African American Stereotyping in Modern Hollywood

Gary Gray’s film Friday (1995) details 16 hours of the lives of two unemployed, African American men named Craig and Smokey from South Central, California. Smokey is conveyed as a pothead who sells marijuana for his psychopathic supplier Big Worm. Instead of selling the marijuana like he is supposed to, Smokey smokes it and ends up owing Big Worm $200 by 10 p.m. If he doesn’t pay, Big Worm plans to kill Smokey and Craig. While trying to decide what to do since neither of them have the money to pay Big Worm back, they observe the comings and goings of Craig’s neighbors.

This film portrays what it is like to live in the ghetto of South Central. In Nancy Wang Yuen’s “Playing ‘Ghetto’ Black Actors, Stereotypes, and Authenticity”, she discusses how black male actors are cast as unpredictable crack heads and gangbangers who live in poverty. Yuen also added, “Professionally, black actors were typecast into ‘ghetto’ roles set in South Central. Such roles were characterized by alternative speech patterns and slang associated with ‘Ebonics’ (a stereotyped form of speech attributed to ‘ghetto’ blacks), poverty, hyper sexuality, and bouts of unpredictable violence and anger” (pg. 233). The film shows all of these stereotypes, and more. Ezel is the crack head in the movie who will do just about anything to get money to buy his drugs. Additionally, Craig and Smokey play the drug users and dealers.

Black female actresses have similar stereotypes as well and are “Epitomized by the ‘no- nonsense black woman’ role with her pseudo-masculine, overbearing attitude or the silly dimwitted but eternally reliable ‘mammy’ role” (Yuen pg. 234). Joi, Craig’s over jealous girlfriend, plays her role as a pseudo-masculine, overbearing woman with attitude. Craig is almost afraid of her and what she might do if he ever left her. Later on in the movie, they show some burglary, violence, and gun shooting.

These roles give people the idea that this is how all African Americans in South Central act. In reality, not all African Americans act, dress, or speak the way they do in the movies. Movies portray limited versions of African Americans and are one of the key causes of stereotypes. When we see multiple movies with the same stereotypes, we start to believe that they must be true if they act, dress, and speak like that in multiple films. The Writers Guild of America is responsible and should work towards changing the way African Americans are perceived. According to Yuen, “In 2005 blacks accounted for only 4.4 percent of all employed Writers Guild of America (WGA) writers, while whites made up 91.8 percent of the total (pg. 234).”

Because of the limited number of people of color that are hired to write and direct movies and television in Hollywood, we will always see stereotypes. People of different race and ethnicity should have a chance to correctly write and direct so the audience can understand what it is really like to be from that race or ethnicity.


Week 9


“One of the most potent aspects of these yellow peril discourses is the sexual danger of contact between the races. Although the power of the lascivious Asian woman to seduce the white male has long be part of this fantasy, a far more common scenario involves the threat posed by the Asian male to white woman.” (Marchetti, 1993, pg. 3)

Hollywood’s depiction of Asia has often centered on feeding into the threat of the “yellow peril.” Many film adaptations commonly place White men as heroes and Asian men as the villain. Story lines in films would cater to “the fascination of the Yellow Man for the White Women”(Marchetti, pg. 5) but instead of a normal Asian-Caucasian relationship, it would involved the rape of the white woman. It became somewhat of a metaphor for the threat the West believed Asia posed. Additionally, another common story line is the Asian woman being “saved” from a life of prostitution from the white man.

The Persecuted Pilgrims: America’s Oppression of the Latin Community

Ace Campaign with Sofia Vergara - Press Conference

The United States has been embroiled in a prolonged hate/love/hate relationship with the Latina/o community, especially the Mexican community. Although the nation has happily embraced a great portion of Latin cuisines and some of its diverse cultures, there remains an almost palpable sense of animosity towards Mexican and Latina/os by the Anglo-American population. Early depictions of Mexicans on television and in movies would paint a largely negative image of the entire Latin and even the Hispanic community. Prior to the advent of Hollywood archetypes and as early as the late 1800s, depictions of the slovenly immigrant wearing a sarape and reposing underneath a cactus with a sombrero over his face for shade became the unwarranted spokesperson for all Spanish-speaking immigrants. The image still remains, though now it is not widely accepted as truth. Modern representations differ greatly for Latina/os, but at a price: low visibility in the media.

Post-Hollywood images of Latina/o people have changed to be a little more accepting, but that might only be due to the sparse amount of representation. This is not for the lack of entertainers or talent from the Latin community, but rather the lack of Hollywood casting agents willing to hire them for leading roles. A popular image of Latina/os that comes to mind today are basically any photo of Sofia Vergara — a beautiful and alluring Colombian actress who embodies Hollywood’s archetype of the feisty Latina temptress. But even this image is a very narrow and one-dimensional trope that is meant to represent Spanish-speaking women only.

