walter Lippman, an American writer and journalist, in reference to stereotypes: “Stereotypes are…highly charged with the feelings that are attached to them. They (stereotypes) are the fortress of our tradition, and behind its defenses we can continue to feel ourselves safe in the position we occupy” (Dyer, 11). Thus, as Dyer interprets, it is not the stereotypes that are at fault, it is the individual developing those biases who has complete control over their own prejudices and thoughts about a specific social or racial group. In relation to media images, this means that we have a responsibility to interpret images we may view in media without prejudice, and if we interpret those images in a biased way, we can only blame ourselves. Dyer continues to argue a few characteristics relating to stereotypes. First, Dyer argues that stereotypes “order” data that we receive from the world around us. Stereotypes represent and categorize individuals. Dyer states that this ordering provides an inescapable way for societies to “make sense of themselves” (Dyer 12). Secondly, Dyer points out that a stereotype may give us an easy way of representing a specific group of people which in turn helps to easily make sense of a mass amount of information regarding that group. Dyer continues to state that the success of a stereotype depends on how effectively it conjures an agreement among a mass amount of individuals. Towards the end of his chapter, Dyer concludes that stereotypes function to “make visible the invisible” (Dyer 16). He says that stereotypes represent issues in society that are reality and which are present in today’s culture.

Dyer, Richard. "The Role of Stereotypes." The Matter of Images. New York, NY: Routledge, 1993. 11-17.

Media Image: Stuff White People Like

I first encountered this book this summer. It's entitled: Stuff White People Like: A Guide to the Unique Taste of Millions. Written by Christian Lander, part of the description of the book states in reference to "white people":
"They love nothing better than sipping free-trade gourmet coffee, leafing through the Sunday New York Times, and listening to David Sedaris on NPR (ideally all at the same time). Apple products, indie music, food co-ops, and vintage T-shirts make them weak in the knees."
Basically, this book pokes fun at the young contemporary generation of hippy Wes Anderson film-loving individuals that I so often find myself wanting to be a part of because I think it's a cool "image." The book directly hones in on the stereotypes related with this group of "white" individuals. From unique coffee shops to sushi to foreign cinema, this book basically shows that the stereotypes related to this group of people are in fact, reality. Throughout this book you can take a quiz to find out how "white you are" and it was amazing to me to find out that first of all, I'm not as unique as I thought I was, and second of all, that a lot of individuals I know fit right into these stereotypes.
In response to Dyer's chapter, these stereotypes portrayed throughout this book definately categorize individuals (individuals I know, atleast) and somehow make sense of the way in which people conduct their lives. It is also disappointing to me personally, but not surprising, that I am not as unique as I may have thought I was at one time. I believe it takes a large group of people who are all acting in a similar manner to bring about a specific stereotype and this book reveals that I fit right in, and that the stereotypes are true.
Not only is there a book dedicated to this "white person" stereotype but there is an entire website. You should definately check it out and laugh at a lot of it (mostly because you'll probably find yourself relating to a lot of the stereotypes described on the website).