There are certain groups of people who are insulted regularly in Hollywood films. Sometimes we see films that target us, and take in the assault on our character without even knowing it. To the unaware, innocent moviegoer, a blockbuster comedy that portrays middle-aged African American women from the South as a obnoxiously flamboyant, uneducated people seems perfectly normal. The buddy cop action movie that shows corrupt, Caucasian cops antagonizing anyone whose skin is even a shade darker than their own for no discernible reason is taken as an accurate representation of the majority of America’s police force. This is a problem that has persisted for decades. Casual racism is brushed off completely, and blatant racism is excused for ‘comedic’ effect, or for storytelling purposes by directors and screenwriters. It’s been clear for a long time that a large part of American media has no problem painting certain races in a light that is often offensive and stereotypical, and there are also always the people who cry out against it and demand respect. People are aware of the problem, but is awareness enough? Is having the knowledge that something is wrong actually enough to stop the problem from affecting anyone subconsciously? There’s another possibility to consider. the constant barrage on the general public by Hollywood producers leaves a mark on the psyche that can’t be seen unless analyzed carefully.
It can’t be said that only Hollywood portrayals of race are to blame for racism in the public. There are many other factors that contribute to the formation and perpetuation of racist stereotypes, such as international relations, terrorist attacks and plain ignorance, among others. But Hollywoods hands are not clean; it is a major instigator in terms of constantly churning out media that enforces negativity and ignorance concerning race. There are entire movies whose plot rely on a character being the textbook stereotype of a certain race. Movies also get away with shoving in minor, supporting characters who embody horrible stereotypes, often in blockbuster movies with a comic edge.
Hollywood has historically lacked diversity. Actors trying to make a name for themselves who don’t fit certain criteria will often find themselves left in the cold. Chris Rock, an African American actor and director, recently authored an article detailing Hollywood’s race problem. Rock writes, “It’s a white industry.” Using the influence he’s gained over the years, Rock writes, he has tried to increase exposure to new people in the industry who he knows are struggling, since he was once in the exact same position.
Racism and stereotypes in Hollywood movies isn’t going to just disappear. It’s a tool that moviemakers use to create more revenue. In some cases, writers have crafted entire stories around characters that represent every single cliche misconception of their race. As long as a premise gets tickets sold, it will be rehashed over and over again. Take, for example, director Michael Bay’s Transformers movies. One of the franchise’s installments features an illiterate pair of transformers who are rowdy, impulsive and obviously meant to portray the standard black man. Another, the latest in the series, the protagonists run into a group of people in China who just so happen to be martial arts experts.
This problem won’t solve itself. The people of America have been exposed to this blatant and hidden racism for decades and have become numb to it. Positive reinforcement about all people and disregard for offensive stereotypes is the first step that citizens can take. Starting a positive cycle will eventually spread to the most influential media sources in the country and put an end to constant attacks on the American people.