The reason why an image of Latina/os in the media is hard to conjure up is due to two pervasive realities: one, the Latin community is rife and brimming with more diversity in culture, dialects, beliefs, races, heritage, and nationalities than any singular image is capable of representing; and two, Hollywood is replacing their Latina/o talent with Anglo-Americans/Europeans — even for specifically Latina/o roles. One arena that Latina/os have not been excluded from, however, is in broadcasted segments dedicated solely to one controversial topic: immigration.

“Latinos comprise just 1 percent of news stories. When they do appear on camera, it’s not as an anchor in a suit with coiffed hair but on the background video feed as a criminal or in relation to illegal immigration,” says Weston Phippen in an article for The Atlantic. The media’s refusal to cast Latina/o actors in Latina/o roles is a blatant insult to the Latina/o community. To invite them only to speak about immigration issues is blatant disregard for them as anything more than an expert on immigration. Why is this so bad? If one takes their representing a voice for the Latina/o community at face value, then of course there is no other candidate for whom to adequately speak on behalf of Latina/o population on the topic. The problem lies in the fact that audiences will continue to associate real images of Latina/os in America with the topic of immigration itself. That means, Americans who hold the sentiment of all immigrants being “illegal” will likely equate any Latin-looking person with that very sentiment — hence the imperative need for more diverse and visible Latina/o representations in Hollywood.

-Dotty Liao

Week 9


“During the height of Yellow Peril hysteria Chinese and Japanese were viewed as Devious and vicious. Popular literature wanted of the dangers of intermarriage with Asians and charged openly that Asian men purposefully sought White women. These attitudes also found their way into entertainment and media, as we shall see.” (Wilson,Gutierrez,Chao,2010 pg.62)

#Interacialmarriage #Asian #White #raceandmedia

Hollywood Shuffle: Black Acting School

In the movie Hollywood Shuffle (Townsend, 1987), there is a section of the movie when the main character is trying to audition for a stereotypical black part and another actor tells him to not sell out. That makes him think of this outrageous skit about having a black acting school that teaches people how to act black. This clip starts off with different black actors coming out as slaves escaping, then the host comes out as a butler and says “I had to learn to play these slave parts, and now you can too with Hollywood’s first black acting school.” He then goes into describing the different stereotypes of black people that the black acting school teaches.  In a way the clip acts as if, “stereotypes are basic building block of the tradition and identifying these specific figures is crucial to understanding the art form” (Austen, 2012, p. 7). It’s an unpleasant scene, but it’s a really good example of what black actors have to constantly put up with in order to get a job in Hollywood.

“Black minstrelsy involves not only stereotypes and caricatures, but comic traditions, linguistics, low humor, verbal dexterity improvisation and numerous other elements” (Austen, 2012, p. 7). This scene begins the stereotypes by showing two men trying to learn how to talk “black” from a white man. As they try to ‘sound’ black, the white guy cuts in telling them that they are doing it wrong and that this is how they should sound like. He has them saying stuff like “you jive turkey motherfucker.” The craziest part is not just having to speak that way, but also having a white man tell the black men how to speak black. The whites are not part of that culture, yet they seem to confess their knowledge about the false representation of being black. Another example of a white man showing the black men how to be black in the clip is, when he tries to show them how to walk. This idea of teaching someone how to “walk black,” is odd because there is no specific way a black man should be walking. The way the video is showing the men how to walk, is by tilting forward a little bit and swinging their arms back and forth to the point where it looks like they are dancing; similar to the cakewalk.“The cakewalk was a dance developed as a parody of white balls, and while contemporary eyes may see it as ridiculous and demeaning, it not only functioned as a signifying critique, but became a sensation because of it’s groundbreaking demonstration of the grace and creativity that are foundations of African American dance” (Austen, 2012, p. 10-11). This started as a type of dance that African Americans would do in the past, but to me the way the video portrays the walk is like a modern day, less exaggerated version of the cakewalk. This is used to mock the way they walk, even though many African Americans don’t actually walk like that.

Besides teaching people how to walk and talk black, the black acting school goes into teaching them how to act like a criminal. Towards the end of the clip, the host brings out a graduating student of the school to tell the audience how successful he has been after the school. The guy says that he has acted as crooks, gang leaders, dope dealers and rapists. These are all horrible characters to play, but the host and the actor both seem very excited that he was able to land those roles. It’s sad that instead of, “serv­ing as an urban backdrop of a variety of urban lifestyles,” film and television continues to share the same one-dimensional stereotypes of blacks to the world (Yuen, 2010. p. 241). These stereotypes are still shown throughout media, even though many African Americans have tried to make commentary on how these are not true. The movie Hollywood Shuffle, is a satirical comedy about stereotypical ethnic roles and this clip itself is a paradox showing how horrible and false these representations are. The whole aspect of the video is contradicting the idea of teaching stereotypical roles the way the black acting school is displaying. Even though this movie was made in the 1980’s it shows stereotypes that are still shown in today’s movies. Films and television shows should really aim to show a better and positive side of African Americans instead of all the negative representations they are accustomed to provide the viewers.

