Media and Minorities: Unpacking Stereotypes

Debra C. Smith, Africana Studies, UNC Charlotte

Television is a powerful cultural agent in shaping, critiquing and reflecting society. With its ability to disseminate information to millions of people, television often offers us insights into our global world.  Yet, television and film do not come with viewing instructions or a manual.  Television portrayals and advertising can potentially manipulate our thoughts and beliefs on notions of inferiority and systems of inequality.  As fish who swim in our pervasive popular culture we are vulnerable to becoming subconsciously influenced by what we view.

This seminar will critically interrogate film, television, and advertising with regard to its shallow, inaccurate and simplified depictions of gender, minorities, and culture. Emphasis is on the portrayal of African-Americans, Asian-Americans, Native Americans, Latino/Latina Americans, homosexuals, and women in U.S. culture and communication, but is open to further discussion of additional racial, gender, and cultural minorities. In the summer we will examine stereotypes, concepts of race, gender, social class, culture and multiculturalism by viewing clips, some full length television shows, and documentaries to look at some ways in which media teach us about individuals we may have never met! There will be an overview of media theories with more extensive exploration of media theories and examination of advertising techniques occurring in the fall.

Reading material used will be integral to contextualizing minorities, preparing to address media depictions and distinguishing the true and the false parts of generalizations and stereotypes. We will also look at some media theories that will be useful in our critical analyses.

This seminar may appeal most to social studies, media, English, elementary, middle, and high school teachers.