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Race and Ethnic Stereotypes in the Media  

Srividya Ramasubramanian, Emily Riewestahl, and Anthony Ramirez

There is a long history of scholarship documenting the prevalence of racial and ethnic stereotypes in media and popular culture. This body of literature demonstrates that media stereotypes have changed over time across specific racial/ethnic groups, media formats, and genres. Historically, the bulk of this research has focused on representations in the U.S. mainstream media and on representations of African Americans in popular media. In the last few decades, media scholars have also examined media stereotypes associated with Indigenous groups, Latino/a/x populations, Arabs, Asians, and Pacific Islanders. Recent work has gone beyond traditional media such as television and films to also examine other types of media content such as video games, microblogging sites such as Twitter, and media sharing sites such as YouTube. Emerging research addresses racial biases in AI, algorithms, and media technologies through computational methods and data sciences. Despite individual variations across groups and media types, the underlying social psychological mechanisms of how, why, and under what circumstances these stereotypes influence audiences has been theorized more broadly. Cultivation, social identity theory, priming, framing, social cognitive theory, and exemplification are popular theoretical perspectives used within media stereotyping literature. Several experimental studies have examined the effects of mediated racial/ethnic stereotypes on individual users’ attitudes, beliefs, feelings, and behaviors. The lion’s share of these studies has demonstrated that negative stereotypes shape majority audiences’ real-world stereotypical perceptions, social judgments, intergroup emotions, and even public policy opinions. More important, media stereotypes can have negative effects on communities of color by affecting their self-concept, self-esteem, and collective identity in adverse ways. Recent studies have also parsed out the differences between positive and negative stereotypes. They demonstrate that even so-called positive stereotypes often have harmful effects on marginalized groups. Media scholars are increasingly interested in practical solutions to address media stereotypes. For instance, one content-based strategy has been to study the effects of counter-stereotypic portrayals that challenge stereotypes by presenting stereotype-disconfirming information. Other related measures are encouraging positive role models, implementing media literacy education, and supporting alternative media spaces that are more racially inclusive. The recent scholarship suggests that it is important to be intentional about centering social change, amplifying the voices of marginalized groups, and working toward reducing systemic racism in the media industry and research.

Article

Race, Ethnicity, and Cultural Industries  

John Sinclair

The term cultural industries was first coined in the 1980s as a comprehensive means to understand production, distribution, and consumption in the traditional information and entertainment industries—press, radio, and television—and others such as film and recorded music. Closely related industries, such as advertising, marketing, and public relations, were also included. With the subsequent popular embrace and commercialization of the internet, especially the social media platforms, the concept was necessarily expanded to incorporate such “new” media of the digital age. The relevance of these cultural industries for racial and ethnic groups living within the nations of the developed world is significant in at least two contexts: national and transnational. Within the frame of the nation, the issues concern the status of these groups as minorities; and in a global perspective, the groups come to be seen as members of transnational communities, with ties both to a putative nation of origin and to their counterparts in other nations. Most theoretical and research attention has focused on media representations—that is, on how racial and ethnic minorities are portrayed in the content of the cultural industries’ outputs, seen both in a national context, such as the perpetuation of stereotypes in news and television series, and globally, as in film. Yet such a focus on representations tends to position minorities as passive victims of the media. Less common is research in which minorities are viewed as active agents producing their own information and entertainment, as they do, with local, national, and even transnational distribution. Minorities’ own media can range from local community radio to globally available television channels and internet platforms serving vast diasporas, the largest of these being those of non-resident Indians (NRIs) and the Chinese-speaking world (the “Sinosphere”). Each of these provides a case in which the industrial structure of the huge home media market provides the basis for far-flung consumption in all those countries in which members of the respective ethnicities have settled. In situations in which they attain a certain critical mass, such racial and ethnic minorities form a market for the cultural industries and consumer goods industries more broadly. Also to be taken into account is the phenomenon of racial and ethnic minorities having an impact on the cultural industries of the dominant cultures of the nations in which they dwell. The most striking case in that regard is how African American popular music made the profound cross-over from segregated radio stations and live venues to infuse the commercial mainstream of music recording and performance in the United States and, ultimately, the world. Although such creativity is valued, there remains a diversity issue about the actual participation of racial and other minorities in executive, management, and production roles in the major cultural industries.