Work Cited:

Austen, Jake and Yuval Taylor. “Racial Pixies: How Dave Chappelle Got Bamboozled by the Black Minstrel Tradition” in The Darkest America: Black Minstrelsy from Slavery to Hip Hop. W.W. Norton, 2012.

Townsend, Robert.  (Producer) & (Director). (March 20, 1987). Hollywood Shuffle [Motion picture]. United States: The Samuel Goldwyn Company.

Link to Hollywood Shuffle clip used:

Yuen, Nancy Wang. “Playing ‘Ghetto’: Embodiments of South Central in Popular Culture,” in Black Los Angeles: American Dreams and Racial Realities. Editors Darnell Hunt and Ana-Christina Ramon. New York: NYU Press, 2010.

Latinos Representation in A Haunted House 2

There are many different ways in which Hollywood has misrepresented Latinos in the media. In the comedy film, A Haunted House 2 (2014) by Marlon Wayans, there is a small clip that shows the general misconceptions shown in many Hollywood films. The movie is a spoof, so it is known for exaggerating what Hollywood shows in movies. This clip starts off with the main character Malcolm seeing a Mexican man, Miguel, cutting the grass in the house next door and he assumes that Miguel is a simple gardener.  It’s a very short clip lasting about a minute, but yet it still shows many classic Latino stereotypes.

When Malcolm first see’s Miguel, he goes up to Miguel and starts talking Spanish, saying “Aye, que pasa mi amigo?” This shows that just because Miguel is a Latino, Malcolm assumes he speaks Spanish. “Latina/os have consistently indicated that language remains a main source of discrimination. Whereas skin color marks African Americans, the Spanish language marks Latinos” (Angharad, 2010, p16). Many people are always assuming that because one is of Latin American heritage, they automatically know Spanish. This stereotype not only happens on screen, but it constantly happens in real life as well. I’ve have had many non-Spanish speakers come up to me at Mexican food places and ask me to translate what Spanish speakers are saying. I do speak Spanish, but if I didn’t that would have offended me. “While consecutive generations of immigrants may not speak Spanish well or at all, Spanish remains a signifier of identity and pride. It also remains a reason for exclusion and prejudice” (Angharad, 2010, p17). Not all Latinos speak Spanish, especially those who may have been born in the U.S. Some people may not practice or even learn the Spanish language, so it can be rude and even offensive to assume they know it.

As the clip continues, Malcolm asks Miguel if he would add his house to his gardening route. Miguel then tells Malcolm that he does not have a route and that he is cutting his own lawn since the house belongs to him. This is a stereotype for two reasons. The first reason is that Malcolm assumes that Miguel works as a gardener because Miguel is a Latino and is mowing the lawn at a house. “Neither physically nor behaviourally do these neighbourhoods represent American prosperity” (Liberato, Ana, et al., 2009, p.955). Sometimes Latinos are seen as economically inferior based on how they dress, look and on what they are doing at the moment. Miguel looks the part of a gardener because he has his lawn mower, gloves and a sombrero, so it’s obvious that Malcolm would assume that gardening is Miguel’s job. It’s not good to judge someone based on looks, but everyone does it unconsciously. The second reason is that Malcolm assumes that Miguel was cutting the lawn for someone else because they were in a nice neighborhood. “Ideas about the inferiority of lifestyles, attitudes and culture of Latino men are conveyed through the criminalization of their place of residence and/or area of operation” (Liberato, Ana, et al., 2009, p.953). Hollywood hardly shows Latinos as rich people who own their own house. It’s very stereotypical to assume that if Latinos are in a nice neighborhood they are simply working for other people. The movies does play around with this stereotype as a joke because Miguel confronts Malcolm about that, but in the end of the clip Miguel says that he is a gardener by “ethnic default”. This idea of ethnic default is what can be seen as a bit racist. It’s practically saying that since he is of Mexican descent, he must be a gardener by default. That way of thinking is from the era of kings, when if you were born as a peasant, then you will be a peasant until you die. The movie practically says that because he is Mexican he has to be a gardener, but that is not true. Everyone has the chance to improve their lifestyle if they choose.

