Media Stereotyping

A dictionary definition of stereotype is: “One that is regarded as embodying or conforming to a set image or type”. Stereotyping is also a technique that “attempts to arouse prejudices in an audience by labeling the object of the propaganda campaign as something the target audience fears, hates, loathes, or finds undesirable”. Stereotypes act like codes that give audiences a quick, common understanding of a person or group of people- usually relating to their class, ethnicity or race, gender, sexual orientation, social role or occupation.

Media  and Women.

“We don’t need Afghan-style burquas to disappear as women. We disappear in reverse-by revamping and revealing our bodies to meet externally imposed visions of female beauty” Robin Gerber.

The content is true to our post-modern era whereby a woman is seen to be of the pro-active and post-modern type only if she is seen semi-naked or almost completely in the nude. In fact, images of female bodies are everywhere. Women -and their body parts- sell everything from food to cars. Newspaper adverts and movies reinforce the importance of a thin body as a measure of a woman’s worth. Stereotyping of the typical white and dieted portrayal of women in the media has caused women around the world to feel insecure about their own self and life.

The concept of Whiteness and White Privilege in the Media 

“White people create the dominant images of the world, and don’t quite see that they thus construct the world in their image.” Richard Dyer


The representation of ethnic minorities has also given rise to broad-based stereotyping through the medium of cinema and newspaper adverts as well. In fact, in the media, there is the concept of being “white washed”. White supremacy prevails over all newspaper adverts as well as movies and television commercials and advertisements. This concept is based on the fact that the large majority of the people see on television, movies, magazines and newspapers are white. And when the media choose to represent minorities, they seem to place them in very stereotypical ways.


So now, let us talk us talk about the winner Shilpa Shetty from the Celebrity Big Brother Show…. And the talks about racism rose up all throughout the world. What do u think? Is it fair-play that Shilpa won the show or is it because of the ‘racism’ ruccus during the 1st two weeks that favoured a more nation-wide voting against racism that helped Shilpa win the contest?





7 thoughts on “Media Stereotyping

  1. Aloha!
    Interesting post. From what I’ve read about the Big Brother episode before the finale, it seems to me that the initial comments were indeed quite disparaging for the Indians; someone apparently said that the Indians are thin because they undercook their food and are thus constantly sick. Talk about a new scientific hypothesis…

    Some blog I read however posits that the incident had more to do with social class clashes rather than purely racist confrontation: British working class versus Indian upper class/Bollywood celebrity.

    Anywayz, such shows are crap. They probably revelled in the added publicity…

    BTW, can we know who’s the author of this post?



  2. am sorry, it”s me…. i modified the post so many times (since it forms part of an assignment on Media Stereotyping 2 yrs back) that i have finally forgotten to write my name… i thought i was posting on my own blog! lol…. hahaha


  3. In cinema, the film actresses have become younger, “wrinkle-less”, taller, thinner and whiter. Even the black women are of a light grey colour nowadays due to the effects of “whitening” of the black by the blacks themselves on the screen. This “whitening’ of the blacks might have been caused due to the fact, if a woman is not white, she will not likely hold a good role in any film or in any big conglomerates. It can be said that the blacks and also all women have internalized these stereotypes and judge themselves by the beauty standards imposed on them by the culture industry that is the cinema. In the end, women learn to compare themselves to other women portrayals in movies, and hence, compete with those images for male attention.
    Newspaper adverts and movies reinforce the importance of a thin body as a measure of a woman’s worth.

    Stereotyping of the typical white and dieted portrayal of women in the media has caused women around the world to feel insecure about their own self and life. As a matter of fact, those insecured women will tend to likely buy beauty products, new clothes and diet aids to as so much improve their image in the society. The underlying message in almost all movies is: Woman is an object that badly needs to continuously readjust herself so as to be PERFECT. No wonder the cosmetic industry has shown such a boost in their profits these last few years. For instance, L’Oréal figures at the top to the make-up of big actresses such as Laeticia Casta and Aishwarya Rai. It is more important to note that L’Oréal adverts figures in almost every newspaper in all countries and the company’s policy is to find as many new faces from all over the world to be able to get a wider media coverage for its products.

