Stereotyping in movies

Stereotyping in movies exist in many forms. However, on this project we narrow out analysis on two types of stereotypes: gender stereotype and racial stereotype

Gender stereotyping

In movies, Gender stereotyping is existent in both sexes. However, this thesis is based on female stereotyping, since it seems to be the more dominant.

Since the emergence of the movie industry, we have witnessed a gradual transition of the role of women in movies. In the early years of film making (late 1800s), women were usually portrayed as home keepers or housewives, and the roles they often played were submissive. It is not hard to witness a correlation between female characterization in movies and the real female influence in society. With time, the perception attached to the female movie characters has become more dignified. The personalities have more strength of character, are more influential and capable. As seen in recent movies such as, The Working Girl, What Women Want, the role of women is no longer only family oriented but also business oriented. Previously, one would notice that the female characters were very physically attractive. That was a major criterion in stardom. Although that is still evident today, it is apparent that it takes more than beauty to reach stardom in movie making. The criterion has now broadened to accommodate actresses with talent and not just outstanding physical attributes. Thus we see stars who may not necessarily be “beautiful” according to Hollywood standards, but are nevertheless very successful in their careers. In short, stereotyping of females has diminished due to society’s recognition of female emancipation. Hopefully, as society progresses, stereotypes of females in movies will take a likely turn.

Racial Stereotypes

In movies we witness two types of stereotyping in the races. For instance, the black race is stereotyped in two different extremities. On one hand, they are portrayed as having very stable and easy lifestyles. Thus attempting to imprint in the minds of the viewers that most African Americans live normal lives, free of the pressures of racism. On the other hand, one would witness in many movies that African Americans are sometimes given insignificant roles in movies and would often be burglars or murderers. Most times, they are portrayed as loud, vivacious and aggressive characters, and more often than seldom, they are comedic. Another stereotype is of the white race, especially those of a high social class. They are often portrayed as often engaging in criminal activities, but often escaping legal justice because of their influence connections with people in “high places”. An example of such a movie is Traffic. People of middle-eastern descent are also stereotyped in movies. They are usually the hijackers and terrorists, as seen in the movie Executive Decision. Stereotype of people of Chinese descent is also existent. Because of this one would readily presume that all people of the race are good fighters, or at least have some knowledge of martial art. For a more detailed version, check out Rush Hour. This is one example of a movie that stereotypes people of Chinese descent.

Stereotyping in movies is not necessarily a positive feature. There is no guarantee that it will be non-existent in movies. Since movies are to an extent, similar reflections of real stories in society, It is my hope that as society advances, there will be increased cultural awareness and the barriers hindering racial and gender unity will be broken, thus reducing stereotyping in movies.


Members of the group each took a movie or two in which there was evidence of racial or gender stereotype. The movies selected were:

For each movie, analysis, description, interpretation was done on that movie with direct relation to the topic at hand - stereotypes in movies.

The members of the group met at least once a week to ensure progress of our respective assignments. We also communicated through email and phone.