Hollywood Stereotypes

I read an amusing, interesting article about stereotypes in Hollywood by Juan Arteaga. You can read it HERE 

Some of my favorite films included them. Would you agree the film industry is a powerful influence and molder of the mind? How one perceives another as a group is often created and affirmed in films? Without personal experiences to counter-act the image, you could very well adopt that perception and it becomes your own? Or worse, girls and boys witness in films, billboards, magazines or television shows a female perpetually poised in a sexual position, should we be surprised another girl grows up looking and acting like a sex-object and boys grow up into men who search for them?

How serious should we be as viewers? Identifying the stereotype first and recognizing what we see could be potentially damaging is a step. But then what? Boycott the film? Considering the article by Juan Artega, the pictures throughout this post feature films which portray common stereotypes.  Can you match them?

1. The Magic Negro (God-like powers and saves the whites)

2. The Gay/Effeminate psychopath (nurturing homophobia by attributing sexuality to a decrepid behavior)

3. The Latino Maid (cleaning is all they know how to do. Ugh!)

4. The Mighty Whitey (white protagonist enters foreign culture and saves the day)

5. The Mighty Non-Whitey (black man or non-white jives, dances, and with a laid back attitude, saves the day)

6. The Wise, Old Asian Jerk (convoluted wisdom; a pain-in-the-neck)

7. The Cowardly Incompetent Black Side-Kick (an idiot; cheap shots come easy)

8. Women:  A. androgynous male-killers  B. the naïve child C. One dimensional–let’s talk only about men D. The femme fatale.

If you think stereotypes are bad, how do you combat them? In films, characters shouldn’t display a single image. They should contain complexity. Thinking about womens’ roles my favorites characters followed no stereotype, and they possessed strong personalities.  Clever and amusing, their self-confidence makes them attractive. Complicated and compassionate is a fine mix. Their loyalty to their mate and devotion to others is true sex-appeal. Simply being a sex object is boring.


8D The great temptress

No person possesses a singular attribute or foible. The best films for me are those with characters who are like a kaleidoscope. Those flawed characters who rise above their predicament and attempt to do the right thing are the best–and those roles are usually written for men. Every once in a while a female role stands out.

So what do I do about the fact that I still love The Green Mile, Fifth Element, and Bulworth? 

32 thoughts on “Hollywood Stereotypes

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  1. Fine post and linkage, Cindy. I think identifying the issue and calling it out is the first step, in review criticism and general commentary. I think you can enjoy a film, like those you’ve mentioned, but we need to shine the light to the stereotype crutch Hollywood has depended upon and propagated for decades, placing it at the forefront. Continually calling it out, like you’ve done here. Kudos!


  2. Nice write up! It’s sad that Hollywood is so full of awful stereotypes. It would be nice to see them bucked so that the state of films in general could change for the better.


    1. Welcome, Andrew 🙂 I’m a sucker like the next person. I feel frustrated that I don’t know how to make things better other than I try to be selective to which movies I pay a ticket for. I don’t know what else to do.


  3. So, does Hollywood promote a stereotype or merely pander to the demographic that pays money to see a movie? In criticizing Hollywood, are we merely criticizing ourselves? Does Hollywood shape or satisfy? I don’t know the answer.


    1. Awesome questions for which I have no answer. Sounds like the “chicken and the egg” dilemna. As always, one has to think actively and then either accept or ignore. It’s hard to combat social conditioning.


      1. Movies, when thinking of box office receipts, have a certain primary demographic; therefore, the question in my mind is whether or not movies are made that appeal to that demographic. I’ve done no research to identify that demographic. I think, though, that there must be a copious amount of information on it.


  4. Nice post. I think many of the people who work in Hollywood are so immune to these stereotypes that they don’t stop and think about the possibility of offense. I have noticed more and more are pointing out stereotypes these days, so maybe Hollywood will take a hint and start making changes.


    1. Welcome, Ms. Coolsville. Thanks for commenting. I agree with the immune factor. They look at marketing and $ sheets, and that determines what they will put out. Stars need money so they agree to crappy scripts. We the audience are used to crap and take it. I think the indie film industry was created to offset the slush pile from Hollywood, yes? In other words, allowing smart scripts with dynamic characters to lead the way is what we crave. I wish the super-stars with plentiful $ would create a studio devoted to high quality films and they can star in them!


  5. Hollywood is about money – not Art. Only ‘Independents’ make Art.
    So Hollywood deliberately searches for Formulas to make cash. When It finds one, it keeps on churning out the same thing until the money stops. That’s why there’s so many spin-offs and copy cat … stuff. And Stereo Typing is a huge part of that Formula.
    It’s disgusting – but it works. Example: Guardians of the Galaxy. I saw this as uninspired ‘Formula Trash’. But Critics and movie goers loved it. Sad. Expect a lot more.
    So …. many of these formulas work brilliantly and make lots of money. And most of those Marvel Comic movies are very well made – though 3 weeks later you’d be hard put to recall a single scene.
    TV is the same. Maybe worse.
    On TV i watch Game of Thrones, Orphan Black, Musketeers, Extant, Vikings. The only really trashy thing we watch is Arrow .. and I’m not sure why? I’ll blame it on Rose.


    1. Aww, poor Rose! What she has to put up with 😉
      I agree with you about the Marvel Comics films. They just don’t make much of a dent in my mind and heart. I don’t watch TV much, either but I am interested in Game of Thrones and Vikings. I rent the series and watch it all at once usually fall, winter, summer breaks. Thanks for your comment!


