What is a stereotype?
A stereotype is a simplified representation which focuses on certain characteristics of a group and assumes these to be shared across all group members. Inherent with a stereotype is a judgement on the particular characteristic (usually negative, but not always) e.g. all women are bad drivers.
How does the media use stereotypes?
One way in which the media uses stereotypes is to communicate complex information about particular characters, time periods or location etc.as quickly as possible, this is often referred to as narrative shortcut.
However, they do not simply create stereotypes, they reflect the stereotypes that already exist within a culture, by using these stereotypes, the media can be said to be reinforcing the particular ideas.
The media is often criticised for creating stereotypes, but they are usually part of the audiences way of thinking about the world.
Stereotypes can be truthful -
Stereotypes are assumptions about all members of a particular group 'All women enjoy gossip' is a flawed statement. There will inevitably be some women that don't, or may be some men that do.
However, theorist Perkins noted that stereotypes usually have an element of truth in them. e.g. some women do like gossip.
Negative Stereotypes -
The judgement making the basis of the stereotypes is usually a negative one e.g. gossip is a bad thing and it is a waste of time. They do not allow individual traits to exist in members of the group e.g. some women may not be interested in other peoples domestic lives. Negative stereotypes are created by those outside the stereotyped group and are often seen to be an exertion of power, the stereotyped group often has no way to answer back. This stereotype gives a 'complete picture' about the group and implies a knowledge and understanding that can be applied to all members of the group.
Positive Stereotypes -
Positive representations are called corrective stereotypes or counter-types where the representations are trying to create new ideas about a previously stereotyped group. Contemporary culture has become more aware of stereotypes and the effects they have, particularly negative ones. Many media texts have attempted to construct new approaches to old stereotypes e.g. Buffy thee vampire slayer. Despite being a young blonde woman, she is heroic etc.
What makes a stereotype?
This can include physical appearance and clothing as well as the sound of the voice. In this modern day society people are constantly judged on their appearance by piers, parents and especially the media. In recent times, the hoodie has been associated with thugs, criminals and violence. This obviously creates a negative connotation for the hoodie and brands anyone who is wearing this piece of clothing as a thug or criminal etc.
A persons behavior is also linked to their stereotype. For example, "men like football" is a common stereotype which states that all men enjoy football, however, some like different types of sports, others do not like sport at all.
A persons attitude is linked to both appearance and behavior. For example "all teenagers are miserable" is a common stereotype given to teenagers, however, not all teenagers are miserable etc.