Sociology Symposium

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In this post, I will be focusing on the issue of race and ethnicity in the media. I attended panels on “How Television Advertisements May Reinforce Stereotypes,” the “Portrayal of Women in Rap Music” and “Black Criminality as Portrayed in American Comedies.” These panels all discussed issues in the media in regards to stereotypes and how prevalent they are in our society’s culture.

The panel ““How Television Advertisements May Reinforce Stereotypes” examined the role of minorities in television advertisements. Their findings concluded that minorities are left out of television advertisements. Latino and Asian Americans are underrepresented overall and African Americans are underrepresented specifically in romantic and family advertisements. Asian Americans were found to have more background roles than other minorities. The investigators found that racist themes may be unintentionally included in the advertisements because of the white power structure of advertisement firms. Due to the briefness of television advertisements, people are unable to consciously think about them, so they remain in the subconscious, which reinforces the stereotypes of minority groups. The conclusions found in this research also correlate to the findings done during a 1993 and 1994 study examining magazine advertising portrayals of African, Hispanic, and Asian Americans. The results indicated that “Hispanic Americans are significantly underrepresented in magazine advertising,” “portrayals of Asian Americans reflect societal stereotypes,” and “portrayals of African Americans have become less stereotyped over the years, but nonetheless remain sufficiently stereotyped to raise societal concerns.” I thought it was really thought provoking to consider the effect that advertisements can have on stereotypes. They have a much bigger role on stereotypes than I had previously thought. I think that advertisements are not something that many people pay much attention too, which is where their danger lies, so there needs to be more awareness on how they can shape society and stereotypes towards minorities.

The panel “Black Criminality as Portrayed in American Comedies” explored the stereotypical representation of black criminality to create comedy using three recent films, “Bad Boys II,” “Horrible Bosses” and “The Heat.” The film “Bad Boys II” demonstrated how racial tensions and discrimination are reinforced to create comedic situations. “Horrible Bosses” showed how stereotypical speech patterns and terminology demonstrate different lifestyle assumptions between whites and blacks, such as blacks possessing “street smarts” that whites lack. “The Heat,” used the character of a black, drug dealer from an inner city for comedic effect. This character was used as a punch line and exploited by the cops he is arrested by for information through violent means. The panel concluded by finding that there are common stereotypes, such as violence or a manner of speech that is used as common source of comedy in regard to black characters in film. Although these stereotypes are not meant to be racist, they contribute to racial issues by encouraging stereotypes. The article “Black Criminal Stereotypes and Racial Profiling” found that because the stereotypes of blacks as criminals are an enduring feature in American society, it has led to the “rationale for the unofficial policy and practice of racial profiling by criminal justice practitioners.” Even though the use of these stereotypes in movies is not meant to be racist, they still perpetrate stereotypes in real life and have serious consequences. These stereotypes are widespread across American comedic films and I think they are used too heavily. If people stopped accepting stereotypes as a form of humor, the movie industry would be forced to create new and more interesting forms of humor.


The panel “Portrayal of Women in Rap Music” focused on the role of women in rap lyrics and rap music videos. They found that women are typically viewed as passive, sexual objects in rap music videos. Rap music videos influence social interactions between men and women, because women believe this is how they should behave and men believe it is acceptable to treat women in an aggressive, sexual manner. Rap lyrics, such as by artists Eminem, promote violence against women. Misogyny is a current theme in rap music and lyrics, which degrade women and makes them feel reduced to unimportance. I was shocked to hear that 1/4 black women will be raped and they are seven times more likely to be raped than white women. This is a huge statistic and the researchers believe that it is due, in part, to the effect of rap music lyrics and music videos. I really was horrified to learn that 1/4 black women will be raped, but I was also upset that this was the first time I was hearing about it, because I believe it is an issue that should receive far more attention in society. A 1995-1996 study conducted in the United States and the District of Columbia found that nearly 25% of women and 7.6% of men were raped and/or physically assaulted by a current or former spouse, cohabiting partner, or dating partner/acquaintance at some time in their lifetime (Thaden and Thoennes, 2000). More research should be conducted to determine the influence that the rap genre has on encouraging violence and there should be more awareness about the degrading nature towards women in rap music.




Taylor, Charles, Ju Yung Lee, and Barbara Stern. “Portrayals of African, Hispanic, and Asian Americans in Magazine Advertising.” American Behavioral Science. no. 4 (1995): 608-621.

Tjaden Patricia & Nancy Thoennes. “Extent, Nature, and Consequences of Intimate PartnerViolence.” U.S. Dep’t of Just., NCJ 181867,  (2000) 

Welch, Kelly. “Black Criminal Stereotypes and Racial Profiling.” Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice . no. 3 (2007): 276-288.


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