  6. Great post! Stereotypes are awful but hey they’re kind of a given in Hollywood so I don’t let that bother me too much. I feel like Hollywood’s stereotype of Asian is still much more glaring than other races, I mean the Mr Miyagi [wise guru type] or the annoying quirky guy like Ken Jeong in everything he plays. As for the Mighty Whitey, well so long as it’s based on a true story, like Blind Side, Machine Gun Preacher, etc, I don’t mind it. I know people are tired of it though, seems that a good Samaritan usually portrayed by white folks.


    1. Hi Ruth, thanks for your comments. Yes, to the Asian stereotype. Somehow Ken Wanabe manages to defy the jerk part and just be the leader or wise one. I think what stereotypes do is weaken the film for static characters are boring. As long as characters are multi-dimensional, then I feel better about a movie. Now if only we could have female characters portraying the slut on an infrequent basis… sex has always sold, I know, but it’s gratuitous and ineffective. Just look at Sin City2 for an example. A crappy movie all the nakedness couldn’t save.


  7. I think being aware of the stereotypes is the first step. I do find the way Hollywood treats female characters is generally depressing.


  8. Brilliant post, Cindy. Having spent years with both my kids – one male, one female – watching films and discussing them either afterward or sometimes during the film when we can’t hold back our opinions, has shown me how challenging it is to illuminate the dangerous stereotypes. Challenging because what I ultimately ended up doing was occasionally “ruining” the fun of a film. It was a fine line sometimes keeping quiet for the sake of an enjoyable evening film in exchange for a teachable moment. I felt many of them slip out of my fingers, but I risked losing the time with them altogether if I couldn’t just sit back and enjoy. Many times I’d try to bring up the characters later in conversation, but I’m pretty sure they each were fairly aware of what they were seeing.
    I can recall the plethora of times where I’d try to slip in a film that would purposefully and successfully break with stereotypes. There were a lot of complaints at first, but more often than not, the kids would grudgingly agree that the film was a worthy one. I hope those seeds took root.


    1. Dearest Shelley, thank you so much for your heartfelt comments! It means a lot to me.I know from reading your blog that you are fine mother and role model. My kids are grown and off leading their own lives (2 boys, 1 girl) so I feel your anxiety wondering if you were a good parent or not. I was a single parent, and when we were all together, I was so happy sharing time with my kids, I didn’t want to be the wet blanket and the one constantly saying “no”. Likewise, it was my duty to instruct and not bypass the teachable moment. Sometimes I did, sometimes I didn’t. Sometimes I was a great parent. Sometimes I was a crappy one. They all talk to me, as I’m sure yours does, too, so we must not have screwed them up too much 😉


  9. Hi, Cindy:

    Interesting use of ‘Bulworth’. One of those films that falls snugly into the category, “Why was this film even made?!!!”.

    Is it a comedy? Not so’s you’d notice. Pulling every negative stereotype from the celluloid universe. Plugging them in. Pulling them out. And not really advancing the story noticeably. While the film’s underlying theme was liberals bending over backwards “to help those of color”. While pandering very poorly, lampooning mercilessly. And remaining blissfully ignorant throughout.

    Right up there with Spike Lee’s ‘Bamboozled’!


    1. Thanks, Kevin. I remember when I first watched it, I laughed and laughed. It seemed very funny having an elite, white politician side with blacks from the ghetto. As you say, lampooning and playing with stereotypes. I was impressed with the “why is the black-man (woman?) still down” speech by Halle Berry’s character. It’s been a long time now, and as I’ve grown older, I realize I was snookered and a sucker. Blissfully ignorant throughout, that was me!


  10. Excellent post. I agree that a lot of stereotyping comes from Hollywood trying to fit everything into a winning formula. That formula basically includes character types and not real people. As long as the formula works, the powers that be will see no need to change it. As viewers, it’s practically impossible to avoid them since they show up in even the best work. After all, every character cannot be a fully developed three dimensional being. Some supporting characters are bound to be one-note, and thus, will be stereotypes of one form or another. What the best movies do is not rely on such characters and their ways, but concentrated on the more rounded people involved. Conscientious viewers tend to point out the most egregious offenses while the most ardent of us find the not-so-obvious ones. Again, going back to the box office, though. all of our collective eye-rolling (which is what us bloggers are effectively doing) won’t amount to a hill of beans as long as the millions keep pouring in.

    All of that said, I will state a disagreement with another commenter, jackdeth72. I don’t think Bulworth and Bamboozled are anywhere near each other in terms of quality. I could go into a lengthy dissertation on this, but won’t. Just suffice it to say I hold Bamboozled in extremely high regard, while Bulworth was crap.

    By the way, earlier this year I focused in on one particular stereotype and it’s importance to the career of one particular actor:



    1. Fantastic! Thanks you for your thoughtful response to the matter. I can’t wait to read your article regarding Morgan Freeman. I’m away at the moment and want to give my full attention to it, so hang on there for that. I liked your explanation why the stereotypes occur and why this would explain how books are better than the movie. Movies rarely can provide the 3 dimentional characters which books can. That formula is the key but I’m so bored with most films. I feel like I’ve seen them all 20 times each. Like reading a Dean Koontz novel. The first few are exciting then you can predict the following forty. When you are young and start watching films regularly, it all feels new. After a few decades go by, you get to the bored state I’m currently in. I find myself returning to classics for something new to watch. CGI tricks are fine, but there’s still no good script behind all the hocus-pocus. Goodness, I’m off on a tanget. I’ll stop for now saying thanks again for commenting, Wendell. Please come back! .


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