    While reading the L’Express 5th November 2005, an article talks about an Italian religious magazine, Famiglia Cristiana, who has published the photo of a naked woman so as to advertise about a new system of aeration for bathrooms (see annexure). The whole Italian community revolted against this advert as it is on a religious magazine but practically nobody made reference to the fact that it reflects the negative stereotyping of woman as a sexual object and always the inflaming type. Even the director of the magazine said: “[…] c’est juste une esquisse de femme derriere une vitre sale et floue”.

    For instance, African Americans are usually portrayed as lower to middle class. They are seen to live in a bad area and are usually involved in some sort of crime or are being accused of crime. African Americans are often portrayed as seeking advice from the White, thus, creating the domination of the Whites over the other ethnic minorities. In fact, they are rarely seen as helping themselves when in reality, the African Americans live in quite a close, strong and inter-related and brotherhood based community.

    On the other hand, Indian Americans are always portrayed in a negative manner in both newspaper adverts as well as in movies. They are depicted as unemployed, alcoholics, lazy individuals who live in governments land. Let us consider the film Dr Quinn: The Medecine Woman, Indian Americans were portrayed as only warriors fighting the whites when in fact, they are seen to seek facilities from the white represented by the woman doctor.

    Moreover, the Disney animated film Pocahontas reinforces the negative perception of the world of the Indian Americans and colored women in movies. As a matter of fact, the use of stereotypes was well defined even before the production of the movies. The film leaves us with the thought of Indians as ‘sexual savage’. Even the appearance of Pocahontas falls within white mainstream media norms as her facial features were a composite of several non-aboriginal models, one of whom was British fashion star Kate Moss.



  4. There are different ways to consume media: passively as mere entertainment, actively to understand the subtext within the piece, analytically to see how it reflects the outside world and critically to condemn its portrayal of subjects.

    I think before we go into what we see & hear in media, we should rather ask why did the author/creator of the content want to depict the particular subject in the way it is portrayed. A lot of the depictions will be based on individual experience, general knowledge and trends. Depiction in media also takes into consideration historical facts, class structure, cultural norms etc…, and depending on how the creator/author wants to construct their narrative, they will construct a reality that is to be read and analyzed within the product, and not outside. Those who create a product to directly link it to a real life issue usually state it. Else most media productions (films) are fictions.


  5. @Shaan
    you are right when you say that depictions are based on individual experience, general knowledge and trends… and Advertising Agencies do tend to focus on these same trends in order to build up successful messages and reconstruct reality in their ads….

    Have you noticed the ad abour ESKI-The Mauritian National Lemonade whereby there were people of different religious/cultural backgroounds posing for Eski? each group were made up of 3 people of 3 different religions and/or ethnicities…. This ad do appear each time our Independean Day is celebrated….

    Moreover, let us take the tv-ad of LMLC… whereby the woman is shown in her home cooking for her children and husband.. Just think if this same ad were to go ‘international’? am pretty sure that the ad would be qualified as discriminating the woman’s status and ‘cantonne’ li juste a la maison… u kno, being gender bias etc…

    May be contextualizing an ad/film is not what we can call ‘stereotyping’…. Contextualizing with regards to a certain country’s culture, values and traditions may only brings people to identify themselves in the ad/film and that’s what Media producers want to achieve in the long/short term!!!!


  6. International ads from developed countries would show women in the kitchen, 20 years ago. But now, it’s rarer because the position of women has since moved out of the kitchen. We still see it in Mauritius as we are slower to adopt contemporary lifestyle trends. So in a sense, ads progress alongside social/cultural aspects of a country. We still have a lot of housewives in Mauritius, so the ad fits the cultural /social landscape.

    There is the HSBC series of ads, where one cultural aspect, belief or tradition surrounding one particular element/subject in a country is compared the same element/subject’s cultural aspect, belief or tradition in another country, and in a way creates a contrast. This says a lot about how much cultures & societies differ, and therefore shows how meanings are never uniform, but are rather fragmented and localized. Most ad’s try to create meaning, so they need to be adaptive to culture if they want to make the right impact.

    As far as I can remember the Eski ads, I think they try to play alongside the independence day theme, which most of the time turns around unity as one culture. No matter what color Eski we drink, it’s still Eski: no matter what religion we belong to, we are still Mauritian.


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