About BMC 277: Media and Diversity

This course asks students to critically examine the role of the media in facilitating and challenging the social constructions of race, class, gender, and sexual orientation in U.S. culture.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Who are the Acceptable Targets in the Media and Why?

Donikea Austin

In today’s media there are a few unwritten rules in regards to who can be acceptably exploited, who can be made fun of and who can be stereotyped. As seen in the snickers commercial gay people are one of these groups. In the video we see two greasy mechanics that accidentally kiss and afterwards need to prove their manliness to one another. Gays are not the only group that is still an acceptable target, we still see advertisers using people of Irish, Arabic and Asian decent how they see fit, usually without any consequences.

Why are they allowed to do this? Historically gays and lesbians have been a minority group in American society. This is the same problem we have with other minority groups that are represented in the media. The media believes that there is simply not enough people in that group to cause a problem or the people in that group do not have enough power to enforce a change. Gays in America are in a special category, they are a smaller minority of the population however they have a large non gay alliance. So together, gays and their alliances make up a larger more recognizable percentage of media consumers. Another reason that gays are allowed to be so commonly misrepresented or stereotyped is the fact that the people who are against homosexuals as a whole are usually larger, louder and newsmakers.

The commercial plays off of the schemas we have for mechanics as well as the schemas we have for homosexuals. When people think of greasy men in jumpsuits fixing a car the schema for mechanic is activated, however when you see all of these things preceding two of the men kissing there is no schema for this. On one level we can think about how this commercial shows us how we view the homosexuality as wrong and it also shows us all of the stereotypes associated with it. Gay men are thought to be more feminine than straight men, therefore when we see two mechanics kiss our schema for what it means to be a mechanic is challenged. As people we do not like change, we would rather have things remain constant than to always change. This idea can be applied to the commercials schemas of mechanics because instead of changing the schema to accept that mechanics can be gay, we would rather assume that the gay people in the commercial are doing something wrong and it was an accident, so that we can continue to use these restricting schemas and stereotypes.

Some people may see this as another part of society that simply cannot or will not be changed so why focus on it. Actually advertising has changed greatly over the years and we can see that in how other groups are portrayed today in relation to how they used to be portrayed. For example many years ago you could see an advertisement for something like watermelon with stereotypic images of black people plastered across it, however now in society if an ad or even a television show negatively portrays or serotypes African Americans it is likely to be pulled from the public and scar the company from whom the ad was created. Because of the evolution of African Americans as a more powerful force in American culture there had to be a change in the way they were going to allow themselves to be portrayed. We see this same trend happening in Hispanic culture, as they are growing in population, they are also growing in power. We see fewer Hispanic stereotypes in media today than we have in the past, because advertisers and media people know that if you cross the line of any accepted group in America you will automatically be blacklisted.

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