I would venture to guess that some white Americans may think that there are no more ridicule roles 1 for minorities in American media. There’s been so much improvement! How could there possibly be one group that still plays the villain all the time? The willful ignorance of some people will never cease to amaze me. Because there is a group that is still put in that box. It happens so often that it might even seem normal to us now: the Middle Eastern Terrorist.
The terrorist role is the strongest ridicule role we have in American media today. With the War on Terror post-9/11, people from the Middle East are the easiest demographic to make a villain. That is not when that stereotype started since there were other conflicts in the region before then, but it has continued to grow rapidly since 9/11 and the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. It is seen as patriotic and noble to defeat a terrorist. The Middle Eastern terrorist is a villain that gets little to no sympathy. Only media that makes a point to generate empathy for the terrorist does so. Most media makes them nameless, barbaric, and jihad-obsessed war mongers. This is simply unfair and incorrect.
Beauty and the Beast was recently re-made as a live action movie by the Disney corporation. About a week before the movie opened, news ran through the Internet claiming that there was going to be a a gay character in this live adaptation. Initially, the Internet and I cheered! Hooray! Finally, a canon, purposely-created gay character by a big mainstream company like Disney. This news came from an interview where Director Bill Condon said that LeFou “is somebody who on one day wants to be Gaston and on another day wants to kiss Gaston.” While the general Buzzfeed-like sources made celebratory videos about this representation, others took a more critical lens. Another gay character that pines for a straight person? Cue iconic (and sarcastic) Devil Wears Prada line: Groundbreaking. Also, the first gay Disney character? That couple in Frozen didn’t count, I guess. Plus, his name means the fool. Thanks for that one, Disney. I’m sure the queer community feels great about that. Overall, this seemed like it would just be another ridicule role for the LGBT+ community. So, I decided to take a look and decide for myself. Warning: spoilers ahead.
In this world of being constantly bombarded with images and information, it might be hard to imagine that invisibility is still an option. It is and there is one group that has been most thoroughly subject to non-cognition in American media: Native Americans. The most common form of Native American representation is in the form of ‘Indians’ in old Westerns. It is an old historical context that is misrepresented in many ways. The roles of Native Americans in these movies and shows are sometimes even played by white people. 1 This is especially true if the character has lines or a major role.
Last night, the 89th annual Academy Awards–otherwise known as the Oscars–took place in California. As we will see in my upcoming video on black representation (filmed before the Oscars), receiving recognition from mainstream institutions of prestige in an industry is important. Critics in the past–especially last year–have called out the Academy for overlooking films featuring people of color. Entertainment Weekly said,
Now, I know that proper terms and definitions are not that fun, but it is important to have similar vocabulary when trying to share ideas. Most of my “jargon” comes from my communication background, sociology classes, and life experience. We’ll start with the communication/media related terms.
Media – plural of medium; channels or means of communication, such as radio, newspaper, television, magazines, or the Internet 1
(Media) Representation – how media present and re-create reality within them by how and how much they show or do not show
Hi there! I’m Gabby Lundy and I hope to be starting this website as a start of many conversations. The conversations I want to start are about the media, specifically media representation. This can take a variety of forms that I will get into through blog posts like this and some videos as well. I hope to introduce people to these sometimes invisible problems and create a further dialogue with those who are already talking about it. I have been studying media representation in multiple classes the past three years at the University of Illinois through the communication, sociology, and media & cinema studies departments. The extent and lenses have varied, but my interest has remained. Do you have a specific piece of media representation you would like to see me discuss? Shoot me an email and I’ll do some research. If not, I hope I can teach you a thing or two about what you see around you•