The clip is a great example of basic Latino stereotypes because although the movie exaggerates, it clearly points out how the stereotypes are considered racist to Miguel. It does a great job at making these stereotypes obvious in the clip, but if you think about it, those stereotypes have been used in other Hollywood films. Latinos have to do a better job at making more roles that do not portray the Latino community incorrectly.  Latinos have to move into positions where they can make decisions on how to represent Latinos in a realistic view.

Work Cited

Angharad, Valdivia. “Introduction.” Latinas/os in the Media. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2010.

Liberato, Ana, et al. “Latinidad and masculinidad in Hollywood Scripts.” Ethnic and Racial Studies, 32:6. (2009), pp. 948-966.

Wayans, M. Alvarez, R. (Producer), & Tiddes, M. (Director). (2014). A Haunted House 2 [Motion Picture]. United States. Open Road Films.

“…American attitudes toward the two groups were similar enough as to be virtually indistinguishable. In fact, many Americans never bothered to take note of any differences between Chinese and Japanese people later came to to prejudiciously mp them together as simply the “Yellow Peril.” Racism, Sexism, and the Media (pg. 60)

Due to the misinformation and all around prejudices spread by the media in the early days of our country, Asian Americans are still portrayed in modern media and entertainment as highly generalized, even though the Asian community is one of the most diverse in world. They’re so generalized that having a white actor play an asian character in movies, in this day and age, is not only acceptable, but also encouraged as comical, just like Rob Schneider’s character in I Now Pronounce you Chuck and Larry.

-Edgar Nava

Week 9: East Asian Representations


“While perhaps seeming to invite and embrace inclusion of Asians and Asian Americans, yellowface ensures the distancing and ultimate abnegation of them. By not attributing any specificity to Asian Americans, yellowface is ambiguous and aggregative. It helps white viewers feel comfortable and simultaneously be at ease with something they understand to be a diametrically oppositional other, quintessentially alien and inscrutable. Inscrutability is an effect of structural yellowface, the denial of Asian American subjectivity and complexity, which provides no insight into lived realities and experiences.” (Ono, Pham, 2009. Pg. 60)

This is a photo from Katy Perry’s 2013 American music awards performance. Here she performed her single, unconditionally, while in yellowface. As a white woman dressed in traditional Asian clothing, a kimono, she is strengthening stereotypes on a show that is broadcasted and viewed widely. Perry dressed up as a geisha, whose job is to solely entertain men. Through her performance she is exoticizing Asian stereotypes, while strengthening fetishes. The song also reinforces stereotypes with lyrics like “I will love you unconditionally” encouraging that Asian women are submissive and defenseless.

Week 9


“Yellow face is a practice of cultural appropriation; taking what is thought to be Asian or Asian American and making it into something that sells to audiences is a self-serving practice” (Wilson, Gutierrez, Chao p. 46) #breakfastatTiffany’s #racist #mickeyrooney #Mack

Hollywood is filled with white people producing movies and creating stereotypes based on the way they think Asians act. This is perhaps one of the most offensive portrayals of a Japanese person of Mickey Rooney as Mr. Yunioshi.

Week 8

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“The black actors I interviewed coped with the inundation of ghetto roles in Hollywood by distancing their lived experience from the fictional ghetto roles in Hollywood. They discussed their middle-class upbringing, labeled themselves as “non-urban” or suburban”, and contrasted themselves with actors or actual gang members, whom they thought were better suited to portray ghetto roles. These methods of distancing helped black actors to maintain a more authentic identity separate from the black stereotypes proliferating in Hollywood and society.” (Nancy Yuen, pg. 239)

In this week’s reading, Yuen shares interviews from these actors in which they are literally doing everything they can to say “THIS IS NOT ME, this character is not me” because in a sense, these roles they’re being given are similar to a cage, stuck playing roles they can’t be freed from. That’s why I chose this picture, they have to portray this image, dressed in attire that associates one with a ghetto lifestyle but in reality, this isn’t what these people are like. These actors are trying to make it a point for people to look beyond the job in this case, look at these people in real life, to see they aren’t like that at all. It’s a bit similar to situations when “don’t judge a book by it’s cover” but it’s more like “don’t judge an actor by it’s role” or “don’t judge a person by the media.” It shouldn’t be the norm for so many non blacks to raise an eyebrow whenever they see an educated or well-spoken black person on TV but “ghetto” roles support the idea that the media represents. Film/ Tv roles are portray images of blacks as undereducated and that they all dress like the half naked men in the picture above because it supposedly embodies the “South Central ghetto.” It’s narrow minded to believe that all blacks are from South Central and that all blacks dress in that way. Furthermore in the reading, it discusses “financial constraints often necessitated taking roles,” so it left most actors with little choice but to play the only roles that were given. Because of this they were expected to play a stereotype-ridden, lower-class “ghetto” character and the fact that they had to find ways to “cope” with this, it’s tragic.