3anything other than white American, only one character in fifty as Hispanic, fewer than one in ahundred as Asian and one in two hundred as black. Dominance of white characters effectivelyrendered minorities invisible. Television, like film, was given a mandate to improve culturally.
Media Parallels Society
A new wave of studies on media treatment of race proliferated after 1965. Concurrently, societalattitudes regarding blacks improved after the Civil Rights era, whites became more aware of the past and current plight of American Indians, negative attitudes lessened toward Asianimmigrants, except for residual Viet Nam war tensions, and progress resulted from greater contact with Latinos as their numbers grew. Despite improvements, neither the media nor thecountry could declare equitable treatment of racial/ethnic minorities.Media scholars and sociologists conducted extensive research between the late ‘70s and 1997 todetermine the public’s perceptions of race and potential correlations with media representations.Conclusions are summarized briefly for six principal groups, although non-differentiation amongthem is also a form of misrepresentation.During the period studied, whites were usually portrayed as friendly, intelligent and, at times,egotistical, with males seen as upper class and females mostly attractive. Trait measurementresearch found whites to have the highest scores for wealth, work ethic, intelligence and patriotism. Attributes for blacks in the same years included inferiority, laziness, dishonesty andinsolence.Most predominant stereotypes attributed to Asian Americans were intelligence, being soft-spoken and highly educated while Latino/Hispanic Americans were thought of as having limitedaccess to education and employment, attractive, excitable and friendly. Terms describingAmerican Indians were alcoholic, lazy, on welfare or on reservations. Another ethnic categoryreceiving negative media portrayals became Arabs, commonly associated with terrorism andtraits of being radical, barbaric and anti-western.Other notable pejorative ethnic representations have been those of Italian-Americans as mobstersin the
television series, Eastern Europeans such as Polishimmigrants as non-intelligent laborers, those of Jewish or Middle Eastern descent as dishonestand manipulative and Puerto Ricans and South Americans to be involved in illegal drugs.
Economic concerns, media literacy education and political empowerment of people of color haveled to a greater variety of portrayals of non-whites in 21
century media. However, despitecontemporary media’s endeavors to avoid stereotypes, genre conventions such as the necessity of character shorthand in situation comedies, deadlines and time constraints of news programs andcommercial media industries placing profits over story development negate total stereotypeeradication.Progress is evident in films starring black actors and directors like Spike Lee who paint accurate portrayals of African American life, in addition to greater representation on radio and in print,although blacks remain underrepresented in leading roles. More sensitive representations of Asians began with
The Last Emperor
The Joy Luck Club
revealing cultural nuances of