by Yukako Ikezoe
Whenever we watch TV, don’t you feel any biased images or pictures are always produced to the audience? Personally, I do. Think about the images you have in your mind when you think of some American dramas or movies. What kind of roles you guys think black people represent mostly? What about roles of white people?
When we think of roles of black people in movies or TV dramas, it is easy for us to picture roles of black people which tend to give audience negative images or not really good images as white characters have. The “Magical Negro,” for instance, is one of the most remarkable characters mostly played by African American men. Those characters are always helping white characters to let them have better lives without considering about their own lives but for white characters. There is also the tendency that black people are regarded as the very actors for playing criminals as we often see them breaking laws such as drug dealers in movies and TV dramas. On the other hand, characters with good images such as a hero, popular students at schools tend to be played by white actors.
When talking about roles of white women, the show “Gossip Girls”, one of the great hits among American teen shows and continuously won many Teen Choice Awards from 2008 to 2010, is also a clear example. All the main characters are white, and white women in the drama are always having fun with guys, fashion, and make-up (some-girls.com, 2011). White girls on screen always make us feel jealous or desire to look like them as we see many articles or tutorials about how to look like them taken up by magazines and blogs on website. Women, especially teen girls, are really sensitive to that kind of information simply because whites seem like they most likely play gorgeous characters on TV and are regarded as role models or as good looking women. The image of white females on TV as roll models of being beautiful women, are repeatedly produced by TV to the audience so much that it is widely prevalent among other races including African American women.
Watching TV does play an important role for African American people, as the data complied by EURweb in 2010 shows that the average of African Americans watching TV was 7 hours and 12 minutes, more than the US average of 5 hours. It also shows Blacks are spending time on TV much longer than other races and its tendency is seen remarkably from the age of 5 up to teen. Based on the fact, TV is obviously one of the most important parts of their daily lives (Burton, 2011).
Hence, as Verna M. Keith says in her chapter “A Colorstruck World” of the book Shades of difference: why skin color matters, whites do not really see shades of difference in black skin, but blacks make a lot of distinctions. The strong desire to have lighter skin for Black women is also to come from the influence from Media. Whites distinguish only between Black and White because they do not have to care about their skin tones. It is easier for them to have similar looks as white women characters in dramas comparing to Black women or other races like Asians. In fact, it is hard for me to have a look like Whites who have completely different looks including different phenotypic characteristics. We do not really have to try to look like them, yet many women think they have to do so to look like whites, beautiful women. The majority of women do still desire to have lighter skins like Whites, which is because of the images and beauty standards of “Whites are beautiful” constantly produced and taught by media on which we casually spend time in our daily lives.
Burton, N. (2011). Nielesen study: Blacks watch more tv than any other groups. Retrieved from http://www.theroot.com/articles/culture/2011/04/nielsen_study_african_americans_watch_more_television_than_any_other_group.html
some-girls.com.(2011). Success of gossip girl. Retrieved from http://www.some-girls.com/success-gossip-girl-success.html
Glenn, Evelyn Nakano (Ed.). (2009). Shades of difference: why skin color matters. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
The media really plays a very powerful role in how minorities view themselves, and how others view them. In my own experience as a gay man, growing up watching only effeminate men in the media, if at all, really effected the way I viewed myself (not to mention all the gay serial killers in film, but I didn’t pattern myself after those models). In more recent years, you get more gays on television, but only as “best friend without a life of their own” to the female lead character. Thankfully in the past couple of years, some more realistic characters have made their way onto television, but their is still the stereotype of the white upper-middle class male.
As a filmmaker myself, it was an interesting exercise, when I cast a Japanese man in a music video. I got deluged with emails from people within Japan, “why did you chose him, there are better looking men?!”, then from western women, and asian women outside Japan wanting to have all of his babies! I later cast the same actor in a short horror video I made, and we got a lot of racist comments from the US, but then Youtube isn’t exactly know for it’s thoughtful comments…
Thank you for your comment and for sharing your story. I’ve also seen gay characters on TV dramas or shows in Japan and the same thing can be found as you said. I have gay friends from Hong Kong and Japan and they shared their stories with me. A lot of people tend to think gay people are optimistic persons, do not really care about things and always look fun. Yet, in fact they do care about many things, always wish to be open to others and just want to enjoy their lives with persons they love openly. That’s why I somehow get an unpleasant feeling when gay characters tend to be the subject which the audience always laughs at and regarded as “funny characters”.
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