BY MICHAEL KAN
Daily Staff Reporter
Published April 12, 2004
Engineering sophomore Calvin Cheung is convinced there is just
no way people cannot believe the ethnic stereotypes they watch on
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“Most people tell themselves to not believe stereotypes.
But they do because they always see it, it’s in the back of
their minds,” Cheung said.
Like Cheung, many University students immerse themselves in
today’s pop culture. In doing so, they also expose themselves
to the comedic ethnic and sexual stereotypes prevalent in the
Recently, several minority student groups on campus have voiced
concerns, protesting the offensive stereotypes. Yet while some
action is being taken, some University members say stereotyping in
both entertainment and life is unavoidable. They say the larger
question is, what are the effects of living with these stereotypes?
Do people believe in the stereotypes they see?
Cheung said people often accept them, because the stereotypes
amuse them, and gradually people subconsciously believe those
comedic characterizations. But he said the consequences are
negative, leading viewers to take those stereotypes as the
“They show (stereotypes) over and over. On every movie and
TV, they will show them. And (viewers) eventually will think,
‘Oh, that must be what (minorities) are in real life,’
” he added.
But the possible negative effects of the entertainment industry
employing stereotypes are unknown, since there are no studies
suggesting viewers take stereotypes for the truth, psychology Prof.
Lawrence Hirschfeld said.
“As far as I know, no one has studied the
consequences,” Hirschfeld said, who has dealt with studies on
He further explained that stereotyping in itself is not negative
— it’s just natural.
People use stereotypes to reduce the effort involved in thinking
about something, he added.
Hirschfeld also does not expect to see stereotyping ever ending
in the entertainment industry. Not only do people find it
entertaining, but the exaggerated portrayals are also easy to
understand and “catchy”, he said.
Yet Hirschfeld said that while there are no studies on the
consequences of viewing stereotypes in entertainment, studies show
there are negative effects to stereotyping in general.
“The fundamental problem with stereotypes is how much you
rely on to base your behavior. The problem is people tend to over
use them even when they don’t notice it,” he said.
Stereotypes grow even more dangerous once they become
mainstream, such as through the media or word of mouth, he said.
Then stereotypes can create a negative image of how certain groups
of people are expected to act — expectation that minorities
will be pressured to abide by in real life, Hirschfeld said.
Some University members said they see these same negative
effects from day to day, adding that the entertainment industry is
largely to blame.
Engineering sophomore Clinque Brundidge said she hates what she
calls the one-sided image of blacks projected by hip-hop music
videos. Because of those videos, people outside the black community
already feel those images are accurate for all blacks, she
“Many people (nationwide) are unaccustomed to blacks, so
seeing things like that become their primary perception. …
And when they encounter a black person they have a pre-conceived
notion of us,” Brundidge said.
Office of Multi-Ethnic Student Affairs Coordinator Sha Duncan
said the stereotyping jokes on different ethnicities often are
brought to life when groups outside of the black community embrace
what they see and think is black culture. “They think they
are being friends when they say, ‘Wut up dawg!’ But
people don’t do that. I speak proper English.”
But Tony Fox, Comedy Central’s vice president, said
critics of comedic stereotyping should also be aware of the
positive effects of using them in entertainment.
Fox said the network always deals with issues of overusing
stereotypes. But he added that the comic characterizations featured
on their shows are more than just for a laugh. Fox referred to his
network’s popular comedy-skit series “Chappelle’s
Show,” starring comedian Dave Chappelle, as an example of how
TV can reveal the deeper injustices in American society by using
“Chappele’s deals with a lot of hot topic social
issues. One of those issues is racism. (Dave Chappelle) tries to
ridicule that racism, pointing out some of its absurdities,”
Chappelle does this by playing off viewer’s expectations
of stereotypes, by exaggerating them, to show how ridiculous those
ethnic and sexual stereotypes truly are, Fox added.