Before you say, "There's never a GOOD time for stereotypes!" Relax and take a deep breath. In no way will this post justify the use of stereotypes or whether there is a time or space for such. In this imperfect and many times, flawed world we live in, it is a human trait that we often try to find the good from bad events and circumstances. So I mean to state in this post about Dreaded Stereotypes.
One: Kung-fu movies!
I can't begin to tell how many I've watched over time. I only know I have been watching martial art films since childhood. However haphazard the story, how dry the attempted humor, the slapstick that begs in such a tactile plot, I can honestly say I became interested in Chinese culture because of these films.
Two: Gangster movies
You already know what I'm about to say, right? I love The Godfather film! I read the book in junior high. Wiseguys was one of my favorite TV shows. And then I was sucked in my mob films of the 1940s, and later, the 1930s - which are often grittier, not as sleek, as well as sexier and more violent than its cousin a decade later! I did become interested in Italian culture because of it. That's sad, but, it did open up a world of exploring a different culture than mine.
Three: Black criminal movies & Blaxploitation films of the 70s
Being an American who happens to be Black and Caribbean-descent, you would think these movies would definitely tick me off. But, no. I understand now the cultural and historical significance with these 'exploitative' titles. But when I didn't know, I thought them cheesy and over-the-top, campy in every sense of the world. But... They showed that Blacks could be powerful, can be vindictive, dangerous, complex, as any White character.
Four: Westerns with Native Americans
Now, this is also a hot-button. Hollywood has not not continues to be unkind to persons of color, and especially, to the First Nation people. Since both parents were Western fans, then I had to watch them. And I liked them! Even though I knew those 'Indians' in the films were White actors in Redface, seeing even a Native American on-screen was exciting for me. I always missed the Native American actor whenever they left the scene. Now I watch as many films, documentaries, and shows with Native actors as much as I can. I read the history that History Classes refused to teach: one with the First Americans in it.
So there you have it! I may continue this theme in another post. In no way am I saying that stereotypes serve a purpose. I am simply stating that despite watching derivative, one-dimensional, stereotypical, and even outright racist archetypes, as a storyteller, what these ignorant portrayals revealed to me was: I had my work cut out! I wanted to know MORE about these characters!
So I created my own characters.
So I drew my own characters.
So I read the stories from authors of those groups.
So I asked friends and peers questions about aspects of their cultures that they took for granted.
And yes. I got weird looks. And yes. Some did not give me an answer. So I sought my own answers. I asked other people and I watched and read their stories. In some wonderful moments, someone even told me their stories.
Because, look at it this way, if I want to see multiculturalism and diversity, like what happens in the real world, despite proponents who are against diversity in pop culture and believe multiculturalism is a trendy catchphrase for the political correctness camp... No buddy. This is the planet Earth. We have different people here in this nation and everywhere else. One cannot escape what always existed since the beginnings of human history.
And if a person doesn't want to see that, fine, but I live in the real world and I need to explore it both physically and in the stories that are being told.
Dear readers, can you comment on other stereotypes you've read and watched? What was your reaction and answer to consuming such aspects in a medium?
Let me know in the comments below and thank you.