Truth in Stereotypes

6 Nov
Latino Stereotypes

Latino Stereotypes

A friend who enjoys Project Runway as much as I do, with whom I enjoy discussing the show, recently posted on Facebook about the dearth of gays in the media who don’t conform to the stereotype of being effeminate and delicate and work in fields like hairdressing and fashion design. Though perhaps I should have stayed away from the fray, I, along with other friends, offered up the best examples we could think of to illustrate that not all famous gays conform to the stereotype. As my friend informed us all that the examples we were giving were not good enough- Mitchell from ‘Modern Family’ and all past Project Runway contestants were too gay, apparently- I thought to myself, maybe this effort is futile. Maybe most gay men ARE effeminate, and there is nothing wrong with that. Maybe that’s the reason most portrayals of gay men on television- including reality TV- depict the same kind of gay man, because he is out there. Is this the case with all minorities, ethnic as well as sexual? Are we yearning for the depiction of some minority within a minority?

I’ve previously written (and tweeted) about the preponderance of Latino boxers on TV and film (think “Price of Glory”, “Mi Familia”, and Showtime’s Resurrection Boulevard). While there’s no way to know the prevalence of boxers in each Latino family, it is true that the sport is widely followed and watched, although it seems that many young Latinos are abandoning the sport for MMA fighting. There is a stereotype that Latino families are large, and statistics bear this out. The U.S. Census shows that:  In 2000, 30.6 percent of family households in which a Hispanic person was the householder consisted of five or more people. In contrast, only 11.8 percent of non-Hispanic White family households were this large. So if you are Hispanic and grew up in a small family, yes, you are a minority within a minority.

Why do members of minority groups want to see the rarities- the manly gay men, the Latino cranberry farmers, the Jewish NBA players– represented? It is okay to admit that there is some truth in stereotypes. I also think that what matters is not the representation itself, but who is creating these representations. As long as minorities have a voice at the table, then I think stereotypical images will fade. I don’t care if a Latino boxer is shown on TV or in film, just as long as he (or she- don’t forget “Girlfight”) is drawn as a three-dimensional character. And if our hypothetical Latino cranberry farmer should come to life, I hope that he is also treated as a real person and not some novelty item. Look at the way gays have been portrayed on TV recently. There is Mitchell on “Modern Family”, a tightly -wound lawyer who is married to a former college football linebacker from rural Missouri. And as for Jewish NBA players? Amare Stoudamire claims to be of Jewish descent, and has even traveled to Israel and adopted a Kosher diet. Now THAT’s breaking a stereotype.

One Response to “Truth in Stereotypes”

  1. Chantilly Patiño (@biculturalmom) November 8, 2011 at 7:14 pm #

    I agree that every stereotype holds some truth, but the problem is that those truths are circulated in mass and they are often negative portrayals that, as you said, fail to depict a three-dimensional character. Because it’s the only story that cultural “outsiders” know, it is replayed again and again.

    I think the key to seeing three-dimensional characters and realizing that each culture is also three-dimensional is awareness of the counters to the stereotypes. It’s important to show them because they tell us that, while the stereotypes may be true, they are not all-encompassing. Cultures are not monolithic and that’s such an important statement to make.

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